Friday, 6 May 2016

Gareth Cliff, racism salesperson.

I tweeted about this waitress silliness and next thing I know Gareth Cliff is hating at me. So I reckoned if we saying our opinions...

The great thing about Gareth Cliff is that his ego acts like a massive force field stopping all empathy and reason from reaching him. Anyone who suggests even the slightest degree of cultural sensitivity or tactical logic is immediately branded a crazy ass social justice Marxist racial nationalist, because God forbid that in post-apartheid South Africa it be suggested white people uses a bit of fucking tact.

The Cliffster and his sycophants (he really is the only guy I know with his own lapdoctor – like a lapdog, but with an alleged medical degree), believe they are the walking truth of SA social discourse. Starting with freedom of speech. You see, none of us have a clue, just Gareth. Penny Sparrow should be allowed to call black people monkeys, duh. For Gareth being civilized isn’t a more inclusive politically nuanced society, it’s just white people saying what the fuck they like.

Or remember when Gareth Cliff backed up Rhodes, a dude who happily stole a million square miles of Africa and forced its occupants into servitude? Or when he stereotypes black accents on TV and radio? Gareth just always seems to land on a certain side of history, doesn’t he? And then we wonder where the likes of Matt Theunissen gets the idea it’s ok to be a racist doucehbag? It can’t be in some small way connected to a segment of our politically conservative white settler community’s prejudices being reinforced by arrogant wannabe intellectual celebs sneering in the face of black pain can it? “No, never, not Gareth boet, I’ve seen him hug Unathi, he’s not a racialist.”

On the other hand, in the world of Cliff, if a black person doesn’t tip a white waitress, suddenly “enough is enough”? So if a white person goes ‘black people are monkeys’, let’s be tolerant. But if a black person snarkily tells a white person to give back the land, all hell breaks lose at your radio station? Double standards are double standards.

But fair enough, let’s assume the emotionally crippled zoo animals he is getting advice from are shielding cross-racial kind thoughts from entering his brain. Surely he would intellectually engage with the great points by his fellow atheist, and actual academic, Jacques Rousseau, who in a balanced way points out various counterarguments of #tipgate: Qwabe was being a complete douche by taking out all of history on some woman just trying to get by. There is room for a more complex reply to a black nationalist being a chop than white nationalism.

The Cliff team/circus troupe seems to have framed this thing simplistically as a reply to RMF’s belligerence. And, yes, the Rhodes Must Fall / Fee Must Fall comrades can be very belligerent. In fact this situation was an amazing opportunity because a prominent RMF activist did something which most people would define as being cruel – you can’t be a feminist and be mean to a women working for you.

They could have instigated a nuanced cross-racial discussion re how we treat each other in South Africa (I saw some well meaning white people online imagining this in that frame, but oblivious to the Cliff Central discourse). They could have opened up a white discussion about how we respond to often very justifiable black anger. Basic tact and thoughtfulness, really. Instead the assholes at Cliff Central decided for a culturally oblivious anti-RMF stance and positioned this in terms of saving the white maiden in distress.

You realize RMF is black nationalist in tone (and make extremely relevant points re how Eurocentric SA in many ways still is)? You realize the opposite of black nationalism is white nationalism? White nationalism is apartheid, Nazis and Steve Hofmeyr. Chester Missing tweeted a couple of tweets taking the piss out of both Qwabe and the fundraising and he started getting white hate for days, including from international right wing groups. Because, as Gareth and clowns would know if they made even the slightest attempt to listen, you can’t dip into the white nationalist pool and not invoke racism. And before you buy their ‘we’re being bullied’ pitch, they don’t listen to reason on any platform, and only interact civilly with social media that validates them.

Of course they hid behind some black people. “But it was a black ou who started it. Why have you got to make everything about race?”, gets asked on Twitter. That’s exactly the point. This was a great place to do actual nation building, and instead their politically oblivious posturing just handed it to the bigotry brigade. Proof? There are countless examples of black people (over and above the monolith that is apartheid’s legacy) who get treated like shit in SA, people being peed on, beaten up and fired without pay – they have no fundraisers because, as Rebecca Davis points out in her Mail and Guardian piece, it takes social capital to get that kind of online mobilization by people with money. In the words of Louis CK: “If you are white and don’t admit it’s great, you’re an asshole”.

This week Gareth went on another radio rant about what he calls political correctness. Gareth thinks we should tell it like it is. Coincidentally Nick Mulgrew wrote this for the M&G online re Matt Theunissen, the K-word dude: “…Maybe he wouldn’t have empowered groups of white bigots, who now celebrate him for “telling it like it is”.” I wonder who gave Matt that idea, Gareth? Surely not a DJ whose been spouting this bullshit for over a decade?

Finally, please don’t take these opinions as final. I know I’m a douchebag, and my puppet even more so. My whole game plan (as bad as I am at it) is to discuss and build nuance… let’s be more kind. However, if I seemed a bit mean or insulting here re Gareth and the vegetable patch he calls friends, go listen to his podcast about saying what you want.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

We are all Clive Naidoo: class, language, race and prejudice

I was going the post this, then I wasn’t going to, then… whatever. These are thoughts in progress.

Why are 62% of Stellenbosch’s students still white, 21 years after the fall of apartheid? Who the hell allowed that to stay so unchanged? We did, that’s who, from our homes in Bloubosrand and co.
Look at Clive Naidoo’s arrogance at the personable black cop. SA’s economic story is a cross racial class alliance that has cultural, racial and gendered intersections that we just don’t talk about.

Comedy being my area, allegedly, let’s go there. The reason stereotypical, working class black accents are funny for corporate office type people, at least most of them, is that that is not the language of the middle class (yeah, I know there are some who think that was Chester’s vibe… it wasn’t, in fact quite the opposite, but nationalists will be nationalists. See my next show, Missing, for the next step).

Middle class Indian, black, coloured and white people lurve laughing at the accented other. Working class Afrikaners and working class Zulus alike. The difference of course being that working class Afrikaners had apartheid on their side, which is all the difference. That was one major driver of Afrikaner nationalism and eventually apartheid, to uplift white working class from cross-racial class alliances and competition. English people love laughing at working class Afrikaans accents and tropes, because we think we are more evolved, and middle class black people in Joburg love laughing at people from Limpopo, for very similar reasons.

Our power is in our gaze. Those who give us the right social cues get access, respect and trust. Those who don’t get ignored, sidelined and laughed at. Of course, with white people being 5 times wealthier than black people (Census 2011), and with 70% senior management positions, the power of enculturation and assimilation is still very biased towards white tastes. You have to talk and act more like the people with power, not the other way round, which is where white people culturally still have power, as has been so brilliantly explained by better writers than me. This doesn’t mean that white people are somehow bad– no, we do have economic clout because of an unjust history. What’s bad is when we pretend that isn’t the case and don’t try to fix it.

This class-race intersectionality means all sorts of things get ignored by all sorts of people.
For example:

1) An inspiring conversation that seems to be happening is of the actual experience of black people in white dominated schools, universities and workplaces. It brings out human, tangible micro-political truths of the brutality of subtle and not-so-subtle racism and the dominance of cultural assimilation. For e.g. that generation of black kids being the first in previously white schools have stories of alienation that gives humanity and texture to more generalized statements about racism. Those stories make the problem understandable to white ignorance… if that were an aspiration. I think that’s what made Luister so powerful.

2) There is a conversation among some middle class black people about rejecting whiteness – they haven’t been tamed vibes. Great! How far is this conversation going? My life is full of middle class black (of all apartheid race types) audiences who happily laugh at working class / Other accents and stereotypes, and who support proudly comedians who give them that fix. It’s like a reverse of the DA problem. Ignoring class and culture hides the white supremacy in our midst, black. It’s all very well to reject whiteness. That’s not a conversation for this white guy, however, I would like to see more writing from the opinionati about the actual micro-political ways people are Otherised in our environment. Because I think that’s where the battle actually lies.

3) I have stopped making Mmusi Maimane sounds white jokes, because in my opinion black people sound how black people sound. To tell Pabi Moloi she sounds white is to pretend that there is an essentialised black truth. My theory of jokes is to reject that as prejudiced, but balance it with an acknowledgment of how power affects how people are expected to sound, whiteness, class, access to education, etc.

4) I imagine some readers have their backs up at this white dude making comments about blackness. The problem is that in the real world audiences are not split, the lines of prejudice don’t happen in neat little boxes. To pretend they do is the domain of armchair critics who never have to actually face the actual prejudices, and cross-gender-sexuality-race-class-ethnic intersectionality of real SA. That’s my beef with bloggers and writers. Comedians have to face real world audiences, not just post and wait for approval on Facebook. However it also means we can be far more prejudiced.

5) For example, I went on stage at a corporate event a while back after a black comic told the mixed, but mainly white audience he’s likely to stab them. If my comedy should question these norms, how does splitting this conversation into neat little camps of black and white stuff help? My angle is deal with my privilege and then game on.

6) In that line I think we need more of a conversation on what makes an environment Afrocentric, because just having black people present doesn’t mean it’s accessible to all black people. Just because there are women there doesn’t mean its feminist. It’s just a vital start.

In the end I am saying we need more Luister and less Clive Naidoo. Or perhaps we should all be Clive Naidoos and film our intersectional race-class-ethnic prejudice for the world to see?

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Dear America, let's talk about Trevor...

Dear America,

This week I did loads of interviews, weirdly, about another comedian. Here's what I would say to you about it:

So some of your citizens, America, are going nuts at a few dodgy tweets from Trevor Noah, understandably, but not without irony. Bear in mind, they are from the same country that produces Achmed the dead Muslim guy puppet and the homophobia and sexism conventions that are comedy roasts. Of course the host of the Daily Show needs to be held to higher standards, but can we get some perspective please?

Trevor’s success is reason to celebrate. He is the product of 21 years of cultural adjustment in our country, and by the sounds of it huge shifts in the US. As Chris Rock tweeted “thank you Barak Obama”.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying don’t criticize. In fact the annoying thing about the U.S. Trevor crits is that they are so useless. Trevor’s hugely popular comedy here frequently relies on stereotypical depictions of black and ‘coloured’ (local term for mixed race, which he identifies with and then doesn’t as suits him) identity, and hyping up accents to make middle class people laugh, although this is interspersed between self-reflexive culturally aware brilliance. From what I can see what he does for you focuses more on the brilliance part. The fact is that he has jumped massive cultural hurdles to bring an international, Africanist view to mainstream US platform, and in so doing is breaking barriers we would never have imagined possible. Be honest, his Daily Show stuff so far has been brilliant and the genre has had plenty of white men.

You need to understand what a massive shift this is. Before 1994 doing stand up comedy in South Africa was the reserve of white men, because we had this little problem you may have heard of called ‘apartheid’.  In other words Trevor could not have existed before 21 years ago, or a while after for that matter, because black people were being given shovels, not mics. Many of them still are.

It also meant that until 21 years ago we had almost no progressive comedy audiences, outside of a relatively small clique of liberals, and then usually very white. There was basically no black stand up comedy, because speaking truth meant jail. When our current top black stand ups were starting out post-apartheid (e.g Marc Lottering, David Kau, Kagiso Lediga, and later Loyiso Gola) they played to almost exclusively white audiences, white audiences who had for generations been fed apartheid’s version of blackness.

In comedy you need to position yourself in relation to your audience. It gives you a stance to talk from, and a reason for them to laugh. The problem with this is that they can only understand you in terms that they relate to – it structures what options you have as a comedian. If you want to middle class white (and nowadays black too to be honest) audiences to like you with minimum effort then feed them the material full of simplistic ‘black’ (in SA read working class here also) accents  / stereotypes and they will scream and clap. To get them to rethink their opinions takes cultural gymnastics, something we have gotten very good at in my opinion.

For example back in the 2000s a top black comic called David Kau started a comedy show called “Blacks Only”, ironically named after apartheid signifiers. This roadshow now pulls in excess of 3500 people a time a few times a year around the country with very little marketing. Comedians now have space to build and develop acts, and to make a living out of telling jokes without needing to bend over backwards to deal with oblivious audiences. So, Comrade America, you had a bit of a head start, for the most part.

Our comedians are making enough money to travel overseas to spend enough time there to translate over insanely complex cultural gaps. Some here would ask why? They believe we should be more Africanist, which is a good point. In SA have 11 official languages, and extremely complex racial dynamics, so developing material you, America, will understand is extraordinarily difficult. Bear in mind, when your comics come here your world view has been explained to us over decades. You, on the other hand, have only just got a glimpse of us.

Trevor is a product of his own hard work and a collective effort that has spanned two decades of democracy. Think about that before you try tear him down please.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Another privileged white guy commenting on Rhodes statue.

I know, another white guy talking about Rhodes, just what we all really needed. However, there are a few small culture points, and a blog by the Cliffster that I though worth commenting on, so here I go.

Uncle Gareth Cliff’s blog on this Rhodes statue business points out that “It is a hollow victory to defeat those already dead”. Of course, if the fight is only with the dead then why write a blog? He made it with the living the moment he commented.

My own view is that UCT student Chumani Maxwele is winning a cultural battle, and he’s winning because he played smart. Transforming an entire university in one fell swoop is such a huge task that taking it on at once in totality effectively drowns your objective. The powers that be will be able to throw a million grinding excuses, and the arguments will take so long to carry through that eventually the media, and the mobilized public will lose interest, concentration and understanding.

What Chumani did was attack the symbolic heart of the university, or to be more precise, he endowed a statue with this status, and then proceeded to do the completely unreasonable. He threw poo at it. Throwing poo breaks all the rules. It defines his arguments as outside of common good taste and acceptable debate. Simplistic understandings will see this purely as populist grandstanding, which it is, but to do so ignores the actual cultural power structures at play. That’s why it creates so much upset, and in turn media attention. That is exactly how you create pressure for change.

UCT has been faced with pressure for change for years now. In fact it’s part of the mechanisms of UCT’s power structure that people loudly protest about lack of change, then some white liberals who always seem to be in charge wring their hands, and then nothing changes. The trouble with subscribing to normal strategies in this is that they all almost always get subsumed by the Foucaultian logic of the situation: “yes, we all agree, change should happen faster, sad face, sad face”. The domain of Truth remains unscathed, or changing with glacial slowness. At least that's how it looks from the outside.

Chester Missing interviewed Chumani for this week’s LNN, expecting to tease him about throwing poo, as he had done with Ses’Khona’s Loyiso Nkohla in the past. Chumani’s devastatingly direct answer showed the genius, intended or unintended, behind the poo. He said it is a reminder of the truth, the bucket, portaloo and unsafe public toilets the poorest students and Cape Townians face, that their wealthier, and often whiter fellows do not. This symbol, thrown against the statuesque symbol of white liberal apathy re inequality, and inherited wealth (in social capital and actual) brings one to the simple brutal truth of unequal experiences of education in the Western Cape. If you grew up at the feet of this statue, you are very unlikely to have faced what Chumani was referencing, which he well knows.

Of course, the cynics will argue that the statue doesn’t represent anything and that the students are just looking for attention. The thing is that maybe the statue didn't represent anything until a few weeks ago (I think it did), but it definitely does now. That's why this is clever.

This is why Gareth Cliff’s blog post so ‘monumentally’ misses the point. I have had my run ins with Gareth in the past, so I would rather be less of an insult-troll now, and I like the guy, chronic cultural obliviousness notwithstanding. The problem with cultural obliviousness is that it perpetuates privilege, and eventually racism.

Gareth argues, as many white types seem to be doing, that if we start tearing down symbols then we should tear down the new statue of King Shaka as well. While Shaka was his own kind of bastard this argument is ridiculous.

To put it simply, if Shaka had colonized Europe and we were debating taking his statue down in Leicester Square, while his descendents still earned on average 6 times the native British people, and their children were being educated in the language of the conquerors, then we can start comparing. To pretend otherwise is effectively historical denial.

Gareth also argues that many of American historical cultural icons and first presidents were slave owners. Yes, David Chappelle has a whole routine about his discomfort with that. We are, and I know this will come as a surprise to some, living in Africa. Why should Africans accept the cultural icons of their colonizers? And why should us colonizers expect them to? Cecil John Rhodes entire concept was about forcing his culture on people. He would quite happily have pulled down a statue of Shaka, if such statues had been Zulu culture at the time. Europeans did all they could to separate Africans from their culture, so let’s get off our high horses. In Rhodes’ case literally.

Another dominant discourse, as seen in newspaper letters columns from disgruntled UCT alumni, snootily says that these students should be studying and not moaning about statues. Yup, that’s what you say when it’s your guy’s statue that’s there. How that isn’t obvious is utterly beyond me.
Of course, if we were the ones whose lives had been disadvantage by this we would be screaming blue murder. If AfriForum and Steve H are even remotely a measure of how white people behave when they feel slightly oppressed, can you imagine how we would have treated a statue of people who gave us passbooks, a Land Act and Umlungustans?

Another silly example people give is that of the UK being scattered with statues of William the Conqueror, and they’re not tearing them down. Before I slam my head into a wall, can we just agree that modern Britain is not at all, even slightly like South Africa? The 5 million or so white descendents of William the Conqueror and henchman don’t still own most of that country’s wealth, like we do here. The conquered are not still living in their millions in shacks on sand dunes on the edge of the city. Really man. How stupid can people get?

(Yes, I know the statue isn’t changing that, but if even transforming a statue is resisted, how long will wealth take?)

Another issue is the idea that taking away the statue will take away history. That’s just plain offensive. Poor South Africans don’t have to be reminded of Rhodes’ legacy. They feel it every time they catch trains, taxis and buses to homes miles from where they work, to live on land that was taken from them by people like or directly connected to the guy in the statue. Only a privileged twat would think they need a lump of metal to remind them of Rhodes’ legacy. Besides, put the statue in a museum. Problem solved. As far as I am concerned the statue itself doesn't remind us of history, it hides it.

Finally, yes, we know there are bigger issues than this. Yes, we know removing the statue does very little in real terms. The point is that a cultural shift needs to happen and it needs to start somewhere. Let it be here. Of course some would argue that this statue thing subverts real change. What change? Apparently 4% of full professors in SA are black South Africans. Even that frikking statue is resisting transformation.

Many white people time and time again seem to overlook the impact of language, social and cultural skills in education, because in cultural terms higher education in South Africa is calibrated towards our comfort. Imagine all universities were first language isiXhosa or SiPedi? I am not saying we are to blame for all education screw-ups in the last 21 years (let’s not even start on before that), just that it would really help if we stopped being dicks about it. Yes, I know, not all white people are.

Gareth also suggests that this is a sort of getting even, revenge type thing a la Stalin, Saddam, etc. That’s plain cultural ignorance. The extreme poo-throwing lengths, as far as I am concerned, were that of a group of Black student/s drawing a line in the sand re cultural arrogance and saying ‘up to here and no further’. Nobody is talking about getting even with Rhodes. That would be ridiculous. Chumani and friends are trying to send a message to the people running the Establishment NOW. Agree with his acts or not we need to see them as a well thought out strategic attack. Sometimes being reasonable and being controllable are dangerously aligned.

I think they should take the statue down and then debate what to do with that space, because the great thing about being on the couch is that when we debate who should be on the couch you have already won.

In conclusion, this is not “like a child putting a plaster on his wound”, as Gareth calls it. It’s about a cultural battle, where people are fighting to change 350 years of enforced cultural assimilation, where Other languages, norms, traditions and icons were treated as less than next to consciously and strategically planned Western cultural domination. To be honest, with the bullshit we pulled in this country maybe the only credible thing white South Africans can do when black South Africans provoke for cultural changes such as this statue is say: “can we organize the removal crane?”

The missing part of the conversation, or at least one that needs more exploration is complexity in Black voices regarding the conversation on symbolism and change at SA universities. Chumani and friends can’t at all claim to speak for all Black students, and it would be wrong to assume that he does.

That's what this white guy thinks.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Apartheid and Eskom for white people.

Here’s why I think we need to talk about Eskom and apartheid. Firstly, let’s agree that our opinions matter: every article that deals with apartheid does, slowly but surely, create a Foucaultian style Truth of what actually happened, which defines how we understand what is happening now. A narrative about our past, and in turn present, that becomes accepted fact.

I was there when Jacob Zuma, that gregarious geriatric hustler who hasn’t paid back the money, told us that Eskom’s kak is apartheid’s fault. Chester Missing tweeted at the time how ridiculous this was. Because, after we have bought submarines instead of power stations, it is patently stupid.
But that, my friend, is only half the picture. Take today’s Cape Times piece by David Lipshitz. David blazingly details exactly how our power problems are not apartheid’s fault. It’s a great piece titled “Don’t blame power crisis on apartheid”, where there is absolutely zero acknowledgment of what apartheid DID do. It’s a brilliant breakdown of how useless the ANC Eskom strategy has been. And it has been useless (as far as my ignorant little brain can tell). However, like with Zelda, time and time again the question of what apartheid DID do gets misunderstood or ignored. This undermines the potency of how we can hold government to account, because when they say we are being biased, it’s true.

A problem is that the memory conversation has been polarized, so when many white political commentators write, they often seem to assume we are all in agreement on what apartheid DID do. We are not. Not at all. The apartheid conversation never really happened in SA. In my view most South Africans, black and white are clueless about the machinery that apartheid engaged to extract black labour and wealth that left millions destitute. And the fact is no significant white leader post apartheid has turned to their followers and in no uncertain terms explained that their privilege and wealth (in this, if you are not in a shack, you are wealthy) are a direct product of apartheid. The argument that ‘I am wealthier just because I work hard’ means you believe that the millions of black people out there stuck in poverty are lazy. Kinda racist, eh? It means denial of unequal access to resources, education, business language skills and cultural capital, etc.

I had one guy on twitter in relation to this saying “I’m not denying apartheid was wrong”. But if that were the case then you would want an article on energy, the ANC and apartheid to nail, at least in passing, what apartheid DID do re energy. Its not so much this one article that gets my beef, but rather the larger conversation that repeats itself. The facts of historical inequality are time and time again overlooked. And, ironically, it helps the ANC get off the hook because it validates accusations of bias.

Black people were for the most part denied any access to such resources whatsoever. The fact is we have had to pour huge effort into building infrastructure that wasn’t there before. Online I get tweet after tweet by white people  (not all, just some) arrogantly claiming that apartheid built infrastructure… the racist ones insanely try use this as proof of cultural supremacy. Firstly, black people did the work, at the end of gun, secondly, that work was funded by evil apartheid employment practices, thirdly, that infrastructure was built to buff up the cushy, privileged lives of 10% of the population, fourthly, it bankrupted us, and fifthly, it was also hugely corrupt.

If the conversation about apartheid is to move forward it needs to actively explain what apartheid did do, so we can really get into what it did not. This both takes away dodgy politicians’ historical excuses, and also, as importantly, disrupts the gradual apartheid denial that happens when we leave apartheid’s impact out of the conversation.

Ps, before the usual right wing nutjobs accuse me of white guilt and political correctness. 1) Its not about guilt. It’s about putting the facts on the table so we can move forward. 2) Politically correct is where you play it safe. I am saying, stop playing it safe. Being brutally honest about apartheid, white privilege AND ANC mistakes/corruption means pissing off some very wealthy people.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Why it's racist to blame black people for apartheid, duh.

Steve Hofmeyr, that asinine blonde amoeba, is using the world’s most simplistic rhetoric device to avoid culpability for his bigotry: he’s going ‘prove it’. It’s an old, hack trick that has its strength in the idea of incommensurability. We don’t share a common set of agreements over what constitutes prejudice, so in Stevevillefontein just about nothing is racist, unless that exact same thing happens to a particular type of right wing white person *, then it’s nuclear meltdown stage 9. How do they pull off being a victim and oppressor at the same time? Being a dominatrix in AfriForum (Steve’s official fan club) must be very confusing.

As you may or may not have heard, depending on whether you care for the intellectual Jurassic Park that is Stevo’s twitter feed, Steve believes that “Blacks were the architects of apartheid”. So then now, I know in the common sense world the rest of us live in it’s patently obvious that this is racist, but nope, not for The Steve and his merry band of morons. So now, painfully, I will explain why it’s fuggen racist.

Just to be clear, I am not explaining this for Steve. His head is too far up his own ass to hear us anyway. I am explaining this so fence sitters will stop sitting. The discourse that Steve is spewing is part of a cultural narrative that maintains the insane inequality we face today. When a white bigot with huge public presence starts telling black people apartheid was their fault it’s time for us to block his access to socially accepted public platforms. With the minimum of publicity we need to tell his umlungustan that they have a right to a racist mindset, but it’s gonna cost them. Kyknet, I will be asking your CEO for an LNN interview about what side of this line you are choosing. Neutrality on this is not neutral.

Is “Blacks were the architects of apartheid. Go figure.” racist?

Firstly, what’s racism? Simply put, racism isn’t the consciousness of race as much as it’s the prejudice against people based on race. As every B grade quasi intellectual white conservative type likes to whine, yes, in South Africa we obsess on race when the problem is often both class and race, but that move has been well explored as a white-guy-avoids-the-race-issue move. If this is confusing Andile Mngxitama lays it down here:

Next, what is apartheid? Apartheid was a system of laws that did some wonderful things to black people, to name just a few:

It took away their land and wealth in the Land Act.

It totally deprived them of any effective vote – no political rights.

It made black people live in ridiculously small rural outbacks with no way to eek a living but to come hundreds of kilometers to work on white owned mines, etc, for a pittance while their families scraped by in poverty.

It gave black people substandard education for decades, and even tried to force them to learn in Afrikaans, often a 3rd language. How the F do you learn algebra in a 3rd language? Imagine we made your kids learn in Shangaan Steve?

It blocked them from ever being able to advance in their career. To this day 75% of SA CEOs are white. We also on average earn 6 times more than black people, so our paranoia that we are under attacked is simply untrue.

It bullied them into peripheral city outskirts where they had to get back to by a certain time or face jail or deportation to homelands.

It made people carry evil little books called passbooks, which if you didn’t have meant jail.

So, for the sake of common human decency, let’s agree at least that apartheid was itself racist. So now, “Blacks were the architects of apartheid”. Obviously they didn’t vote for apartheid themselves? And obviously they didn’t send the trucks that dragged people screaming from their homes? Yup, this is that wonderful dynamic sexist pricks do when they blame the victim instead of the rapist. Basically Steve is telling us it’s black people’s fault because they were asking for it, in their tight pants and short skirts. If you are a Steve fan right now and you do not feel the deepest sense of shame then you should seek help because your soul has been expropriated without compensation.

However, Steve tried to build some credibility around this claptrap on his Facebook page. First, he said ‘go figure’ at the end, which he thinks means it’s our fault that we didn’t see it like he sees it. If Juju said “All whites must die. Go figure”, Steve’s little brain would have exploded all over his Pick n Pay sponsored face, so no.

Steve then tried to explain that if nobody wants to play with you, then it's probably your fault. Ja, Steve, I am going to shove that logic so far down your throat you gonna have to sing through your privileged behind.

Let’s go. Steve said: “If the world doesn’t buy into African systems, mentality and reputation, it isn’t always their fault”. Let’s start with the awkward fact that he stole his entire language from black people. Afrikaans was first written in Arabic by an Iman translating the Koran. Salaam alaikum, Oom Steve.

If you want more info:

Second, cultural assimilation in our country happened at the end of a gun, a historical truth Steve and his team just love to ignore. Secondly Afrikaans boer culture, as it went through SeSotho and SiPedi lands took on a variety of African cultural features to survive. Damn that must annoy him. However, what we really need to unpack is the incredible bigotry underlying the cultural superiority he’s invoking, white supremacist that he is.

Steve’s argument is older even than the language he’s saying it in. Colonialists arrived here and needed to explain their place in the world in terms of both their claimed decent Christian values (I know, hilarious), their interaction with the newly discovered Darwinian science of evolution, and their desire to exploit these ‘new’ lands to the absolute maximum. They saw themselves as being at the peak of an evolutionary hierarchy: everyone else was closer to being an animal. It’s much easier to brutally steal a country if the people living there have been denigrated to animal status. Black people could try and climb this hierarchy by adopting western cultural norms – we are just so generous. We also did kindly stuff like force them to hut pay tax or go to jail, so they had to involve themselves in our economy, an economy in which they would never be given access or equal social status. Assimilation to western norms was not a choice for black people. So saying that we didn’t assimilate to African norms is both untrue, and severely assholish.

However, the XXX strength racism Steve’s using here is that he still buys into the black-people-are-closer-to-animals rhetoric. His entire discourse is one that suggests that black people are less evolved.

For e.g.: ‘If women, toddlers and grannies complain about your contribution to the rape rate, it isn’t always their fault’. Firstly, this statement is a bald faced misrepresentation, as the people who work in gender rights can attest to. Secondly, he is selling the old idea of black men’s sexual insatiability, which comes directly from the animal-like narrative. Gender violence is a huge problem in our country. Using it to serve a narrow right wing agenda is evil.

Regarding the mythological cultural evolutionary hierarchy, apart from the fact that Africans were building universities when Steve and my ancestors were still grunting around in bear skins, western colonial domination and sciences were a result of ideas they jacked from everywhere else and just being more vicious. If Steve wants to apply his own logic to himself he will find that stuff like penicillin, electricity, railways, etc, actually happened while his dudes were busy voortrekking themselves so they could keep their slaves, so all they invented really was biltong. Of course, I would never apply Steve’s bigoted logic, so I completely reject that last sentence. Stop being such a self-hater, Steve.

I hope the millions of awesome, warm, hard working white Afrikaans people, including the likes of Max Du Preez, Zelda la Grange, Antjie Krog, Pieter-Dirk Uys, etc, can take the incredible contributions their culture has brought to the world away from this schmuck of a bigot.

So, yes, we have proved, that “Blacks were the architects of apartheid” was supremely racist. Pick n Pay will realize this eventually, because if Steve had said, “Jews were the architects of the Holocaust” he would be out on his ass by now.

Finally Steve said in his excuse of a FB update that “If folk did not want to share a country with you, why is it always their fault?” We will remind him of these words as we remove his sponsors from him one by one. No bakkie, no cry, eh, Steve? Go figure.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Dear white supremacists,

Dear white supremacists,

Ok, I lied, this isn’t a letter to white supremacists, it’s about them. Because to be frank, their entire game plan is to be the voice for a privileged, self righteous community of bigots. So the less you listen to them the less power they have. However, this doesn’t mean they should be left in peace. In my opinion, here’s why.

The racism that counts in South Africa is structural racism, the way in which after apartheid poor black people, who were disenfranchised as a group, are being left to resolve a violently unfair status quo as individuals. Don’t get me wrong, this is more complex than white to black. The ANC has Lindiwe Sisulu saying under-40 year olds shouldn’t get houses, as if the effects of apartheid just magically vanish.

However, the fact is that in SA us white people have a hugely skewed degree of economic clout, so our prejudices do have an impact. Take Cape Town’s top chop, JP Smith, who was apparently cool with  the  R7mill spent on toilets around the Greenpoint stadium area for the World Cup, while allegedly the budget for new toilets in informal settlements this year for the entire city is R20mill. If poor people want to not be raped on the way to poo they should move to Greenpoint. Why can’t they pull their shit together man? The logic that it’s OK to have millions spent on parks in one part of Cape Town, while other parts of Cape Town are still stuck in the 1980s is classic structural racism. The logic that the golf course in Greenpoint hasn’t been turned into low cost housing so poor people can be near work is structural racism. The cultural battle in SA is for us to expose this at every turn, to denormalize privilege.

The problem is that the idea of relative white wealth and black poverty have become everyday, so we don’t see the insanity in front of us. The trouble with this, in my view, is that the most outrageous prejudice becomes acceptable, and asking for common sense to prevail starts sounding radical.
Take talk radio. The overriding social agreement is that everyone should have a say and we should all cumulatively take the outcome of this ‘debate’ as reasonable. This is classic liberalism, the belief in equality. Of course it’s very, very prejudiced, because it assumes that everyone has the resources (time, airtime, access to public platforms, etc) and therefore the same voice. We don’t, and pretending that we do allows the debate to be severely skewed in favour of those with resources, which in South Africa is violently problematic. 

It’s how we can have someone SMSing 702/Cape Talk to say shack dwellers should build their shacks further apart to avoid fires and that they have no respect for people who don’t look after themselves (true story). Because you know how much choice people in shacks have over where to live. In this case Redi Tlhabi and a few callers came down heavily on this imbecile. The trouble, however, is for the most part media platforms do not reject such madness, because we want to seem open minded, and think everyone should have a say. As a result the internal logic of SA’s middle class public debate is often profoundly anti-poor and in turn structurally racist.

Enter white supremacists. As an example take Steve Hofmeyr, a hugely successful wealthy white South African entertainer, who tweeted the other day that “Sorry to offend but in my books Blacks were the architects of apartheid. Go figure”. Of course we all went at him, giving him the exact profile he needs in the conservative apartheid-missing community that pays his bills. I even had one guy suggest I should give Steve a chance to explain himself, because even bigots need a chance.

Let’s look at the facts. Steve has consistently expressed denial over his privilege and over apartheid. He has allegedly said he doesn’t think Sharpeville was a human rights atrocity, he gives his white audiences apartheid hard-ons by singing Die Stem at every available opportunity, he consistently regurgitates untruths about white poverty and violent crime on farms ( has blown his lies out of the water). His language, Afrikaans, is one of the most spoken in SA, but he acts like it’s vanishing, partly because the majority of Afrikaans speakers in SA are black. Steve Hofmeyr is one amongst many cultural pillars in the architecture of how white South Africans maintain the spoils apartheid gave us. This last one, “Blacks were the architects of apartheid”, is full blown apartheid denial, no matter how you spin it. He, of course, has the right to express his opinion, however if he is maintaining a bigoted status quo this should come with social consequences, severe ones. The normalization effects of this thinking are let off the hook by our society getting enraged but effectively doing nothing.

He can say what he wants, but companies and sponsors should be taken to task for their tacit support. For example, in a few weeks Steve will be appearing at the Afrikaans is Groot festival sponsored by Land Rover and Pick n Pay. Are these brands cool with being associated with an apartheid denialist and white supremacist? Would they be cool with paying for a Holocaust denialist to perform? Corporate South Africa never had to explain their collusion with apartheid, so the very, very least they can do is refuse a platform to its most prominent denialist. In simple terms, the status quo is biased and changing that requires taking a stand.

We cumulatively called on his bakkie sponsor, Williams Hunt, to recall the car in the light of his bigotry, they did so. Of course, this brings up the question of censorship. Steve should be free to say what he likes, but we should be free to reject any degree of normalization within that. On twitter his followers have this delightfully ignorant term “libtard”, which, because combining “liberal” and “retard” is the limit of their wit. Ironically, what I am suggesting is that we are too liberal (or perhaps not liberal enough), and as a result prejudiced. His followers believe in power without conscience, but want the liberal idea of balanced ‘debate’ accorded him. Debating Steve Hofmeyr is pointless, he’s to stupid to know he’s stupid, and in social discourse that is already anti-poor just skews towards more bigotry. I believe the answer is ostracism. His supporters need to stop being such libtards.

In a similar vein I believe the people running our various media platforms need to be far more assertive about how they handle the blatant racism that happens there (the white homeland that is Media24's comments section), and radio presenters should expose caller bigotry far more assertively, issues which would require more thought than I am aiming for here. Who calls the shots on what is sayable is always dangerous.

One other term in the arsenal of white supremacist language is “politically correct”, the idea that one must curtail your opinions because of social sanction. Ironically what I am saying is be less politically correct, be rude to the powerful. It’s much harder than the crap that masquerades as non-PC, which in truth usually plays directly into the hands of those with power. Of course this applies as much to my own work as it does to Steve Hofmeyr, so if I ever say: “Blacks were the architects of apartheid”, feel free to boycott me.