Silence is another language white people must learn

KIM HELLER feels that the defence of racist discourse as freedom of speech exposes the oppression of whiteness.

Zapiro’s spew of racist cartoons, which is often sanitised under the guise of freedom of speech, amplifies an offensive narrative. This week, he published a cartoon depicting NPA head Shaun Abrahams as an organ grinder’s monkey. It demonstrated Zapiro’s ongoing trade in racist caricature. It also exposed once more, an underscore of endemic, ingrained racism among white liberals in South Africa. No apology can snuff out this violation of voice. If this is the signature tune of contemporary white South Africa, it must be stopped.

Expression of voice is indeed a cornerstone of democracy. However, the vociferous proclamations of the right to freedom of speech when racism is pointed out is inane. It makes me question whether white people in South Africa have the right to speak at all.

White people like to be heard. There is an almost obsessive-compulsive insistence to be heard. White people like to be heard during their declarations about their right to say whatever they want. White people like to be heard when engaging in instructive conversation which barely pauses for black voice. White people like to be heard when indulging in deeply offensive comments which taunt and massacre the dignity of black people. White people like to be heard when they are looking for black people to congratulate them on being decent human beings. And, most recently, white people appear to particularly enjoy telling black people how to feel and how to heal.

Self-righteousness has always been the steadfast companion of white privilege. It is unsurprising then that today, the white narrative is littered with an illegitimate instructive inflection, as whites continue to ordain themselves as the “perpetual teacher” to the black man “a perpetual pupil”.

The Rainbow Nation was an arranged marriage. It was consummated on the back of white interests and it spawned a deceptive melody of reconciliation that denies the reality of unrequited freedom. Whites have taken refuge in the shelter of a silence which hushed culpability for colonial and apartheid fracturing of black lives.

I found Bongani Madondo’s opinion piece in Sunday Times last weekend poignant. He says, “To the dispossessed, all white people are, necessarily, part of the problem. As such, white people cannot be expected – or lay claim – to be agents of whatever radical redress and self-affirmation and healing black people need.”

He goes on to say, “I suspect whiteness, and a specific ideological DNA of whiteness, is immune to hearing us: black South Africans do not need you to do anything for us – even if it is well intended.”

I used to see myself as one of the “well-intended” whites – Until a few months ago when I was removed from a black consciousness discussion group. The horror! Privilege disrupted! But I listened. It forced me to realise that silence is a language white people need to learn.

Biko was correct to refer to the South African white community as homogenous. The earnest white left-wing academic, the angry liberal cartoonist, the hobbyist white activist, and the everyday white South African who nurses racism daily, are indeed one. For as long as white is the colour of privilege, the white voice will be a claustrophobic chorus that chokes freedom.

If this is the narrative of white South Africa, it must fall. The rallying call of white South Africans who purportedly care about and commit to the transformation of our society and our economy must be to silence this white noise. To accept that the disruption of hegemony of white people’s interests is a necessary soundtrack of a liberated narrative. While I applaud the efforts of leading activists such as Rhodes Must Fall activist and Oxford scholar, Ntokozo Qwabe, to disrupt whiteness by cutting through the very artery of privilege with courage and conviction, this dismantling should be the responsibility of white people. Surely.

So here is a starter guide to the disruption of whiteness for white people themselves.
1. Confront your privilege, but do so privately – it is of little consequence or interest to black South Africans.
2. Gatecrash your own party – if you truly honour freedom of speech, don’t intrude into black conversational spaces. Your presence is not required.
3. Liberate yourself from self-indulgent white noise and spearhead campaigns on wealth and land redistribution, among fellow white South Africans.

That’s it.

If white people were treated as black people continue to be treated in the country, can you imagine the outcry?


Kim Heller is a media, communication and political strategist and strong advocate for economic liberation. She writes in her personal capacity.

Featured image by Ra’eesa Pather
  1. Sue says

    Wouldn’t it be nice is Ms Heller obeyed her own high-minded injunction, and shut the Heller up.

  2. Chris says

    So why doesn’t she take her own advice and shut up?

    1. Goolam Dawood says

      Because she’s not trying to talk to black pain. She’s talking to white privilege. Which has a distinct inability to listen 0_o

  3. Chris says

    It’s such a relief to know that black South Africans don’t need me to do anything for them. Tell the ANC about that. Helper has 1st world problems to worry about. Clearly.

  4. Mel Stevens says

    Interesting story. Now her’s another interesting story. I am a 67 Year old white South African. I was born in PE. Lived my early life in Northern Rhodesia(Now Zambia) then Southern (Now Zimbabwe) then my father got a job on SA Railways and I lived in Durban, in Roland Chapman Drive, Montclair, Durban. While in Junior school, my dad lost his job and due to the kindness of an old man in no 10 of the mentioned road let us stay in his shack in the back of the yard, with outside toilet. We stayed there for 3 years. Then by the grace of God my father got a job with the army and he managed through a loan get a small house , in which I lived till I got through high school. I then went to work on the SA Railways to help my parents. When I started work on SAR+H in 1966, I was told that, if I could not read, write and speak Afrikaans, I would never get a promotion. Funny, Afrikaans was one of my best subjects, so I did get some promotions. Then, of course in 1994, when Madiba was released. we all had fun in this country, I was given my watch (For 25 years service) at 32 years (7 years late) and in May 1995, got booted out of Transnet. Funny, when I was booted out, I was bringing 2 bottles of cane at Christmas, to give my black friends a few drinks at Christmas. I battled it out for 10 years doing jobs like Car Guard, Motor cycle delivery boy, etc, to survive. I finally managed to work my way back to surviving and am now currently the Stores Clerk of Independent Newspapers. I have never ever been racist and never will be, BUT I’M WHITE and now YOU, tell me to Shut Up. How old are you girl.!!!!! Rather tell JZ and his cronies, to stop stealing Tax Payers money and help to place Mmusi Maimane, in POWER. ITS TIME FOR REAL CHANGE, in THIS Country, Little Girl.

    1. Goolam Dawood says

      It wasn’t the Grace of God that got you through those days. It was the grace of Black dispossession and African exploitation. Your sad story of hard work and surviving the challenges was my father’s sad story of being kicked out of his home, denied equal opportunities to work, denied the right to give his children equal access to education. Does your sad story know any others?

    2. NoCommenter says

      Very well said… This KIM HELLER girlie really doesnt sound like somebody with very much experience does she…

  5. noonespecial says

    Kim Heller is the former communications and media strategist for the EFF. For international readers, the EFF is a pro-black, militant right wing party that uses demagogues political tactics to brainwash the poor and poverty stricken to rally behind them. They feed off the bitterness and hate toward to a white lead apartheid regime that ended 22 years ago, striving to deliver a polarized society by scapegoating along racial lines. This article is yet another attempt to remind South African white people of how disgusting they are, its a ‘white blame’ tactic that really stands no ground in a country which has legislation designed to ‘oppress’ white people, the minority, and promote black success. According to Kim, this legislation is not enough punishment and we must now concede our right to engage in political dialogue with black people. As a white person I am so used to hearing far right statements like this, that it’s now just water off a ducks back. If using the energy to tell someone how much you hate them and wish they weren’t around makes you feel better, go for it, my mind is stronger than that and I will not waste energy on you. It is important to digest this piece with those facts in mind.

    1. Bob says

      The EFF is just the AWB in different clothes, same rhetoric, same hatred, same thought processes….
      Pay them no mind unless you’re looking for a laugh when they fall off their high horse.

    2. Goolam Dawood says

      White people in South Africa do not know what oppression looks like. Why is it so offensive to you, to consider her 3 options:

      1. Listen to black people without comment
      2. Let their pain into your space, and
      3. Look at meaningful redistribution that can reverse the war and conquest and real oppression in which your superior attitude is rooted?

      1. Bob says

        I’ve been asking this for years and still haven’t had a concrete answer from anybody who keeps spouting on about redistribution:
        What exactly, in point form please, would you have me do?
        Must I give you my house? my car? my money? WHAT DO YOU WANT!?!??
        Its a simple question and I’ve never had a straight answer….

        1. JD P says

          We are Waiting Goolam!!!

        2. Aidan says

          How about the land is at the very least evenly distributed between all South Africans. Paying special care to demographics. Basically white people show us that you sorry not just in word but also action. Also don’t come at me with it wasn’t me it was my forefathers. Your forefathers thrived and mine suffered. Thus you continue thriving and I continue to suffer. We cannot be equal if you have every means to be successful and I just have my right to vote and dololo else

      2. Profart Mohammed says

        You as a fellow musloid should consider our Ummah redistributing that which we won in conquest and rape in the middle east!

  6. therealmidnite says

    Sorry. I had enough of people telling me what I should do, what I should be and what I should think just because I happened to be born white while the NP was still in power. Yes, that is me showing you my bony, white middle-finger.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.