Where do your rights end and mine begin?
An article on ‘Interracial Relationships’ posted by an obviously prejudiced contributor on News 24 yesterday was found by the great majority of readers to be offensive. The article asked ‘what people’s views on inter-racial dating were’ but not before the author proclaimed his personal aversion to ‘mixing’.
Naturally, people pointed out to this person, that this kind of racial grandstanding is inappropriate in any contemporary civilized society. What kind of a society do we live in, when a person who is personally opposed to other people life choices, thinks he has a right to express an unsolicited opinion on those other people’s life choices? Who asked him in the first place?
The author then evokes a ‘freedom of expression’ defence, claiming that he has a constitutional right to express his opinion on such a sensitive issue in a country like South Africa; a country still struggling with race. The author makes a preposterous attempt to disguise his contempt for people that are different from him, by saying that ‘while he is opposed to mixing, he doesn’t have a problem with people that aren’t’. That’s like beginning a sentence by saying ‘With all due respect…’; you know there’s no respect coming. But expressing an unsolicited opinion like that does infringe on other people’s rights - my right to enjoy my personal choices free from having to hear his opinion. And that right is surely more important than his?
This is where a bigger question arises. What if I am in an inter-racial relationship and I find his public pronouncements offensive and derogatory? Does that still give him the right to express an opinion on my choices publically?
Where does his right to freedom of expression end? Where does my right to live my life free from his unsolicited discrimination begin? When the author later asserts that ‘he just doesn’t care about my rights, as his rights are more important’; where as a society do we draw the line?
So here’s my challenge. I will make my identity known to everyone in defence of my right to enjoy the choices I have made free from unsolicited judgment and prejudice. I challenge the author of ‘Interracial Relationships’ to defend his right to free speech in the same manner – make your identity public, for the entire world to see. I suspect you won’t, because the internet gives intellectual cowards the cover to make statements that are publicly unacceptable in a civilized society; however I hope you do because I am really up for this challenge.
The issue here is not about interracial relationships. You are all entitled to your own opinion on the matter – for or against, that’s your call. The issue is whether you believe you have a right to voice your opinion in a public forum in a manner that many find deeply offensive. And whether the author believes this to be offensive or not is irrelevant – the only person who decides whether something is offensive is the person being offended.
I believe that is why when Julius Malema expresses his right to voice his opinion, saying that that ‘a woman who asks for taxi money in the morning must have enjoyed herself’, he must pay for expressing that right. That’s his opinion, he is entitled to it, but it is also abhorrent and deeply hurtful in a misogynistic society like South Africa. The parallels of publicly expressing a race based opinion on interracial relationships in a deeply racist society may just have escaped this author, but just as Julius was being extremely chauvinist, so was the author of yesterday’s article being racist. Malema had to pay for making that statement, even if it was his constitutional right to express his opinion. It’s called justice. It’s called protection from discrimination. The constitution of South Africa protects people from discrimination before it protects the rights of expressing opinions that discriminate.
So the challenge is out there for all of News 24 to see – will the author of yesterday’s article on ‘Interracial Relationships’ defend his right in a public manner. Make your identity known; let’s take this as far as it needs to go. There’s a legal and constitutional issue at play here, he believes in his constitutional right to say what he wants, and I challenge that right. I will challenge it for all the world to see. I am not ashamed to defend my rights, let’s see if the author is ashamed to defend his. Sunlight is the best disinfectant – so let the light in, let’s make our identity known. I have nothing to hide.
After all, there is nothing more noble than defending the constitution, so if the author of ‘Interracial Relationships’ believes so fervently in his right to express his opinion, then man up. Defend that right and do it in a noble and public fashion. But please, just don’t slink away into the dark recesses of the internet in a stunning display of intellectual cowardice. The ball is in your court….
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