Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Rot Runs Deeper. Anti-Racism and Social Media.

What happened last week with...err... sorry I cannot recall her name (she's a model for FHM) should be a reminder to all of us: what happens on Twitter, doesn't stay on Twitter.  Of course, we sometimes tweet out in anger or let something silly slip out, but still, Twitter is not a confessional booth, nor the psychologist's couch. Perhaps, I'm just reminding myself of this, but it is helpful for all of us to mind what we tweet, or Facebook.

That was just a reminder.

Let me go further, if I may. The issue raised last week (again) is however not merely about how to manage our social media presence better, i.e. to emphasis better tweeting. The emphasis for me and today, was on the first part - to Mind. Most of the tweeps who lashed out against, 'what's-her-name-again?', did it with language and later, jokes that I would not consider Twitter manners, either. ( I sound very sanctimonious here, I know, by the way, I like the sound of that word, sanctimonious.) This issue is the content of her tweet and (at least for me) the fact that its not the first time that she tweeted such racist bile. This is clearly some-one who have no qualms about racist slurs and feels, as a 20 year-old, its OK. Question: Did her peers, friends, family and the people she worked with, tried to correct her and warned her about this? Which brings me to the next concern.

I wouldn't want us simply, to focus on this relatively unknown individual. The issue is: the rot runs deeper. It is more widespread. If anything, this model amongst us, reveals a rotten core, at the heart of a large chunk of the so-called 'born-frees' who are amongst us. Moreso, and here Jonathan Jansen helps us, this incident gives us a glimpse into the private, unexamined practices within social networks like family, school and within institutions which evidently continue to reproduce a new breed of racists. This new breed, make no mistake, is sophisticated, media savvy, blending up there amongst the cream of the crop. They are (almost) just like all of us. However, in unsuspecting moments of weakness, they pop out showing their true colours. Yet, very swiftly, they are dealt with-often by the same system which produced them. My concern therefore, is not primarily with those who slip through the cracks in the system and who show up unannounced and who often in a drunken stupor or fit of rage, explodes. My concern is with the herd- those who stay in the crowd, who populate Facebook groups and who support Steve Hofmeyer and his ilk, who consistently attack every institution and attempt to eradicate racism.  Of course, I am not saying that this new face of racism are only the usual lot, meaning the khaki-clad, AWB members (I don't think this FHM Mampara of the Day is, or at least she does not fit the stereotype of the Afriforum skouspel). Most of these closet racists are integrated in our society, rubbing shoulders at our workfunctions and they've simply learnt the fine art of playing the system. I would suggest that we should not be too worried about a FHM model who have let it hang out, we should rather be concerned, very concerned, about what is not said in public...

Another point, which I wont labour for now is simply this. Part of the reason why SA cannot root out this reproduction of new generations of racists, is because our popular definitions and reactions towards racism, at least as it manifest on an emotional level, which is important as it moves us towards outrage and action, is still confined to individual acts and words of a racist nature. Don't get me wrong, we must raise our voices against FHM models for using that dirty k-word, but is that all we get de-bliksem in when it comes to racism? What about the continued violent, racist nature of poverty and how black children continue to be slaughtered in our educational institutions? What about the managers of schools, who downplay the skewed nature of achievement and the racist bullying, as 'ag, you know mos.... children'. What about the simmering hatred against those other black Africans, that exploded in our faces on that bloody month of May 2008? I think you get my point. To continue to focus on these individual acts, may lead to a softening of our anger against the real forms that racism is entrenched in, i.e. our institutions and social practices today and that I missed in most of our tweets .... Perhaps we don't want to think too deep before we tweet or Facebook; perhaps we think Facebook, Twitterville or the Twitterverse is not the space for that kind of engagement. In order for Twitter and Facebook to really play a meaningful role in combating racism, to play a critical role of for us to craft an anti-racism strategy for social media, it would be for us to go beyond mere reactionary responses to the models FHM give us, it is to mind what we tweet. An anti-racism strategy which want to uproot the rot, will have to cut deeper. That's how we can combat the real evil.... at work.
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