Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

What are vile white practices?

Forgive me for only waking up to this now. I’ve been away in a place where it was hard to find a 3G signal, so missed the opportunity to spend the tail end of the festive season arguing about the same thing we argue about the rest of the year, the incurable condition known as whiteness.

Dog in handbag
Possible example of vile white practice

Whiteness is an affliction which, in me at least, manifests as the urge to cringe when white people pronounce surnames like “Hlophe” and also to say sorry a lot. (We’re very good at saying sorry for everything in South Africa, except the things that matter.)

Anyhow, long story short, while reading an actual real paper copy of the Saturday Star, I stumbled across a piece I’d been avoiding after two lovely weeks of writing and game drives (the latter a symptom of white privilege), Gillian Schutte’s new year letter to whites. I agree with many of the points she makes, though it did give me queasy flashbacks to my masters coursework at Wits (IrigarayKristevaSpivakDerridaDeleuzeBahbaComaroffetcetc), and I’m somewhat perplexed by her call to whites to stop “jumping into national debates that do not concern them”. I would have thought that as a South African citizen a national debate concerns me by definition, but maybe that’s just me going all rainbow nation.

Hipsterism: another vile white practice?

What I’m really interested in, though, is this paragraph:
“White people, please just shut up for once and listen. Not everything is about white people being accused of racism. Sometimes it is about the black middle class and whether or not they have adopted vile white practices.”

“Vile white practices.” What are these? She does not elaborate and, since at no point does she indicate she has any sense of humour when it comes to this topic, I assume that this reference is not ironic. (Irony being a vile white practice — see below.)

So I’ve taken it upon myself to speculate on what vile white practices would be, particularly vile white practices adopted by the black middle class.

Pet ownership, obviously. But what else?

Caring in a deep and meaningful way about rugby and cricket?

Lapas, klinker brick and swimming pools?

Irony, posting photos of your meals to Instagram and other accoutrements of hipster subculture?

Wine snobbery?

Getting sensitive about personal space in queues?

Complaining? More specifically, bonding with others in queues by complaining? (White people love doing this, I notice.)

Definite vile white practice

Tweeting about issues? Signing petitions? Calling for others (preferably somebody else) to do something?

Tuscan houses and gated estates? (Perhaps the defining irony of our age is the fact that both Nonhle Thema and Dan Roodt live in Dainfern.)

Correcting other people’s spelling and pronunciation of English words?

Having food allergies? Refusing to use Aromat because it’s bad for you?

Refusing to eat carbs? Hating the smell of KFC?

Employing maids and gardeners (but calling them “helpers”)?

Hating taxis and complaining about how badly they drive?


Disfiguring otherwise perfectly stylish motor vehicles with plastic red rhino noses?

Buying chinos from Edgars? Wearing cheap shoes?

Going to Cape Town for the holidays (as opposed to Giyani or Mthatha)?

Buying homeopathic remedies from Dischem? (Everyone knows that homeopathy is muti for white people.)

Yoga and pilates classes? Meditation? Thai massage?

downward facing dog
Another possible vile white practice

Ordering salad with mineral water and dressing on the side?

Eating organic? Vegetarianism? (Even more un-African than pet ownership.)

Horseriding? Mountain biking? Swimming lessons for your kids?

Obsessing about being skinny?

An obvious problem with speculation of this kind is the fact that it fails to take into account class differences; the whiteness symbolised by thatch lapas and klinker brick bungalows is very different to the whiteness symbolised by yoga and low-GI bread. Unless the writer is more specific about the role of class in vile white practices, it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty what such things may entail.

Nonetheless, the quest for clarity goes on. Any suggestions from your side would be most welcome.

low GI bread

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    • Momma Cyndi

      Dave Harris #

      – I’m not a Christian but even I know that “god” and “jesus” are not the same thing. To the best of my knowledge, the closest to knowing what ‘god’ looks like is a burning bush
      – Do you really think that the township schools with no books, chairs or teachers are a good antidote to apartheid schooling?
      – You obviously don’t have much time for education. Are you against it due to your lack of it or is it just a general dislike of education?
      – Yes, this is about me. I am white and this is about what white people do. I can pretty much guarantee that I’m not the only white person on the planet who doesn’t have a R20,000 Louis Vuitton purse!
      – Why is it not worthy of a reply? Do you not have one to give?
      – You are now saying that a 70 year old paedophile rapist must be respected because he is old? Or are you saying that decisions by senior people are never questioned? To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a child born on this planet that is that mind controlled
      – Again, because you have no answer to give?
      – what does that have to do with the price of eggs in Ethiopia? The fact of the matter is that communal land ownership is a direct contributor to the poverty of Africa

      “Your puerile responses is proof of why” post “apartheid needed” non- “white affirmative action” if you were ever going to get a job . “LOL”

    • Derek

      Without the generalizations humour would be difficult & the list would be tediously long & complicated.

    • Lennon

      @ ciara: ROFL! I’ve seen that happen all too many times.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      And one of the Vile White practices is knowing how to farm land and use it for other than storing cows.

      Get hold of a good road map of SA and surrounds. The land was divided up between Black and White 150 years ago by the Brits long before 1910, and before the 1913 Land Act (which only dealt with the minority of Blacks who did not live in the Homelands).

      Before the Brits gave the Whites Independence in 1910 they seperated the Homelands of the Swazi, Basuto and Twana (Botswana) from South Africa which had been part of of SA because they considered these tribes peaceful and capable of developing on their own, and the Xhosa and Zulu warlike and needing supervision, and the other tribes too small to be viable states.

      AND the land did NOT include the Western or Northern Cape which had never been black occupied but was the ONLY land still occupied in Africa by the original Brown Bushmen (San) and Khoi people of Africa.

      Then you ALSO have to take out of the equation all the state land, national game parks, cities, deserts, state forests etc etc

      In 1994 22 percent of South African land was owned by the state and parastatals and no-one knows how much is left and how much the ANC has sold.

    • Noob

      Vile white practice #213: posing with a fake chicken

    • Dave Harris

      @Momma Cyndi
      Eish! You should at least TRY to think a little deeper before you comment, otherwise this discussion gets downright boring…at least the Lyndall Beddy’s crazy bigoted comments are imaginative and entertaining. LOL

    • Momma Cyndi

      Dave Harris

      So you are saying that you now agree with me or are you saying that you have no argument against what I said?

      Come on Dave, don’t woos out. Pick any one point and lets see if you have the ability to change my mind on it. Have the courage of your convictions.

    • DeeGee

      @ Harris: “at least the Lyndall Beddy’s crazy bigoted comments are imaginative and entertaining.”. As are yours….

    • Athi

      Vile white practise you forgot is recycling.

    • J B David

      I feel that the President was not able to properly convey his concerns. The loss of traditional culture due to the spread of ‘popular culture’ is a very serious matter indeed. Cutting the roots of an established tree will surely bring harm. Who cuts the roots? Mass media drives through our lives, replacing tradition with consumerism. Ever wondered why dog licences ended? Pet-food companies lobbied for the removal of the licence so that the industry would grow… the new reality of pets was driven home with the aid of emotional adverts showing children and pets playing together… Poor education in South Africa is not something that has happened by accident.. the president is concerned with disempowerment, destabilization, and indoctrination. Black people lived in harmony with the land until civilization arrived. Modern farming is the single biggest environmental killer on earth, if it is up to the UN treaty, only 5% of natural, virgin lands are to be preserved… whites, especially the elite whites, do the most harm on earth, so it is a real and relevant concern. I am a Caucasian and I have a very ‘trimmed’ root network, I can see how religion and education and mass media are harmful to people. Modern, civilized humans are destroying the earth, and they have destroyed 1000’s of cultures to date. call it whiteness, call it civilization, call it popular culture, call it suicide.

    • Garg Unzola

      @JB David:
      By your reasoning, we should still believe that the earth is flat and that the King is god purely because that’s our cultural heritage. Why is it sad that these silly beliefs are no longer held?

      It’s also incorrect to suggest that modern agriculture is the culprit here. If we were to keep 6 or 7 billion people alive with the traditional subsistence agriculture, we’d be dead already. There also won’t be much left of the planet.

      Here’s the vilest white practice out there:
      Accepting undeserved blanket guilt.

    • DeeGee

      No-one’s mentioned owning double cab bakkies. Surely that’s a vile white practice.

    • Ndingumlungu/nditheta kancinci…

      More vile white practices:

      Knowing all the words to songs from Annie, Mary Poppins, and/or anything scored by Andrew Lloyd Webber

      Putting little stuck figures on your children and yourself and your dogs onto the back window of your car

      Walking for recreation, going on hiking-trails, with or without porterage

      Buying Marie Elle, Vogue, Cosmopolitan

      Drinking sherry

      Wearing knee-high socks with long-leg shorts, comb in sock, skinny comb


      Saying, “hallo, sisi,” to the woman behind the till and “good morning ma’am” to strange lawyer

      Never being the woman behind the till

      Talking to yourself as you shop

      Cleaning your house before the domestic worker arrives to clean it

      A very vile white practice is offering crappy toy globes to ‘not-white’ men to try and sell as major road intersections

      A vile white practice is not calling back when you get a free “Please call me” message

      A vile white practice is not keeping your pedicure/manicure up to scratch

      A vile white practice is being unable to speak any language except English and not even being able to read very much in English

      A vile white practice is assuming that ‘they’ don’t want to talk to you (maybe ‘they’ do/maybe ‘they’ don’t)

      A v horrid vile white practice is making u fit a tracker onto a new car, but if the tracker doesn’t get tested/cleared every three months, you can’t claim insurance in an accident

      A final vile white practice is…


      The American Academy of Otolaryngology suggests that one
      should end their meals with a small group of fellow dieters.
      They are able to eat small portions of food on their own while you go about your
      daily routine and not have to follow a diet. When dieting
      lunch ideas starts to get old, stale, boring find a new way to mix it
      up. You can keep track of everything that you eat each day this makes
      weight loss nearly impossible for many people these days.
      First, let me tell you.

    • amanzi

      You should add Germany to that list , Germany was destroyed by the end of the second world war . 20 years later they were one of the richer countries in the world.