In the United States, the National Basketball Association cancelled matches in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting by the police, while in South Africa the BlackLivesMatter (BLM) debate rages on. Who benefits and what are the costs?

Jeremy Daniel’s biography of Siya Kolisi, Against All Odds, resurfaced in light of the Springbok captain’s BLM speech. In the speech, Kolisi claimed that he ‘felt my life didn’t matter’ all the way ‘since birth’, because of race.

And yet Daniel’s biography includes quotes from Kolisi’s Emsengeni primary school teachers, his first coach, his Grey High coach, and various others to indicate that Kolisi was a very poor but very popular boy, cared for by friends, guardians and family.

Rachel Kolisi, Siya’s wife and a BLM ‘star in her own right’ has subsequently called for the biography to be retracted, boycotted or otherwise cancelled.

Rachel is not the first critic of Daniel’s book. Last year, journalist Kamva Somdyala argued that the book should not have been published without Siya’s permission, but also conceded that the text is ‘well-crafted’, ‘well-researched’ and based on ‘factual’ interviews.

None of this matters to Rachel for a simple reason: race. However accurate the biography, Daniel is white and Kolisi is black. According to Rachel, that disqualifies Daniel from writing about her husband.

Rachel wrote about the biography: ‘I would appreciate your help on calling this out for what it is. WHITE MEN benefiting off the back of a BLACK MAN.’

Rachel’s view is hard to reconcile with Siya’s career. Every time the loose forward secures a ruck or steals the ball from the opposition, white players in the Springbok backline might benefit. Coach Rassie Erasmus has benefited from Kolisi’s work too, as have millions of South Africans who love the game and were delighted to watch him play so well en route to victory.

Did not pay him

Maybe Rachel believes that rugby has one set of rules, biographies another. After all, Siya gets paid to play rugby, but Daniel did not pay him for the right to mention Siya’s name or to interview his connections. That was not for a lack of trying; it was reported that ‘substantial offer [was] on the table but this was dismissed’. So the book was published as an ‘unauthorised biography’.

To Rachel this is a miscarriage of justice, because Daniel is ‘WHITE’.

‘Siya has not benefited from this unauthorized biography in ANYWAY’, she writes. As it happens, Rachel has not made any money out of Daniel’s work either.

Rachel’s claim that black professionals should exclusively be allowed to publish stories about black individuals is nothing new. White painters have been denounced for painting black subjects, white South Africans have been denounced for singing in traditionally black languages, and white writers have been slammed for doing what Daniel did before. The technical name of this accusation is ‘cultural appropriation’.

Where did the idea come from that races own ideas, in the form of stories, dances, music, or cultural artefacts?

In his 2018 book about social identity politics, The Lies that Bind, NYU philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah provides a startling insight: the belief that races own intellectual property (IP) comes right out of Renaissance Europe.

Half a millennium ago Venetians made dazzling beads of a certain type, but to ‘keep their commercial advantage, the Venetian state forbade glassmakers from leaving with their secrets’. The beads were supposed to be Venetian and Venetian only; if the secret slipped out the penalty was death.

Attempt to prohibit ‘appropriation’

Unsurprisingly this attempt to prohibit ‘appropriation’ did not work. Malians discovered the ‘cultural secrets’ anyway, spreading them to Ghana and beyond.

Appiah rhetorically asks: ‘What sorts of progress would have been advanced by insisting that the Venetians owned the idea of glass beads, and policing their claim?’ You know the answer.

‘To accept the notion of cultural appropriation is to buy into (a) regime…where corporate entities acting as cultural guardians “own” a treasury of IP, extracting a toll when they allow others to make use of it.’

This is exactly what Rachel aims to do, extract a toll every time a ‘WHITE’ writer or commentator says Kolisi’s name or describes something about his life. If she could enforce this toll, Rachel would become even richer than she already is.

Legally, Rachel knows she has ‘no foot to stand on’. But that IP should be owned within and by races is a bad old colonial idea. This is terrifically ironic since Rachel is trying so hard to distance herself from that idea.

Rachel is not the first white South African to raise the dregs of European zombie ideologies and hawk them as social justice elixirs. Fallism was grounded in Marxism, French deconstructivism and a European form of cultural relativism.

Both Rachel and the Fallists would benefit from ‘decolonising’ their own minds before trying to police others.

Steve Hofmeyr

Unlike with Rachel Kolisi, it is hard to imagine Steve Hofmeyr trying to force a publisher’s retraction merely because he deems the author of a text about himself merely to be the ‘wrong colour’.

Addressing Kolisi and others, Hofmeyr humanely and correctly said ‘you have so much to be proud of’, while deploring the tragedy of hard-won success being redefined by ‘resentment’.

Yet Hofmeyr has his problems too. In concluding his BLM speech, Hofmeyr said that ‘if you ever extend this condescending hand’ that pats the heads of self-flagellating victims ‘to my people we will slap it away with the contempt it deserves’.

Sadly, in Hofmeyr’s case, this is far from true. Hofmeyr is probably the most famous South African to talk up ‘genocide’ against white Afrikaners.

In 2012 he said: ‘It’s very easy to get rid of my group because they’re so small…If your nation is five people strong and I take two away it is genocide. You can’t tell me two is not genocide. In this case two is genocide.’

If two in every five members of a race or ethnic group (40%) were murdered that might very well qualify as a ‘genocidal’ proportion. And yet the proportion of farm murders in South Africa is orders of magnitude less than that. But Hofmeyr keeps talking up ‘genocide’ on Twitter, exaggerating a real problem into something easily dismissed as lunacy.

Few people know better than Ernst Roets, CEO of AfriForum, how badly talk of ‘white genocide’ has obstructed attempts to draw attention to real issues (murders, race-baiting and the erosion of property rights). He has repeatedly and diligently denied the genocide claim while assuring the public that even though there is no genocide does not mean there is no problem.

Still, Steve Hofmeyr’s earlier attempts to exaggerate the problem of farm murders continues to be energetically used to discredit the movement needed to secure order through equality before the law and an end to race-baiting politics.

Hofmeyr has not ‘slapped away’ the condescending hands that reward talk of ‘white genocide’, but has embraced them instead.

Who else talks about ‘genocide’? Julius Malema, who supports BLM because there is ‘black genocide’ in his description. This exaggeration is also the opposite of helpful.

A common trait

Rachel Kolisi, Steve Hofmeyr, and many prominent BLM activists all share a common trait. They all begin by noticing real victims of real adversity and are motivated by the admirable desire to make things right by drawing attention to what is wrong.

But then they use exaggeration and siloed thinking to draw maximum attention, which ends up turning victimhood into a glorified status. However good the initial intention, they end up undermining the very causes they hope to champion.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. I agree 100% with with Sara Gon, now that Siya Kolisi achieve a name, now he wants to bring RACE into it.
    Why, why, why

  2. Regarding Gabriel’s comments about concern for real victims (sometimes historical) morphing into victimhood glorification: Laurens van der Post remarked on the tendency amongst Nationalist leaders who came to power in 1948 to always harp on about the Boer War concentration camps, although many of them (like DF Malan) had no personal experience of the war. Those who had real war experience tended to be preach forgiveness and reconciliation (Incidentally, HF Verwoerd, not a native Afrikaner, was a “cultural appropriator” par excellence). Van der Post, who had been a prisoner-of-war in Java under the Japanese during the Second World War had observed a greater desire for retribution in people sent out from Britain to prosecute Japanese war crimes after the war, even though they had never personally experienced the brutal conditions that Van der Post and his fellow prisoners had experienced first-hand. He concluded from these observations that for many people, an abstract injustice is harder to forgive than a real injustice.

    Thomas Sowell also remarked in the context of affirmative action policies supposedly compensating for “historical injustices” that a sense of group grievance is seldom a prelude to just treatment of others. More often it heralds a “Now it’s our turn” attitude. No one felt or promoted a sense of being historically aggrieved more than Adolf Hitler.

    • Thank you Reinier, very interesting comment about van der Post sounds exactly right. I would be keen to find the text where he makes that observation, if you could direct me to the text I would appreciate that.

      George Orwell made the same observation about Hitler in his review of Mein Kampf and more generally argued in a WW2 context in his stark report towards the end of the war called Revenge is Sour.

  3. My question is, isn’t Rachel a housewife? Does she not benefit as a WHITE WOMAN off the hard work of a black man?

  4. I agree with you Sarah.But would like to add I think somehow Kolisi’s wife has some kind of inferiority complex and that is why she is so bitter.

  5. What is the threshold for genocide? Is there a time limit for genocide? Is it worse to murder 1000’s people in one go or to spread them out over 20 years? Put in another way, would it perhaps have been less noticeable if the Rwandan genocide happened over 26 years with 105 murders happening daily and just ascribed to be the result of Rwanda being a very ‘violent society’?

    • What people don’t seem to realise about Mr Hofmeyr’s stance is that current Anglo-Afrikaner murder rates (farmer or urbanite) would probably never have been tolerated (or at least left unresolved) the way it is now had the crimes been committed by Anglo-Afrikaners on Anglo-Afrikaners. You need to work out what the intra-group murder rate is, compare that with the inter-group murder rate, and then see if there is in fact a difference. My gut feel is that there will be a difference of a few orders of magnitude. Whether you call that genocide or non-genocide hardly matters in my opinion.

      • When I visited Rwanda the best evidence was said to show that 1 million Tutsi’s were killed in 100 days (which comports with your numbers of 105 murders per day over 26 years). Today the Rwandese Tutsi population is roughly 1.5 million. Even if one includes all Tutsi’s (including Burundi and DRC) roughly 1 in 4 were killed measuring by today’s population. Whether that happened in 100 days or 26 years I think it should count as genocide either way. I think Hofmeyr was right to point to the proportion of the group murdered as a primary factor to consider in terms of genocide.
        Your “gut feel” is correct, last time I checked the data. Part of the problem is that politicians and major media players make excuses for farm murders, stigmatize (white) farmers, call for land invasions, wish to destroy the Rule of Law, and that police often offer no security. This must be addressed.
        You think it “hardly matters” whether an abomination is called genocide or not. Respectfully, I disagree for reasons stated in the article.

  6. Rachel, I feel so very very sorry for you. For all the pain and suffering. Maybe you should have thought twice before you signed the register.

  7. Gabriel, while your article started off well enough with good points about Rachel and cultural appropriation (although it would be interesting to see how you relegate the Syrah/Champagne/Rock Lobster debates to this discussion), you totally lost me or, wait, let me be honest here – you earned my contempt, too, when you decided to have a go at Steve Hofmeyr. What were you on about trying to quantify genocide? You seemed to be attempting to trivialize farm attacks, to suggest that they’re a figment of Steve Hofmeyr’s imagination? Even as the protests against farm murders were quietening down yesterday, another farm couple were murdered. It’s amazing how similar to Ramaphosa you came across in your article. Quite disgusting, actually.

    • Edd, when geography impacts flavour there is a non-cultural argument to be made for trademarking place names for food products, eg. Champagne and Karoo Lamb. When properly constructed these are laws about what you can call a product based on where it is produced, not who owns the farm. For example anyone is allowed to buy shares in LVMH, which owns Veuve Clicquot and there is no race/ethnic law about who is allowed to produce Karoo Lamb. Sometimes these laws are misguided, sometimes they are fit to purpose.

      On your larger point contempt is a powerful state, I hope you reconsider. “What were you on about trying to quantify genocide?” That was Hofmeyr, not me, who argued that “2 in 5” is a genocidal proportion. I quoted him in an effort to take him seriously, which is something his usual critics almost never do. “You seemed to be attempting to trivialize farm attacks, to suggest that they’re a figment of Steve Hofmeyr’s imagination?” Not at all. Farm attacks are all too real. I have covered farm attacks and spent months in the field in rural South Africa talking to people, farmers and farm-workers, who live and toil in a state of terror. I have also been in arguably the most sophisticated HQ for coordinating armed response to farm attacks staffed by good, tough and very serious people who do vital work but also had a clear appreciation that until the politics on this issue turns around it will continue to be a bitter and losing battle for far too many people.

      Farm attacks must stop. You and I might have a different idea about that can be done practically and honestly. On this point I reserve my contempt for the killers in this country.

  8. BLM has absolutely nothing to do with race. It is an extreme Left Wing Marxist movement created by radical global elites to overthrow the right and using race to try to do this.
    Whoever supports BLM is incredibly ignorant and doesn’t realise he/she is aiding a movement that is going to lead all of us towards an authoritarian dictatorship. That includes Rachel Kolisi who also is desperately trying to prove she isn’t racist but is proving her lack of education and ignorance in the process.
    Just to add, there is a lot of black history that is horrific. Slavery, murder, genocide and other forms of brutality are embedded deep in the roots of black tribal history which white people had nothing to do with. Colonizing southern Africa and eradicating people like the Khoisan was just one incident. The genocide of nearly 2 million black people by the Zulu is another.
    So for those white people with guilt on their shoulders, wake up and stop being so gullible and ignorant.

  9. Gabriel – Good article.
    When I saw you criticized Steve Hofmeyr, I was irritated as he is definitely a hero of mine.
    I can however see why you criticize him as I also do not believe the many farm murders to be a genocide and never argue this point.
    But I think we must make a clear distinction between an activist using emotions like mr Hofmeyr and structures like AfriForum who uses facts in their fight to stop the killings. In my opinion, both are doing great work and both are needed.
    For Example; The ANC definitely did not achieve their victory against Apartheid on facts alone. 90% of the victory was through emotional connecting to people inside and outside of SA to fight against Apartheid.
    If the person who you debate against uses the argument like bad talk of ‘white genocide’ in attempting to obstruct attention to real issues, you just calmly tell them they are going off point and they are welcome to talk about flying pigs afterwards, yet we are dealing with facts now. The give them the facts again.
    PS: If not genocide, this person will use another tactic to avoid talking about the real issues.

  10. Rachel is very immature to enter the fray by making such ill considered comments. It just shows how much brain washing she has undergone. There is so much stereotyping for whites and black and intermarried couples in South Africa – she should have just shut up and work out her hang-ups with her husband.

  11. Poor Homo sapiens. The obsession with race shown by our species is unfortunately firmly embedded in our biological tendency towards tribalism. In a need to belong to an in-group that shuns out-groups. It requires great moral fortitude to overcome this proclivity.

  12. By the same logic, why are we allowing black people to participate in colonial sports? Surely that is either cultural appropriation, or yet another example of colonial oppression? Ridiculous, the whole lot.

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