Via Guardian UK
A throwaway remark, a four-word statement and 40 T-shirts. That was all it took to trigger a vicious debate about guilt, responsibility and race that has revealed South Africans at their best – and their worst.
It came about when Roger Young, a film-maker and writer, was discussing a recent controversy about a supermarket with job vacancies that targeted black recruits, prompting a white outcry. “I said to a friend: “I’m going to get all these people a T-shirt saying, ‘I benefited from apartheid’, because they simply don’t understand,” he recalled.
The friend took him at his word and together they printed 10 such T-shirts and displayed them in an art exhibition under a sign which said: “Free T-shirts, whites only.” They were gone in five minutes, so 30 more were produced and sold not for profit.
Some praised the gesture as honest and courageous in a country that, despite its official aspiration to non-racialism, is still steeped in the legacy of apartheid 18 years on – recent census figures showed that black workers earn six times less than their white counterparts. Others, however, unleashed a tirade of inflammatory criticism and personal abuse that suggested attitudes no less stagnant.
Not all whites in South Africa are as rational as Roger Young.
“I tell you who benefited from apartheid, it was blacks,” wrote Facebook user Margarita Barnard. “I wish blacks would give whites apartheid. And I will tell you why I say this. Whites came to a country where there was nothing, just some black tribes living in mud huts killing each other. No roads no infrastructure no South Africa even. Blacks were always dying from famines when there were droughts, from tsetse fly [sleeping sickness], from yellow fever, malaria, name it they died in droves.”
She continued: “They had no doctors, no writing, no schools no hospitals no roads, and worst of all and something which probably cause more deaths than the rest, no sewage system. Whites came and provided all those at the expense of whites, white know how gave blacks everything they take for granted today. Like clothes, pens, computers, everything of a billion things it needs to create a civilization. BUT whites couldn’t civilise them, so apartheid was necessary to keep whites alive.”
Says another salty cra-…white South African:
Another objector, Francois DeWet, posted: “Get me a dictionary or something that shows me how black Africans could be taught in their own languages subjects like maths, science and biology. Simple, you cannot teach in a language that does not have the terminology to do so. We didn’t place restrictions on the development of their languages and simply had to find another way to give them a start in live. So, alternative mediums were introduced to accommodate the lack of terminology, and they went apes#*t!!”
Fortunately, there are still white folks in South Africa that still have perspective on the situation
“It evoked many vindictive and nasty responses from white people. I think it scratched a wound that is still open. There are some white people who still don’t quite understand how brutal a transition we could have had, and how brutal a transition other countries have had.”
Zapiro welcomed the T-shirt initiative. “Every white person, no matter how committed to the anti-apartheid struggle, benefited from apartheid,” he said. “Anything that shows some people are aware of how much we benefited would be good.”
It never ceases to amaze us how insensitive SOME white folks can be about the inequalities that exist between the races, and how quick SOME are to point of the “wonderful” things that they have done to help, poor, underprivileged, black folks.
At least these two white guys get, clap for ‘em.