Justice and equality: Whose privilege is it anyway?

2014-10-21 08:45

In a week where Oscar Pistorius’ defence tells us how he can’t go to jail because he will in essence lose his rich, white-male privileges, people are asking what it really means to be equal before the law.

Another dangerous sentiment has carried through the Pistorius and Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye cases.

Pistorius’ dodging of a murder charge (which Jub Jub was initially not so “lucky” to do) has raised the notion that we ought to “free Jub Jub too”.

This in addition to sentiments like, “Well, now I am going to shoot my girlfriend too.”

This kind of thinking doesn’t want equality before the law, but is rather about having the privilege of the Pistoriuses, Shaiks, Selebis and the Waterkloof Four, who have all benefited unashamedly from some or other privilege or patronage.

We may mean to side with the children Jub Jub killed, Reeva Steenkamp or other victims of crime, but we are, in fact, siding with power by asking the wrong questions.

It is not about why Jub Jub should go to jail if (insert white man) did not or got out of it. The question is why Jub Jub and countless other “big men” think they can behave appallingly and not suffer the consequences.

The unfairness of the system does not and cannot absolve those less privileged by it.

And when we claim to now have a licence to kill, who are we killing?

Who are these people who are props for our bad behaviour? Whose children, which women, which voiceless groups are going to be the victims of our bad behaviour that we think we now have a right to because Pistorius “got away with it”?

The obsession some people have with being treated as white and/or as rich while also siding with justice is baffling and scary.

Instead of being genuinely disgusted by the greed, carelessness, ignorance, and downright brutality of the privileged classes, we want to be in with them.

We don’t want to be treated as human; we want to be treated as privileged?–?usually as heterosexual males who have unencumbered access to the lives of the lesser privileged with little or no regard for the consequences?–?and this directly contradicts the value of equality.

So when artist Zwelethu Mthethwa appears in court next month for allegedly trampling a Woodstock sex worker to death, we ought to be fully cognisant and critical of the huge inequalities in the justice system, but without creating a scapegoat for unacceptable behaviour.

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