Koketso Moeti
Koketso Moeti

What are vile white practices? Really?

I was most perplexed to read fellow Thought Leader Sarah Britten’s “What are vile white practices?” written in response to Gillian Schutte’s “Dear White People”.

Let me begin by pointing out that Britten was correct to say Schutte showed no sense of humour in the post. As a person who has actually experienced racism, there is absolutely nothing funny about it and the endless black bashings we regularly come across.

So to answer Britten’s question about what vile white practices are, please find a few here:

— To naively believe that more than 350 years of oppression can be undone in less than two decades and that Nelson Mandela’s election in 1994 magically made what happened prior to then ”okay” or even worse, expect it to be erased from our minds.

— Want us believe the rainbow nation is in fact real, as if 1994 on its own somehow changed what was in people’s hearts prior to that.

— Want us believe that apartheid was merely about slegs vir blankes signs. It is a vile white practice to point out how every place in South Africa is now open to blacks when black people can still not access certain spaces as a direct result of apartheid. You see, apartheid was a system, a system that was deeply entrenched into every facet of everyday life in South Africa. It was not merely about signs.

— To feign shock and disgust, condemning the use of words like k****r yet protect their privilege by entrenching institutionalised racism. It is not enough to rant and rave about the racism happening over there and overlook that which is happening right on your doorstep and even that which you perpetuate.

— Daring to speak about how “we are all humans/South Africans” when race is brought up, as if black people were suddenly humanised in 1994. Weren’t we always humans? And if so, why weren’t we treated as humans then. It smacks too much of a humanity recognised only when it benefits a certain side.

— The sudden case of colour-blindness so many claim to have developed. They seem very eager to ignore that to be colour-blind is to deny very real experiences of racism and even render us unable to address racial problems and inequalities. Apart from that, it seems rather opportunistic to miraculously ignore race when not too long ago many of the same people were (and still are) enjoying the benefits of their race, which came at a high cost to some of us.

— Calling affirmative action (AA) reverse racism when in fact it should shame the white community that we live in a country where the majority of its citizens need AA to ensure they access certain opportunities.

— The naturalisation of whiteness, which makes many white people think “that’s just the way it is” — rendering our history and its role in the present invisible.

The post itself was a vile white practice. It fulfilled what all vile white practices aim to do — trivialise black experience. Considering the topic and context of Schutte’s post, I believe these are but a few of the vile white practices she was alluding to, Ms Britten. She was right to be concerned about the black middle class adopting these practices, because it isn’t about white people — but whiteness. Meaning that even black people who identify with whiteness and white culture contribute to not only perpetuating but also entrenching the oppression experienced because of it. But I do thank you for the post, it proved the need for the likes of Schutte.

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    • Max

      “It isn’t about white people — but whiteness.”

      Then why is Schutte’s letter titled “Dear White People”?

      What is whiteness exactly, Koketso? What is blackness? Must we really make these definitions and reifications? Will that help anybody?

    • ntozakhona

      What more needs to be said? Uyigqibile mtakwethu, you said it well.

    • Max

      Talking about “whiteness” when you mean RACISM is about as primitive, stupid, bigoted and simpleminded as talking about “jewishness” when you mean greed, or “germanness” when you mean cruelty.

    • Richard

      Could you explain what “and still are” means in this sentence: Apart from that, it seems rather opportunistic to miraculously ignore race when not too long ago many of the same people were (and still are) enjoying the benefits of their race, which came at a high cost to some of us.

      Surely it must be blacks in South Africa who are enjoying the benefits of their race? Think of who now controls the judiciary, government, increasingly business, education, etc., etc.?

      During apartheid days, English-speakers such as myself were discriminated against in the public sector, but furthered ourselves in private enterprise. We did not enjoy state patronage. You do enjoy state patronage, and like the Afrikaners, are using that to build yourselves up.

      I cannot imagine what benefits you imagine are attached to whiteness that cannot be transferred to blacks. If you speak of education, these can be attained. Business practices can be learned. Money can be accumulated. Languages can be learned. Businesses are required to employ blacks in preference to whites in order, we are told, to redress past wrongs.

      People will always choosed to mix with their own cultural/language groups, which also overlaps racial groups. In Europe, Asians marry other Asians, Orientals other Orientals, despite the fact that they would have to discriminate against the majority white populations to do so. That is racism of a sort, too, but it is how the world works.

    • ntozakhona

      As I understand Koketso and Gillian and drawing from my expiriences ”whiteness” is baaskap.

    • Vince

      Unfortunately Max it s a state of mind. A paradigm shift most whites in this country don t have the ability to achieve,as can be evidenced by responses to Gillians article Lol

    • Tofolux

      @Koketso, I totally agree. On reading her response I was shocked at her total lack of empathy (at least) and that she thought it a joke. The flip side however further validates exactly all the points Gillian makes in her letter.

    • http://N/A Grace Berton

      The biggest problem for me is still this BLACK / WHITE stuff.

      This is AFRICA the land of AFRICANS!! and until we start dealing with this
      issue on that level, this kind of back & forth will go on forever. Having lived
      and worked in Europe (land of Europeans) for many years, in countries that
      were (still are?? colonizers, and stripped Africa of all they needed to build
      their countries, you will NEVER find an African town or Africans in Political /
      Economic power positions.
      Enough with this BLACK stuff Africans, let the so-called WHITES decide
      exactly what they are in Africa (land of Africans) and do something about it!!

    • Graham

      I think a general vile practise is to label all these practices as “whiteness”. You admit that this does not realte solely to white people, so then why attach a racial name to it?

      My point is that the onus is on me to prove that I am not ‘like those whites’.

    • Skerrminkel

      Noted and agreed. Now what?

    • Lennon

      Very valid points.

      One thing that you might not be aware of (and I don’t know if it exclusively a white habit) is this: When you tell a story about some guy doing something, the first question you get in response goes along the lines of: “Was he white / black / Coloured?” etc…

    • nitpick

      “To naively believe that more than 350 years of oppression can be undone in less than two decades and that Nelson Mandela’s election in 1994 magically made what happened prior to then ”okay” or even worse, expect it to be erased from our minds”.

      Is this a belief or a practice?

      “Want us believe the rainbow nation is in fact real”

      Is that a desire or a practice?

      I dont see how you can condemn a post asking about what practices conceivably associated with whiteness are vile if you so obviously have no idea what a practice is. Perhaps everything is a practice? Are we going to associate elements from a taxonomy of ‘practices’ to what is imagined as an already stably existing racial category (whiteness) as you do in the list above? Are we, in other words, going to racialize practices? That way of thinking ironically bolsters racial essentialism by separating substance from form to make racial categories (constructs) seem transcendent. Far better to argue that ‘whiteness’ is the product of certain practices (among other things) and is (in part) held in place as an identity category by these practices . Schutte seems to lean towards the latter, your simplistic defense of an argument you clearly dont understand unfortunately leans towards essentialism. But I thank you for your post, it proves the need for the likes of Schutte.

    • Geoff Smart

      A lot of the practices mentioned above are indeed vile practices. but they are not purely white vile practices. Such behaviour is carried out by any group that believes itself superior in some way to the rest of the world. Japan 100 years ago is an example where non-Japanese were regarded as nonhuman.
      In the South African context they can be called vile white practices. The danger in using this type of of rhetoric though is that there could easily be a move to introduce vile black practices on a tit-for-tat basis.
      Do you really want to sink to that level?

    • Jenny

      Please do not assume to know what and how white people think and feel, it is as insulting as it is for me to assume I know how you think and feel.

    • Stephen

      Tragically, this is aparently what we humans just do. If not colonialism, it was apartheid. Or the mfecane, the holocast, or ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, the various inquisitions. And so it goes, back through the ages. Emotionally infantile, we are unable to change, it is hardwired into us. The SA experience is a colloquial example of our inhumanity towards each other. There will be more.

      On the subject of AA: SA is the only country that applies it to the majority, with a government enjoying secure tenure. Surely after nearly a generation this should be bearing fruit. But its not; because South Africans are poorer now than under apartheid. Unless one is one of the ‘connected’ few, the benficiaries of BEE. Again, a small group of South Africans dominating the majority. Tragic.

      Moketso is correct. Why ever did we think 1994 would change anything.

    • Miranda

      Baaskap is white supremacy, domination of others by white people, it is capital being controlled by white people.

    • Just a Thought

      Ive said this before and I will say it again, the whites benefitted from apartheid….YES this is true. The african population was dehumanised and removed from the economy…YES.

      But just remember, all white south africans are pretty much 110% against the change we experience everyday which is the insanely elevated levels of crime, poor service delivery and complete denialismn that there are issues by our government. I would also hazard a guess that the same percentage of non white south africans are also fed up with the same issues. But do we stand together and tell the government to sharpen up? NO, I get told to keep quiet because I no longer have a voice and if i do complain it must be because I’m latently rascist.

      But maybe changing our cities (except for Cape Town) into filthy cesspools is the new south africa and not developing the poor is acceptable to most voters. But it isnt to me.

      So if that makes me a white denialist, colonialist or whatever the propaganda catch phrase is I will accept it.So I am white, I am tired of beggars harassing me when I go surfing, I am tired of hiding behind burglar guards, hearing about murders, rapes, atm heists, hijackings, lonmin, VIOLENT strikes etc etc etc.

      But I also demand that the government do something about it for ALL of us so I can be left alone to live my life with my family and friends. PS we dont care who runs the country, but the ANC is as useful as a rubber beak on a woodpecker.

    • Ngelengele

      I strongly believe that white people just don’t get it.

    • Marianne de Leuca

      @ Richard

      You say that you “cannot imagine what benefits can be attached to whiteness that cannot be transferred to blacks”.

      I think that Samantha Vice, a Doctor of Philosophy, best described the esoteric concept of ‘whiteness’ in her paper “How do I live in this strange place?”. It is worth reading if you haven’t already done so.

      It seems to me that most white people associate privilege only with material benefit, whereas because of our social conditioning ‘the state of whiteness’ in itself is a situation of privilege in the esoteric sense, and that, unlike material benefits, cannot be transferred to black people. As Vince said above, it would require a mental “paradigm shift”.

    • Philip Cole

      ‘The post itself was a vile white practice. It fulfilled what all vile white practices aim to do — trivialise black experience’.

      No it wasn’t Keketso. Sarah’s piece actually said nothing, positive or negative, about black experience. This seems to me to be a sound approach to take as a white person who, by definition, has not experienced what it means to be black.

      But Sarah’s piece did aim to satirise the extreme positions taken by Schutte in her article where she seemingly assumes that to be anti-racist is also to be a hard left feminist. The whole tone of her article is self-righteous, dialogue inhibiting and seemingly of the view that ‘If you are not with me you are against me and you are wrong’. In short, her article was about self-promotion rather than real change.

      And, in my humble opinion, Sarah did her satirising very well. Not that it is that hard to satirise when you have such great source material as Schutte’s article to work with …

    • Jerome

      Since no one has mentioned it so far, I need to ask: What 350 years of oppression are you talking of, here? It is important to ask this, since unanswered nonsense tends to become conventional wisdom.

      Maybe what is needed is simply some elaboration: During this 350 years, who were the oppressors, and who were the oppressed?

    • Paddy

      I think all South Africans should spend more time and effort on this http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20971240#TWEET515458

    • Mr. Direct

      What part of our apartheid past is really impacting your life at the moment? And is it really the ghost of apartheid, or the harsh realities of life that are tripping you up?

      Again I will say this, do not forget apartheid, but do not let it define you.

      Oh and by the way, do you honestly think that all white people were racist, black hating scum before 1994?

      @Miranda: money is not racist. Venture capitalists only want more money, they do not care one bit who makes it for them.

    • http://southafricana.blogspot.com Dave Harris

      Wonderful response to Sarah Britten’s callous blog.

      @Marianne de Leuca
      Yes, Samantha vice has also implored whites to STFU in order to give blacks a chance to exercise their political will to create solutions to uplift our society from centuries of opression. The American experience (http://mg.co.za/article/2011-09-22-silence-and-the-ethics-of-transformation/) also shows the need for this silence to give blacks a voice that was brutally stifled for centuries! Instead the white tribal DA party, has usurped the platform, for selfish interests, that would have enabled opposition politics to naturally develop in our democracy.

      @Philip Cole
      The point is that Sarah TRIVIALIZES issues that Gillian Schutte raises, that are very serious to the health of our nascent democracy.

      This practice of satirizing issues that hurt others becomes a vile white practice when not done correctly with love. In western society we sometimes call this type of awkward behavior Asperger syndrome.

    • Richard

      It’s so easy to fill yourself up with the hatred born of seeing only the wrongs that whites have brought. It’s easy to blame current and future generations of humans, even though those people did not do anything. It’s irrational, but it’s easy, and emotive. It’s what keeps the Israelis and their neighbours fighting. It solves nothing, but it’s what people do. It’s as easy and mindless as the laager mentality that saw only “us” and “them” but solved no problems 50 years ago. If you want to improve a country, you need to think more clearly than those that made mistakes, rather than making new ones and justifying them with anger at old ones. Otherwise you’re no better than those you hate. The worst actions are performed by the irrational of any side, not by those in the middle trying to fix it.

    • Paddy

      Maybe more effort should be on fixing tangible things http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Political-risks-to-watch-in-SA-20130110 by powerful “blacks” rather than dwell on things that manifest inside peoples heads. It is difficult to change the so-called “whiteness” that occurs deep in the “head” without starting somewhere.

    • Lisa

      Declaring a practise “whiteness” when you claim it is not about race, is racist.

    • Benzo

      It is funny that -in a country- where most people (after 300+ years of mixing) are from mixed blood, many still try to claim to be black or white.
      Many claim to be belonging to a specific culture and argue about the perceived differences and subsequent rights atached to the skin colour.
      In the early eighties -during apartheid- I married this “clasified white” lady. We got a child and gues what? When -20 years later- a DNA was done, he appeared to be 50% Bantu and 50% Euro-Asian.
      Is he now to be considered different, vile white, vile bantu, or any other piece of human shit????
      Come on people, grow up and live your life, work to get out of the “depressed” mode and stand up for who you are and/or want to be. The orignal letter “to whites” is as stupid as the reply.
      We simply -as in most other parts of the world- do not always like our neighbours and their behaviour or habits. To relate this simply to skin coulour differences is stupid. Stupidity -and being proud of being stupid- is a vile human practice.

    • ntozakhona

      Haai Ngelenge, this baaskap thing is real indocrination, their reasoning is so robotic. We must just move on with non colonial white South Africa without shying away from exposing the brainwashed lot.

    • mike venter

      Seems like every black that comments on Schuttes article are experts on whites. The generilisations are rife and blacks now can scold whites like trash.

      Yet they have no idea about our thinking or views. Most of your assumptions are wrong, but so be it. It seems like a futile attempt to even try to explain.

    • Facts People

      The author’s ability to write; freedom to have a voice; ability to own property and control her reproductive life are all practices and traditions brought by white people. The actual roots were eons ago elsewhere.

      Cultural success is the ability to adopt what is good and reject what isn’t. Democratic freedoms (a white introduced institution albeit in a distorted form) allows diversity of views to exist and to be debated by all. Others are: the scientific method; infrastructure development; ….

      Africa was no paradise. Plenty subjugation of people by people and people within peoples.

    • Max

      @Vince You said “Unfortunately Max it [whiteness] is a state of mind. ”

      No Vince. Whiteness is a state of skin. RACISM is a state of mind. Supremacy is a state of mind. Snobbery is a state of mind. Pretentiousness is a state of mind. Obsequiousness is a state of mind. Whiteness is a state of skin.

    • https://homecomingrevulsion.blogspot.com Guinness Holic

      I feel I really must address this ‘350 year of oppression’ Bolshevism that’s continually spouted by the usual suspects.

      Firstly, the VAST MAJORITY of blacks were ignored for the better part of 150 of those years. Secondly, you really have to be some sort of pathetic fool if you believe that you personally (or even by extension) have been directly or indirectly oppressed for those same 350 years. My great grandfather was shot in WWI leaving behind 4 sons. My grandfather was captured by Germans in WWII and not handed a good time of it, but two generations later I couldn’t even possibly believe at any level, that Germany or modern day Germans owe me anything other than a how’d-you-do. As normal people we move on from tragedy or tragic situations and better ourselves. The past shapes our future somewhat, but not to the extent Africans like to believe (or is it perhaps to garner sympathy from the ever growing number of sycophantic white liberals?).

      If the strength of our personal characters and the virtues of our cultures are measured by how we overcome adversity, then surely you receive a big, fat zero for whining constantly about your lot in life, pointing fingers at those who DO progress despite it all and kvetching over how others feel about you?

      Black NuSAns need to start doing things for themselves. The most damning statistic and measure of Blackness in SA is the fact that there are more white start up companies than black.

    • http://pessimistincarnate.blogspot.com/ Wayne

      It is quite unfathomable how that black people seem to think they own the Racism Franchise! White people are blatantly discriminated against in South Africa so therefore to say that we have no idea as to what oppression is must be disingenuous and incorrect. We understand oppression very well we are preyed upon in our homes we are murdered on our farms we are hijacked in our streets. As a working class we are discriminated against in the workplace we have no chance of climbing the ranks in government institutions.

      In business there is enough BEE legislation to make your head spin but yet we still as a white nation prosper and go forward. I so wonder how you explain to a white child with seven distinctions in matric that there is no place in university for them to study medicine but his black friend with two distinctions can?

      Please don’t as black person presume to own the racism i am not saying you don’t understand it i am just saying if you think its all well with whites and we are living privileged lives it is not. Being white means in most cases that we put a high price on education, hard work and continually try to advance our situation we do not sit back and rely on hand outs as there are none.

      In short both angles Sarah’s and Schutte’s are in essence wrong white people back from English oppression till today do understand racism and oppression a lot better than any of our black friends think or will ever admit for very obvious reasons!

    • Mike Green

      Good grief!

      It took nearly FIVE HOURS of hyperventilation commenting before someone pointed out the satire in Sarah Britten’s piece.

      For those still unable to calm down, three words for you:




    • GarethV

      Koketso Moeti, how old were you 20 years ago?I know a woman should never give her age away, so feel free to extend the truth by five or so year.


      Sarah Britton buys homeopathic remedies at Dischem! Embracing homeopathy at a drug pushing pharmacy is like getting Don King to host a “give peace a chance” meeting but clearly the ‘European’ approved ray bands Sarah wears prevents her from seeing what any colour is. That’s the problem with localised ‘whiteness’: it cannot stare at the African sun! But don’t worry for as global capitalism gleefully promises: if enough black middle class members wear ray bands they won’t know what colour is either.

    • Mameluk Telemach

      Koketso let me tell you a story:

      Czechoslovakia, has been under German and Austrian yoke for 2000 years. In 1918, after First World War Czechoslovakia has gained independence for the first time and until 1938 when UK sold the country back to Germans.

      In those 20 years Czechoslovakia has became one of most developed countries in Europe, and at the outset WWII had the highest foreign reserves than any other European country.

      How did Czechs achieve that? They did not complain about “350 colonial rule”, they batten down and worked hard, did not ask for any economic aid, they did not expect handouts from the Government, etc…

      Maybe what they did is another one of white’s vile practices that Gillian is talking about.

    • Stuff

      ‘Whitness’ is obviously the latest politically expedient buzzword for the average racist.

      Both black and white people practice ‘whiteness’, just look at our present government and the new black elite, prime examples.

      The Indian families paying tribute to Zuma are also practicing ‘whiteness’. The crony capitalist regime in China practices ‘whiteness’.

      Maybe instead of ‘whiteness’ find a non-racist term like ‘greedy in-just non-caring self centered egocentric thuggery ‘.

    • Sean

      Racism and other forms of bigotry towards others that are different are natural human traits, present in varying degrees in every human on the planet.

      To try to become or make others non racist is quite simply a waste of time and the best that we can hope for is to reduce the impact of this trait by each of us being personally aware of it and by reducing the advantages that those who refuse to be aware can gleen from it.

      We should never be disadvantaged by which group we were born into, but the reality of the world is very different. It is a natural human trait to strive to be in a position of priveledge and even more natural to transfer as much of that priviledge as we are able to our children.

      What is being asked for is for white people to hand over every vestige of priviledge that they and their ancestors have fought for. Good luck with that…nor much chance of us going against our most basic human instinct to strive for more and hold onto what we have achieved.

    • Enough Said

      @ Ngelengele

      “I strongly believe that white people just don’t get it.”

      Do you un-critically support the corrupt inefficient government that we have at present that is empowering a black elite to the detriment of those still suffering most from the after effects of apartheid, or do you just not get it either?

    • Richard

      @Marianne de Leuca, if it is esoteric, then it is up to blacks to educate their children against it. Why is it that “whiteness” (not sure that I understand the real meaning of that term), if it is not linked to material advantage, should be immutable. Social conditioning is simply that, conditioning. Having said that, we are all conditioned in various ways. If I hear a German speaking about Beethoven, I will pay more attention and think they are more knowledgeable than a Frenchman. If I hear a Frenchman speaking about food, I will assume they are the most knowledgeable. I cannot blame the Frenchman or the German for my perceptions, those are my perceptions, not theirs. Why is the following (racist, and somewhat dated) joke amusing, if not for social conditioning: “Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and it is all organised by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and it is all organised by the Italians.”

    • Benzo

      @enough said:…….”enough said”

    • ChrisMuis

      1) Whilst the average black keep voting for a political party that destroys education, you will never catch up. Some school with 0 grade 12 passers? and that at 30% !!! Open your eyes for the true problem.
      2) Rainbow? that is only a media phrase. I couldn’t care less about the term.
      3) What spaces can’t you access? Nkandla? not the white’s fault! also, where is your criticism against AA & BEE? Sorry but you lack integrity.
      4) What institutionalized racism? blaming whites for AA & BEE again?
      5) “we are all humans bla bla” – which whites use this? not me, never.

      Not going to waste time to comment on the rest. But I can suggest you speak to intellectuals outside of South Africa – and ask their opinion on the impact corruption (some estimateion R500B+ = about R10 000 per person) had in the poorest of poor last 18 years.

    • ‘whiteness’

      @Koketso Moeti

      Here is a white vile practice you forgot to mention;

      In western countries politicians/government officials who are involved in scandals either resign voluntarily or the electorate demand they resign. In South Africa they get voted into office again and again, or get redeployed in a different government department/position.

      Such a vile white practice that politicians should be answerable to the electorate is it not?

    • nguni

      Being lectured to regarding ‘vile white practices’ by a 26 year old black who never experienced apartheid (was 7 in 1994) quoting 350 years of oppression and a lot of other BS says a lot about the state we are in today. A healthy society would laugh her off, but here people actually try to reason with her. WTF?!

    • Reducto

      Harris’ racism is shining through, once again. An entire group based on pigmentation must, in his aggressive terms, “STFU”.

      It is one thing to expect people to acknowledge their privileges. More white people really need to do this. However, rather than engage in genuine debate, Harris brings up his Vice Doctrine.

      What of young white South Africans who had absolutely no control over the past? You aren’t going to encourage integration and reconciliation when they are told they must “STFU” (as Harris so puts it) because of a past they could not control.

      It is one thing to expect people to accept badly needed playing field leveling mechanisms such as university admissions policies etc because of an advantage bestowed by the past. Such advantage continues to this day, and needs to be taken into account.

      It is another thing to demand silence from young people who could not control the past. They should not be forced to withdraw. They should be just as entitled to engage without being sidelined because of their pigmentation.

      But no, Harris does not want reconciliation. Harris is vindictive and, quite frankly, racist.

    • Steve

      I think it is a vile practise that not a single day passes in this country where some corrupt , incompetent and chip off the shoulder black does not blame their own shortcomings on whites . You conveniantly want power but refuse to take responsibility for your own choices and actions . Examples abound eg. Education , parastals , judiciary etc. You will not hear a single Japanese blaming the A bombs of the US for their shortcomings . Why ?

    • impedimenta

      For me, the value of both Sarah and Gillian’s blogs was to intill the question of vile white practices in our minds and cause us to examine our own actions.

      Koketso has widened the examination with some real frustrations for black people.

      For me, these are all positive.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/luckyntuli Lucky Ntuli

      Dear Nguni,

      Thank you for that!

      As a person born in 1961, it never amazes me how this band wagon is so easy to get on; with or without experience or validation.

      This is a dangerous trend though not a shocker considering up North this is exactly what has happened and unfortunately, we have not learnt from this bad practice and behaviour, apparently.