As every other month in South Africa, October's been a colourful one. We've had a few members of an ethnic minority group releasing red balloons into the air, falsely accusing the entire black race of violent, criminal tendencies, and carrying racist banners (one even calling for the killing of taxi-drivers) all in the name of racial equality (Viva communism).
Then there were another case, allegedly isolated, of black revolutionaries carrying a banner propagating some more killing, although who/what should be killed was unspecified. Many believe though, that white people were the intended targets. And from the seemingly rational realms of South Africa, came yet more racial tension, this time from the offices of City Press. Not to mention false reports in almost all the national newspapers connecting black foreigners to the double child murder tragedy in Diepsloot last week.
As much as I love the Rainbow Nation and wish to bring up colour-blind children, race is still a huge deal in South Africa. Here racism is not only a bizarre activity propagated on the fringe, as in my first two examples. I used to love the fact that South Africa - unlike many first world countries such as the UK and Netherlands - had no racist parties (in policy) represented in parliament.
Malema got the sack, Zuma was ordered not to sing racially charged songs, the AWB and Boeremag never featured in party politics, and De Lille had to cut loose all ties with the PAC before she was taken seriously in SA politics. But unfortunately, I realised, despite an overwhelming strive towards non-racialism in South Africa on paper, in reality racism has an ugly way of creeping up in the 'sane realm', as in my last two examples - almost unnoticed, and often unintentionally.
Although many credible sources laughed off the false allegations made by the group with the red balloons, an irrational fear of blackness is still prevalent, although subtly, in the South African discourse. Adding fuel to the fire, virtually nothing is done in the mainstream media to address what happened in the second example.
Where are the sane people saying that the individuals carrying the banner are the same as the balloon people, the exception to the rule, and that all black people are not like that?
Who decided that the intended targets mentioned in these posters were white? And has it even occured to anyone, that although in extremely poor taste, the banner might be symbolic, and be a reference to killing a system, not actual people?
Where are the news reporters grinding Malema to find out, as he promised, who were behind those banners, and what steps he is taking against them? I highly doubt that anyone would even attempt to set the record straight, because fear sells. The media want to keep South Africans racist and petrified, and it doesn't take that much. Unfortunately, as a result of our racist past, it is the black race, especially men, that are chopping off in the process. Because South Africans, whether consciously or subconsciously, consider black as synonymous to crime.
You will notice that I use the racially inclusive term 'South Africans', because sadly, I have met quite a few non-white people that are sceptical of blackness, especially of black men. As example, the other day, one of my 'white' friends' told me that her 'black' househelp refuses to open the door to black men, even if they are from the neighbourhood patrol.
Although my friend, a 'white' woman, is very verbal about the fact that she was actually viciously molested by a random 'white' man as a child, her house help doesn't hold the same irrational fear towards 'white' men.
In my opinion, it is the media's duty to pay a conscious role in destigmatising all races, and get rid of these fossilised racial stereotypes most South Africans hold. Yet, not enough is being done. Sunday's episode of Carte Blanche once again affirmed my views. The pride of the Rainbow Nation, Carte Blanche is out to bust your ass should you be stepping on the wrong side of both the South African taxpayer and non-taxpayer. Feisty and articulate, the presenters proudly reflect the demographics of South Africa.
Participants of all ethnicities have a voice in this show, and even the criminals exposed represent all races. The subjects they cover range from crime and politics to sports and entertainment. They present stories from all over the world, and seemingly no geographic area in South Africa is over-looked.
So you may ask: what the hell is your problem here, Carte Blanche is racially transformed and has something to offer for people from all walks of life, right? On the surface, sure. But next time you watch, forget about the 'real' people, and pay close attention to those cute little crime scene re-enactments giving 'colour' to some of their reports. You'll notice that almost all of the time, the criminals are played by black actors, and less frequently, by cloureds.
White 'criminals' are virtually non-existed in these clips. We are literally bombarded by images of black men disguised in police uniforms, out to trick motorists, black men holding up people with guns, black men tying up victims, black men portraying pretty much every possible violent activity imaginable.
So this choice in actor could be justified in so many ways, of which the most obvious, that the majority of South Africans are black, thus criminals are also more likely to be black. And even if the actors used is an inclusive sample of the South African population, black will still dominate as result of racial proportions. A
lso, it may be true (but it's never specified) that in the cases portrayed, the criminals were indeed black. However, is there even a purpose for showing these visuals other than to keep up with other competing crime shows? How sick have we become as a society that we actually need to be fed simulated crime scenes in investigative journalism to keep us engaged? How does the victims of real crimes feel when seeing these scenes? And, all of that at the cost of continuously reaffirming an old stereotype - that black men are dangerous.
We live in a society were visuals are everything. The world we live in has increasingly become a place where most information is absorbed through the eyes. - video killed the radio star and all that. Everytime you see a black actor on Carte Blanche 'committing a violent crime', your brain processes this as the norm. Through visuals we experience more emotions, especially fear, and the black stereotype subconsciously becomes a reality. T
he fact remains, that South Africa is a racist society, that overtly favours whiteness. Until we have completely eradicated the believe that white is always good and black is always bad, the media should steer clear from situations that uneccesarily encourages racial profiling, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
If you have names of criminals and actual identikits, revealing race is inevitable, and usually serves a practical purpose - to catch these criminals. But what's with these vague, nameless, faceless black strangers haunting our screens? We tend to laugh at the balloon people with their open paranoia towards blackness, yet, a respectable program like Carte Blanche, without any good reason, indirectly tells the same story as these individuals - black is the enemy.
In prisons, the Rainbow Nation is very well represented - White, brown and black people all commit crimes, almost exactly proportionately to their numbers - but the media keep reinforcing a believe that the culprit is always black.
Carte Blanche, as much as I appreciate your work, I see absolutely no need for fake visuals to make your crime stories more compelling - especially not at the cost of racial relations and consciousness in our beautiful country.
How about forcing us, the people of South Africa, to actually LISTEN to facts, instead of bombarding us with these poor, misleading presentations of reality? Because in the end, good journalism will speak for itself - no need for side shows....
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