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Editorial: Activism, racism, justice and white crocodile tears

Ntokozo Qwabe’s Facebook post telling the story of how he and a group of friends refused to tip a white waitress provides us with a moment to reflect on activism, its aims, but also the stubborn obstacles to movement to a more equitable society.

LOL wow unable to stop smiling because something so black, wonderful & LIT just happened! And of course, the catalyst was a radical non-binary trans black activist – Wandile Dlamini – from the Rhodes Must Fall movement. Because trans activists have BEEN the ultimate blessers of this decolonial struggle!

To cut the long story short, we are out at Obz Cafe with the said activist, and the time for the bill comes. Our waitress is a white woman. I ask the said activist what the going rate for tips/gratuity is in these shores. They look at me very reluctantly and they say ‘give me the slip, I’ll sort that out’. I give them the slip.

They take a pen & slip in a note where the gratuity/tip amount is supposed to be entered. The note reads in bold: “WE WILL GIVE TIP WHEN YOU RETURN THE LAND”. The waitress comes to us with a card machine for the bill to be sorted out. She sees the note & starts shaking. She leaves us & bursts into typical white tears (like why are you crying when all we’ve done is make a kind request? lol!). Anyways, so this white woman goes to her colleagues who are furious. She exits to cry at the back & a white male colleague of hers reluctantly comes out to address us & to annoy us more with his own white tears telling us that he finds our act “racist”.

We then start breaking it down for this white man & ask him why they are catching feelings when we haven’t even started (like the part where we take up arms hasn’t even come & yall are already out here drowning us in your white tears? Really white people? Wow.). We start drawing him to the political nature of the act & why we couldn’t be bothered that they decided to catch feelings from the note. We tell him it’s great that business as usual has stopped & the pressing issue of land is now on the agenda in that space – seeing the cowntry was celebrating ‘Freedom Day’ yesterday. We then chase him back to do his job. And continue with our conversation before exiting the café.

Moral of the story: the time has come when no white person will be absolved. We are tired of “not all white people” and all other bullshit. We are here, and we want the stolen land back. No white person will be out here living their best life while we are out here being a landless and dispossessed black mass. NO white person shall rest. It is irrelevant whether you personally have land/wealth or you don’t. Go to your fellow white people & mobilise for them to give us the land back. That will be the starting point of all our interactions from now. We will agitate all our spaces with the big question: WHERE IS THE LAND?

Thank you to all the non binary, trans & all other black bodies who have been at the helm of this decolonial moment in the settler colony known as South Afrika. NOTHING will ever be the same again. Alibuye Izwe Lethu!

Qwabe’s Facebook page has been deactivated after detractors clicked “report” on his posts a few too many times for Facebook’s liking. In the meanwhile a staggering sum of money has been raised for the waitress, while many others wonder whether the incident is indicative of greater challenges gripping students movements.

Black rage and white racism is not the same thing

Many have equated Ntokozo Qwabe’s action at the Obz Cafe as black racism, or, *drumroll*  reverse racism. Let’s be clear, no such thing exists. Racism is imbricated in the structures of power. The average person in South Africa is still suffering from a history of disadvantage.  Racism meanwhile, seeks to maintain the status quo. If anything, the incident in Cape Town is an example of black rage – misguided, useful or not, that is another question altogether – but this stems from generations of economic and structural violence against black people.

Picking on a white, female, waitress. Really?

While the action cannot be described as racist, it certainly wasn’t righteous, principled or exemplary. Why take on the fight against white supremacy by targeting the lowest common denominator? The waitress, despite her white privilege, may herself be a victim of class and patriarchal structures of power. It seems like an easy target in the face of mammoth social and racial inequality and violence. And is humiliating a white, female waitress really going to chip at the problems our society faces. Where does humiliation fit in with leadership and the quest for dignity for all.

People are still obsessed with white tears
Nonetheless, despite the nature of the incident, the responses to the incident also illustrates how white pain is still seen as more deserving of condemnation and attention. This is white privilege at its finest. Condemnation of the incident has come from all quarters – Even the freaking Daily Mail led with the tears of the waitress.  And a Twitter campaign raised R13,000 ($900) as a tip to compensate the waitress.

Let’s take a step back.

Would any of the everyday micro and macro aggressions against black people in this country raise the same level of outrage and condemnation? Instead, black people are told that the aggressions they face are the result of their own incompetence. Can we imagine how much money Twitter would have to raise to compensate the collective pain of black people still reeling from centuries of colonialism?

What exactly does this all mean for activism, particularly the activism of our student movements?

We still need to find more effective ways to hold power to account

As those who stand against white supremacy and in solidarity with black people in this country, we are fast approaching an impasse on how to deal with questions of reconciliation without justice. While we don’t buy into the colonial notion that black rage needs to be tamed in order for it to be effective, we must also be cognisant of carrying out an intersectional form of politics which implicitly relating to class, race and gender are seen as interlinked and inseparable. The target must always be those individuals, institutions that have been and continue to at the forefront of maintaining the status quo.

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28 comments

  1. Qwabe behaved abominably and deserves every inch of the backlash he got. A waitress has no, zero, nada “white privilege” and is obliged to serve the tables of humans and sub-humans alike on a first-in,first-served basis. To pretend she somehow has “white privilege” is profoundly racist, and to suggest that she deserves “black rage” because of her complexion alone stops only an inch short of actual hatespeech.

    • Karin Stofberg

      This manifestation of “Black rage” seems to be predominately shown by privileged youngsters with an overdeveloped sense of victimhood. In their minds there is nothing that cannot be blamed on whatever category is deemed as more privileged, no space for seeing people as individuals with their own ideas, virtues and follies. The world can only be categorized according to brute identity politics, and nothing else.

      It is doublethink of the highest order to say that this episode can’t be described as racism. The waitress was immediately and exclusively judged based on the colour of her skin and treated accordingly.

      I must admit that the fundraising effort on the other hand was cringe-inducing opportunism even by douche-bro twitter standards. It would have carried more weight if there have been any efforts from those circles to fundraise for victims of white on black racism in the past.

  2. So black people can’t be racist? They are only expressing rage at generations of white racism?

  3. I’ve long felt the biggest hurdle to the movement moving forward is the aforementioned Black Rage.

    On the one hand, the rage is justified. It is the result of generations of institutionalized racial discrimination and suffering poured out onto the black masses without concern for their plight. No one except the deeply bigoted and racist could look back on the history of our country and not see how black people have been degraded since the arrival and implementation of the colonial structures that STILL remain in place today in many ways. White people, along with their privilege, need to understand why this rage exists.

    However, Black Rage does not exist in a bubble. The harsh, harsh reality is that black pain, suffering and unfairness are all social constructs. As much as humans like to believe otherwise, the universe is completely indifferent to our suffering., we are “owed” nothing. To constantly react with rage and anger, regardless of perceived justification, will not win allies, advancement, or a shift in attitude. Treat people with rage, and they will respond with rage. They will grow indifferent to your plight, and it will backfire in your face.

    “But why must blacks censor their rage? Why should we who suffered still be expected to act with restraint and maturity when wronged so much? Why cater to white sensibilities?”

    Because life isn’t fair. Life. Is. Not. Fair. Again I will say: Our pain is a social construct that is bound to reality. To be blunt, it is not completely unimaginable to see a white person grow unsympathetic to movements such as Rhodes Must Fall when constantly being barraged with aggression and hatred against them. We CANNOT ignore human nature in this struggle, to do so would be equal parts arrogant and foolish. We need to take the road of maturity, and bullying a waitress is not the way to get there.

    Anger can be a great spark to start movements, but a spark is all it should remain. Once Anger becomes used as a fuel, constantly burning within us on a daily basis, it will turn to an ashen bitterness, and everyone, no matter how highly a praised intellectual or activist, is prone to this bitterness setting in. I say this not as a way to police peoples anger, but again as a factor not to be ignored in the current climate which seems to think ALL rage and actions committed in it as justified, which is mere folly.

    Not a reality many black people will want to agree with or admit, but one that must be faced if we truly want to move forward peacefully. (Although it can be argued, looking at actions of Qwabe et all, moving forward peacefully might not be the end goal. In this case, we will be our own undoing as a nation if we choose petty rage and revenge.) Black Rage must be addressed by blacks just as White Privilege must be addressed by whites. Both sides have deep soul searching to do, and must meet halfway. It isn’t “fair”, it isn’t “right”, but if we want to truly strive for an equal society in the most peaceful way possible, this is how it should be done. Doing the mature thing rarely is easy.

    • Applause Applause Applause! Well said

    • now that is a good comment… pls tell me you have a twitter handle I can follow?

    • KEITH KAMINSKY

      So N Q based on your letter of HATE and to anyone else in your den of twisted morals, should whites from now on stop tipping blacks who are in the majority as waitrons / waiters ? You and your followers need to get it through your heads we ALL are South Africans who work our butts off to contribute keep the wheels of the economy turning. By the way BEEEEEE , AFFIRMATIVE action for the past 20 years has given many a slice of economic cake ( not to mention the major part of the cake that was taken by your corrupt hero’s) is what you should be putting energy towards instead of protecting them, so change your theme to “Corruption out and give Back our FUTURE and the stolen billions meant for our economy” Think about it, your leadership has gone from HERO TO ZERO and taken the entire countries economy with it.

    • Great comment.

  4. Sorry but ‘black pain’ and ‘black rage’ can’t be used as an excuse for everything. The ANC has political and largely economic control, if you are not happy with the state of things then talk to them. Vote eff if land is your prerogative. The fact of the matter is SA has many many more opportunities for black people than any other country on the continent where actually blacks own the land in Africa and are still poor. Land DOES NOT equal wealth. The Internet reaction as usual is excessive. But stop making excuses for a privileged little bully throwing his weight around

    • Well said. Nobody has the right to treat anybody that way, regardless of whatever rage has been thought of.

  5. Stop with these BS terms – “black rage”? It’s racism. Easy. No need to paper wrap and put a lint around it.

  6. “Racism is imbricated in the structures of power” you are quite correct. Only, it’s Qwabe and his merry band that has the power. The waitress in question has zero power in comparison.

  7. The simple reason we cannot succumb to the temptation for revenge is that we have to be [are?] better than them. If we are not better in every sense – in the way we live, think and act – decades of struggle are wasted.
    White privilege is not some pie-in-the-sky idea, otherwise why are so few white people unemployed? The privilege persists because they have an economic and social leg-up from the policies of apartheid that the rest of us don’t. It still doesn’t justify the actions of an arrogant future elitist.
    And maybe that’s the real reason Rhodes must fall, because his project to assimilate our brightest and our best, to alienate us from our own people [class?] is succeeding.

  8. Whilst I agree that this is not a racist incident, it is remarkably callous and stupid. It is not as Qwabe would have us believe some sort of courageous political gesture. He and his friends are not striking a blow against white supremacy by acting in this way. This is childish gesture politics at its worst and Qwabe should be ashamed of bringing the RMF movement into disrepute. Perhaps he should spend his remaining time at Oxford thinking about effective political strategy. He should also grow up.

  9. racism
    ˈreɪsɪz(ə)m/Submit
    noun
    the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
    “theories of racism”
    prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

    It was a racist act as was the follow-on brag on FB. The references to “White tears” confirm this. Are there inequities from the past that need to be addressed? Yes. How? God alone knows. But the actions of Qwabe are not constructive or conducive to addressing the issues.

  10. I must say, nice comments thread.
    Let’s be clear here. We’re talking about Obz Cafe, in Observatory Cape Town, yes. A young white woman child? Earning a living serving people food and drink, amongst others knobs like this Qwabe?
    This is a platform for standing up against the iniquities of this world?
    Grow up, you lazy-minded human being.
    Maybe next you can target a creche and throw mud in some three-year-olds face.
    Thanks for setting the revolution three paces back. Knob.

    • Oh, and by the way, white people. This is why you are so screwed. When faced with something like this, what do you do? Collect money? Really? You have so little moral fibre.

      • What should she have done, necklaced him on the spot for being a judgemental fool? Brought her colleagues together to beat him to death in a kangaroo court? What kind of response would suit you?

      • What a contradiction. You are one very confused knob

  11. If Qwabe is so angry at poor young white girl and white Western culture as a whole, he should decline his scholarship (white contributions) and his iPhone and go back to how his ancestors lived. Instead he acts like the racist, misogynistic person he is and makes a girl cry. Bravo, what a leader. Oliver Tambo would be proud. He’s a hypocrite and I hope his scholarship is revoked.

    • Everything he has ever owned and put on his ass, come from the white man. He is just a jealous piece of shit for the fact that he will never be white. He should be angry at God for making him black. Whites had nothing to do with that

  12. Where does this nonsense definition of racism come from? It’s not the definition I grew up with, and googling for the definition does not say anything about structures of power either. Here is the first hit for racism that comes up on Google:

    “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

    So where does your definition, which it seems was birthed in the last year or two, come from? Because it’s not a definition many widely recognise nor does it appear to be the correct definition. In fact, the only time I see the “black people can’t be racist” shtick being pulled, is when a black person is being racist or someone tries to defend a black racist.

  13. TheRealMidnite

    “White crocodile tears”? Thanks for showing me your prejudice. That makes it very easy to tell whether an article is worth reading or not. This one isn’t.

    • These dipshits can only see the “oppression” of the 55 000 000 entitled, 30%’ers in SA. Whites had to feed all of them, even wipe their asses. They can only destroy and breed

  14. Im black, too lazy to work, what now? Oh, I know, BLAME THE WHITE MAN FOR MY MISTAKES.

  15. Dear Editor —[[[[1]]]]— You say, “…THE INCIDENT STEMS FROM (white)VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE.” History reveals that Black people have killed more Black people than whites have, before, during and after Shaka’s campaigns. Right on up to this present day, 49 murders are NOW being committed, EVERY DAY in SA. That’s comparable to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Statistics SA 2013 reports that, ”There are 1243 cases of VIOLENT crime, brutality & rape on W’s & B’s EVERY DAY, mainly(almost all) perpetrated by Blacks.” (that Excludes theft, vandalism & non-violent crime.)

    One million to 2.5 million Blacks were massacred by Blacks during the Mfecane.
    Dingane was responsible for the Weenen massacre of 532 Boers,
    and for the Retief Delegation massacre of 100 Boers.
    There were other massacres in SA as well. THROUGHOUT Africa, conflicts, genocide & human rights abuses by Black people are countless.

    —[[[[2]]]]— That “ BLACK RAGE ” you mention, should be directed at the many Corrupt Criminal ANC politicians (riding in their colonial Mercedes) and towards the multitude of Corrupt Criminal Traditional Leaders (in their colonial 4X4’s). They have the POWER, NOT the whites.

    —[[[[3]]]]— You say, “THE AVERAGE (Black)PERSON IN SOUTH AFRICA IS STILL SUFFERING FROM A HISTORY OF DISADVANTAGE”. The truth is that the average black person in SA in 2016 is more ADVANTAGED than other Black people THROUGHOUT all of Africa. Foreigners from throughout Africa are FLEEING persecution and poverty and are flocking TO South Africa (& to Europe), for the better prospects and quality of life it offers. (Why are Black people better off in SA?. …because of w____ influence, structures, medicine, social systems, technology, institutions and capital. )

    Blaming whites (in 2016) is ‘Victim Mentality’ Logic. Always having this victim excuse will ENSURE FAILURE & will not solve the real problem(s).
    One of the real problems is that the black population has Doubled Again in the last 30 years, ( admittedly with the help of Western medicine. )

    Apartheid was Not a war, it was apartness / segregation.
    While some Blacks were seriously affected by apartheid, millions were not seriously (if at all) affected.
    You can’t blanket Blame, disrespect or attack a whole group of people.
    Most whites under 45 years of age had very little or no firsthand knowledge of apartheid during it’s existence.

    —[[[[4]]]]— You say, “ WHITE PAIN IS STILL SEEN AS MORE DESERVING OF CONDEMNATION AND
    ATTENTION ” This was big news because:
    (1 ) Ntokozo Qwabe BULLIED a Powerless, Innocent person &,
    (2) gleefully BOASTED about it on FB afterwards &,
    (3) because he clearly got great PLEASURE from it. (Quote: “feeling elated”, “LOL wow unable to stop smiling . . . something . . . wonderful & LIT just happened” , “wow; LOL”!) &,
    (4) He is a ‘well KNOWN’ ‘activist’ & is supposed to be towing the moral High ground with his Oxford RMF movement.
    It’s Not big news because of her! You need to face up to REALITY.

    We need to FIRSTLY; RESPECT each individual person (B or W) for what they do or don’t do. (i.e. their individual behavior) Only then will we find solutions, peace & harmony.

  16. The man’s just a smartarse prick. End of.

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