Spur altercation would have been acceptable – by apartheid standards

Black people are always being asked to call out racism, and women asked to call out sexism, but there is something intrinsically frightening about standing up against white masculinity.

The altercation at Spur over the past weekend, in which a white man intimidated and verbally assaulted a black woman seated at a table with her children, has a lot to do with toxic white masculinity. People are just too afraid to confront white men about problematic attitudes during discriminatory incidents, for fear of being subjected to violence themselves.

Let’s look at the facts presented in the video. The man, whose identity has not been confirmed but who #FilesTwitter have identified as Nico Viljoen, – is huge, much larger than anyone else in the frame. He looms over the table at which Lebohang Mabuya is seated with several young children and begins shouting at her. The person shooting the video appears to be in the next booth. She can be heard telling a man who looks as though he wants to intervene that they should “Leave him [Viljoen]” as the “Spur people will help.”

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The waitrons seem to be hanging back at first. In fact, at 00:18, one waiter walks past with a tray, looks on as Viljoen feigns a punch at the woman’s head, and then serves the patrons a few tables over. Then two waiters appear to obstruct his way as he heads back towards her but he pushes past them and then for the most part, people just stand around watching the drama unfold. The video shows other patrons trying to calm Mabuya down. Viljoen meanwhile is free to go on his way.

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A white man – who for all his life has been told that the world is his oyster – raising his hand to a black woman – who for all her life has had to prove herself time and time again just to get her existence recognised. A mere 20-odd years ago, this would have been acceptable by apartheid standards.

The problem here is two-fold. It’s whiteness: a perceived sense of racial superiority, and misogyny: a perceived sense of gender superiority; both of which are very difficult to take down in any situation because both have been empowered, justified, and validated for centuries to the point that they’re not questioned. A notion of self-serving arrogance that seeks to promote the interests of white men whose authority cannot be challenged lest we hurt their feelings.

Professor Deirdre Byrne, Head of the Unisa Institute for Gender Studies, says the Spur incident is a racially charged one, and that given South Africa’s history, it’s impossible not to consider the underlying racial motivations.

“Colonialism, ideas of inherited supremacy and legitimisation thereof play a huge role in the violence of white men,” Byrne says. “But it also has to do with physicality. Men are generally stronger and larger than women, and the fear is that they will crush you should you stand up to them.”

Violence against women is widespread and well-documented in South Africa. In 2013, independent researcher Lisa Vetten wrote in Africa Check that intimate femicide had become the leading cause of female homicide in South Africa in 2009, stating that white women are more likely to die at the hands of their white male partners. The study’s intention was to tackle claims that white women are likely to be murdered by “unknown black males” and found that these claims amount to racial scare-mongering. The study found that the vast majority of women who are murdered in South Africa die at the hands of their husbands, boyfriends, and lovers.

Many comments on the Spur incident have detracted from the racial and gendered nature of the incident by claiming that there’s little to no context available and we don’t know what happened before the video was shot. But no amount of context justifies violence against women.

People have accused Mabuya of behaving badly in front of her children when she swore at Viljoen. Rather than seeing a man who is in a socially dominant position, threatening to beat a woman, they see only a woman who doesn’t conform to ideals of long-suffering motherhood.

The reactions to the video highlight not only the failure particularly of white men to engage with the negative aspects of their masculinity, but the fact that at the core of white masculinity lies intimidation and the trivialising of it after the fact.

The reality is we are terrified of the repercussions of standing up to white masculinity. Until men themselves realise what they are doing and take a step back, it will always be a case of ducking punches and hoping you don’t get assaulted for speaking out when you see a woman threatened with violence.

Featured image via Flickr

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7 Comments

  1. Leon Jordaan says

    How do you come to the conclusion that this matter has anything to do with race? Please take me through your alleged logic in coming to that conclusion. I’m not at all saying that the man is justified for his actions. He is definitely in the wrong. I have watched the video more than once and please allow me to explain what it is about. The man saw that the womans daughter was hurting his son on the playground or maybe his son come and told him about it. He then, as all parents do, got protective over his child. He decided to go and talk to the mother he slightly aggressively informed her about the incident. Normally if someone’s child hurts another child, the parent would apologize to the other parent. She did not react in that way, most likely because her attention was divided with all the children at her table. This led the man to incorrectly assume that the woman does not condemn her child’s behavior. This made him upset and he asked the woman why she does not condemn her child’s behavior. Instead of either then apologizing for her child’s behavior or simply correcting the man, she gets up and starts defending herself verbally even though she was not yet personally accused of anything. The man then goes on the offensive simply because he is now being personally attacked. The reason that he then looses his temper and acts irrationally is because he thinks that the woman’s reaction is irrational. That is it literally NOTHING to do with RACE OR SEX! Parents will know that children often hurt each other on the playground and the there is an apology and thats the end of it. The man therefore did not understand the woman’s reaction as it was unusual. Naturally if we as HUMANS do not understand something we start to question it and we do not always think logically at first.
    So please tell me what reaction are you trying to provoke with this article because it seems to me that you want to provoke an argument in which you expect people from different races to defend the action of these to people who both acted irrationally. I also know that I myself are now making an assumption but it could be wrong I know that. But as a source of information you should take into account how your readers will react and perciveive your articles because this article does not at all contribute constructively towards equality.

    1. Roberto says

      Please watch the CCTV security footage released by Spur before making your own story as to what happened. Your version of what happened is totally wrong.

      1. Roberto says

        Why do you assume that the lady’s child bullied the man’s child and not the other way? According to the lady her child complained two times that she was being bullied by the man’s child. She even asked her kids to play far from this child in order to avoid any confrontation with the man’s child. The man’s child decided to approach them and hit her. The lady’s daughter retaliated by hitting her hard. The man’s coward of a child ran to report this to his father, who decided to get involved in the children’s affairs. He should have allowed the kids yo beat each other up . That’s how we Blacks grew up solving our kids’ problems. Kids must fight it out with the involvement of the parents.

    2. Raven Holm says

      Haven’t you got the memo yet? If you’ve stumbled upon the Daily Vox seeking truth or clarity then you’re hopelessly lost. They’re all about eschewing facts and rationality in favour of tabloid-style scandal. The truth doesn’t pay the bills fam. It works better if you hand pick snippets of the whole, removing context. The Facebook generation they write for have such short attention spans anyway, which is why they inject it with trending buzzwords even when they have nothing to do with the story in question. By doing that they can reconstruct scenarios as they please to fulfill their misguided progressive agenda that they believe is liberal but ironically is closer to fascism.

  2. Roberto says

    Kids must always fight it out without the involvement of the adults. That’s how we grew up knowing it is not right to fight one another because it is painful.

  3. Fianca says

    Ironically the lady in the incident told he son to hit the girl or did she tell her daughter to hit back. I’m not sure and would like some clarity. Is it justifiable to tell our kids to fight it out? When the kiddy action moves out of the play ring to the adult world then it’s a problem. I agree, the whole scenario is a problem.

  4. Facka yu says

    This article is messed up

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