South Africa can't escape the R-Word where it's as embedded in our culture as the well-known products Marmite and Handy Andy. And in the small town of Knysna, where rich and poor areas are alongside (or have a clear view of) one another, racism is particularly unavoidable.
Yesterday, i posted a brief blog entitled 'Knysna's Overweight Law Enforcers' with a photograph of a local traffic officer's bum. That has yet to go out to my mailing list but the even shorter version on my Facebook prompted an outcry by some that had little to do with the topic itself. Accusations of racism and not accepting women for who they are were fast and fat. I deleted the worst remarks but there are still enough there to demonstrate the point. None who knew and defended the subject in the photo realised the irony in that they'd recognised her from a photo of her bum.
One commentator aptly responded with, "This has been blown out of proportion. He merely posed a question regarding our safety and the people who protect it, instead it turned into Feminist Apartheid V2. It was a reasonable question to ask in a democratic society that cares about the safety of its citizens."
The goal was to simply question the health of our local law enforcement and SAPS officers. I was emphasising the topic after Mike Wood, the same day, had blogged about 3 unfit cops, opposite the Knysna police station (nogal) had let a suspect get away. Notably, a well-frequented KFC is opposite the police station. He included a picture of a fat, presumably male belly - no objections. I posted his link on my Facebook too - there were no objections.
I had clearly stated what my blog was about. I had removed the traffic officer's face. I had asked 2 men who had recognised her anyway to please not mention her name - they didn't. So why was there hatred from some? And why were white people who agreed with me considered to be racists even though that made no sense as colored and black people had agreed too? One seemingly black consciousness supporter whose Facebook profile is a black Jesus reckoned that a harassment charge should be opened against me. Paradoxically, my 'fat post' was immediately after advertising the celebration of Haile Selassie 1's Earthday by the local Rastafari community of Judah Square.
The true racists were those finding racism where there wasn't any, pursuing their own agenda of wanting white people to look bad - justifying hate at the expense of logic is unfortunately far too common in South Africa. The irony is that i'm the only person i know in Knysna addressing the racial divide publicly e.g. , 'Black People versus White People', 'I Am Not Ashamed to be White', 'Racism is Still Ugly', the need for black tourists and understanding what they want, the sharing of a video demonstrating racial profiling, Kay Sexwale's incredible letter to Zuma, 'The New Apartheid', a racist experience as a child as an intro to my questioning apartheid in Knysna and more. 'Conquering the Knysna Undynamic' led to starting Knysna Keep, 413 000 words ago.
Then there's the feminism aspect that totally ignored that i'd begun my blog about the overweight officer with, "I don't believe in being cruel regards weight. For that reason, i've cut off the face of the lady involved here. People should live their lives the way they want to." Enforcement officers were the exception.
I take offence when being falsely accused or one of my posts is hijacked for ulterior motives (whether the commentator is aware of what they are doing or not).
Is a woman still a feminist if she uses any agenda to foster illogical hate between men and women?
There are women who harm other women by either not allowing them to be the women they want to be or by having double standards. That's chauvinism. Previously, when under attack, i posted 'Sex, Women's Liberation, Miley Cyrus and Me'. I've also tried to given women's rights exposure with posts such as Amanda Palmer's reading in 'Wounded to Death'. I will never make everyone happy but i'd like to believe that my relationships with women in my town, from shop owners to waitresses, is mostly positive. Most of my subscribers are women.
Was Eddie Murphy meaning to be racist or chauvinistic when he famously played a role as a fat, black woman? Of course not!
This was NOT about overweight women, 'African figures' or racism - it is about overweight officers, male and female, not being able to perform their job to the best of their ability. Citizens have the luxury of being overweight. Those in uniform do not because they are suppose to be the best representation of us and are paid by the taxpayer for their service. Good health is a legal requirement for them to apply for these jobs.
In Durban, the DA's Gareth Morgan has said that 30-50% of SAPS fail the fitness assessment test. At least, there, they have reviewed more than 700 officers and are trying to get them into shape. New police stations will include gyms. The key is being proactive. What if there were a Knysna gym for all of those in uniform? The cost would be low as it'd be divided between many departments and Knysna would have one less empty building.
What about foot patrols (which are so uncommon in Knysna so as to almost not exist despite the big surge in crime)? After i was attacked, the Knysna SAPS told me that it would be quicker if i went to the hospital and sorted the forms they needed which they'd then fetch. Diligently, and in some pain, i walked the kilometre there and back to have the policeman i was dealing with tell me he couldn't fetch the form as there were no police vehicles available (i was later told that 8 vehicles were out of commission which, added to his attitude, explained why there was insufficient visible policing).
This was never about fat, 'African' women or white people versus black people! This was about upholding the fitness requirement for law enforcement officers. But, again, the response shows us how much hatred South Africa has to overcome. On comment sections across the internet, it's obvious that many choose to feel momentarily self-righteous over bothering to seek the truth. I can hope that sex will one day make us all coloured, curing, at least, the racism aspect. However, South Africans will undoubtedly find another excuse to criticise.