If a white person approaches me and refers to me as a “monkey” or ‘kaffir”, this is undoubtedly a reflection of their own narrow-mindedness rather than of who I am. Why should it matter to me what someone else thinks of me if I am aware of who I am and who I am not?

The same holds true if a black person refers to a white person as a “pig” or uses any other derogatory term. The insulted white person, who is aware of their value, has no business whatsoever being impacted or troubled by the narrow-minded viewpoint.

In my experience, those who use derogatory language towards individuals based on prejudice against their colour, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability typically have internalised issues. Such people, in my experience, are typically self-hating. Why even allow such people to affect you in the slightest?

As a society, we really ought to stop wasting our time, labour, and resources on individuals who disparage others based on prejudice. These individuals are typically foolish, and it is best to just ignore or accept their foolishness.

When the problem involves more than just disparaging remarks being made, and those remarks are accompanied by an action or actions that prevent the next person from accessing certain material spaces or from taking advantage of certain material opportunities, or physical violence, then the situation becomes different.

Assume, for instance, that a white supervisor at a particular company refers to his black juniors at the company as “kaffirs” and “monkeys.” As a result of this perception, he only promotes white, coloured, and Indian candidates whenever there are available vacancies in the company. He excludes black people because, in his opinion, they are inferior to white, coloured and Indian people because they are black. In such a case, hate crime is unquestionably committed.

Nonetheless, time should not have been wasted on Vicki Momberg – as an additional example, derived from a true South African occurrence – and her stupidity when she called a black police officer a “kaffir” 48 times after a smash and grab incident in 2016. Why? Because Momberg’s stupidity in calling the black officer a kaffir – so many times even – is a reflection of Momberg’s own small-mindedness and stupid thought patterns rather than an actual reflection of the policeman, who and what he is.

Momberg did not, however, stop the black officer from gaining access to any material space or from seizing any material opportunities in society, or physically violate the officer, despite her obviously stupid remarks. I maintain the view that we should not squander resources dealing with people’s stupidity unless it places in jeopardy the material well-being of others. Momberg’s case should not have consumed public funds. It was evident from her comments that she was utterly foolish. Courts and prisons do not cure stupidity. 

I do not think it makes logical sense to arrest someone for being foolish, and I do not think it would make a difference if someone called me a monkey or kaffir. I have far more self-awareness and self-knowledge than that. To avoid being harmed psychologically or emotionally by the foolishness of others and wasting public resources by having such cases reported to the police and taken up in court, everyone needs to have strong, independent self-knowledge and awareness. Without a doubt, this is a matter of personal responsibility rather than a court issue.

Besides, why do many people in our society believe that everything in this world is intended to be flawless? It is not. While it would be ideal if everyone in society valued, loved, and respected others, the reality is that this is just a wishful notion of what society ought to be. It is high time we acknowledged society for the complex entity that it is.

Not every black or white person will love and respect others. Not every black person will love and respect every other black person. Not all Indians and whites will love and respect one another. Coloured and black people will not all love and respect one another, and so on. And that’s alright. It is not necessary for everyone to be best friends and lovers. The actual problem arises when one individual prevents the other from materially accessing opportunities and spaces, or violates the other physically. At that point, the state must indeed step in; but not each and every time that hatred or a lack of decency is revealed!

[Photo: Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR.

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Tiego Thotse, the former Operations and Advocacy Manager of the Freedom Advocacy Network (FAN), a unit of the Institute of Race Relations, is the DA Youth Chairperson in Limpopo. His opinions are his alone and may not always reflect those of the DA.