Last night’s Sidewalk Talk show topic was racism. It’s quite a heated topic in South Africa at the moment, with recent events stroking the headlines, but in general, I find many South Africans do not want to speak about racism anymore. They feel it’s a tired and worn out topic. They want to “move on, forget the past”. They don’t feel it is necessary to speak about racism anymore because we are a “rainbow nation” in a “new democracy” and racism is “no longer a problem”. But then (say for instance) a political leader gets up and sings a song about killing a white guy, and then a famous racist white guy actually gets killed… you see those very same people, who said racism is “no big deal” totally freak out; the equivalent of hitting a hornets nest with a baseball bat.
You see clips of people on the news, black people lined up on one side with white people on the other, shouting, screaming, threatening, trying to get at one another, smacking and hitting each other if they get close enough. “It’s just better if we live separate! Let them stay that side, and we will stay on this side!” one white girl said, quite frustrated. These feelings and emotions, to that degree, cannot be caused by one event. No, no! Those feelings and emotions are there, maybe only appearing in subtle ways, or coming out in the safety of same-race-company, but they are there. These type of events don’t cause these feelings and emotions; they merely stir them up.
And that’s why it’s important to keep the dialogue about racism going, whether we feel like talking about it or not. And that’s why I did a show about it last night.
So… last night on the show there was quite a bit of input from the listeners, which I am always happy about. One listener sent a text message saying that he felt crime perpetuates racism. I both partially agree and strongly disagree with his statement. The part of me that partially agrees, sees that people allow crime to perpetuate racism. I have personally spoken to several white people, just after they or someone they know has been a victim of crime (the perpetrator being black or colored), and the racist things that came out of the white people’s mouths after that experience were totally mind blowing to me.
They even make excuses and say things like, “I am not normally racist but…” with a terribly racist statement to follow. But the thing, maybe they don’t realize, is those feelings (about the other race) were already there. Maybe they were hiding, or not even known to the person, but they were there. And that negative experience just stirred them up and brought them to the surface.
But that person was already racist, and that situation merely validated feelings they already had, and put them deeper into their mindset, and more outward with their opinion. Because frankly, when it really comes down to it, who cares what color the person was that robbed you?! A stolen laptop is a stolen laptop, no matter if it was stolen by an albino Nigerian midget, or a white person who stained his skin dark brown using coffee grounds. The laptop is still gone, and you will more than likely not get it back.
Some (white) people come with the rebuttal that most crime is done by coloured and black people. Fair enough, most crime is also done by men, but you rarely hear a lady talking bad about men all of the sudden after being robbed by a man. And we know women don’t need an excuse to speak poorly about men! And yes, if we look at the South African history, and the current social issues that are directly linked to the past, and the lack of true repatriation that has occurred, then yes, let’s talk about the link of race and crime, but I guarantee you the conversation will not go the direction you (white person with that particular rebuttal) would want it to go.
So yeah, when the listener, and other people say that crime perpetuates racism, I hear what they are saying, but I actually strongly disagree, and tend to even think that statement in itself is slightly racist. Crime does not perpetuate racism unless you allow the race of the victim and/or perpetrator come into play, and unless it is a race-based crime, the race of either person is insignificant. Crime does not perpetuate racism. Racism perpetuates racism.