False Dichotomies matter?

I’ve already shared what I think of the “all lives matter” rhetoric. But here’s a link to refresh your memory. And here’s another reminder of what I think of false dichotomies.

So I checked my Facebook tab and see someone has found a way of combining the two. Isn’t this fucking great?

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I’ve got one more day of my Facebook ban, so I shall reply to this one tomorrow.

Can you guess what all but one of the commenters answered? B, of course. Here’s what I always ask the “all lives matter” crowd: So you admit then that black lives do matter?

All lives do matter, but that’s not the point. When we say “black lives matter”, we’re not saying that other lives don’t. So posing it as a choice between black lives and all lives is a false dichotomy. But when you respond with all lives to a conversation about the plight of black people, you are saying that black lives don’t matter. And that’s the fucking point.

If it really were about all lives, that would of course include black lives. But it isn’t. Anyone who says “all lives matter” is only interested in shutting down the movement to bring about equality. Same goes for sharing articles about police in the US who killed white people when the conversation is about black people. Unless you shared those same things at the time they happened, you have no leg to stand on. You’re just using that shit to shut down people who are legitimately fed up with a system that’s treated them as subhuman for far too long.

Why are so many white people resistant to seeing this for what it is? We are all people, all the same, and should all have the same rights; should all be treated fairly. But that isn’t happening. In a perfect world, we could afford to be colour blind and say that we are all one race, and race being about skin colour is merely a social construct. But we don’t live in such a world.

This is what it looks like when you say #AllLivesMatter

Just saw this on social media and it conveys the message well.

WhenYouSilenceBlackVoices

If we (white people) want to be allies, we need to stop making it about us. Saying black lives matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter; it’s about addressing the inequality where it needs addressing. You don’t help starving people by feeding people who aren’t starving. You don’t help women who are victims by protecting men. So why would you respond to a call to help black people by making it about anyone other than black people?

I’m going to go a little further and say something that might seem contentious: We (white people) can never fully understand the point of view of victims of racism. We can never understand what it means to be a person of colour. We can try. But we can never really get it.

No matter how much empathy we have; no matter how much we try to imagine their plight, it’s still just imagination. We don’t live their lives. No matter how many black people we know, no matter how much we talk to them and how much we listen, no matter even how long we live with them, we are still not them.

Even if you live with a person of colour for several years and have a child with that person, you still don’t get it. People treat them differently when you are together. Even small things… like calling a school and asking about the admission of the child, can be different for them. When my ex called a school last year about her daughter, the woman on the other end of the line was rude to her because she could hear she wasn’t white. That same woman was polite and even friendly to me. And that’s just a small thing – a five minute conversation over the phone.

If we want to be allies, we need to understand it isn’t about us. I don’t know exactly what to do to help. But that’s because I’m white. I’m the wrong person to ask.

The problem with–not all men–not all white people–not all whatever

You’ll have to excuse me as this one is maybe not fully thought out. It’s one of those thoughts I’ve had in the middle of the night that I want to express, one of those I normally wouldn’t write, but this time I’m expressing it anyway because I don’t want to forget it. I need to get it out there.

So on Friday night I told my son I’d been robbed, and unfortunately the first thing he asked was, “Was it a black guy?” I had to explain to him that the colour of the robber was irrelevant. It was a black guy, but here’s the thing: I’ve been held at gunpoint back when I was in my early twenties and worked part-time in a bank, by a white guy. And I’ve been mugged before, by other guys who were neither white nor black. This is Africa, where the majority of the population is black. If the criminals merely follow population demographics there are bound to be more black criminals than others. Anyway, my son is only 12 and I know he didn’t think that the robber being black somehow makes a statement about all black people. But it did get me thinking… That’s the problem with the “not all white people” or “not all men”, or whatever.

If somebody writes about men who did something bad, for example rape culture and how men enable rapists, and your knee-jerk reaction is “not all men”, that says something about you. It doesn’t say something about what you think of other men; it says something about what you think of women. Likewise, if somebody writes about white people in terms of racism, and you respond with “not all white people”, that says something about what you think of black people.

That’s what makes it such a horrid defence mechanism. If you see a statement about white people and take it to be a generalization about all white people, even though it isn’t, your reaction tells me that you make generalizations about black people. Because to a racist, one bad black guy makes all black people “thugs”. To a misogynist, one crazy woman makes all women unstable. The only reason people take those statements to be hasty generalizations is because those people make such generalizations themselves.

To assume what is true for one member of a group is true for all, is a fallacy of composition, of course. But that’s not the point. Take a hypothetical typical white male who is a racist, a misogynist, and Christian, as an example… The typical profile of the “not all men”, “not all white people”, “not all Christians” response. Such a person has no problem taking one black criminal to represent all black people, but would never, upon reading about a white person shooting up any group, take it to mean all white people are bad. That’s why I find the “not all whatever” knee-jerk reaction so perplexing… These people do realize generalizations are bad, but only when they see something about their own group, and suddenly group-think (or is it tribalism?) becomes more important than calling out the bad individuals, to the extent of even defending the bad ones. The irony in this is that it might not be all members of the group, but you who say “not all members” are one of the bad ones.

In fact, here’s a weird one for you: Racists don’t always know they are racists. But a good measure to tell if someone is a racist is that they make such generalizations… for example as mentioned earlier, to a racist, one black criminal makes all black people dangerous, one Muslim extremist makes all Muslims bad, etc. So since we are mostly not self aware enough to recognize our own prejudices, ask yourself: Do you make such generalizations?


Edit: Maybe I should have called this A problem with “not all …” because it isn’t the only problem. I’m considering it from the POV of the person making the statement, considering why it is logically wrong and the psychological meaning behind it as well as what it really says about such a person, not from the point of view of the victim of oppression/trauma who is grossly insulted by the response.

Black Lives matter–remember George Floyd

Even though I’m white and in South Africa, I cannot let these things slide. I can’t sit here and not share stuff like this when I see it.

Yesterday this was all over Facebook. Yet another example of a black man in America, an innocent man who was racially profiled and then murdered by police. A man who did nothing to justify this and was murdered simply for existing while being black.

Most of the shares yesterday focused on the policeman, the murderer, showing him with his knee on the victim. But later the victim was identified and named. So fuck the name of the killer. Remember George Floyd, a man who died for nothing. I’m seeing conflicting info – maybe he forged a check and maybe he didn’t, but that doesn’t justify murder.

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I think it’s worth adding… A responsible leader would make a comment about this, say something, anything… at least offer his condolences. But today Donald Trump has announced he will make an executive order against Twitter because they fact checked one of his (false) statements. Then again there’s also no word from him about the US passing 100 000 COVID-19 deaths. #Winning?

Some racist quotes from the old South Africa

I saw this on a Facebook status. Unfortunately since I’m still on my ban, I can’t even react to the post, let alone comment that I’m copying the content here.

I think it is useful, given the trending of the subject of racism recently, to have a look at the words of some people from not that long ago, a look into their minds of that time and a reminder of what systemic racism looks like.

The original context here, as it was shared on Facebook, is to call out white people in South Africa who share photos of the old flag and carry on about “nostalgia” and the “good old days” as if those days were good for all.

But there is another context that comes to my mind… This is a reminder of what we must fight against. We must do everything we can to prevent this kind of regime from being in power again, both here and abroad. Look at these words, at the denial that anything is wrong, the kind of rhetoric that’s so easy when a system of racism has been normalized. Maybe I’m exaggerating but to me, the US looks like it’s headed this way, where some people are treated as subhuman, and it has become normalized to the point where alt right supporters can’t see it for what it is. They don’t see themselves for the monsters that they are. And not only that, but they think it is OK to police the whole rest of the world. Folks, the terrorists are running the show.

  1. “Actually, we have no race classification in the strict sense of the word. We have population grouping. We in South Africa are not at all obsessed with race.” – NF Treurnicht, National Party (NP) MP, in Parliament, 1967
  2. “The word ‘apartheid’ does not exist.” – D Christophers, NP MP, 1989
  3. “Contact across the colour line is welcome so long as the motive for the contact is the greater separation of the races.” – Minister of Health Dr Carel de Wet, 1971
  4. “Dr Verwoerd, Minister of Native Affairs, said yesterday it was necessary to take action to deal with these people who took pleasure in defying social convention in their homes and flats. Not only did white and non-white meet, but they sought to provoke the neighbours by hanging out of their windows … There were neighbourhoods [he said] where just a single liberal did that sort of thing deliberately.” – Cape Times, 1957
  5. “Jan Smuts Airport, in common with the Union’s other ports of land, sea and air, will soon amend its apartheid applications. The words ‘European’ and ‘non-European’ will be replaced by the words ‘Whites’ and ‘Non-Whites’ over appropriate doors and entrances. The reason is that foreigners, particularly Americans, confuse the issue – and the exit – by tending to use doors that seem to distinguish them from people who originate from Europe.” – Cape Times, 1959
  6. “The Group Areas Act defined three races, [Group Areas Board chairperson] Dr Van Rensburg said – ‘white, native and coloured’. All those who fell between white and native were regarded as coloured. But the Act allowed the coloured group to be subdivided into Indian, Chinese, Malays and those commonly known as coloured people. The Malays were regarded as Malays only as long as they lived in their own group area … If they moved into another area, even across the road, they became coloureds.” – Cape Times, 1961
  7. “Coloured girls can now work as usherettes in white cinemas – provided they do not look at the screen, Mr John Redman, general manager of Kinekor’s theatre division, told me this week. ‘When we show a film which our non-white girls are not allowed to see, they usher patrons with a torch and watch the floor,’ he said. ‘We discussed the matter with the department of labour and I raised this point with them. As a precautionary measure – since non-whites are not allowed to see some films restricted to whites only – we decided that they should not look at the screen.” – Sunday Express, 1971
  8. “It is an old German method of greeting which meant ‘I come in peace’. How can I help it if Hitler also used it?” – Eugene Terre’Blanche, leader of white rights group the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging, on the AWB’s fascist-style salute
  9. “I have never feared any black man in my life and I have fought them to prove it.” – Koos van der Merwe, Conservative Party MP, 1990
  10. “People are influenced by manners more than appearances. I like to believe I transfix voters with my big blue eyes.” – Sheila Camerer, NP MP, 1989
  11. “I will have to check whether he’s still in jail.” – A prisons department official, in response to a query from the Financial Mail about when Nelson Mandela would be released, 1986
  12. “I never imagined that power would remain forever with the Matanzimas. It’s just that we were the only two with university degrees.” – Former Transkei homeland chief Kaizer Matanzima, who fell in a military coup in 1987
  13. “At least I’ll be able to kiss Desdemona without leaving a smudge.” – Actor John Kani, the first black man to play Othello in Shakespeare’s play in South Africa, 1987
  14. “How can an organisation be secret if women are members of it?” – Verwoerdburg school principal Willem de Vos, rebutting accusations that the Afrikaner Onderwysers kultuurorganisasie (Afrikaner Teachers’ Cultural Organisation), was a secret organisation
  15. “[An] SABC records committee members, Mr Roelf Jacobs, denied the SABC ‘banned’ songs. ‘We just don’t play them,’ he said.” – Sunday Times, 1989
  16. “People have the silly idea that there must be freedom of the press and no repression. They don’t realise that ideas are also a source of evil.” – Former censor board member Professor Andrew Murray, 1987
  17. “The security and happiness of all minority groups in South Africa depend on the Afrikaner. Whether they are English- or German- or Portuguese- or Italian-speaking, or even Jewish-speaking, makes no difference.” – PW Botha, then prime minister, in Parliament, 1981
  18. “As far as the non-white population groups in our country are concerned, we are not merely dealing with tribal differences. What we are dealing with are differences of ethnic diversity.” – PW Botha, in Parliament, later in 1981
  19. “President Botha admonished the nation to ‘ride the waves, remembering at all times to stay on their feet and sit firmly in the saddle, to avoid being unseated’.” – Cape Times, 1988
  20. “We are not going soft on the ANC. In fact, the ball is on the other foot.” – NP spokesperson Con Botha, 1989”

Sorry, I deleted the last post

So I wrote about the Meghan Markle posts that are trending all over social media, and commented that it isn’t racism. But… I hadn’t actually read any of the tabloid shit. I have now. And maybe it is racism after all. Hence the post is deleted because I changed my mind. Sorry about that.

She is white, in my opinion. Just like my son is white, even though his one parent is not. My point was intended to be white is not a real thing but a social construct, and I couldn’t understand how someone who is one of the most privileged in the world can be a victim of racism. But yeah, if race is a social construct and she is a person of colour, or at least represents people of colour (even though she seems white to me) then maybe the tabloids treating as they have is indeed indicative of a level of racism, even in the UK, that I wasn’t aware of. That kind of sucks and made the whole point of my last post completely wrong, so it had to go.

Why the right wing is wrong

This is a complete change of subject to what I intended writing, but on my second day sitting at home and ill, I was appalled to read more nonsense about “white genocide” in South Africa shared on social media, so I felt compelled to tackle this subject again.

Let’s explain how I ended up with these views… I grew up in apartheid South Africa. Almost every white person I knew, and in childhood I only knew white people, was racist. Almost without exception, all of them… That is not to say it was always their fault. We were exposed to propaganda all the time. We grew up in areas where black people were not allowed to live, ate in restaurants where they could not, went to beaches where they could not, went to schools they weren’t allowed to attend, and learned from our racist parents. It rubs off. Racism is implicit and racists don’t even realize that they are racists. But they don’t have to stay that way.

I first became aware of apartheid when I was eleven years old. In my primary school, we had a progressive history teacher, who taught us that the history we’d learned up to that point was false. All the nonsense about the land being unoccupied and the white people moving in while the black people moved down to Cape Town from the north, etc. It was all bullshit. This was followed by another progressive teacher in my last grade of primary school.

In high school, I dropped history as a subject as soon as I was allowed. However, left wing teachers were more careful there, presumably because teenagers don’t keep quiet about what they hear in school. By the time I finished school, I had to spend a year in the army because of conscription. They made me sign a form stating I would never support the ANC. Because I was 18 and naïve, I didn’t see through them. To my shame, I was taken in by the rhetoric when they threatened us… when they explained that if I did not sign, it would be held against me and I’d never get a job. In reality and in post-apartheid South Africa, that would have counted in my favour. And maybe those idiots would have kicked me out and I wouldn’t have had to waste a year of my life in the apartheid army.

But it retrospect, I’m glad I signed that piece of paper. It exposed me to the harsh reality that most of my white countrymen were racists. It exposed me to a perverted form of white supremacist Christianity where the religion itself was used to justify racism and the Group Areas Act (the legislation that prevented blacks and whites from living in the same areas). It helped me to see through them. I still see through them. (By the way, I see that same form of perverted white supremacist Christianity is used by Evangelical Christians in the USA today.)

A few years ago, I went to an uncle’s funeral. He was my father’s brother, and while there, I spoke to another family member. Somehow the subject of racism came up, and I mentioned that I couldn’t understand how people could still be racist. He agreed with me, and then went on to say, “I treat all the boys who work for me fairly”. Boys. He referred to grown up men as boys just because they are black. And that’s the way it is – racists don’t know they are racists. It was like I had gone back in time and tried to have a reasonable conversation with my father… impossible.

So this is the way it is, the reality of the “white genocide” of farm murders. Farm murders are real. People are killed on farms just like in the cities and suburbia. People are killed by criminals – drug addicts getting money for their next fix. You are equally likely to be killed there regardless of the colour of your skin, even though you’d think criminals would only target those who have more money, which would be the farmers. (Truth be told, junkie criminals aren’t that smart. They target everybody.) The stats that those who believe in white genocide refer to don’t even mention race.

What’s really happening is this: White racists who were racists before apartheid ended, are still racists today. They have learned to hide it because it’s unpopular to call black people kaffirs to their faces. It will get you into trouble. But they genuinely believe that black people are inferior, and they remember apartheid with fondness. To them, it is unfortunate that apartheid ended, and black people are the enemy. An enemy who now has equal rights and power. An enemy who would want revenge. And when they hear about farm murders, it fits right into their narrative that they believed before apartheid ended – that black people shouldn’t be given rights because they will be incompetent in everything they do (because they are inferior), and that they will seek revenge. This belief in “white genocide” is thus a manifestation of the fear of these racists, the fear that what they thought would happen, would happen. It’s not happening. It’s not real. But try telling that to these right wing loons.

The right wing in this country is all about that sort of view, a view twisted by racism, held by people who mostly are not even self aware enough to know that they are racists. And of course some who do. That’s why I despise them. That’s why I call them racist scum and white trash. Because that’s what they are.