By Maynard Manyowa
Two white males filmed themselves beating a black man, before forcing him into a coffin. The video went viral and caused an uproar all over social media. The men were eventually arrested, and hauled before the courts. Their case postponed to 25 January, 2017.
It’s a perfect present for disgusting racists. A Christmas in the cage. But it is no cause for celebration. In a divided country, such as South Africa, the damage done by such a repulsive incident cannot be appeased by a few months in jail.
Damage is done, where there seemed racial tensions could not get any worse. Well, turns out it can. Visit the comments sections of news websites, or the websites hosting the content. No matter how much resolve you have, you will feel insulted. Even genuinely sensible people you know are sucked into bickering and brawling. It’s a nasty place, not even trolls can compete. There is so much hatred there.
Something is not right, and clear the rainbow has failed. It is even perhaps instructive that there is no black in the rainbow to begin with.
I have written several times about black racism, and despite contestations from some readers that blacks can’t be racists. I have insisted that prejudice knows no colour. If you discriminate against anyone based on skin colour, whatever it may be, you are racist.
I have also written before, that the battle is not about black vs white, its about good people vs bad people. I still maintain that position; a criminal is a criminal. Black, White, or Yellow. A murder victim does not die a little more peacefully because the man who pulled the trigger is Chinese.
I always maintained that to solve any issues, honesty is critical. That no matter how uncomfortable a truth maybe, it is the only way to solve issues. I have stated several times as well, that we should be clear and specific when confronting matters. Those that are calling for whites to be punished for racism for example, must refine their comments to say racist white’s must be punished. My understanding being that, there are several good white people alongside several bad white people.
You cannot send my 4-year-old child to jail on the basis that a black man in Soweto raped someone, therefore because my son is black, he is guilty. Individual difference is key.
I have gone at lengths to explain these positions because I understand issues to do with racial tensions are exactly that – tense. And when emotions are heightened, and tension rules, sense seems to go on holiday. There is no time for reflection, just pure bare knuckle fighting.
In a way, reconciliation, as dreamt off by Nelson Mandela never happened. We must accept this. We are extremely divided. Hard as it maybe to be accept. In a way, I think we have been victims of pacification, lying to ourselves that things are alright, when they are not.
When Malema calls on aggressive action against whites we easily dismiss him as a looney. We ignore the fact that millions of people support him. As with Donald Trump’s shocker, we seem to pay no attention to how some of our peers genuinely feel. Even I have made the mistake.
If there is anything Trump has taught us, it is that concerns do not have to make any kind of sense. Dismissing them on the basis of nonsense only alienates those that raised those concerns. Worse still, we exclude those that are raising their issues, on the basis that they sound crazy.
In the meanwhile, we insist on this bubble, that says everything is ok. That says people who are sensible are in the majority. But Trump’s victory, and even Brexit, showed us that liberal values and none-hate (as I call it) are not in the majority as we imagine.
Certain things, like supporting Trump, were too embarrassing to say in public. So, people said they would vote for Clinton in polls, yet secretly went and voted Trump. That must instruct us.
We cannot keep lying to ourselves that the world is full of sensible people, as a defense against those that are hateful, or as pacification against concerns of racism raised by blacks.
In that vein, I urge us to neglect pacifying ourselves by saying racist whites are in the minority. This is an assumption. Trump’s triumph has taught us that assumptions are a fool’s game. Very few people will admit to being racists. So, taking a poll is useless.
One of former best friends is white, and a pro-democracy activist. He is a good man. My editor is a white male. He is not racist. I know, and have met very wonderful white people. Therefore, I reject the notion that all whites are bad people or racist.
But perhaps, considering the amount of racism I have encountered personally, it would be intellectually dishonest to say racists are in the minority. I can’t continue to reject other people’s complaints of racial prejudice based on the few good people I have met. This would be a statistical oversight.
Prejudice is inherent, and internal. Some, like the coffin attackers, are brave enough to display their racism, some like Penny Sparrow admit that they said hurtful things, but claim not be racist. My former landlady has black friends only, and treated me like a son, but occasionally called me the K word.
In the tight knit white community, I lived in, I was told only people like the coffin attackers were racists. That, people like Sparrow were idiots, that my landlady clear loved me, and though she said racially insensitive things, the fact that she didn’t discriminate meant she was not a racist.
I think that was not accurate. I think the family of the coffin attackers, who would have easily known the rogues were keeping a coffin for the purpose of shoving black men into it are tacitly racist.
No-one has ever held a census to see how many people are racist. Tacitly or literally. And if honesty in confronting issues is a pre-requisite, then we ought to really ask ourselves: Are racist whites really in the minority?
I think the answer is No. I also think the question itself is a problem, especially when it is posed as an answer to genuine cry for help. The fact is several fellow citizens are crying out against being racially abused, discriminated, stereotyped and prejudiced against.
The least we could do is not be in denial of their claims. Pay attention to them, and let’s fix things. If not, let’s all prepare for the day King Julius takes over and initiates “Whitexit”. Or the day everything just crumbles and this beautiful country burns.
(I would like to extend my utmost gratitude to my outgoing editor at News 24, Peet. You gave me a voice, a platform. I will always be grateful. Expression is power, and you allowed me to be heard. All the best. You will always be an icon)
- Maynard Manyowa is a contributing Editor on Khuluma Afrika – a center for political analysis, social commentary, and investigative journalism.