Diversity and Racism in South Africa

South Africa celebrated its first democratic elections in 1994 and the start of the democratic dispensation at the same time. Before that, there was a white government where blacks were not allowed to vote.
 
In 1994, for the first time everyone who was a resident of South Africa was allowed to vote on a “one man one vote” in the first democratic election in the country. Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
 
For most blacks, this was the start of “a better life for all”, as the ANC used this as their election campaign to win votes. There was excitement everywhere. Universities and colleges received the highest enrolments of all times. 22 years later, the walls of our newly acquired democracy seems to be cracking.
 
Recently there have been a lot of racial debates on social media. Penny Sparrow (a Kwazulu-Natal real estate agent) was first to start the debate by calling black people who were holidaying in the Durban beaches monkeys. She was upset because the “monkeys” as she called them were all over the beaches.
 
There were some prominent people who weighed in on the debate and got into trouble. One of the people who got into trouble for commenting was the Idols SA judge and Five FM DJ, Gareth Cliff. Cliff called the comments by Penny Sparrow as freedom of speech.
 
When social media exploded criticising his comments, M-Net fired him from the Idols SA show. Later M-Net lost in court as the dismissal was regarded illegal.
 
Chris Hart was one of the individuals who got into trouble for racist comments. He later resigned from his job as an economist at Standard Bank after receiving pressure from the public on social media.
 
I can’t help but ask, why are all these tensions coming up now on social media? Why do people think they can say on media what they cannot say in life? Why now? Is it because blacks are starting to realise that there is no democracy or is it because whites think they can say what they want because there is freedom of speech? What are the limits of freedom of speech?
 
And today, I am reading the comments of the Pretoria Judge Mabel Jansen with a heavy heart. In her Facebook comments, she writes that “Blacks are rapist and murderers. They rape, rape, rape, and more rape. For Black men raping their nieces, sisters and children is their culture and past time”.
 
As if that was not enough, she threw in the statistics, “99% of all Black men are rapists and murderers”. Why would a woman in such a prominent position make such utterances? Is it because she has been like that all her life and just needed to share her views with the public?
 
She claims she was taken out of context because it was a private conversation. My question is, do people change their world views when they are in a private conversation and change it again as they go into a public platform? Do these views affect her judgment? Of course they do. I am sure she concludes the case immediately a black man walks into her courtroom.
 
What should we then do to solve this problem? What platforms can be used to make sure that people learn and understand one another? Of course, the judge will see a lot of cases where blacks are involved.
 
After all, South African Blacks constitute 91.1% of the total South African population in this country. Is she saying that 99% of Black men rape their daughters, sisters and nieces below five years old?
 
 
And what is a black culture? Most white people (and some blacks) think there is a black culture. There is no homogenous culture for every black person in South Africa. There are probably over a hundred cultures within blacks.
 
We need to have meaningful discussions with one another; discussions that do not compartmentalise individuals. Why do white people think that blacks in South Africa have this blanket culture that encompasses everybody? Where do they get their reference from?
 
I can assure you that most of the white people’s version of what they call the black culture is found in their houses. They think they know blacks from asking their domestic workers and their gardeners a few questions.
 
I understand culture to be something that is created and it evolves over time. It can be created and re-created as the years progress. It is not static.
 
And individuals from different places will also have different cultures because of where they come from and influences they have experienced in their lives. Black people do not have one by virtue of being black.
 
Do we want a judge with such world views in our courts? Is racism making a comeback, or is it because it never left? Let us know your thoughts.
 
 
 

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