Happy New Year, everyone!
It has been ages. I kid you not, I was working on another blog post when something happened on Facebook that I was going to ignore. It is the kind of thing I ignored throughout 2016.
But this is a new day.
One of my friends posted, “Penny Sparrow sparked the year of racism (2016) a year ago today.” I replied that this was “the Facebook post that launched a thousand battleships.”
Brendon Ware, whose Facebook profile shows him to be a young white man, replied to my comment that Sparrow’s was a post that “proves people are too easily butthurt and offended. No excuse for letting text or sound vibrations in the air trip you up… wow people…wow. Be better than them, don’t let them get to you with petty remarks.”
I advised him to delete his reply to me. I then sent a message to the guy who posted the initial status, saying, “I’m not above crucifying the Brendon Ware character on your thread.”
Meanwhile, Ware was replying to my advice.
“Take what back, a comment on FB, tell every person that posts a chune online to take it back. I never tuned anything so I have nothing to take back”
“I simply made a conscious acknowledgment of the fact that people on Earth get too offended too easily and blow things way out of proportion. I find it funny how thousands of racist, sexist, xenophobic posts are actually posted on social media everyday and people seem to only nit pick on and run with that and make a mountain out of a mole hill, if other people can’t see that… this species has a serious problem with consciousness, and intelligence.”
Why is this one young man the first topic of this blog for this year? Isn’t it overkill and vindictive, taking one individual — a young one with his future ahead of him, at that — and broadcasting his moment of indiscretion to the world? Do we like “manufacturing” outrage? Am I that desperate for reads? Shouldn’t I be finding a more “constructive” way of engaging people like Ware and telling them why I think their opinions are inappropriate? Is this blog not supposed to be holy ground instead of a battlefield?
Here’s why the answers to all of the above are No and Not Anymore.
1.) “He’s young.”
For this, the young master is not too young at all.
Racism, insensitivity to racism and white privilege (among other kinds) are nipped in the bud at as early an age as possible or not at all. Each time someone feels free to propagate an opinion that excuses or minimises racism, it tells me he lives in a huge social bubble where there are no consequences for racism for those close to him.
If this poster is the age I think he is, he’s a “born-free.” One of the reasons our economy is defined by racial inequality, and will be for some time, is that a huge number of white children are completely apathetic about this country’s past, though they’re beneficiaries of apartheid.
In a limited sense, then, this comment is worse than Sparrow’s because it shows a total refusal to learn from Sparrow’s.
2.) “He’s just an individual and it’s not fair to blame individuals for attitudes held by many.”
Racism exists because enough individuals harbour it, and other individuals allow them to.
3.) “Hasn’t He Got a Right to an Opinion?”
Sure, everyone has the right to an opinion. That’s why I’m inviting everyone else to have an opinion about Ware’s opinion.
4.) “If this follows him into the future, it will ruin his career prospects.”
If we can be okay with discrimination ruining the career prospects of those discriminated against, then we can be as okay with the ruin of the career prospects of those who minimise the ugliness of racism. Besides, I’m pretty sure that all talk of this young master’s career prospects being ruined is exaggeration.
5.) “He’s young. He’ll be traumatised if society reacts badly to his comment.”
He can take it. After all, he’d have us take Penny Sparrow’s comments with a stiff upper lip.
6.) “Siya, you have no right to judge him.”
I was given this moral-high-groundist admonishment when I blogged about Mabel Jansen’s rant. But what I’m posing to you isn’t a judgment; it’s a question. Will 2017 be the year white people like Brendon Ware continue tell black people that their responses to posts like Penny Sparrow’s are hypersensitive?
7.) “We are tired of these racist people outings and pillorying.”
This is precisely the topic the Ware incident brings up, that of who gets to decide what the appropriate responses to racism are. People like him people can afford to get tired of racial justice because they are buffered from racism. But South Africa is headed for something disastrous if we, citizens, do not take it upon ourselves to dismantle oppression and inequality. The discourse does not sleep.
So that’s his name, guys. Brendon Ware. I think it’s catchy. Like a hashtag. #BlackTwitter, I am counting on you. You know what to do.
Persons of colour, you allow people to walk over you year after year.
White people, do not tell me you hate racism if you also turn a blind eye to your children when they minimise it, for that is also minimising it. Those children are simply repeating what they have heard you say. Is Ware a reflection on you? Let us know.
That other blog post is coming soon. May you have a blessed and beautiful 2017!
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