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Dear Tshidi: Thank you too


Dear Tshidi

I don’t know you. Apparently you’re a model and actress but, like Jessica, I hadn’t heard of you until yesterday. And I must say I’m astonished that it took me so long to find you. Specifically, this gem of a tweet, which you judged an appropriate response to the Jessica Leandra debacle:

It took a while for that tweet to reach a wider audience and when it did, there were raised eyebrows. Later, you defended yourself:

You even brought in a little sanctimonious hypocrisy:

Anyhow, good on you for not apologising. If you can’t see why you did anything wrong, then why should you? Apparently somebody has reported you to the SAHRC and somebody tweeted your agent, but compared to the disastrous day Jessica Leandra had on May 4th, you’ve escaped pretty much scot free. Lucky you.

So I’d like to say thank you for evening things out a little. Thank you for reminding us that racism is not the exclusive preserve of the Jessicas of this world. You’ve presented us with an opportunity to condemn racism no matter who expresses it, and to counter the Hofmeyresque argument that racism is condemned when it comes from white South Africans, but not their black compatriots.

What’s obvious from the case of Jessica and Tshidi is that South Africans are in desperate need of anger management. We seem incapable of resolving conflict without resorting to racist generalisations. Somehow, if we see bad behaviour, we immediately attribute it to race rather than a failure of character; every time somebody behaves like a total doos, the entire premise of post-apartheid South Africa goes on trial.

One of the most effective ways to combat stereotypes about each other – the all whites this and all blacks that – would be to take visible steps to rebuke those who cross the line between what we agree to be acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Be seen not to tolerate racism in those who are like us, not just leave the protests and complaints to the targets of racist speech. (And by this I mean that more white South Africans should condemn racism from white South Africans; the same goes for black South Africans too). If the responses of reasonable South Africans drown out those of the racist trolls, we will make a meaningful step in the direction of configuring a society based on honesty and mutual respect.

So, thank you Tshidi. If you and Jessica help us, even just a little, to resolve our differences in a more mature way, then you will both have done us all a not inconsiderable favour.