Gillian Schutte
Gillian Schutte

Dear Brendon Henry Shields,

I am writing to let you know that your whiteness is not my whiteness. I am doing this because contained within your “frank” confessional piece is the absolute assumption that this discourse represents all white views. Your tone is jocular, earnest and guileless — in fact I can almost visualise you patting yourself on the back when you had finished it “because someone had to say it didn’t they?” You write with the smarmy assumption that you will still be liked, no matter how prejudiced you confess to being.

I am here to tell you that your “prejudice” is even more despicable and dangerous than Steve Hofmeyr’s racism. You see Hofmeyr knows he will be hated for his tirades and he simply does not care. His fans will continue to love him for speaking their views. He spews his racism out with no bars held. That is honesty. He does not want the people he is speaking down to, to still like him for insulting them. Your confession though, is more despicable because it disguises the same sinister supremacist belief; except in your case it is unconscious and you are clearly unable to recognise it for what it is.

To quote a tweet, your confession is nothing more than “honesty dripping with prejudice” which you assume is normal and therefore acceptable.

Like so many privileged white folk, your common-sense discourse completely lacks the ability to be introspective about where your racism stems from. It does not occur to you that historically, white culture owned the power to “colonise” the definition of normal with respect to race, class, gender, heterosexuality and nationality … or that this is exactly what you do in your cringe-worthy letter to the world.

It is not, however, you alone who is to blame. This normalisation of “white as right” is still force-fed to the South African public through the social machinery in the form of the print and electronic media, advertising and white-boy satire. All this ensures that whiteness remains normal, unnamed and invisible. In this worldview it is only blackness that is called out as abnormal, substandard, dirty, corrupt … and our media has a field day spewing forth this form of black bashing. It even pushes certain phenomena such as high crime rates or rape or littering as “inherent traits” of the black race. This is exactly the premise Hitler used to demonise and exterminate thousands of Jews.

It is no wonder that young men like you feel so damned superior to black Africans. You have been told that since the day you were born.

Now you want all people to be “just like you” because you are (in your mind) the best of what humanity has to offer. You say, with such annoying confidence, that you do not want to meet black South Africans halfway any more — because you have tried this and they have never lived up to your standards. Has it once occurred to you that the black people you met may have found you offensive — that you probably wore your white assumptions about them on your sleeve — that you probably smiled too much, spoke in an affected accent and generally acted both foolish and superior in the company of black folk?

You are, believe it or not, dealing with fully-fledged human beings with brain cells, emotions and psychology who can see straight through spoilt white gits like you – or did this simply not occur to you?

You talk about loving soccer matches at Wits Bidvest and in the same breath blame the dirty toilets on the race factor — which were not cleaned prior to the matches — not once casting your prejudiced eye to the management of the stadium as the perpetrators of these unhygienic conditions. You assume that none of the black people at the match were also turned off by the state of the toilets. After all, in your mind they are little more than degenerates who revel in dirty public spaces.

Now because of the dirty toilets and waste, you say you “became” prejudiced and started noticing more “differences” between “us and them”. You noticed how some couples, for example, would send their kids to substandard schools in the area yet had enough money to purchase some extravagant motor cars and clothing, how black folk had very little respect for each other by playing loud music late into the night — at times outside in the hallway right next to where small kids were asleep. And this all downright pissed you off — because in your mind these things are black things. These things are not white things. In your mind white people are way too superior to indulge in loud music, in maxing out credit cards on expensive cars or throwing their waste out the car window.

To quote another tweet in response to your pious white shit (vomit).

Your whiteness was so injured at this substandard display of humanity around you that you then became a wounded recluse who now finds it impossible to even consider the humanity — the diversity — the texture of black society. In your mind blackness is homogeneous. Yip, in your white imaginary black South Africans are one big muddy blob of dirty toilets, littering, cellphone stealing, loud music, expensive car buying and children neglecting miscreants.

It makes me sick that you felt that by telling us certain things in that friendly confessional tone that we whities would sympathise with you willy-nilly. An example is when you state in a common-sense tone that expects to be agreed with, that confronting “these people” with your own prejudices filled you with the fear that you would be accused of being a racist.

I am here to tell you Brendon, that no matter how much you try to deny it — you are a racist. That is the first step to recovery — admitting this fact. Like so many liberals, you pretend you are not racist, that the fault lies in the fact that “black people are not just like you”. You go as far as to say that if they were more like you then you would be friends.

That is a racist belief Brendon — there is simply no way around it.

By your own admission you hug black folk and pretend to be great friends to be politically correct and avoid confrontation.

I am glad you have finally laid bare the pretence that exists in your social circles, your class, your type. You look kinda cool, hip and open-minded — yet underneath that act is a polite white supremacist.

You are representative of so many middle-class white South Africans with university degrees. You carry the invisible knapsack of white privilege on your backs without recognising it. You work from this base of unacknowledged privilege and fail to see how this oppresses those who are not like you. You enjoy “unearned skin and gender privilege” and yet have been conditioned into oblivion about the existence of your white male privilege.

Instead of looking inward in self-reflection, you project your narrow lens onto two experiences and write-off an entire nation of people because of your skewed reading of the situations you found yourself in.

Brendon — I too lived in a post-1994 Yeoville. Allow me to share with you my perspective of this wonderful, diverse, colourful neighbourhood in this documentary I made on the area. This story of Yeoville is told in a diverse range of voices too — because believe it or not, people other than whites have opinions too.

Tags: , ,

  • The Place of Sara Baartman at UCT
  • Some Remarks On A ‘Good’ University
  • Are South Africans really all capitalists at heart?
  • #ScienceMustFall in retrospect: Three lessons to help us move on
    • Brendon Shields

      Where to start? Well firstly thanks for taking your time to write back to me.

      I just dont know what part of my article suggests that I am not fully aware of my own racism? Its was not pleasant to look myself in the mirror and realize this truth about myself.

      I openly admit to having these ridiculous prejudices based on one experience. I need to get over them.

      Just a side-note – whites are superior to nobody. Your illogical rant towards someone you don’t even know, together with my confessed prejudice suggests as much.

      I need to have a shower after reading that :-)



    • Jaxon Rice

      Paragraph 5 – Godwin’s Law – you automatically lose the debate.

    • Thandi

      Viva! All white South Africans should read this.

    • Dave Harris

      Bravo Gillian, for speaking out against Brendon’s racist rant that caused other racist commentators to crawl out of the woodwork. It just shows the insidious nature of racism in our society.

      Hillbrow/Yeoville/Berea in the late 80s and 90s gave us a glimpse of a Rainbow nation that changed overnight with white flight out of the area – a phenomenon repeated in many parts of the word where racism still festers. btw. Enjoyed your video, thank you!!!

      Maybe Brendon would feel at home in gentrified Cape Town, which the DA (National Party 2.0) has over the years, turned it into a quaint European city where blacks continue to be marginalized because of those same beliefs articulated by Brendon.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Why does every author on here seem to think they (or the people who’s words they read) ‘speak’ for a whole swathe of people? That silly habit of filing humans into neatly labeled pigeon holes, has got to be the most ridiculously lazy thinking in the world. People are individuals. Live long enough and you find out that colour, accent, social class, religion, sexual orientation or any of a number of other factors does NOT make them clones.

      The title of this site is ‘Thought Leader’. A platform to make people think and, hopefully, question their own beliefs by looking at life via a different angle. I am in complete agreement with very few authors here but I value the chance to see things through their eyes and use that to question what I believe that I see through my eyes.

    • Cebelihle Mbuyisa

      This is a beautiful piece. It has been a very long time since I last read an article this brutally honest and frank. I, as an aspiring writer, will surely pick up a thing or ttwo from this piece. As for the content of the article; trust me, I know folks who think like Brendon. And what an accurate portrayal of such people this writing is! I’LL DEFINETELY SHARE THIS…

    • Ms Ann Thrope

      Thank you for articulating everything I felt when reading his article.

    • Neutral Observer

      The original article was disturbing, with its confession of one person’s prejudice, and why he does not have friends of other races. Not a comforting read. However this response is a little hysterical, and because of that, illogical. Not to deny the writer the strength of her views and her valid need to make the point that not all white people are racist. However the opening statement ‘contained within your “frank” confessional piece is the absolute assumption that this discourse represents all white views’ is simply not logically valid if you carefully read the text of the original article. The article stated that the writer himself was prejudiced, and used stereotypes when assessing people. However where did the article state that this represented all white views? The writer here needs to show this clearly rather than just presenting a bald and unsubstantiated opinion. The problem with all emotive topics, like racism, is often the arguments that result are intellectually sloppy and based on piles of ‘assumed truths’, which often lead to people taking past each other or misrepresenting what others have said or not said. And none of this detracts from the agreed truth that racism is a terrible thing. It’s just that there is so much noise, so much sound and fury and emotion, that one needs to argue clearly as well as passionately.

    • Neutral Observer

      The other completely illogical aspect of this blog is how the writer has generalised the admitted prejudice of one person into a rant about the prejudices of whole assumed groups of people, from ‘middle-class white South African’s with university degrees’ to ‘white males’, to just about anyone whom the writer can think might have something in common with the writer of the previous blog. I suppose the intelligent reader can see the irony of someone protesting so loudly about generalisations and stereotyping, and then rather than criticising the writer of the previous blog as an individual, going on to generalise in the loosest and sloppiest way about class (middle class), education (university educated), race (white) and even, at the most extreme, gender (male). The irony of this should not be lost on the reader – and it proves the point again that in all these arguments, logic or even an attempt at logic is often the first casualty of the correspondents’ efforts.

    • Occams Razor

      What an odious, sanctimonious pile of codswallop.

    • Jeremy

      Gillian – welcome to thought leader. Not. I’d return eagerly to read what you pen, but the tired, vapid and incestuous claptrap that fills blogs here deserves its own special, dedicated and brown-nosing readership.Please comment more often.

    • Hannalie Coetzee

      Dear Gillian
      Thank you for your eloquent and spot-on response. I agree with you 100%.
      These are the same people, who as matter of course ridicule all Afrikaners and not see it as racist. In early 90’s Yeoville, my Chinese friend Beverly (then classified as an honorary white) said to me, after yet another painful dutchman comment made in a THAT accent: “These people are anti-Afrikaner and not pro-Black. They assume all African people are so-called liberals. like them”. This simple truth has helped me through many a vomit worthy moment.
      Generalisation lies at the root of all prejudice.
      Would love to read more of you.
      Hannalie Coetzee

    • Wachizungu Sawa Sawa

      Gillian, we are so with you on this! Many ways to make the points you are making. The key is that they need to be made. And we support your views, even if in a more “passive” way. I once read an article written in the late 80’s, I forget the author, but it attempted to address why white South Africans need to “earn” their African-ness. This I believe remains the case. Somehow, we need to do more than just acknowledge the past and the effects of that past on what we are currently experiencing. What is more, is that there is no art in pointing out problems. The art lies rather in the ability to want to participate positively in the current and future. And it doesn’t always have to be accompanied by moaning and groaning or arguments. If you live in South Africa today, you cannot seriously believe that we should “move on” into a happy future, and hope it will occur by itself. Or even worse, that the answer lies with government! We will all have to pitch in and get involved at our own individual levels and spheres of influence and social circles. And it all starts with recognition that we are all actually, racist – maybe not deliberately and intentionally, but certainly because of how circumstances of the past affected us. And so, if we then start to try things, we will fail more often than not, but we should never give up. Thank you for expressing a view different to Brendon, with which we can relate. By the way, come say hi on Small stuff but big…

    • Paul

      Whine, whine, whine.

    • Gareth Setati


      I suspect you are coming from a good place. However on this one I think you are being overly harsh and unfortunately a few of the arguments you position deploy a number of logical fallacies; some of which are the straw-man, ad hominem, and circular fallacies.

      For example, you start off by saying: “Im writing to let you know that your whiteness is not my whiteness. I am doing this because contained within your ‘frank’ confessional piece is the absolute assumption that this discourse represents all white views.” There is no basis to assert that contained in Brendan’s article “is the absolute assumption” that his way of racism applies to all whites. I didn’t think so after reading it, neither do I think Brendan wanted to assume such. If Brendan was making that assumption then obviously he would be the one with the fallacious argument.

      In my view, and I stand corrected, Brendan’s motivation to write to us appears to have been less because of his latent racism but more to actually highlight why this racism is there to in the first place. Besides, iIt is pretty much known that this same latent racism that Brendan exhibits turns out to be fairly widespread, and not just in South Africa alone, but the world over. So we actually needn’t waste any more time acting surprised that such racism exists.


    • Gareth Setati

      Therefore your unbidden indictment that Brendan is an irreconcilable racist is somewhat a puff of hot air because it is the very subject of Brendan’s article. Put another way: the core suggestion that Brendan must just swiftly admit that he is a racist is a circular argument because Brendan explicitly dedicates his whole article to admitting this very point.

      I should hope that upon reflection you will eventually see why fundamentally your response to Brendan appears largely a personal attack on the man rather than an impassioned appeal to objective logic. That said, you make still several good points that we all must take heed of. Indeed your seemingly brave, no-nonsense affront to the issue of racism must be as admired as Brendan’s bravery to proclaim himself a racist, and to do it with some cunning at that.

    • Marius

      Well put, Ms. Schutte. The lesson is clear: If you’re white, don’t even try to engage honestly. Rather stand on the margins and spew hatred like Steve.

      You managed to miss the point completely.

    • Richard

      You have turned this into a self-flaggelating exercise and a stage for pontification. Re-read what you have said, and see how much traction it actually has with what he has stated.

    • Richard

      Apologies for typo: flagellating, not flaggelating.

    • samson

      Seems Brenden’s view is wholely supported with this video…

    • Piet Boerie

      I think you missed the point while jumping on your high horse looking for outrage or do Journo’s fear for their jobs going to honesty?

      I get his whiteness, although I have never been to Uni and certainly do not class myself as white. I also get that he admits he is racist, his upbringing makes him so and he wishes he could change and if it was not so.

      Please explain your anger it’s pretty strong.

    • michael

      Wow Gillian, please tone it down a bit the guy wrote honestly about his perceptions and reactions to it, nothing wrong about that.I get the feeling that you are very uncomfortable in your white skin.

    • Zeph

      Wow! I think there is a vital point that you missed in Brendon’s missive and that is his confession that he is racist. He never attempted to deny it!
      I dunno, but somehow I tend to admire his honesty. With that he is being true and a line is drawn; from that we can move forward. Through his honesty he has exposed himself and he will no doubt harvest the wrath of others whether justified or not.
      What I do not like is people beating the liberal drum while being in denial and I see so mush of that these days. The strained smiles and misplaced attention…it makes me want to puke!
      In my mind you have just put Brendon and his ilk in a box, you have labelled him as a type and scorned him with malice…sounds familiar but worse!

    • Hendrik

      So, you decided to write to Brendon Shields to tell him he is a racist. I noticed a lot of emotion in your piece, almost like it’s personal. Why did you not write to him in private? Ag, assumptions – and your assumption about his assumptions. But I digress. Lately the word racist has the same negative energy to it than say, pedophile.
      That is a very handy tool. Not so?
      If we keep on saying that snakes are evil, most people will eventually believe it. That message may even come from a holy source. That is why I always question people’s motives. If we keep on saying (and assuming) that there are white privilege, male privilege etc. and ask those bloody privileged bustards to give it up (because we are not white or male) then in the end, hopefully the scale will tip.
      Not so?
      How did things become as they are? (Globally)Why are there differences? Should we pretend that we do not see them and rather not say what we notice and how we feel about it. Assumptions, privilege, stereotyping – it will always be there.
      Also those who write about it for whatever reason.
      You most certainly put that racist in his place.

    • chris

      Lets pretend the author did not publish her name and picture. And the first thing that comes to mind is: what a racist tirade. All the accusations you lay on Mr Shield, you blame on his whiteness. And then you extrapolate that to ”so many middle class white South African’s with university degrees.”

      MS Schutte, no doubt you now feel purged and quite superior as a better class non-racist after your rant, but you are no different from Mr Shields.

    • Leslie

      Dear Gillian Schutte, I hear you, but I also read hateful insults and blanketed statements which are rooted in your own confused ism’s – polarity which makes your writing ring just as invalid as the next bigot. Thanks for making the world a better place.

    • The Creator

      Well said, on the whole, and makes up, in part, for the awful post on Lady Gaga.

    • Tofolux

      @Gillian, I was wondering when you were gonna ”come” out. Will always admire your fiercely independent progressiveness. My sincere thanks. Aluta Continua!

    • Wildcat

      Over-react, much?

      Mr Shields made himself quite vulnerable writing what he did, and it was perhaps a cry for help.

      Your hysterial attack was uncalled for. Shame on you!

    • Schae

      Well done Gillian on putting Brendon squarely in his racist place.

    • Max

      The video is xenophobic actually. Why no “pan-African” voice? Do Nigerians not have opinions too?

    • The Critical Cynic

      An excellent response to an equally excellent admission. Now, do yourselves a favour and re-read these articles in another way, replacing white with wealthy and black with poor and you will have to be pretty blind not to see the parallels.

      We are all born into positions of relative privilege. The wealthy discriminate against the poor in very similar ways to racism, and the poor often despise the wealthy for their attitude of privilege. If the wealthy and the poor were to be classified as two races then how are their attitudes towards each other not racist?

      in recent South African history (300 years or so) you correctly state that “historically, white culture owned the power to “colonise” the definition of normal….” but anyone with a world view knows that the real truth is that “historically, the culture with the wealth owned the power to “colonise” the definition of normal…”.

      Even this is a dangerous generalisation though. that’s why I like Momma Cyndi’s comments so much – they bring me back to earth every time!

    • Plato

      I am enormously relieved by the comments of Mr Setati, who correctly notes that this blog includes a ‘number of logical fallacies; some of which are the straw-man, ad hominem, and circular fallacies’, however well-intentioned the author. It is a relief to see that some people are trained in, and can recognise, logical or illogical arguments and methods of creating and supporting an argument. I think many assume that such skills are innate, that everyone has these skills, and there is no need to be trained in constructing an argument or a position. However, as many of these blogs show, these skills are neither innate nor universal. One should not expect them to be, any more than one would expect a layman to have the same ability to represent one in court as an experienced attorney.

    • Mr. Direct


      Amazing – in defending your point of view, you have done the exact same thing with comments like; “You are representative of so many middle-class white South Africans”, “young men like you”, “Like so many privileged white folk”.

      What gives you the right to generalise about a certain race, sex and class?

      Your “whiteness” seems to be exactly the same as Brendon’s, but you have chosen to level your spew at a different group.

      And I can see you patting your own back after finishing this piece, even considering that your prejudice is actually justified.

      Have a look at your previous blogs, and see if you can pick up a certain trend. I do not know you, nor any of your workoutside of Thought Leader, so consider this in your reflection.

    • Shaun

      “Like so many liberals, you pretend you are not racist”.

      I presume you also refer to yourself when you made this statement?

    • Po

      Brendan needs to go and live in the UK. There he will see white people doing all of the things supposedly limited to black people, and more. Poverty, lack of education and class suppression lead to certain types of behaviour, not race. IT really is that simple.

    • Max

      “I am here to tell you Brendon, that no matter how much you try to deny it — you are a racist.” Unlike your beloved Yeoville, you are very quick to be very judgmental. The whole point was that he was NOT trying to deny it. The original text was an example of confessional writing and contained an admission of being racist and openness to receiving help and it was in fact a cry for help.
      Reactions like yours are unhelpful because they are hysterical, accusatory and punitive. It’s a good thing you are not a counsellor. I suppose you will add your voice to that of Tolofux who calls for legal action to be taken against Shields. The two of you are morally JUST AS repugnant as Shields, if not more so. Your hate filled judgemental knee-jerk thinking is unaware of its own self-righteousness and arrogant superiority.
      The video is very xenophobic. You are disavowing your own “racism” and projecting your own hatred of groups onto Brendan.

    • Lennon

      Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. Damned if you have no opinion. Damned if have and opinion which differs from others in any way. Everyone trying to outrace others in the neverending race argument.

      At some point I hope that everyone will realise that you cannot please everyone all of the time. Hell, it’s a miracle to just please some people some of the time. At some point in your life, you are going to be offended. While it isn’t nice (and sometimes downright horrific), it’s reality. It’s a bitter pill, but the sooner everyone swallows it the better off we’ll all be.

      As Voltaire put it: “I disagree with what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.” Yes Dave and Tofolux… We may bump heads often, but I would rather that we have heated debates than have anyone silenced because of their views. If that means having to stand next to you with a riot shield to ensure that you can speak then so be it.

      Of course there is a way to make things a tad easier: Live and let live. Be nice.

    • Lennon

      @ The Critical Cynic: Yesterday my dad told me about a guy who owns some-or-other fancy Rolls Royce sporting a bumper sticker stating “F#ck the poor.”

    • Graham

      @Mr Direct

      The nail. You hit it. On the head. Hard.

    • The Critical Cynic

      OOps – missed a word there and look how it changed my coment which was supposed to start off with “An excellently written response….” See how not being precise can change the entire tone of a response (or an article for that matter). My response makes me look like I actually agree with everything written, when I don’t, it’s just quite well written.

      It’s also very vitriolic. The kind of language that builds bridges and helps people overcome their differences doesn’t attack the other but rather uses logic and persuasion to change opinion. Here we have a prime example fo how not to win friends and influence people.

      I’d like to echo Gareth’s response and urge Gillian to examine her own condescending tone, which has a shrill air of superiority (over Brendon in this particular case) to it, as unfotunately do many of the so called non-racists who have overcome their prejudices so well (as in 100%) that they can now proundly label themselves that while they look down on the rest of us struggling to overcome our prejudices.

      How a person can subscribe to the concept of nationalism yet fail to see the link to racism always surprises me.

    • Jon Story

      ‘And they brought to the Teacher a white man caught in the act of confessing to racism. They said, Sir, this man is a racist and according to our law he should be punished. Stones should be thrown at him until he recants.’
      The Teacher said nothing and with a twig drew some patterns in the sand round His feet.
      But He knew what they were up to and at last He said: OK, let he who is without sin, cast the first stone’.

      To the other bystanders gathered there He said: ‘remember that when you point the accusing finger the other fingers point at yourselves’.

    • IMWIM


      I couldn’t agree more. Please ignore the haters. I guess your article hit many nerves.


    • Oh pleez…..

      GIllian, your entire knee-jerk emotional rant contradicts your own argument. I also have a black partner but neither of us has seen fit to pander so obviously and so pathetically to the other’s culture that we deny our own. We are what we are, warts and all, and we acknowledge our weaknesses, celebrate our similarities, compromise on the the rest and look to the future. I suppose you will also deny that blacks are racist but in this country, everyone one is, intentionally or unintentionally. At the very least we should extend respect and courtesy as a matter of routine, and as human and not racial beings.

    • Po

      @oh pleez – the difference is that you are doing it right, but that Brendan is not willing to compromise or celebrate similarities, which is what anyone living in a mulitcultural society needs to make the effort to do. Yes, it is slightly harder work than hanging around with people exactly like you all the time. But it is not much to ask and in SA too few people are willing to go that extra centimeter.

      It is all very well honouring Brendan for his honesty, but his attitude is pure laziness, it is disgusting and until people make just a tiny bit more effort to be open-minded and actively engage with “others”, society stays as immature as ever.

    • IMWIM

      @Oh pleez…..

      “I suppose you will also deny that blacks are racist but in this country, everyone one is, intentionally or unintentionally”.

      I object to being called a racist. Speak for yourself lady/gentleman. Maybe it makes you feel better about yourself to think everybody is like you, but it isn’t true. DO trust me.

    • Bobo

      He was just being honest, wasn’t being high minded and never said his views were representative of all white people. Unlike you.

    • Belle

      I am glad that you feel confident enough to state your feelings towards someone so Publicly. But a part of me wanders whether you do it out of “white guilt”, a way for of you to tell the rest of us that not everyone is like Brendon, racist and ok with it. I think by writing this article on the same platform as him you have just ignited a race debate that is not going to resolve anything, or change anything. But maybe this discourse can inspire some reflexivity.

    • Alibama

      I just needed to check that the key-word HITLER
      was mentioned: for my survey. If only such authors
      could get to the key-word earlier, then I’d have
      less to wade through

    • Nguni

      Let’s put it this way: Brendon speaks for a sh*tload more whites in this country than you. The hatred you spew is not surprising, considering you background. When ANC mouthpieces like Dave H. start applauding, then you know you are on the wrong track..