behind those wide toothy grins

When I heard about Darren Scott’s racial slur the Latin phrase: in vino veritas came to mind. I didn’t even have to hear the whole story behind it. All I kept thinking was: what would ‘provoke’ (his words) someone to call a black person a kaffir?

And then I got to thinking about John Galliano and his racist slurs. Coincidentally he was found guilty of racist and antisemitic rants and and given a suspended sentence of £5,200 today. I remember watching the video and thinking: hayi man, the guy is totally out of it. He looks drunk and high and being purposeful insulting and confrontational. And now I’ve changed my mind. Before reading about the court ruling that is. Those racist rants came a deep dark place of resentment and hate. Not as easy to excuse behaviour when it’s closer to home I guess especially because antisemitism is a non-issue. The holocaust happened so many years ago and we’re tired of being reminded of the past… Either that or we’ve become desensitized.

If I’m honest with myself I’d have to admit that I’m not entirely without prejudice. It’s as innocuous as someone mimicking an Indian person’s accent when there are no Indians in the room; or perhaps not so innocent. Given the right mix of cocktails, we become more free with our inner thoughts and far more relaxed among say, company of all black friends when we talk about abelungu

Kaloku, it’s easier to point fingers and call people names when it you’re not in the firing line. All those people who are quick to to demand resignations, public humiliation ceremonies… look a little deeper. The only thing this kind of incident does is remind us of how much further we need to journey as a nation. Just because we can count on two hands how old a democracy we are and we have children who don’t even know what apartheid is, does not mean that those wide toothy grins at the work place or those side smiles in social settings aren’t masking still-to-be healed wounds. The next time you’re quick to shout out racial slurs when a taxi driver cuts you off in traffic or some drunken unapologetic stranger knocks over your drink in a crowded bar, think about where that filth comes from. Why should a derogatory term about race be the first insulting thing out your mouth when you’ve had a few toots or driven to anger?

I’m not saying Darren Scott’s protracted explanation and apology in any way justifies his behaviour; it’s in fact that very justification that points to the root of the problem. There are no excuses that can explain away calling a colleague a kaffir. None. And another thing: we should never feel apologetic for bringing up apartheid in conversation. Save those rolling eyes or your ‘not that old tune again’ statements for people who keep on telling us we’re the rainbow nation. Yes we are, and that’s exactly why we should never stop engaging with each other on all levels. Whether we’re laughing and celebrating while wearing our national team’s jersey on Football Friday or having another honest conversation about how apartheid tore the very fabric of our society.


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