Red October: Protesting for privilege

Red October is the name of an awareness month; unlike the usual ones it doesn’t focus on the under privileged or a global problem, instead it focusses on white South Africans. Tomorrow, 10 October, they plan a protest (with a nuclear bomb type giant count down clock on the website) to highlight the struggles of white South Africans. It would be hilarious if it was a hoax, but it is not; these people are actually serious, and that is scary.

And idiotic… After consuming centuries of colonialism, and a desert of about five decades of apartheid (garnished with a TRC that just told them to say “I’m sorry” and left it there) they feel that they are being oppressed in South Africa, that they are facing violence… They cry reverse racism.

Reverse racism is when a racist is nice to somebody. What y’all are talking about is karma.

– Wanda Sykes


On an intellectual level, I can try to understand it – to some extent – as it is logical that people are scared of losing privilege, especially material privilege. White South Africans were running a country, they had control over all the resources, created a lasting legacy of white privilege that perpetuates today. The only thing they get right is that it is about race, very much so; problem is, however, no matter how much they argue it, it isn’t about them.

To quote from the Red October website:

We are tired of Corrupt Governance, Racist Black Economic Empowerment and Affirmative Action policies.

That would be a description of apartheid, except replace the word black with white. In fact it would be unjust, as affirmative action is more than justified when societal context is so screwed up due to such a long time of active oppression. So basically they are blaming the current ANC run government for the things that the apartheid government did, only ten times as bad; except of course this time the ANC – despite all its problems – was democratically elected.

White South African’s situation is far from as bad as Black, Chinese, Indian, and Coloured people had to face during apartheid, yet the message regarding that is “get over it, we said sorry.” It’s kinda like a rapist who tells the person who they raped to “get over it” when he refuses to leave. I know many would get pissed by this analogy – and I personally dislike analogies – but it is really the thought I have when I heard the whining about the plight of white people in South Africa.

The call that South Africa just has to “get over it” are clear enough. A section from Wikipedia on Afrikaans “protest” music to illustrate:

Much of the protest by Afrikaans musicians concerns the legacy of apartheid: In “Blameer dit op apartheid” [Blame it on apartheid] Koos Kombuis sings how “the whole country is evil,” yet the situation is blamed on apartheid. Klopjag, in “Ek sal nie langer” [I will no longer] sings that they will no longer apologise for apartheid, a theme echoed by many others, including Koos Kombuis in “Hoe lank moet ons nog sorry sê” [For how long do we still have to say sorry]. Piet Paraat sings in “Toema Jacob Zuma” [Never mind Jacob Zuma]: “My whole life I’m punished for the sins of my father.” There is also a distinct feeling that the Afrikaner is being marginalised by the ANC government: Fokofpolisiekar sings in “Antibiotika” [Antibiotics], “I’m just a tourist in the country of my birth,” Bok van Blerk sings in “Die kleur van my vel” [The colour of my skin] that the country does not want him despite his willingness to work, because he is white […]

One needs to highlight, however, that apartheid is not over. If one spends enough time in Cape Town, one can see the clear discrepancies in economy, living conditions, etc. along apartheid racial lines. The majority of land is still in the hands of white people, in many companies, the only black people are cleaners or secretaries (gotta have a few token black people, at least). Apartheid persists, and the illusion of a rainbow nation is to pacify the nation. Going further, Red October goes to the point of implying that the little redistribution of resources that has happened, was too much. There is a sense of entitlement, that they should be given their due… And I ask: for what? Their due would be prosecution for crimes against humanity… You can’t just say sorry and move on…


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