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.

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