1. What Happened?
A very nasty and unfortunate scene unfolded in a Spur the other day in which an aggressive man intimidated and threatened a woman and her child (1). Apparently the woman’s child had hit the man’s child while the two were in the play area. The man subsequently approached the woman at her table asking her to discipline her child (2). However, according to an eyewitness the woman became angry, “I heard him introducing himself to the woman sitting among the children and saying that he had a slight problem. He then asked the woman very politely to discipline her child because he had hit the girl in the face. He also said she should please just talk to her son because ‘it’s not on’.” The woman apparently became angry and “got up and told him to f**k off.”
You can view the footage here.
2. Where the Situation Escalated
The man responded in turn and even threatened to hit the woman. It is here that someone at a table nearby begun recording the events. He also allegedly grabbed the child by the arm and, as quite plain to see on the video footage, lifted the table in an aggressive manner which sent plates crashing to the floor. A couple of fellow patrons and waiters tried to intervene to prevent the situation from escalating. The confrontation calmed down and although the man and the woman had separated verbal abuse was still hurled across the restaurant by both the parents.
3. Woman and Child Abuse, and Racism?
The Spur, having thoroughly reviewed the footage, determined that this was not a racist attack (4). However, quite rightly in my opinion, they banned the man from their eateries across South Africa. The Spur cited “violence against women or children” as the reason for the ban, however, it was not due to racism.
I must agree with Spur’s verdict given that this is certainly not a racist assault although the Black woman accused the White man of being a racist anyway. I have watched the footage and the only one to bring up race was the Black woman, however, it is quite clear that the conflict was due to the allegation that the Black woman’s child had hit the White man’s child. In other words, this was not a racially motivated event given what we witnessed in the footage.
But what did we witness? We witnessed two adults failing to be adults. Neither was willing to walk away from the conflict until the very end after which the damage had been done. We saw an aggressive man unlawfully intimidate a woman and her child, even to the extent of grabbing the child and lifting the table. In civil society he should face the law for his actions. Likewise the woman should face the charge of crimen injuria for falsely accusing him of being a racist when racism wasn’t involved.
I strongly believe both parties are to be blamed for what transpired.
4. Hatred Towards the White Minority
However, unfortunately a torrent of deplorable, vindictive, unlawful and hateful anti-white comments were shared on social media from some of my fellow Black South Africans. It is quite clear that an altercation that had nothing to do with racism has been turned into an allegedly anti-Black crime. The only reason I can see for this is because the woman is Black and the man is White. This to many South Africans already equates to racism. I certainly don’t agree.
However, many of the post-incident comments extended to the outright obscene and criminal. For example, Ntuthuko M. Simelane was arguably the worst urging his fellow Black South Africans to rape “mutilate,” “burn,” and “rape” White children and the White elderly. He also wants the “head of these [White] animals.” This comment would certainly go down as an example in any first year college level law textbook on what constitutes hate speech. Other comments urged xenophobic violence against White people, that “White men are trash,” that “White people are the greatest threat to black people,” and that Blacks should “kill the Whites” (5).
To wish such a fate on any person, or group of people, is simply appalling. It is nothing short of moral evil.
5. What Would I Have Done?
I find it hugely unfortunate that the action of one White man, or person, has been associated with the majority, almost as if all White people would resort to such delinquency. I surely wouldn’t, in fact, I would have approached the situation thoughtfully. I might have approached a manager or, if I did approach the woman, kindly take her aside for a gentle explanation. I wouldn’t demand her to discipline her child. Instead I would have calmly explained my grievance in a non-threatening way. As I’ve learnt before the way in which we approach a situation, or a person for that matter, will determine, or greatly influence, how they respond. So far such an approach has worked for me far more than it has failed, so it usually a safer bet. However, should the woman have taken offence I would have been the bigger person. I would have left the matter altogether unless there was visible and physical bodily injury to my child. If there was an injury I would lay a complaint with the police, the Spur, and to whomever else I determined should hear it. That would be preferable to overturning tables and threatening to hit women.
Why would I have approached it this way? Simply because I believe it would have been the right, and possibly best, way to go about it.
Nonetheless, the controversial Economic Freedom Fighters evidently want to take the law into their own hands by going to the man’s house to arrest him (6). They allege that the incident is evidence that “white masculinity in this country must know that it is responsible for the majority of the problems in this country.”
Again, though the EFF are political minnows and far more bark than bite, it is unfortunate that I, a White male, am being hold responsible for the majority of the problems in this country. At least I don’t think I’ve been that bad or evil or destructive… if you don’t believe me then observe my daily life that usually consists of drinking coffee and pulling myself to college. Of course this is yet another attempt by the EFF to capitalize from an unfortunate event. After all, tomorrow they will just pin the country’s problems on the ANC or the DA, and the next day possibly White people again.
6. Missing the Real Issue.
I believe one South African YouTuber provides a good response that takes a look at both sides of the situation, and of which I think is fair. As he explains, the major issue here is intimidation of women and children by aggressive men. It’s not Black men, Chinese men, or White men. It is simply men, and we need to look beyond race here. It is also about parents who should instruct and guide their children when they’re in the playground or the classroom. It’s not Black parents, Chinese parents, or White parents. It is simply parents. These are what I see being the real contention, and not one of racism.
Perhaps a last point of concern is that we devalue bringing racists to justice. The real racists are the Penny Sparrows and Simelanes of this world. Thus, when we spot cases of legitimate racism we need to nip it in the bud. To make false accusations that certain conflicts are racist when, at their core, they’re actually not only hurts this process. Racism is a very serious offense.
Is South Africa the “rainbow nation” in which our different races can live side-by-side in peace and harmony?
Far from it.
References coming shortly…