Sunday, December 2, 2012

Props to Roger Young

Reblogged from Clutch Magazine

Roger is a White South African filmmaker. In the wake of observing White backlash against a grocery store explicitly seeking to hire Black workers, Roger is trying to document apartheid's legacy, how people like him are still reaping the benefits of the now defunct system and coloreds and Blacks are still disadvantaged. He printed up 40 of the t-shirts he's wearing in the above photograph, which read "I benefited from apartheid," and placed them under a sign that read, "Free t-shirts--Whites only." Predictably, a whole slew of White South Africans are outraged, or at least offended, by his gesture. 

Ignorant people took to Facebook, as they are wont to do, to say that Black South Africans should be grateful for apartheid, because when Whites came to what is now South Africa, there were no roads or hospitals or an organized system of government. Because a government that systematically denies you basic human rights is a government to be praised! Blacks should be thankful that apartheid allowed them to be civilized. Riiiight. Because civilization only comes in one form and one skin-tone--cookie-cutter or bust! It puzzles these people of Facebook why strangers appearing in a land that has been doing just fine on its own for literally thousands of years, literally tramping on history and culture in the name of helping the original inhabitants might be regarded poorly by the descendants of those original inhabitants. Black South Africans still make, on average, a sixth of their white counterparts' income, but they should be humbled, really, because they weren't making any money before Whites came and introduced a money-based system that destroyed their livelihoods!

And then there were the people who tried to absolve themselves through claiming to have been reluctant participants in the apartheid system, those who basically said, well I couldn't have benefited from apartheid because I didn't actively support it. Those people must have forgotten that there's a funny thing about privilege--you can't wish it on or away. If your entire society was based on rules (written or implicit) that gave people like you certain advantages over people not like you, you benefited from apartheid in South Africa, or from systemic racism under other or no names in the United States and elsewhere. Racists aren't the only people who benefit from racism.

Kudos to Young for taking a proactive stand in the battle against denialism and the dismissal of a progressive agenda as "White guilt". I think John Shapiro's political cartoon says it best:

No comments:

Post a Comment