SA to combat social media racism

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Facebook and Twitter are two of the most commonly-used social media websites

Government plans to eradicate racist posts on social media

Government condemns the alarming increase of racist posts on Twitter and Facebook, which deliberately undermines the progress made towards social cohesion, nation-building and strengthening democracy.

With social tensions at its proverbial peak in light of a recent altercation inside a restaurant, many citizens took to their social media accounts to voice their displeasure which leaves the floor open for racism to get involved. As we all know, it only takes one comment or post to get the ball rolling. Acting GCIS Director General, Donald Liphoko, said, “It is unfortunate that such comments follow hot on the heels of the country commemorating Human Rights Day.

Nowhere to hide on social media

Liphoko continued, “Government will actively pursue offenders through all available mechanisms including confronting employers and will not allow incidents of racism to define us as a country. What we do in defense of our country today will define who we are as a country in the future. Those found guilty of racist utterances and acts must face the consequences of their actions. ”

Penny Sparrow, is a name that is not unfamiliar with racism nor social media. The disgraced Sparrow caught everyone’s attention after she had openly labelled black people as “monkeys” on her Facebook page. She was subsequently fined R5000 and claims to have been “stating the facts”.

There have been many more cases regarding the racist narrative where offenders have been charged, albeit rather leniently, and required offenders to undergo racism rehabilitation. Racism is a serious problem not only in our country but on a global scale and as such the public has been encouraged to become more active in counteracting racism, within the confines of the law.

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Image courtesy of SABC

Public must play their part

President Jacob Zuma described racism as “one of the most despicable human rights violations” and called for the nation to unite in order to rid ourselves of the problem. Racism is a direct violation of the Constitutional Rights of each South African. Victims of racism can open a case at any local police station, or through the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Equality Courts.

President Jacob Zuma, “the ideology of racism remains firmly entrenched among some in our population, and it represents one of the most despicable human rights violations.”

The Department of Justice is finalizing the National Action Plan against Racism and Related Intolerances which will strengthen the fight against racism and related intolerances. Ultimately, government will look to prevent the occurrence of such crimes through the passing of the Bill as it will criminalize hate crimes and hate speech.

Related:

South Africans urged to use social media to combat racism

Rise of social media complicates efforts to fight racism: SAHRC

Racism needs a Madiba moment

 

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Conflict between Black and Coloured South Africans – Cape Town

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A beautiful shot of Cape Town. Picture by Jeidi Thompson

Racism is often referred to as a timeless struggle that has been passed down from generation to generation, decade after decade. A problem as old as time, is racial discrimination and the inequalities that go hand-in-hand. Throughout the history of South Africa both pre- and post-Apartheid, racism has reared its ugly little head whether it is institutionalised, stereotypical or internalised.

Cape Town, on the surface is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful cities and one of Africa’s biggest tourist attractions. However brewing under the surface is an unpleasant conflict amongst two of the larger ethnic groups within the city.

Previously disadvantaged during the Apartheid era people of colour (both black and coloured) had limitations and laws put in place against and in some cases, inflicted upon them. The history of Apartheid and the downfall thereof is well documented but the intricacies involved as well the aftermath remain somewhat of a grey area.

Prior to this piece of writing, I had conducted brief interviews with a few people who have lived in Cape Town all their lives about the aforementioned conflict pertaining to black and coloured citizens. We all hear stories through the grapevine of this incident or that but in order to achieve definitive answers and opinions one has to do some digging. The only way to gain a better understanding of the issue at hand was to obtain opinions from both sides; from a black perspective and from a coloured perspective.

When first asked about the conflict, a 20-year old coloured female (who wished to remain anonymous) responded with, “Why are you asking me that?” followed by “Yeah, I guess there is”. This response leads me to believe that the talking points are there, lying dormant until the issue needs to be addressed. During the same interview, the young woman referred to stereotypical racism as being a part of her everyday life in a post-Apartheid era. She said, “We all know about the general stereotypes that exist across all races whether it’s black, coloured, white or purple! I was made aware of these stereotypes growing up but it was for me to decide if I wanted to look at someone based on their colour or the actual person”. Based on that statement alone, it is easy to say that the stereotypes and the effects thereof vary from person to person but that presumption cannot be made based on one person’s opinion.

Speaking to 22-year old black male (who also wished to remain anonymous), I had learned that he had a similar view to that of the young woman. Baring in mind that they live in the same neighbourhood in Athlone, they had similar views on racism and stereotypes. He said, “It’s a choice. You can choose to be racist or not but there are some cases where you are born into it and just can’t help yourself”. As contradictory as that last statement sounds, it makes sense with regard to how you are brought up and what your parents lead you to believe.

Parents and elders shape the beliefs and thinking of their children and families which is why I found that when speaking to older folk about the conflict they seemed more stern in their approach to other races. Almost as if they were speaking from a place of anger and frustration with a pre-1994 way of thinking about race.

This anger and frustration was somewhat justified when contextualised in an Apartheid era type of mentality for a person of colour. Black people had no rights and were the ‘target’ and on the receiving end of Apartheid laws and policies, however coloured people were able to find loopholes and in some cases fall through the cracks of the oppressive system. Coloured people were able to claim their “whiteness” as a result of having  a fair colour of skin or straight hair (to pass a pencil test) and as a result live a better life. Black people were not as fortunate but were able to ‘pass’ as coloured due to having a lighter skin tone. Naturally those “who were left behind”, so to say, were enraged and this is ultimately where more of the older interviewees believed that conflict stemmed from. Another interesting point that was made by one of the interviewees was that “the blacks are getting more opportunities than the coloureds”. Essentially what is happening is that there is no equality in terms of the opportunities being made available as black people are getting first preference.

In a post-1994 ‘Rainbow Nation’ South Africa we have seen our decision makers that be, try to correct the injustices of Apartheid and use this particular conflict to their political advantage. These occurrences have come in the form of government implementing systems that aim to ‘aid’ and benefit black people in previously disadvantaged areas first before any other ethnic groups within the country. Essentially, what this means is that black people are looking to better themselves first in order to make up for the injustices of Apartheid but ultimately it is the coloured people who get left in the middle as they were during Apartheid.  Policy makers and government officials use the conflicts and evident racial issues for their own political gain instead of trying to resolve the issues at hand as well as issues that should have been addressed well before embarking into our second decade of being a democratic country.

In closing, based on the interviews and conversations that were conducted held respectively there is the notion that there is a conflict that is lying dormant just waiting to be sparked off by a racist rant or something of the sort.