In light of the recent spate of racial assaults reported in the news, the Daily Vox has designed a five step programme to help those struggling to accept that the casual racism exhibited by many South Africans – and even by themselves – each day is simply that, racism. PONTSHO PILANE explains.
Is it hard for you to see a person of colour as a human being? Do you lock your car when a black man passes by at an intersection? Or are you unsettled by your new neighbours who happen to be black? Do the words “I am not racist, but…” come to mind a lot? Or do you feel “attacked” when people of colour call out racism?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be racist. Our five step programme has been designed to help you through this tough time and realise how privilege has blinded you. Keep reading.
1. Understand that it is not about you
When people of colour talk about the casual and structural racism they face, this is not an opportunity for you to explain why you are not racist and that you don’t participate in racism. Whoo-hoo, hooray for you! You recognise the humanity of people with a different skin colour. Do you want a prize?
2. Stop with the impersonations
“Ma se kind” should not be the first words out of your mouth when you meet someone from the coloured community. Impersonating Trevor Noah’s “Steek hom baby” is also not an appropriate icebreaker. It is condescending and annoying. “Hello,” will suffice.
Most of the time when people put on a black accent it is to mock and express idiocy. The black accent is not far off from black face.
If you are tempted to put on a black accent, stop for a moment to think about why you are doing it. After you have deductively analysed your reason and have come to the conclusion that it is okay, slap yourself and move on.
3. Black people are not “the help”
If you knock on a door, and a black person answers, do not assume they’re the help and ask if Madam is home or enquire as to how he or she can afford to live there. (#truestory)
And if you find yourself lost in the aisles of a supermarket, do not stop the first black person you come across and ask where the frozen food aisle section is. Do I look like I work here? What about me make you assume that I work here. Can’t I shop without being mistaken for a shop assistant?
4. Hair is hair, stop touching mine
I get that multiplicity and diversity of black people’s hair leaves many in a state of awe, but please, do not play with or touch my hair unless we are close friends. Beyond the unsolicited touching and invasion of body space, do not ask me silly questions about how I choose to wear my hair.
And no, it is not okay to ask a someone at a job interview how they do their braids or “get their hair to be like that”. (#truestory)
My life is not an informercial. I am not here to demonstrate my hair care routine or describe what product I use for you.
If for a second you find yourself not understanding “why black people are always talking about race”, there is plenty of material out there that will eloquently explain and deconstruct this question for. People of colour are not here to mollycoddle you or help you understanding the dynamics of structural racism and the injustices they face every day. It is not our responsibility, it is yours. If you find yourself overwhelmed with what you find in your research and feel the need to justify or put it in your perspective, refer point 1 above.