Guest Column

Fight racial hatred with mutual respect

2019-02-11 12:08

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Establishing mutual recognition and respect is in everyone's best interest and is the best weapon we have at our disposal to fight racial hatred, writes Kallie Kriel.

Had social media been the only criterion, you would be excused for thinking that South Africa had turned into a country of uncontrolled rage and racial hatred. 

Especially Twitter has a substantial number of people from different communities who openly and with a growing passion hate those who are different from them; they even seem to yearn after conflict. 

These anti-white and anti-black Twitter warriors' hatred blind them to such an extent that they don't seem to consider for one moment that conflict will also be destructive to themselves. They even romanticise violence and do not realise that, if you start shooting, someone else will shoot back with a vengeance.

READ: Conversations about the past are crucial, but when and how also matter

Twitter discussions (if you can call it that) reached a new low point in the wake of the Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy when people at the periphery even "celebrated" the death of innocent young children simply because of their skin colour and language. I attempted to work through my own dismay by knowing that BLF and other racist instigators represent a negligible number of people, and that what you see on Twitter is worlds apart from the healthy human relations and cooperation that AfriForum and I witness at grassroot level. 

A much greater threat to healthy human relations than that posed by the peripheral people on Twitter is that anti-white sentiments which one finds on Twitter have been "normalised" by the mainstream public debate to such an extent that no-one bats an eye anymore when stereotypes of white people are created, and they are made scapegoats for everything that goes wrong. It is within this context that I found Zenoyise John's article "Hoërskool Driehoek and the origin of black anger" so upsetting. 

My impression is that John is trying to justify the Twitter peripherals' happiness about the children's deaths. She says that their statements are not the result of a lack of ubuntu, but rather because of the "righteous and justified" black anger. She then puts all "white people" in one group and refer to "their inhumane deeds".

The question remains, however: How does it become acceptable in a country that, on paper at least, is supposed to promote non-racialism and human dignity, for white people as a group to be declared the scapegoats of the country? There is a myriad of reasons for this, but the major role that the media and political leaders play, should not be underestimated. 

For example, former president Jacob Zuma's statement that the country's problems started with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck openly branded all white people as troublemakers. This is exacerbated by the current president who, as part of the land debate, often and without hesitation refers to "our people" in a context in which he clearly does not view white people as part of "our people". There are many other examples. 

The role of the media, and especially the English media, in stereotyping white people, lies therein that the few cases in which white people are the accused and black people the victims are immediately branded as racial incidents and receive massive media coverage – while black-on-white incidents are downplayed and ignored as ordinary crimes by the media. 

Take one case as an example: According to AfriForum's research, the Coligny tragedy alone received more coverage by the English media than 145 farm murders over two years in the same media. These and many other examples contributed to it now being seemingly acceptable to paint the current generation of white people as a bunch of racist scapegoats who should be held responsible for all the bad things that happened in the past, happens today and what will happen in the future.  

By raising these objections, I am in no way attempting to downplay or dismiss the "black anger" to which John refers in her article. I truly have great empathy with people whose dignity was violated during apartheid. Nor do I assume to fully understand how black people feel who have experienced apartheid first-hand.

However, what strikes me in the current public "racial fights" is that many of the older generations of black people who have experienced apartheid do not harbour the same type of anger and racial hatred as some members of the younger generation of the black elite. This is strange, because the new generation has better opportunities and access to universities and did not live during the apartheid period. The reasons for this are debatable. The best explanation that I could come up with is that black people who lived during apartheid times thoroughly understand the destructive impact that racial hatred and polarisation has on a country and its communities. 

Establishing mutual recognition and respect is in everyone's best interest and is the best weapon we have at our disposal to fight racial hatred. This does not mean that communities may not be upset and have their voices heard when things go wrong. AfriForum regularly makes its voice heard. We must guard against justified objections degenerating into racial hatred. 

To promote mutual recognition and respect at grassroot level, AfriForum is not ashamed to take on cases that are important to Afrikaners, Afrikaans-speaking people and other monitories. The organisation also intervenes in many cases to claim justice for various cultural groups. This includes support in cases such as that of the Nkungumathe community in Nkandla in their struggle to get a school; the Dube family's search for justice against Duduzane Zuma; Gabriela Engels in her case against Grace Mugabe; and many more. AfriForum's local structures' safety initiatives, the repairing of potholes and many other actions are to the benefit of everyone.    

AfriForum extends a hand of friendship to everyone in the country and is determined to cooperate in fighting racial hatred and promoting mutual recognition and respect between communities.

- Kriel is CEO of AfriForum.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    afriforum  |  kallie kriel  |  racism  |  apartheid
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