It’s just plain ?racist

2014-06-08 15:00

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The recent Dr Jack & Curtis cartoon published by Eyewitness News (EWN) depicting (black) ANC voters as clowns and “poephols”, which I deem racist, has sparked discussion and outrage.

Democracy and all of the rights of the Constitution are now being referenced as though we don’t have an in-depth appreciation of the dynamics of our past.

The South African story of how we achieved democracy is split into two starkly contrasting realities: the story of how the privileged minority became part

of a wider democracy; and the story of how even moments of triumph for the oppressed majority were draped in consistent dispossession, sustained racism, strife and hardship.

The mass media, which EWN is part of, frame the latter story in terms of forgiveness and reconciliation, sustained somewhat by the peculiar post-1994 politics that in many instances continued concessions at the expense of the majority, as it was claimed, for the purpose of the economy and for social cohesion.

These were economic and social concessions, from property rights to Springbok emblems and the singing of certain truculent struggle songs. And as such, the vulnerable continued to pull the short stick in this vague attempt at “reconciliation”.

It was always within the rights of the ANC to implement the will of the people more radically, but the ideals of “reconciliation” defined many of their approaches to policy.

Two decades on, in a nation still very much bearing the patterns of the past, the white minority has chosen to claim their rights in absolutes.

Freedom of expression has now been approached as though it exists in a vacuum, devoid of any consideration for the very apparent racial dynamics and historical complexities.

No doubt we’ll be told we’re being oversensitive. US President Barack Obama reflected on such arrogance in his book Dreams from My Father: “It was?...?an obtuseness in otherwise sane people that brought forth our bitter laughter. It was as if whites didn’t know they were being cruel in the first place. Or at least thought you deserved their scorn.”

My argument against the EWN cartoon could stem from the basis of remembering our reconciliation or from the basis that it constitutes hate speech.

What is evident just by looking at our history is that our definition of reconciliation expects nothing from the privileged minority. So expecting media houses to practise their freedom of expression while being cognisant of our past is clearly not going to happen.

Their understanding of freedom of expression could be likened to how a child understands his need to consume sweets, as though there are no consequences.

Constructive and considered media representation is too tall an ask from a people who believe surviving a predominately black government is sacrifice enough.

In this sense, freedom of expression to them has been the exercise of finding innovative methods to offend and state their displeasure with the governing party.

Their next level of innovation, as implied in this cartoon, is insulting the voters who practised their democratic right. While satire often serves as criticism of the powerful, this cartoon lampoons the voters who are products of this country’s history.

They are now expected to concede to being the butt of a joke in addition to the other dubious concessions they have accepted.

And ultimately, whenever these conflicts of the “white offender” and the “black victim” occur, the victim should walk away labelled as oversensitive or not fully comprehending constitutional democracy, as though they did not make real sacrifices for it to be where it is.

“It’s just a cartoon,” they say. Just like ‘kaffir’ is just a word. How much did that one word justify a mind-set and the poor treatment of fellow human beings on the basis of colour? Are we really being oversensitive?

The cartoon was not simply satire. It very crassly said black people don’t think and it ridiculed the vulnerable by repeating the old assumption that the predominately black ANC voters are incapable of applying themselves cognitively when picking a party. At the core of it is

the belief that we should all vote for the DA to undo our buffoonery. The cartoon’s humour, if any, reinforces the sad and ignorant stereotype that blacks don’t think.

Here’s what the cartoon is really about. It is the public display of individuals frustrated by the re-emergence of the ANC, and whatever the imagined implications are of that for the privileged minority. Simply put, it is racist and advocates for ignorance.

Tshwete is a public servant

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