The fact is it’s easier to get a South African driver’s licence than to get us as a country to face our own racism. Okay, I’m kidding. Nothing is that hard. The driver’s licence machine is like David Mabuza, it keeps needing to go to Europe to get medical treatment.
It’s still very hard though to get us to talk about racism though, especially those white people who tell you they “don’t see colour” when we point out white privilege. Helen Zille’s people. So now we’re talking about white privilege, the race conversation is cancelled? It’s like that dude whose turn it is to buy a round of drinks at the bar suddenly needing to urgently leave. We see you round-dodger.
Some reading this will be white people who think this racism conversation isn’t about them, because they “get it”. The hand in my behind is like that. They are the biggest block in this, because they’re like alcoholics who think they’re over it. They’re not over it. Put down the “I’m a nice white person” tequila.
Let’s be honest, it’s easy to demonise the right wing Steve Hofmeyer types (hell, I, a puppet, literally went to court over this conversation), but to Michael Komape, the poor black child who literally drowned in shit in a pit toilet at his school in 2014, does it really make a difference whether you talked about your privilege while you benefit from it?
No. It doesn’t. Our #BlackLivesMatter tweets scored us social points and changed nothing. And if you fed poor people during lockdown and then posted on social media about how awesome you are, cancel your account and get a flip phone. It’s all you deserve.
Of course, many people of colour and Black people reading this right now will be nodding their heads and thinking, “yeah, you tell them, you latex ally”. Come now, comrades, you certainly got the sharp end of the apartheid stick, and continue to be affected by racism in your life, but let’s not pretend that today there aren’t plenty of people of colour who have joined white middle-class types on the apartheid inequality train, albeit with huge caveats.
Anyone who still thinks Black people can’t be racist clearly missed the whole of Marikana. The South African business partner of an English-owned mine, in whose interests 34 working class Black South Africans were murdered is now the president of the country. Colonialism isn’t over, it’s just lubed up with margarine. RAMAphosa.
The brutal fact is the world we live in is profoundly racist. It’s structured around racism. It’s like we are all Capetonians, and racism is Table Mountain. It’s always there (and in Cape Town the closer you live to it the more racist you are likely to be). Rhodes’s apartheid economy is very much in place, and white South Africans in general managed to evaporate into an Elon Musk-, Netflix-, Kyknet-fueled oblivious nirvana with some potholes, while people of colour and poor people of colour in particular were left holding the apartheid hot potato (I know, comparing apartheid to a potato is a new low, even for me).
Look, we’re not alone. In fact, that’s the point. Australia still celebrates the day white people stole Australia, like hijacking other people’s stuff isn’t a crime. Having a party to celebrate it every year is just creepy. We all saw racist European journalists having a meltdown because these Ukrainian refugees are “not like ze refugees ve haf seen before”. Then they tried to say they’re white without saying they’re white.
When you negotiate anti-racism with a massively more powerful opponent, even the conversation on anti-racism itself can be racist. The West will talk more about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s offensive blackface party outfits than about Canada benefiting from African mining exploitation. The one is offensive, to be sure; the other literally cements the impoverishment of a continent. We will receive books on white fragility from the US, while in South Africa black children are literally drowning in faeces.
If this conversation interests you, I have a show called Nice Racists, in which, instead of pointing fingers I spend an hour roasting the social anthropologist who makes me talk about his own racism, and how it is fed by a racist status quo. You get to laugh, to think and to judge.