11 June 2018

Cultural tolerance of racism in South Africa

I recently called someone a "scumbag" for being racist on the South African Atheists group on Facebook, and in doing so I broke the rules of the group. I was subsequently muted for that, and that's fine I accept the consequences of my actions but I continued to follow the discussion silently. The flagrant racism that ensued blew my mind, I have never experienced this level of tolerance of racism in my life but sadly it was the anti-white flavour of racism which is still widely acceptable in South Africa, even among politicians.

What's disturbing is that the admin that muted me described some of the racist comments as "valid, albeit bullying, arguments". Not only was she tolerant of racism but by taking action against me and imposing zero consequences on the racist, she was in my opinion complicit in it.

I created a poll asking how people defined "African". Here are some of the racist comments that followed, I have obfuscated their names in the interest of privacy.

The South African Atheists group is members-only and my membership has since been revoked (I have no idea why since this blog post had not been published yet). Nevertheless, here's the permalink for anyone willing to join the group in order to see the original comments:

It seems that South Africa has developed a culture where racism towards minorities is seen as tolerable because of the racist atrocities of the past. To pre-emptively defend myself from inevitable attack, I grew up in post-apartheid South Africa and neither of my parents benefited from apartheid. In fact both my parents came from very poor families. To link me to racists of the past using my skin colour is undeniably racist. Even if a person is related to anyone who was accessory to apartheid, you cannot punish the children for the crimes of the parents, that is unquestionably unethical.

The sad part is that I have spent years passionately fighting for equality, a passion that has come up against popular opinion I might add. It's the equality versus meritocracy debate and my stance is that all forms of inequality eventually grow into societal cancers that kill us slowly.

And to be clear, I don't defend one ethnicity over another, or one gender or one social class, I simply oppose racism, sexism or wealth disparity respectively, wherever it crops up. These people that claim to be against white-on-black racism should see me as an ally, instead I find myself in the "defending white people" camp because that's the most prevalent form of racism I experience in South Africa. It's most prevalent because it's the only form that's still socially and politically acceptable in South Africa. To deny that it's actual racism is the most worrying part of all, this denial and obliviousness is exactly how Nazis came into power.

Racism and other forms of inequality will destroy us all, not only the persecuted. Inequality has a knock-on effect that everyone in society eventually feels. We need to put an end to this idea that inequality benefits one group or another, in the long run we all suffer, every last one of us and our children.

Adaptation for perspective

In the interest of social commentary and artistic expression, I've taken a screenshot of the discussion but I've adapted it to a pre-war Germany setting. So for example I've changed words like [African] to [German], [white] to [Jew] and used [Yiddish] in place [Afrikaans] in order to give perspective to the situation in South Africa.

Note that my fabrication doesn't hold up factually and the discussion has obviously been distorted to try and adapt it, but I've done my utmost to retain the intention behind the comments in order to portray the underlying culture and attitude of racism that wouldn't be accepted in Germany today, so why do we accepted in South Africa?

It's also important to note that apartheid is in no way comparable to any kind of Jewish proselytism that might have occurred in Germany but the point remains that racism is unacceptable no matter what the circumstances are. Particularly if the racists are using their own experiences of racism as justification for being racist themselves. It's a washing machine of illogical reasoning.

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