Khaya Dlanga

The K is not OK, OK?

2011-09-14 15:00

Khaya Dlanga

There was a lot of outcry over the last week after Darren Scott said the k-word to a colleague. I couldn’t help but laugh when I found out that he made the said comment during a team building exercise. Looks like the team really needed building. Badly.

The only time I was ever called the k-word to my face was when I was the only black kid in my class. Black kids had just been permitted to go to white schools. The kid dropped a droplet of Tippex on me and said, “Do you think you’re white?” he asked while looking at the other kids in the class.

They did not react. Then he said, “Kaffir.” I lunged at him, but the other boys held me back. The interesting thing about my reaction is that I had no idea what the word meant; all I knew was that the word was derogatory.

I later found out that he used to be teased because he was Portuguese. Perhaps he thought that there was someone else who could be teased now that there was a black kid in the class. The principal handled the affair well. He asked the boy if he knew what Portuguese were called and asked him if he would like me to call him that. The boy said no sir. We shook hands and became pals.

Let’s take it a step back for those of you who have been living under a rock, under the sea in Antarctica. Darren Scott is a popular radio host in South Africa. He is a white guy. I have to mention that he is white for those who pretend that they don’t see race so we don’t have to mention it even though they do see race. Yes, racists. People who actually see race never have to prove they don’t see race by saying they don’t see race.

According to The Star: “Scott and his team were at the lodge bar. Most of the crew had been drinking since early in the evening. At one point, Tshoaedi, who had also been drinking, came over to them. Scott said Tshoaedi was acting as if they were “lifelong mates”. Given their history, Scott reacted.

“‘I told him to leave. He stood there and smiled at me, so I told him to f*** off.’ Tshoaedi left, but came back a while later.

“‘During that exchange, that’s when I used the k-word. Some of my team jumped in and tried to calm the situation. I got up and went to bed,’ Scott said.”


Scott said he was upset because the man owed him R3 000, and he’d just bought himself a car and a house. Apparently he was so upset that he thought it warranted calling him the k-word.

Scott says he is not a racist. Why would a self-confessed non-racist call a black man the k-word when upset? The conclusion I drew from this is that Scott must think these things when he is by himself. If not, then he says them when he is around the braai to his friends who condone it. Why does he even have the word in his vocabulary?

This raised many questions amongst black people. Do white people call us the k-word behind our backs more than we thought?

One can also say that he said in frustration, he wanted to say something that he knew would wound him the deepest, not because he was being racist. Of course I know some people would find that impossible to believe. When a man calls a woman the b-word in the middle of a heated argument, does that make him a misogynist? The question again, why is the word even in his vocabulary?

The issue here really is not even about Darren Scott, it’s about the word. Do we as black people give the word power by reacting the way we do when it is spoken? Some even ask if the word should.

Let us not forget the time when Dr Ivirn Khoza called a black journalist the k-word in 2008. Black on black kaffirisation if you will, which I believe is even worse than being called the k-word by a white person. Nothing happened to Dr Khoza because a) he is a powerful man and b) he’s obscenely wealthy and c) he’s black. Does this mean it is ok for a black person to use this horrid word?

It is never acceptable to use the k-word under any circumstances. It does not matter who you are. It should not be tolerated. Perhaps the only time we can use the word is when we are discussing the word itself.

I hope and pray to God that we never reach a stage like the Americans who have started using their k-word, the n-word as a term of “endearment”, but get really angry when a white person says it. The logic is that it was to reclaim the word. But how can you claim to have taken the power of the word away when you get upset when a certain group says it? Clearly the word still has negative power.

We should not ban the word but people should govern themselves not to use it. We should not start getting into the habit of banning things that offend us.

Interestingly, the very same people who were happy that Julius Malema was found guilty of hate speech were silent when it came to Darren Scott for having used to the k-word. Their silence spoke volumes.

The lips that utter the k-word belong to a self-oppressed mind. To demean another human being by calling him the k-word is even more demeaning to the person who said it. However, they have so demeaned themselves that they have no idea that they have dehumanised themselves.

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