Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Don't Blame Whites for Black Racism

15 March 2011

The race war will not subside unless editors and journalists have the courage to condemn racism unconditionally. When Eugene Terreblanche was killed, the insinuation in many newspapers was that he got his comeuppance because he was a racist. Such heartless logic can hardly be applied to the thousands of murders of innocent people that take place every day, every year. Are they killed because they are racists, exploiters, nasty, etc or are they killed because murder together with rape, armed robbery and assault are the daily diet of crime South Africans are subjected to for a number of very complex reasons?

In reaction to Jimmy Manyi and Kuli Roberts’ disgusting stereotypes and primordial racism about coloured people in the Western Cape, a range of journalists and political commentators have condemned them harshly and rightly so. But along comes the City Press (6 March 2011) with the most predictable and counter-productive editorial. Never able to condemn black people unconditionally, the editor, true to form, again blames white SA.
“If we can discuss Manyi and Roberts so heartily, then we should not be dictated to by the likes of AgriSA, which last year walked out of a summit in Somerset West because it was not prepared to discuss the brutal treatment of farmworkers (sic) by farmers.”
“The criticism by some that Manuel is advancing a rightwing agenda by admonishing Manyi in public will have merit only if we never discuss other forms of bigotry, especially the most pernicious, white racism whose effects are felt to this day.”

This gutless editorial contributes to the reasons why racism persists. According to this bizarre kind of logic one can only criticise blacks when you find a white equivalent. To link Manyi and Roberts to AgriSA is mindless. Scrutiny of this quote implies that AgriSA walked out of the summit because they are racists; that they treat farm workers brutally; that this smacks of “pernicious, white racism.” Stereotyping farmers in this way, more than a decade into the new SA, displays a simplistic understanding of agriculture in this country. 

To equate farming with brutality against farm workers is to perpetuate the old apartheid stereotype of farming. True, some farmers treat their workers badly, as do domestic employers, business employers, NGO employers and media employers, not to speak of editors. Over 2000 farmers have been killed since 1994, more than in Zimbabwe. The number of commercial farms has declined dramatically since 1994. The UN Human Rights Commissioner has called the farm murders in SA genocide because they follow a pattern and involves the most unspeakable brutality.

The writer of this editorial needs to conduct a survey of how many jobs are created by the agricultural sector; how many farmers pay their workers a living wage; how many farmers provide schools, health-care, social work and housing to their workers; and how many farmers make profits as opposed to losses.  Ask me, I know. As a non-executive director of a farm, I should like to invite the editor to educate herself about the complexities of the agricultural industry, the difficulties and obstacles it needs to overcome to make a profit, the unpredictable environmental and climate change challenges, and how they are affected by the exigencies of the export industry and the value of the rand.

This arcane view of farmers is as stereotypical as Jimmy Manyi’s view of coloureds. Editors need to display some courage when they criticise racism from whichever quarter it comes without blaming others for the racism of black people. Jimmy Manyi is a crude racist as is Kuli Roberts. Just as the Reitz 4 video was released months later than the actual happening, just so Manyi’s video was released later. Timing is not the issue. The fact that such barbaric utterances have been made at a public forum by those who claim to be democrats and who claim to uphold the constitution, should be condemned unequivocally.

 Instead we have this constant barrage of mealy mouthed editorials from editors who do not have the guts to call a spade a spade. There are a lot of unadulterated racists in the ANC and those who remain silent are acquiescing to a racial nationalism for which the ANC has become renowned. 

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