Re: Racist Rants and the Apologies that EncourageThem
From the files of The Disgruntled African Woman
A few weeks ago, my moment of African Black Anger was at its zenith.
Fuelled by a Capetonian named Matthew Theunissen by calling all black people kaffirs because… well honestly, if my people can be vilified for being black at the beach on New Years’ Day, then is there really anything we can’t be blamed for?
Anyway; it was triggered by his racism being given a chance to explain itself as though there is some justification that no one had thought of.
I consequently refuse to listen to it because I know the spiel: I’m not racist. You can ask anyone who knows me. I have black friends. I was just having a bad day. I never meant to offend anyone. I apologise for my saying it. The wording and structure may change; but these fundamental portions of it were definitely there.
I understand that 2016 is the South African Year of the Racist.
I really do.
I understand that people need to be given a chance to explain themselves, even those we disagree with. I have, many a time, wanted to burn my TV after watching Pieter Mulder speak. And that is fine with me; it’s the way it should be.
So why am I done with this apology?
Well, it’s as simple as it is difficult.
I once asked a friend of mine who is white about her weekend, and she was telling me about a fight she’d had with her brother in law. Going into detail about the back and forth exchange, she at some point related to him how useless he is as a human being, and that was why he only dates kaffirs.
At this point, being a very explosive personality when provoked, I always thought I would have given her the tongue lashing of the century and read her raggedy ass from the top of her dry scalp right down to the soles of her cracked feet.
But I didn’t, and I knew then, as I know now, why that was.
I actually couldn’t believe she had said it.
I wish there was a more elaborate, less naive reason that delivers a higher impact, but there isn’t. I honestly could not believe that she had said that. She noticed my numbness and ended with, “his girlfriend is Indian and the one before that was black. I was talking about them because they were trashy and I wanted to hurt him. You know I didn’t mean it like that”. Like what? I thought. Being a friend, I found it much harder than I do now to call out racism, so I numbly nodded and walked away.
I didn’t think of it until a few years later, while listening to my boss who was learning French. When I wanted my African name pronounced correctly, the response was an exasperated ‘You know I can’t do that. Our whitie tongues don’t get those clicks’. Then I started questioning how euro centricity brilliantly manifests its barbarity by holding itself open to interpretation, and achieves blanket disdain of an entire demographic.
The majority of white people in South Africa really and truly believe that they are not racist while holding very racist beliefs. Like Matthew Theunissen, my friend was convinced that she could denigrate my entire race despite her friendship with me and other people of colour. To her, a white person dating a non-white was inferior and served as a tool she could throw to wound that white person in the same vein someone would probably view someone who screws goats. To others, she goes out into the world and counts me in when she says “I have black friends”, but her statement clearly deemed me and my race inferior to her. The same goes for my boss and Matt Theunissen; there was no “intent” to offend because in racist white psyche; the correct pronunciation of my name to the best of shim’s ability is not a priority. Hours were spent detailing the need to pronounce French words correctly because French isn’t a language rooted in my inferior blackness.
When Matthew (and his ilk) mentions that you can ask his friends and family, the chances are that he is talking about another bunch of white people whom he sits with and talks about how kaffirs have ruined the country purely because of two things; firstly, it is a collective belief within his circle; and secondly, if there is a dissenting party, the chances that they speak up are minimal, or they are bombarded with assertions of “but it’s the truth”.
This is because to people with such a mentality, the black person doesn’t exist. Being black is a collective consciousness that has been tagged with the moniker of untouchable unless they prove themselves worthy of entrance by conforming, or being a good black who excuses or does not acknowledge their racist rhetoric.
They “don’t believe” that white privilege exists because they haven’t experienced it. They complain about lack of merit when transformation is mentioned because it is not white rugby and cricket players who are currently side-lined. They are vocal in their irritation at BBBEE being a racist tool, while they don’t know a single unemployed white person.
And they have been taught that they are entitled to think like that because history has allowed apartheid instilled threads of confidence based on the colour of one’s skin to be hinged on the presence of melanin. They have been taught that prejudice is all right when levelled in a fit of anger because no white person in South Africa has been dragged behind a bakkie purely based on that prejudice. No white person has ever been stopped from entering a bathroom solely because they were white. No white person has ever been called by a racial slur that confers a negative set of behaviour, personality and circumstances that pits them beneath an animal purely because a white person didn’t like their actions. I know this because I was once called a kaffir because a white woman and I were running for the only opened till at a Checkers, and I made it before her.
People like Theunissen have it ingrained in them to believe that it’s okay to be racist when reacting to things they don’t like done by black people because it lends credence to their ideas of black people they don’t associate with unless these black people are “the right kind of black”. The number of times I read white people stating online that “it’s okay to think it at home, but don’t say it in public” point to that fact. And these people are the same people who do not understand that their thoughts drive their reactions, so although they will survive in an environment with black people, it affects whom they hire once not constrained by BBBEE quotas (NEVER a black person), whom they hire when BBBEE is applicable (Usually any black person), and it affects how they treat black people as a whole.
They are the people who shy away from real collected data that states that black people get paid less for the same jobs because they sincerely believe that white people work harder and deserve the discrepancy. And if one can blatantly ignore proven research in order to make claims that they are disadvantaged in this country because Fikile Mbalula has said they must include a minority if black players in their squads, how does one even start to take Matthew Theunissen’s fake apology seriously?
He hasn’t apologised because he thinks it’s wrong to think racist thoughts simply because he disagrees with ANC policy; he has apologised because it is wrong to say it where people of colour can find it.
And that’s why he and his explanation, and the explanations of Penny Sparrow, Mabel Jansen and those who will next check the template of post-racist rants on social media, are as good to race relations as the nipples on Batman’s suite.
If Matthew Theunissen really wanted to explain, he could have told the truth.
He is racist.
He accepts any bad behaviour by black people to be standard behaviour by them; and as such, sees it as his right to use this standard as a justification when he believes he has been slighted.
And that’s understandable — not justifiable; but it is understandable — because South Africa has real, deeply entrenched racial issues that were dictated at a time none of us — black or white — were alive to solidify or fight them. In the same way indoctrination was a tool to ingrain slave mentality, it was also used to promote entitlement mentality.
He could have told us he sees that his views are prejudiced. He could tell us he is committed to trying to really understand what his racist utterances mean, what they influence, and how they manifest themselves in ways he would never have imagined — like in instances where he is angry about politics in sport. Maybe then he could have received any kind of “understanding” from Black Twitter.
But that’s simply a suggestion, because in same way black people are having to figure out their own identity in this country, so do white people.