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The race card and the irony of irony

Having a RaceCardTM neatly tucked into your wallet, ready to be despatched at a moment’s notice, makes you a card-carrying … what?

A bit of a spanner, maybe?

Yeah, someone’s finally done it. There’s a RaceCardTM now, complete with choice of colours and neat little boxes to tick.

The idea is that you wave it at your assailants when in a tight spot, an obvious but clever dig at the flying circus running this country and the ruling party. “Used By Politicians”, the site declares.

The idea was apparently birthed by Gareth Cliff, as a satirical joke against the culture of accountability-dodging that seems to be the one common thing among all South African politicians. It’s grumpy, it’s grim acceptance, it’s cynicism. It’s a small up-yours to the powers that be. It’s an incredibly white joke (no one flash a RaceCardTM at me), and is thus supposedly ironic. No black person is going to carry a RaceCardTM around, trust me. Not even the starkest of coconuts, with the poshest of accents, would be that obdurate.

I was reminded of the words of fellow Thought Leader blogger David James Smith when I first came across He said: “Irony is a weird thing. Because the irony of irony is that the last laugh is always on you. The ironic T-shirt that no one gets, the Poison album you play in your car, the B-grade horror movies that line your DVD shelf and the mullet haircut you paid a fortune for. At some point you realise they are not funny, they are just crap. And you may have been better off doing things because you genuinely like them rather than for the sake of some elaborate ironic joke. A joke you thought you were making at the expense of the world. But oh the irony, it turns out it’s on you.”

Do you see my problem with this joke? Name me one other situation, aside from an ANCYL press conference, where you could safely deploy the RaceCardTM and not look like a complete knob. It pokes away at what is still a raw nerve for many without really getting its message across. Notice how black people are sheepishly labelled “Africans” on the card?

I don’t see Julius Malema getting this one. If he does get it, he’ll take enormous umbrage and get Floyd to write an angrily-worded letter, making off-colour suggestions about your ancestry and general state of mind. At worst, Zuma’s goons might want a word.

It’s a good joke, as jokes borne of frustration, irascibility and outrage go, but the intended target will completely miss the humour.

What’s worse, pulling this joke won’t make you look clever. For all your efforts, you’ll simply establish yourself as a certified tool.

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  • Sipho Hlongwane

    Sipho Hlongwane is a journalist and columnist for the Daily Maverick. He is an avid fan of jelly beans, Top Gear, Arsenal and thinks that South Africans tend to take themselves a little too seriously. [email protected]