I also want to cry racism

They say a week in politics is a long time. You should try 15 minutes in South African journalism. Just when you think you have the world all figured out along comes a fellow hack and makes you question your entire belief system.

For example, just when I was considering buying one of those red ‘Rhinose’ horns to attach to the front of my Subaru along comes Benjamin Fogel with his Renouncing the Rhino column and makes me feel horribly guilty for wanting to show solidarity with the poor, persecuted beasts.

The gist of Fogel’s argument is that the typical purchasers of these ‘Rhinose’ horns are white people in oversize SUVs who shop at Woolworths and live in fortress-like suburbs. I have to admit I’m guilty as charged.

Fogel goes on to explain that these same white people are more interested in saving rhinos than the plight of millions of poor, mostly black South Africans. Why else would they go to the trouble of attaching plastic rhino horns to their cars but show scant interest in printing “Justice for Marikana” bumper stickers?

He then scolds whites for their supposed silence on inequality, black poverty and even accuses them of condoning the Marikana massacre and the murder of Andries Tatane. Why else would there be thousands of `likes’  on Facebook petitions decrying the poaching of South Africa’s rhino but none demanding justice for Marikana?

I endured 15 very uncomfortable minutes after reading Fogel’s column. For one horrible quarter of an hour I actually thought he had a point.

Applying Fogel’s logic I concluded that all the white people who had ‘No Toll’ bumper stickers on their cars must be vile racists rather than fed up taxpayers. They obviously couldn’t care less about black poverty, inequality or the Marikana massacre. If they did, surely they’d have ‘No Marikana’ stickers on their cars instead?

So acute is the callousness of white South Africans that they even started a Facebook petition to “Stop Bryce Lawrence Ever Reffing a Rugby Game Again”. Only the most despicable racists would do that. I mean why had they not started a Facebook petition to “Stop the ANC-led Government From Ever Turning its Police Force on Striking Mineworkers Again?”

Even my beloved Springbok rugby team must be a pack of racists. After all, they’d once worn armbands demanding “Justice for Bakkies Botha” yet I’d never seen them wearing “Justice for Andries Tatane” armbands. I was deeply disturbed.

I too was not without blame. I was guilty of `liking’ the Bryce Lawrence Facebook petition page. I’d even `liked’ the Facebook page of a Pitbull rescue centre. It obviously meant I liked Pitbulls more than black people.

I even thought back to my university days when one of those white struggle heroes (the sort whose struggle began circa 1994) accused me of being a racist because I had more interest in going surfing on Saturdays than attending Truth & Reconciliation hearings like he did. Perhaps he had a point.

But just when I was about to confess my lurking, white racism, I was miraculously saved by TO Molefe, Mail & Guardian Thought Leader and author of Black Anger, White Oblivousness. You see, Molefe questioned in a tweet why the word ‘Marikana’ had not appeared on a list of most-searched Google items by South Africans in 2012.

According to the list, South Africans appear to be more interested in Lady Gaga; Wedding Dresses; How to Kiss; Mxit; Khanyi Mbau; Whitney Houston; What is Android; iPad 3; OLX; and American Idol than Marikana. In fact, the words` Marikana’ and `Andries Tatane’ don’t even appear on the list. Only evil racists could be guilty of such a crime.

That was when I had my epiphany: It wasn’t just me who was an evil racist due to my love of surfing and rhinos. It was the whole of South Africa. After all, it’s not just the white minority (who make up less than 10% of the population) that use Google. Obviously we must be an entire nation of racists. Why else would we prefer scouring the internet for Lady Gaga rather than Marikana?

Thanks to TO Molefe I felt a whole lot better. I felt especially good because just the previous day Molefe had accused me in a M&G Thought Leader piece of constructing an “ingenious defence” of the “indefensible” crime of alleged white Capetonian racism.

What got Molefe’s goat was my column titled Capetonians aren’t racist. They’re just douche bags. For those who missed it, my argument was essentially that just because someone treats you badly it doesn’t mean they’re racist. Perhaps they’re just snobbish douche bags who look down on everyone, including members of their own race. (For Molefe’s sake, I should probably have added that just because everyone dislikes you it doesn’t mean they’re racist. Maybe you’re just a douche bag.)

However, Molefe was indignant. Instead of seeing my piece as a tongue-in-cheek, satirical argument against habitually crying racism at every perceived slight, he jumped to the conclusion that I was defending bigotry. I suspect that what he was most angry about was that for 15 minutes I’d caused him to doubt himself.

Of course, if you repeat a lie often enough eventually people will start believing it, which is how this whole `Cape Town is racist’ lark got started in the first place. So Molefe dutifully returned to pushing his tired old barrow of lamenting the racism that lurks within every white South African’s love of rhinos, SUVs and Woolworths.

What followed was a minor Twitter battle between me and Molefe although, to his credit, it was mostly me firing the barbs while he responded with smiley-faced retweets and oddly, a YouTube link to a kwaito video.

Of course, no self-respecting white struggle hero was going to stand by idly and allow poor TO Molefe to be attacked by some two-bit defender of bigotry. Enter celebrity columnist (yes, there are some who claim such titles) Paul Berkowitz aka @PaulyBerk.

Now Pauly Berk isn’t just your garden-variety white struggle hero. He’s the real deal. Not only has he exposed an uncle in a column for cracking a joke about shooting blacks, he even claims to be nothing more than an honorary white himself. Never before has the white struggle against it’s own guilt been so well represented. Respect.

After trading Twitter insults with Berkowitz for about an hour, I came across a tweet where he’d referred to me as a “FinWeek Boychie”. He also went on to warn Molefe that “they” were “big and strong” and “aggressively post-race”.

“So what?” I hear you ask. After all, boychie is just a corruption of the Afrikaans word boytjie or small boy.

Ah, but you see, I also want to cry racism. I also want to be the victim for a change. I want to argue that Berkowitz was making a snide reference to my Afrikaner heritage. I want to claim that he went all Luke Watson on me. Why else the stereotyping of “they” as big, strong and aggressive? Isn’t that racial profiling? One day it”s “boychie” the next it’s “one boychie, one bullet.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I hear you say.

Well imagine if I had sarcastically referred to Berkowitz as “The Mensch from The Daily Maverick”. After all, Mensch is just a Yiddish term for a “person of honour” and Berkowitz does happen to be Jewish.

“Hmm, in poor taste but no harm done,” you might counter.

Well let’s take it a step further. What if I had sarcastically referred to TO Molefe as the Umfaan Thought Leader? After all, umfaan is just a corruption of the Zulu word umfana, which means young boy, or “boychie” for that matter.

“Even more tasteless,” you’d admit. “Some people might even perceive it as mildly racist.”

I tried asking Pauly Berk what he meant by the term “boychie” but he went strangely silent as white struggle heroes are wont to do when they find themselves accused of racism. They’re far more comfortable in the role of accuser. Just ask Luke Watson.

Luckily there was an expert on hand to assist me: TO Molefe himself, renowned guru on how to spot racism in every insincere white smile. So that’s precisely what I did. I tweeted Molefe to ask whether, in his expert opinion, he thought Berkowitz was being a tad racist by sarcastically referring to me as a “big, strong boychie”

His response to my desperate and obviously disingenuous search for racism where none existed?

“Dude. You’re being a douche bag.”

I rest my case.

 

Comments

  1. Well Garth, I thought your column about Cape Town was funny and quite accurate. Except for the small problem that it didn’t really recognise that racism existed in Cape Town at all. I’ll go and see what Molefe had to say.

    Paul Berkowitz is a dubious character – yes, ‘celebrity columnist’ – who likes to assert his racial progressiveness mostly to try and give some credibility to his crazy right-wing views.

    Whatever. Fogel’s column was on the money when it comes to rhino hypocrisy.

    And all this twitter-slapping between you guys seems a little pathetic. Sandpit journalism.

    • Garth Theunissen says:

      Hi Sigh

      I don’t think there’s any question that racism exists in CT, just as it exists just about everywhere. It’s certainly a fairly ubiquitous phenomenon in SA and CT is no different. My point is simply that I cannot for the life of me figure out why some people think CT is especially racist. I don’t think it’s any more racist than anywhere else in SA. That was really the point I was trying to get across.

      Regarding Fogel’s column I have to disagree. I think what he wrote was utter nonsense. I don’t see how expressing sympathy with animals automatically suggests you don’t care about poor people. Animals are pretty much entirely at the mercy of human beings so if some of us take the time out to extend a helping hand, what on earth is wrong with that? We all have causes that are close to our hearts but I don’t see how that precludes one from empathising with other causes. For instance, I happen to like dogs and have been trying to get involved with a Pitbull rescue centre. Why pitbulls? Well mainly because I think they’re misunderstood and having grown up in a family that was very involved in the `dog world’ I feel I’m probably better suited to getting involved with them than most people. Now using Fogel’s logic, one could argue that because I’m trying to help Pitbulls it obviously means I couldn’t care less about Labradors. What utter tripe. I simply feel that there are probably far more people out there willing/suited to extending a hand to labs and far less that would be keen to get involved with Pits…hence my interest.

      As for the twitter-slapping being sandpit journalism. Point taken, but it wasn’t journalism. It was an exchange on Twitter. I probably have to learn to ignore barbs but – as you can probably see – it’s not in my nature to simply turn a blind eye to criticism that I feel is unwarranted.

  2. Garth Theunissen says:

    Out of pure curiosity though, I have to ask what on earth you found homophobic about the exchange Paul and I had on Twitter. Other than him accusing me of flirting with him I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  3. Oh, of course South Africans aren’t racist. It isn’t like every video on youtube titled “Crime in SAf” is accompanied by a comment from a white South African that reads “dumb kaffers”.

    Oops, found one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6qAFj9PoGU. That’s pure coincidence, nothing more. I probably wouldn’t be able to find another

    Look, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be anything more than a “kaffer”, regardless of the degrees I possess. I’ve accepted that I will be painted with the same brush that every single black person who commits a felony gets painted with, just because we happen to share complexion. Honestly speaking, I’m okay with this. What really grates my tits, thought, is when people act as though they are oblivious to the fact that there is so much racism in the country. Worse yet, when half those same people’s friends have all these derogatory names for blacks when they think we aren’t listening. Don’t act as though someone close to you hasn’t called a black a kaffer, an ahbid, a darkie or whatever new slang it is you’ve created in your social circle. Don’t act as though you have never thought “these f’ng blacks” when someone stole your phone. I’m black, I don’t steal phones, so how is that statement not a racist one?

    All I’m saying is this: I (the singular “I” represens all blacks – since we’re all painted with the same brush) have definitely come to terms with the racial situation in this country and the entire world. I know that I will have to work three times as hard as a white person, have BBBEE on my side AND probably get my hands dirty with a bit of fraudulent activity on the side just to afford the suburbs that white people live in. I know very well that I will never be good enough for your daughters, be best friends with your sons, or deemed worthy to be partners with you in the same company. Don’t patronise me by lying about the existence of racism though. DON’T!

    Thank you

    • Garth Theunissen says:

      Please point out the part of the article where I lie about the existence of racism because I’m having trouble finding it. Like TO Molefe you have entirely missed my point. Not for one second am I denying that racism exists in white SA. How on earth could I, given our history? I am trying to make the point that the witch hunt-mentality of looking for racism in anything and everything has gone too far. Take the `CT is racist argument’. Where on earth did it originate from? It is a platitude that has simply been repeated so often that people now blankly assume it is true and hence employ the most banal reasoning to lend it credence. (ie. `A German tourist I had a drink with said CT is racist so it must be’, as espoused by Khaya Dlanga recently.)
      But let’s get back to Fogel’s argument: that white people’s apparent concern about rhino poaching means they don’t care about black poverty, inequality and hence condone Marikana. What utter nonsense. Support for one cause does not automatically exclude support for another. Are we to argue that Cosatu’s opposition to E-Tolls means they don’t care about Marikana either? And why does Fogel assume that black people aren’t just as concerned about rhino poaching?

      If anything, it is the ludicrous logic of the likes of Fogel that trivialise racism by reducing it to something as innocent as attaching a plastic rhino horn to your car, which allows bigotry to flourish. That way, when you run into a real racist he/she can simply turn around and say: “Me, racist? You’d even label a red plastic rhino horn racist.”

      I do take your point on the Youtube comments but surely you realise by now that racist bigots come in all colours. If you don’t believe me, why don’t you do a search on Youtube for `South Africa Farm Murders’. Have a look at the racist bile spouted there by people of all colours. And if you still don’t believe me, type in `South Africa Xenophobic Attacks’.

      • It isn’t just a trivial witch-hunt. When the trauma of a past experience is still fresh in one’s mind, they’re obviously going to approach everything cautiously. I hate to use this example, but it’s the same as a woman who has been raped. Her ordeal changes the way she views men. She’s quick to assume the worst, even when it isn’t a worst case scenario. This isn’t because she thinks every man is a rapist, but because she thinks men are all inherently bad. And if not rape, then some other dubious activities will be attempted
        Now, consider what we’ve been through as black people. We over analyse every single aspect of black-white associations because we too have been raped time and again by oppression. Thus, we’re weary of everything, because they are – after all – their parents’ child. The same white parent who treated my black one worse than the family dog. White people have that gene of hatred flowing freely through their veins.
        With that being said, I do partially agree with Fogel’s argument. (Most) white people couldn’t care less about a black person’s struggle, but that fact isn’t brought to light by the purchasing of a red rhino horn made of plastic. Support whatever causes you wish, that’s your decision to make. What shows that white people (again, most, not all) couldn’t be bothered is the fact that they hide themselves behind their high walls and hi-tech security systems, not caring whether or not mavis the cleaner has been able to pay her electricity bill for the month. If they could just take a drive to her shack, and see the appalling condition of it, they’d cringe at the thought of themselves having to live there.
        I would never let someone live in such inhumane conditions when I know that a mere R5000 per month would go along way in their lives. That’s what highlights the lack of care for the plight of the impoverished black person

        • Garth Theunissen says:

          I think the comparison to rape is fair, given our history. Now I know this is easy for me to say but wouldn’t you agree that even someone who has suffered severe personal trauma must at some point acknowledge that to move forward with their lives they need to accept that the past cannot be changed and that allowing it to poison one’s perception of the present only serves to undermine your future? I fully accept that in the context of rape and racism it is easy for me to dispense this advice. However, I have experienced other personal traumas so I feel I can speak with at least some authority on the benefits of letting go of the past.
          I must say I find this sentence of yours a little disturbing: “White people have that gene of hatred flowing freely through their veins.”
          I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the result of a momentary flourish of the imagination. However, I would like to point out that to imply that people of a certain race are genetically predisposed to racial “hatred” is in fact quite racist in itself.
          Finally, I simply don’t agree with you that most white people couldn’t care about black people’s struggle. I think you’ll find most white people have a deep love of this country and realise fully that its future is acutely dependent on solving poverty and inequality. I just think most white people honestly don’t know what they’re supposed to do to solve these problems other than work hard so they can educate their kids, pay their taxes and hopefully be able to retire financially secure one day. I’ll accept that most white South Africans are guilty of political apathy (myself included) but I think there are reasons for that. I also don’t think it means they don’t care about poverty and inequality.
          Finally, I’d just like to say that I find it astounding that you let the government entirely off the hook. You complain about white people allegedly living behind high walls and security systems yet you don’t say a word about Nkandla which was built at the expense of the taxpayer at a reported cost of R200 million. You say whites should donate R5000 a month to alleviate poverty but don’t say a word about the R20 BILLION that goes missing due to government corruption each year. Do you have any idea how many poor families could be supported with R20 billion?
          If you want to point fingers I suggest you take a closer look at the political leaders South Africans have elected into office.

          • Oh yeah? suggesting that patterns of behaviour are genetically influenced is racist? I’m sure we’re all guilty of telling someone that they behave exactly like their one of their parents. How racist of us

            People do need to get over their trauma, that much I’ll admit. But where does one start getting over trauma that lasted more than 70 years? Futhermore, how does one get over it while it’s still happening? The perception of the of oppression by the oppressed can never be changed amid harsh on-going oppression. The only difference between than and now is that thye old school at least had the balls to openly hate us. Whereas now we all pretend to love one another, but whisper intolerable utterances unde our breath

            You shouldn’t leverage this discussion by talking about Zuma. Withough an education, your behaviour tends to lack rationality (I’m refering to Zuma, of course, not you). Please don’t think this is me defending it, I agree with you competely. I totally think that this country needs new leadership, but I cannot ever vote for people who call me a kaffer behind my back. I cannot vote for a party that attempts to sway my decision by having a white, a coloured and a black lady in the fore. That kind of persuasive marketing doesn’t sway me, because I know those people can easily be replaced once power is bestowed upon the DA. What’s keeping this country stagnant is the fear of white dominance. Guess it’s a case of lesser evils prevailing. Although I feel we’re veering off-topic right now. We know the government is horrid, we’re completely aware of the fact that they’re only in power because blacks have huge chips on their shoulders. South Africans would vote a banana into power before they vote Zille in to office. This is because the born-free generation still knows the phrase “kaffer”, how? Probably because kaffer is the phrase freely exchanged at dinner tables: “this bloomin’ kaffer tuned me crap today”, usually followed by a few giggles.

            The fact that this hatred is still alive and well, means we will continue to have incompetent leaders in office. Rather we vote for semi-literate fools who spend more vast amounts of money building castles, than to vote for someone who’s going to hate an entire race based on the colour of out skin. Stupid, I know, but you wouldn’t understand unless you’ve been called a kaffer

          • Garth Theunissen says:

            I said your suggestion that whites have a genetic predisposition towards racism is rubbish, and in fact quite racist itself. No one is born racist. They acquire it from the society they are born into. While we cannot choose the society we’re born into we CAN choose to either perpetuate its flaws or stamp them out. By the same token you can either choose to brand all whites as racists or you can choose to judge people as individuals.

          • Never said all whites are racist. Some of the people closest people to me are white. Flip, my godmother is white. Let’s wrap this whole thing up: You’ll never understand how this because you’ve never experienced it. You’ve never had to see your mother cleaning someone’s house for a living. Never have you experienced being bullied because you were the only black kid in your class, or being called a monkey because of your genetic makeup. You’re too idealistic. It’ll only ever work in theory. People will always judge a book by its cover
            On Dec 15, 2012 4:29 PM, “Disqus

          • Garth Theunissen says:

            Point taken. I certainly have not had to seen my mother cleaning someone’s house but I do think you make a lot of assumptions about me and how I grew up. But let’s not get into that.

            To wrap up, let me just reiterate the point I was trying to make. While I fully acknowledge that there’s still a lot of racism in white SA, going to the point of suggesting that people don’t care about black poverty and that they condone Marikana just because they’ve taken a stand against Rhino poaching is absurd. If you see white people being racist call them out on it. But the witch hunt mentality of trying to find racism in something as innocent as sticking a red plastic `Rhinose’ horn to your car is utterly ludicrous.

            Finally, feel free to pop into the Finweek offices any time for a coffee and a chat. Hopefully I can prove to you that there’s at least one white person out there who will be more than happy to be your mate…as long as you’re not a douche bag of course ;-)

  4. Garth Theunissen says:

    Ha, ha..thanks Jenny. Paul’s okay. I’ve given him permission to call me boychie any time.

  5. Garth for president. I did think Paul’s exchange with you on Twitter got a tad homophobic. But I guess that’s better than being racist.

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