Blackface is only the beginning

2014-08-18 13:45

Blackface is a huge problem in South Africa: Conrad Koch has me, Leon Schuster has Mama Jack and Lonmin has Cyril Ramaphosa.

The problem is that blackface confirms the unfair social hierarchies that marginalise people in society. It’s the “humour” equivalent of e-tolls: only the rich benefit and it affects you least if you live in Sandton.

The white University of Pretoria students who dressed up as black “domestic workers” for a party need to be very severely dealt with, and also need to be understood in a larger context.

South African humour is rife with people going “eish”, “aweh”, “hawu” and “cowntree” – and that’s just the white dudes.

In fact, working-class/black/female/gay comedians don’t need to make funny stereotypes to make middle class audiences laugh because the chances are middle class/white/male/straight comedians already have it covered.

Sometimes it seems as if in South Africa “speaking truth to power” is really just to be found in the Eskom complaints line because we are so used to laughing at people who we deem as “other”.

Steve Hofmeyr reckoned that black people using skin-lightening cream is the same as blackface, which confirms that you don’t need a brain to win an SA Music Award.

My guess is that Steve’s theory on the earthquake was that it was targeting white farmers.

The thing is that the Steve Hofmeyr/Tuks student brigade are the political extreme. For me, the larger problem seems to lie elsewhere, unless you are a black student at Tuks, then the “rainbow nation” must seem like some kind of elaborate practical joke.

As with all racism, it’s the fluffy bunny, often white, English normalised and Model C middle class who condones the most pernicious bigotry because, like Ebola, you think you are fine, but actually you are deadly.

The problem is that we are so accustomed to prejudice that we crave it like a Sunday newspaper editor craves a scandal.

Apparently, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa dissed Advocate Dali Mpofu’s English during the Marikana Commission of Inquiry because, when you are trying hard not to be the puppet of white imperialism, correcting people’s English is a must.

Pallo Jordan did “academicface” for 30 years, and Hlaudi Motsoeneng lied about his matric.

Yes, it’s bad, but you know you’re a bastard when you force Bantu education on people then demand to see their qualifications afterwards. That’s like not letting people near the beach then laughing at them when they can’t swim.

This week, a child disappeared from Ramaphosa informal settlement. We have normalised prejudice to the extent that we have an informal settlement named after a billionaire.

Dr Missing is South Africa’s top political puppet and winner of the Comic’s Pen Award.

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