UPDATE, 22 March: The Citizen has released a report from other eyewitnesses at the Spur in question. Before the camera rolled, the dad had tried to calmly sort things out, and was apparently told to "just fuck off" by Lebohang. Which is when the fight started. Between that, and the fact that she used the words "racist" and "colonist" against the dad, her culpability in this situation is clear.
That being said, the dad grabbing one of her kids is not okay, and in that situation he really should have de-escalated instead of letting his anger fly at Lebohang. This situation is still two out-of-control adults, and either one of them could have ended this issue before it began.
Just when you think you're going to have a good day, right?
It's all over social media already, which means it'll probably go mainstream next. There was an incident this Human Rights Day, at the Texamo Spur in Johannesburg where a (very unstable-looking) man threatened a woman over an incident involving their two children.
The Daily Vox (as biased as they are) did a decent writeup from the perspective of the woman under threat.
I saw the clip land on Twitter, and spread pretty quickly under the #Spur hashtag. It didn't take very long for people to pick sides, but there were quite a few interesting (and some concerning) signals coming out of all this.
As with anything on the internet: Do not trust what you read until you verify it from at least two independent sources. The same rules that news organizations are supposed to act under, are now everyone's obligation.
Everything that follows is my opinion of events, and a bunch of analysis of some of the background machinery in motion.
In my opinion, and it's an opinion shared with most of the local Twittersphere, is that the man's actions were indefensible. I can't imagine anyone seriously condoning what he did there, and how he rapidly escalated the issue.
I've seen that sort of behavior before, from men who are very unstable. There's a generation of men we don't really talk about, until they splash up on the news like this - men who were raised not to think for themselves, to respond to every incident with violence, and to disregard the impact they have in the world.
Unfortunately, these men tend to be Afrikaners. I spent most of my teenage years in a home "headed" by an Afrikaner stepfather, and they were not good years. Watching that man berate the woman on that clip brought up painful memories of my own, of being on the receiving end of that amount of anger over so many trivial things.
For most of the day, I also shared the opinion that this was a two-sided affair - that the mother was every bit as responsible for escalating the situation as the man was. In the clip, she screams at him that he's a racist, and a colonialist - words that he does not respond to in kind.
Words that are usually used by pseudo-intellectuals in South African academia to conjure up the specter of oppression, under the overarching banner of liberal, social justice.
(I'll have a lot to say on that.)
In this instance, putting myself in that woman's situation, two things become really clear:
First, that she legitimately might have felt like she was on her own. In the clip, you can see a smaller man try getting up to help, but he's told to sit down at first. He eventually does get up to try calm the situation.
Later we learned that was Vuyo, who called into Power987fm to explain his side of the story. I only caught the tail end of it, but the consensus was that he was the brave soul in the room.
Spur management was nowhere. They claimed in a post later on that their staff had been pushed out of the way when the situation escalated, but it's clear to see from that clip that they were mostly just hanging around. Management was nowhere to be found, and if Lebohang's story is to be believed, they were hovering in the background.
Was everyone scared of this man? It seems so, and for that reason alone I have sympathy for Lebohang's position. I'm willing to accept that she was just protecting her children, and with nobody around to help her out, had to resort to panicked shouting.
The second thing, though, was the words she immediately reached for. In no way would calling him (or anyone) a racist be a good move in a situation like that, but I don't even think it was intentional. It definitely didn't seem calculated.
What it did seem, though, was that "racist" and "colonialist" were the only terms she had to explain what was happening in that situation. She felt under threat, the threat was a white man, and so naturally it was racism, right?
I think we need to seriously consider whether not these ideological discussions on social media are actually equipping people in the real world to get a handle on these real-world situations. Simply defaulting to calling anyone you don't like a "racist" is not how you solve the problem - but it unfortunately seems to be the only tool in the shed right now.
So that was the incident - loud, shouty, over in about five minutes. The post-incident analysis is where it gets a lot more interesting.
Power987 had 3 guests on to talk about what happened - a representative from the SAHRC, and two pseudo-intellectuals who I imagine were the only ones available at that hour to render comment. That, or, Power987 really needs a better guest roster.
The SAHRC rep was on point. He pointed out that they have to work within the framework of the law, and that according to the evidence, this wasn't a racist incident. An egregious one, yes, one that would be investigated thoroughly, but not overtly racist - there's simply no evidence that the man's attitude was racially motivated.
This does make something of a case for keeping everything on film. If you see shit like this happen, don't be afraid to record it - you might be able to help secure a just, lawful conviction against someone who deserves it.
The other two people on the panel were dismal. They essentially just echoed off each other, assumed as a starting position that (a) whites are racist (b) this was a racist incident and (c) we should go beyond the law in trying to resolve these issues. This, currently, is what "intersectionality" and "critical race theory" are leading to.
This is a topic I need to go into a little bit - not many people outside these echo chambers seem to be aware this is happening. It's subtle, too - you really need to know what to look for.
In the US, students and professors have jointly developed "critical race theory" to help them navigate the world of power dynamics, but in doing so have made it basically impossible to have any sort of dialogue on the issue.
In South Africa, that ideology is being applied to advance the arguments that:
- Blacks cannot be racist, because racism is systemic oppression inflicted by whites on blacks
- Whites are always racist, even if they try not to be
- Even if you're black and don't feel oppressed, you're still oppressed
- The law moves too slowly to handle cases like this, and we need to start prosecuting on an ideological basis, rather than a legal or Constitutional one
All four arguments are provably nonsense, but it's the third that's particularly pernicious (and the fourth that is downright Stalinesque). Just like evangelists use their Bibles to explain to innocent people how the world works, so too do these social justice warriors use their bible of oppression.
They'll tell you that, even if you're not racist, and even if you don't have a racist thought in your head, being white make you automatically racist. Even if you, yourself, do not do or say anything racist, your mere existence perpetuates racial oppression. Under this ideology, being white is automatically a crime, for which there is no absolution.
Equally, they'll tell you that even if you don't feel oppressed, that you're oppressed. That being black (or a "person of color") makes you automatically oppressed. If you can't see how you're being oppressed, that's because you've internalized oppression, or because you have the wrong definition of oppression. The correct definition, of course, is the one that makes you "awake" to the fact that the evil whites are out to oppress you.
If you can prove them wrong on any point, they'll change the meaning of the word. The words "racism" and "sexism" and "privilege" and "oppression" have been twisted and contorted so many times, they can now mean essentially anything.
The end goal of these ideologues is to convince you that:
- All your problems in life can be explained by this system
- They are the priests that commune with the higher powers of academia and define the rules of this system
- If you do what they say, your life will improve
Does that seem a bit like how religions operate to you? If you think there's some overlap here, you're right! This excellent article by NYMag, "Is Intersectionality a Religion?" makes a strong case that it is. Everything is there - the orthodoxy, the rituals, the indoctrination, the jargon, the excommunication, you name it.
This religion seeks diversity of identity - ethnicity, gender identity, and so on - but not diversity of thought. Free thought under the strict rules of Intersectionality is strictly forbidden - especially any thought that deviates from the established Hierarchy of Oppression.
This ideology was evident in the voices of the two panelists on Power987fm. It was evident in a large portion of Twitter and Facebook comments made about the event, and it's plainly evident across the self-described "militants". Including the folks over at The Daily Vox, which is why I'm suspicious of their motives.
This is a lot to come out of just one incident, I know, but I think it serves as a good snapshot of the current state of South Africa. We unfortunately still have violence against women and children, we have an onlooker culture when anything happens (instead of stepping in), and we have people that fear for their safety just going about their lives.
But on top of that, we now have a dangerous ideology creeping in. One that would advocate for prosecuting on ideological grounds, instead of Constitutional (as one panelist on Power987 did), and one that would advocate a never-ending system of oppressors and victims, such that no reconciliation is ever reached.
Happy Human Rights Day!