Removing Racism: A conscious effort 7

In her poor excuse for an apology, Penny Sparrow said her racist comment wasn’t meant to be taken personally. She missed the point entirely. It is precisely because her comment about people being ‘monkeys’ was not directed at a particular person acting in a particular way but at a whole section of the community, that it was indeed racist. Those who have defended her with talk of freedom of speech also miss the point. This type of language and attitude should not be acceptable anywhere, but in this country, with our history, we cannot afford to continue this type of hate speech.

We have to show the next generation that there is another way. Perhaps it’s too late for us. In that case we must, at the very least, shut up, get out of the way and allow the next generation to discover each other for themselves. Black and white, rich and poor, powerful and neglected, stop poisoning the minds of others with our own prejudices, hatreds and inability to see people as people.

And, just by the way, we have never had pristine beaches in this country. Durban beaches have always been a mess after the holiday makers. It’s not race, it’s numbers. There were fewer holiday makers before, so the mess was more manageable. Black and white, rich and poor throw litter out of car windows and mess on the beaches, just as there are bad drivers of all races, religions and social standing – it’s not just the taxi drivers, it’s all of us.

Let’s make conscious decisions every day to take race out of our casual language, so that it can start to become irrelevant in our national dialogue as well.

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About Ian Webster

I have been running my own consultancy (Simply Communicate) for five years – training and consulting in all things people management and development. Prior to that I was 16 years in corporate HR in a unionised environment becoming Training Manager and Human Resources Manager. I have a Degree in Theology and a post-graduate diploma in Human Resources Management.

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7 thoughts on “Removing Racism: A conscious effort

  • Brian V Moore

    Well said, Ian.

    We all need to take ownership for the transformation of the way in which we see and treat each other. It is not up to government, it is up to us.

  • Wessel PIETERS

    In SA with its mainly two main stream value systems there is bound to be conflict.  Question is how we, meaning all persons living in SA, manage this type of conflict and in that process, there may be unintended consequences.

    A personal friend of mine is an ANCYL member. Two weeks ago he said he read Sparrow’s comment many times. He could not see racism in what she said, in fact he deplored the behaviour of the people that shows no respect for others by polluting the area.

    Now the Durban level of pollution also happens at Loftus Versfeld under the Blue Bull’s regime.  Say, when half of the pavilion is populated with real monkeys loving rugby, and the other half with White Bull supporters, the pollution levels will probably be the same.

    As Langenhoven once remark in Parliament (1930’s) after a frustrating debate.  Mr Speaker, half of the honourable members here are monkeys…and then the predictable uproar by the Opposition.  He had to apologise and was instructed by the speaker to withdraw the statement. He responded: “Mr Speaker I do apologise to the honourable members and I withdraw my statement – half of the honourable members in this House are not monkeys”.

    The learning point: We should not to read into every comment a racist slogan.  I get the feeling we do not have the same understanding of the word racist.  Could it be that we should debate and get clarity of what is understood by the word “racist”.  Same with Problem vs. Solutions vs. Challenge.  It appears to me that the dominant value system do not appreciate “problems” but prefer the word “challenges”.  That confuses me.

    If racism is rife in SA, then we would have been in a civil war for more than 100 years.  Maybe some want that and that is racism, like the comments by a Gauteng Provincial officer about the Whites and Hitler.  But this official was dealt with by the ANC decisively.  Most Black people are friendly and have an easy disposition, but we will have to live with the exceptions for the next 1000 years.

    We need to rise above the slurring remarks and address both sides of the coin, not only the one side.  Who paid for cleaning up the mess in Durban?  Not only the White but also Black taxpayers.  So, if next year the Durban is clean, then the only monkeys remaining in SA will be the ones at Loftus Versfeld!

    So back to Skills Universe….what should be the Value system we should strive for?  There has never been debated around this matter; not at CODESA and never since.  As educators we have a direct input to deliver, but not in an ad hoc manner.  I am pretty convince we teach skills, facts and figures but do not put that into a context of a civil society and its instruments so that they are respected for adding value to our lives.  It is just about vocational skills development; nothing more.  I do not believe that is correct.

  • Tshepho Sebata

    Over the years I learned that we can’t  force/be forced  to love each other  but we can at least adapt,accept and coexist with each other.  At least we should treat each other as equals .

  • Jaison Sibanda

    Hie Ian, interesting discussion on a lazy Friday. Normally I always look at the coin on both sides, firstly yes Penny was wrong on her statement coz for years blacks have been taken as “monkies or baboons” and that word monkies turned everything sour. Secondly, I feel she was right by expressing her feeling by the barbaric behaviour that my fellow brothers have. I once visited Durban waters with my family and the experience I encountered was bad. A few boys snatched by little girl’s sand castle bucket and ran away, she was left traumatised, not only that they pee in the water and steal peoples snacks and all other silly things. So Penny’s freedom of speech was some what taken for hate speech by the words she used but in some ways she was right. Its our behaviour and mindsets that will keep this word racism in our vocabulary.

  • cindypayle

    Hi Ian – I agree with your assessment and i’m reminded of this verse in Philippians ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.’ how different South Africa and indeed the world would look if we took this powerful yet simple statement to heart.

  • Hannes Nel

    You arguments are valid, Ian. I am afraid we have a really long way still to go and we all have to just try. It is not easy as I experienced when two German friends visited me recently. They probably think racism is just black against white and the other way around because they did not even notice how hurtful and insulting their constant superior attitude towards us is. We need to trust one another and just adopt a positive attitude.

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Thanks Ian.  

    I find that many South Africans cannot hold a conversation without using those 4 race words to describe people.  Those 4 race words have no basis in scientific fact. 

    There is a song by India Arie – I am not my hair. I suggest we have a SA anthem – I am not my skin.

    In employment equity workshops I always ask what music do you think I like and the answer is always “classical” – but I am a serious African jazz fan.