Eusebius McKaiser writes in this week’s Sunday Times column that he finds me intellectually fascinating and then goes on to describe, in nit-picking terms, how he interprets my work. He asks if I do not get tired of tweeting and tweeting (me?) antiracist rhetoric as well as writing plentiful angry essays about my fellow “blind white South Africans”. He imagines that I live a tortured existence mired in historical guilt and goes on to describe me as angrier than Julius Malema and Andile Mngxitama put together.

All I can do is roll my eyes around in my head a bit and wonder about the narrow prescriptive parameters of his liberal worldview. It seems he can only envision a white woman tackling the thorny issue of contemporary racism as a pathetic, self-loathing, guilt-ridden mental case who has nothing better to do than compulsively churn out article after article on white privilege as a type of penance for a history she had no control over. This is, seemingly, a form of masochism, a miserable mantra neurotically engaged in as some sort of obsessive compulsive bondage-inspired, get-your-freak-on, angst of a white woman dying for a bit of approval from black people for her psychological penance.

However, from what I can tell, if you are white and male and you make fun of racism and history, then somehow you are cool because this is apparently, the only way to go. It would seem then, according to this worldview, that racism, genocide and the cruel decimation of the livelihoods of whole nations of people is best laughed at and never fully tackled as the holocaust it actually was. I mean isn’t it so much more comfortable to make white people feel good about the non-event of their colonial history (and resultant privilege) through humour? Humour has, after all, been proved to work for men who make rape jokes.

Besides the lack of vision and insight that McKaiser’s little black and white sadomasochistic fantasy of me reveals, it also exposes his positionality.

He is a liberal and he attempts to understand my deconstructive interventionist protest writing through this narrow framework. He cannot, it would seem, conceive of anything outside of this moderate scenario — least of all the possibility that anti-racism activism is simply one of the myriad aspects of the larger struggle — a struggle that goes beyond armchair politicking and celebrity, and who “likes” you, and how many followers you have on social media, or how many photos you can share of yourself and an endless stream of big celebrities, or how many red carpet events you are invited to, or whether you had the time and the inclination to go to Buckingham Palace and have lunch with the Queen of England.

It clearly does not even occur to him that my struggle is rooted in a collective struggle against the neoliberal economic and political landscape of the current global world — and that I see racism, violence against women and children, poverty, hunger, war, homophobia and environmental desecration as part of this very same struggle. In fact I write and make films on these topics just as frequently as I do on racism and white privilege.

This globalised economic system is one that systemically excludes and oppresses millions upon millions of real live people. It was built on the premise of white male supremacy — the monolithic centre of all capitalist and colonial logic for centuries. This is what I seek to deconstruct and, well, in my view it is virtually impossible to laugh at the results of racism and all the other suffering that white supremacy has wreaked across the world. Of course I am angry — only an ego-drenched, non-reflexive idiot would find this funny.

So dear Eusebius McKaiser,

I am not really that perplexed at your petty critique of me in the Sunday Times column this weekend. It is what I have come to expect of you. I thought I would clear some stuff up for you though, and hopefully dust away some of that one-dimensional historical debris that has gotten stuck in your vista — when it comes to understanding my work at least.

Firstly, why would any self-loathing entity fight for a better world — an egalitarian socialist world in which the glaring disparities between the rich and the poor are eradicated? This, to me, is indicative of self-love — of love of humanity — of the passion to change things so that the world becomes a place for all humans and not merely the elites.

I write from this socialist, eco-feminist, anti-racism, deconstructive perspective. I neither need nor want your approval just as I neither want or need approval from Zille or Obama or the Queen of England or Ramaphosa. I stand in opposition to anyone who has sold out to the capitalist corporate system and this includes many people of colour too. So no — I do not do this for the approval of all black people as you so smugly assume. I do it to critique a stuck and arrogant discourse and to feed into a narrative that is alternative to the one that dominates now. I do it to resonate and work with the many that are busy developing this alternate narrative — who want a world that does not rely on the exploitation of the masses for profits and more profits.

I do not want to go to Buckingham Palace, or be part of your inner circle, or join the machinery that requires of you to push the master’s wheelbarrow with one hand while carrying caviar and champagne in the other hand — as one Facebook commentator put it.

You have often tweeted that I bend over “blackwards” — well I am sure you are aware that you have been accused of bending over forwards for whiteness in order to accommodate the master’s fallacious narrative. But let’s move on from there.

Is it too much for you to imagine that mine is a contemporary struggle that is rooted, not only in history, but in contemporary politics and economics — and that it is impossible for me, like many others, to sit back and observe the hideous callousness of governments and their corporate partners as they under-serve their populations while grabbing all the wealth for the few and creating massive economic disparities that generate an existence of unimaginable suffering for so many of the globes inhabitants. Is this the joke?

I do not ever claim I know what it is like to be both black and poor (I grew up poor … but never black) just as you could never know what it is like to be a woman, as you do not have a vagina. Yet you still speak out about violence against women. Is this not a double standard? I am, after all, a white woman who has popped a few non-white kids out of my vagina … and mothers who can will always fight for a better world for their own children … not so?

Perhaps I do not fit into your prescriptive paradigm about what the role of a white activist woman in South African society is. Perhaps a white woman married to a black indigenist-activist falls outside of the prejudiced framework you have placed me in — or that a white woman who grew up fairly working class may find it that much easier to embrace a struggle against neoliberalism than an economically privileged South African — I don’t know. What I do know is that I chose not to be part of the wider machinery so that I can write what I like because I made the choice never to sell out to a master narrative that speaks down to and excludes anyone outside of the elite patriarchy or the bourgeoisie.

I am not asking for your permission to speak and write about my observations of how white privilege continues to play out in our democratic society and how we need to move beyond this hetero-normative, white male-dominated discourse in order to imagine a better world for all voices and all expressions of humanity.

My writing against this dominant narrative is exactly because I believe that this mainstream discourse upholds a system that goes against humanity and I believe that enough people chipping away at this eventually makes way for the possibility of an alternative system with narratives rooted in equality and humanity and not profits before people.

I call for environmental rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, disabled people’s rights, LGBTIQA rights, prisoner’s rights, economic rights, sex-worker’s rights, social justice and a world order that is rid of white economic and narrative dominance as well as corporate and governmental elitism and huge social disparities based on race and gender. If you believe that what motivates this call is approval from Facebook fans then I can only roll my eyes some more and reiterate that your projection is narrow and shallow.

Perhaps it is you who should ask yourself some tough questions about why the exposure of white privilege makes you so uncomfortable — and why you go out of your way (like so many white male columnists) to denigrate my work with your ongoing disparaging and iniquitous analysis, which, ironically (or not) ultimately feeds the white supremacist agenda.

As for me — I will continue to write about what I don’t like.

So while you find it ever so important that white folk get with the black programme and learn what “claps hands once” means so that you are not misunderstood on twitter (god forbid) I find it equally as important for white folk to “unlearn their implicit grammar of privilege and racism and get with the equality programme”.

But I suppose in the end, what is most indicative of the absolute difference in our politics is how we responded to the dung-flinging protests of the Western Cape. While you distanced yourself from their “bad behaviour” I wrote that the “Shit War” was the most apt, unsettling and radical form of protest for a current South Africa — where those privileged mansion owners, who uphold the dominant discourse of white privilege and general elitism and have long stopped serving the disenfranchised and the oppressed, deserve to see lots of defecation flying in their direction.

And that I guess, is where we part in ways and ideologies … as well as the fact that I am confounded that you have not once considered that having lunch with the Queen of England is really nothing to be proud of — quite the opposite in fact.


Gillian Schutte

Gillian Schutte

Feminist, filmmaker, writer, poet, activist and author, Gillian Schutte has a degree in African politics, an MA in Creative Writing and a Film Director's qualification from the Binger Institute, Netherlands....

Leave a comment