Most white South Africans have the privilege of quality education, decent housing, world class health care, decent jobs, and tidy suburban life. And most white South Africans feel they are entitled to their privileges, and complain bitterly whenever they feel they have not received the privileges they feel entitled to. When black South Africans en masse get tired of the violence of poverty and move from reasoned appeals to protest, numerous white people complain about the inconvenience of protest, how it steps on their rights, and how unreasonable protesters are.
Into this context of white people refusing to understand the racial injustices and inequality of South Africa (in the past and today), black students throw the phrase “fuck white people”. It is an angry phrase. It is a frustrated phrase. It may even be a phrase full of hatred for the white supremacist violence black South Africans face daily. And that white supremacist violence is embodied in white people … so, fuck white people and their violence.
Retaliating with strong language in the face of white supremacist violence is not hate speech. Who has not sworn loudly when in pain? … say you hit your finger while hammering a nail into a wall … don’t you shout “fuck”? The pain inflicted by white supremacy is much fucking worse. So fuck it, hell yeah, swear at the beneficiaries. But this is not hate speech … it is merely a protest against the violence of white people and their privileges.
Swear words are not banned in this country. Swear words express the pain. Swear words are not knives or guns or torture or exploitation or oppression. Swear words do not have the power to oppress or exploit. They have the power to express anger at oppressors and exploiters. When someone expresses justified anger, when someone shouts out at their oppressor, this cannot be called hate speech. So, black people should be able to retaliate against the hatred and violence with a few choice swear words.
Swearing at the cause of pain is not violence or hate speech. It is the cry of someone who feels impotent trying to reclaim power, even if the only power they reclaim by swearing is to offend the oppressor.
But moving now to how Zama Mthunzi’s (and others from the #FeesMustFall movement) call was picked by Dean Hutton: how do we understand this? Is Dean Hutton inciting violence and hatred, or are they taking a deep look at themselves, acknowledging their privilege, and feeling a concomitant rage against white supremacy … which they embody in their own body? Are they confronting other white people with what they have confronted in themselves?
Dean’s artwork is not hate speech: it is an acknowledgement of the violent history of whiteness, it is an acknowledgement of the ongoing privileges that white people access. The artwork invites us – white people – to look white supremacy in the face and recognise that we are part of the violence: sure, we may not think horrible things about black people, we may have taken part in anti-racist protest (under apartheid and/or now), we may pay our domestic workers a decent wage … but still we are part of the violence because we benefit, we get special privileges. Compare the average white South African with the average black South African: they are world’s apart and this inequity is violence; it causes pain.
So we should all be fucking sick of the inequity. When a white person says “fuck white people” they are saying: we need to end this privilege and inequality. And for that to happen white people need to face their whiteness and dismantle it. When all white people can say “fuck white people” … that is the beginning of breaking the back of white supremacy.
All white people need to realise that they cannot change their skin colour, but they sure as hell can change the economy towards equity.
And if white people don’t or won’t, fuck them.
by REBECCA POINTER. 7 FEB 2016