Picture: Twitter screenshot
Picture: Twitter screenshot

Editor’s View: Gareth Cliff and John Steenhuisen - don't you dare

By Lance Witten Time of article published Oct 22, 2021

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OPINION: Don’t you dare assume that my lived experience or the lived experience of other people of colour can be seen through your sanitised lens, writes Lance Witten.

White man, don’t you dare.

Don’t you dare assume that my lived experience or the lived experience of other people of colour can be seen through your sanitised lens. Don’t you dare assume that race and identity politics doesn’t affect absolutely every aspect of my life and every sphere of my existence.

I’m not ever going to lecture you about how much easier it is for you to complain about not getting the right table, not being entirely satisfied with your meal, not being served quickly enough at the counter, not having enough bank tellers available to serve all clients, not having the potholes or streetlights or burst water pipes or blocked drains in your leafy street fixed quickly enough, than it is for me.

That’s not how I was raised. Be grateful for what you have. That’s what I was taught.

So, white man, don’t you dare. Don’t you dare try and lecture me about the difficulties I face on a daily basis.

Issues of housing are not isolated from racism. Issues of service delivery are not isolated from racism. Issues of spatial planning are not isolated from racism.

This week we have a number of stories about a person who was unable to rent a home because they are not white. An estate agent is suspended because they refused to allow someone to rent a home to someone who was not white. Because the owner of the home is “race sensitive”. So, white man, don’t you dare.

Today, I watched an immensely triggering video where the entitled Gar*th Cl*ff told a young, black Mudzuli Rakhivhane that “your personal experience is completely anecdotal and unimportant”, and while that is triggering enough, the whole leader of the Democratic Alliance sat smugly staring in agreement like some doe-eyed right winger hanging onto the hate-filled revisionist rhetoric of D*nald Tr*mp.

Racism is not a municipal issue to be considered in the upcoming elections? White man, don’t you dare.

Racism lies at the heart of service delivery, spatial planning, budget allocation and attention. Black suburbs get fewer resources and manpower because they don’t pay the politician’s salaries. I know, because I live in a city where the vast majority live in slums and squalor, while the city bosses gladly welcome the accolades conferred upon it by themselves: best-run city! Most attractive to tourists! Most conducive to foreign investment! Easiest place to do business!

All while the majority of the city lives in squalor. And when you point this out, the white man proudly states: “Elsewhere in South Africa, there is worse squalor!”

White man, don’t you dare. Don’t you dare tell me that elsewhere the sewage is deeper in the streets, the refuse piles up higher on the corner, the infant mortality rates are higher, the crime is worse, the potholes are more numerous, the corruption runs deeper ELSEWHERE, because elsewhere is not where I live and does not make the squalor I live in any better HERE.

I can understand Cl*ff’s take - he’s always come across as an entitled prick. But for the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Leader of the Party That Does Not See Colour, to sit there smugly and smiling while a fellow white man told a young black woman her lived experience was unimportant and that racism is not that big a deal (in the context of municipal elections) is inexcusable.

Because sitting there nodding and smiling is tacit agreement.

You cannot improve my situation, J*hn St**nhuisen, if you agree that my lived experience, and the lived experience of a young, black woman is anecdotal and unimportant. So, white man, don’t you dare.

* Lance Witten is the Chief Audience Officer of the Independent Media Group and Editor-in-Chief of IOL.

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