David Moseley

Racism reform 101

2012-05-08 07:25

David Moseley

What a shock I received when waking yesterday morning to gauge the ongoing moral outrage regarding South Africa’s most tweeted about model.

The new M&G website was tweeted of highly, the new French president Francoise Hollande was conversationally coming in second, Joburg traffic rounded out the top three trends, while something tagged #stargame (sadly, not a Star Wars or Star Trek sequel, but rather a topic concerning Big Brother Africa) had SA in a twizz, as did tags relating to “Europe” and “France”. But no mention of South Africa’s newest enemy of the state; not a whisper, nothing, zip, nada. And like that, poof. She’s gone.

This isn’t about a potty-mouthed kid, though. This isn’t about an ignorant South African who should be sent on a decade’s worth of life skills before being let anywhere near a social networking app again. Rather, this is about the surge in fiery rhetoric regarding racism in South Africa, and the sudden backwash of silence as a day of trending tweets drew to a close.

My contempt for blogs and social networking sites as forces for good knows no limits. Twitter, the saviour of the peaceful Arab world last year, is the biggest joke being played on society at the moment. Sure it’s fun. Yes, it’s a good lark sharing banter amongst your pals and like-minded people. And no doubt, it gets your attention. And then what?

Five seconds of fame

As last week’s harrumphing, and rapidly subsequent non-harrumphing regarding the use of the most heinous word in the English (or any) language showed, Twitter’s users have no staying power. They are the equivalent of a five-year-old child informing you of his finger painting class, only to be distracted by a passing butterfly before getting to the end of the tale. In short, they are unfocussed, easily distracted, and way too trendy to be caught up in anything for longer than the 30 seconds it takes to post a typically self-indulgent and pompous tweet.

Some of the invective was laughable last week, people laying charges with the Human Rights Commission and the like. Good grief. Self-righteous nincompoops with 140 characters in their arsenal, hurling abuse at a similarly gormless nincompoop who’s probably too doff to understand what she’s done.

Did she deserve it? Oh yes. There’s no place for that kind of stupidity and insensitivity in this country or any other. She was rightly named and shamed (though in another, calmer, time and place, we may ask what this kind of public humiliation could do to a 20-year-old child). She was stripped of titles, sponsorship and, most importantly, dignity. Because that’s what she did to this country and it’s people by being such a fool, stripped us of our dignity.

Where’s the change?

But to what effect the online indignation and nationwide outcry? After the outburst, where is the conversation? Where is the actual changing of mindsets?

Apart from hurling abuse and making our feelings felt vociferously and haughtily in a relatively narrow environment (just over one million SA twitter users to 50 million South Africans), where is the repair work coming from after the damage has been done?

Ask yourself. We’ve all been outraged. We’ve said so. The numbskull in question is crucified. And now? How do we make sure it never happens again? How do we ensure that future 20-year-olds, black, white, whatever race or colour, grow up without defaulting to racial slander when the mood tickles them?

I can tell you, Twitter, with its clubhouse of smug know-it-alls, is not the best place for a race debate or resolution finding.

So I’d like to know, what’s actually being done about the elephant in the room in South Africa, that great pussy open sore point that everyone knows about and no one talks about (except in ill-tempered 140 character put downs that do nothing but fan the hatred)?

Is race up for discussion in classrooms, at universities or company feel-good sessions? Are satirists taking to the stage to open peoples minds, is government putting money or clout behind systems, education or gatherings that address the past effectively (ie not changing street names, but rather attitudes)...and if they’re not, why not?

Granted, bloggers and twittavists get you talking. But once the talking stops, what happens next? Actions will wake people up. Actions will change lives. So what actions do we take to create a country where everyone is just a South African, and not a black, Indian, coloured or white South African?

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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