The war between Chester Missing, alter ego of Conrad Koch, and Steve Hofmeyr, is only about race in that it underlines the privilege and power of whiteness.
Steve Hofmeyr, Afrikaans outspoken right-wing singer, recently obtained a court order preventing Chester Missing, a Black puppet “handled” by white comedian and ventriloquist Conrad Koch, from “threatening, harassing, or making defamatory statements,” about him. All this because Hofmeyr tweeted, “In my books Blacks were the architects of Apartheid.” Whatever that means.
What followed was a T-war between Koch and Hofmeyr about the clearly racist and foolish tweet. Hofmeyr, earlier this year at Innibos festival in Mbombela, sang Die Stem, a white war ritual against blacks, with thousands of white supporters – who sang along without any consequences. The less said about the Red October, the better.
Koch is aware of and admits his white privilege. He went on to “challenge” Hofmeyr’s “sponsors” to withdraw their sponsorship, given his racist views. Woolworths, which has ignored calls by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa to end business with Israel and is now taking the human rights organisation to court over the non-violent #BoycottWoolworths campaign, denied sponsoring Hofmeyr. Pick ‘n Pay and Land Rover released statements distancing themselves and claimed to be reconsidering sponsorship in the future. However, Hofmeyr remains in the lineup of the festival which all the corporations Koch “challenged,” support financially.
Koch’s t-war with Hofmeyr, through Chester Missing, as an “anti-racist”, is in itself an oxymoron. A white comedian who uses a Black puppet for his anti-racist work confirms the very stereotypes, such as: “Blacks are not fully evolved and froze at adolescence, and therefore need white supervision.” Koch is aware of this, but justifies it by claiming that the puppet is racially “ambiguous,” but if Chester Missing is not white, he’s Black. Blackness is a socio-political existence, so the field slave and the house slaves are both slaves. Coloureds are kaffir too!
Chester Missing consequently doesn’t escape the reality, fact and history that Black bodies have long been fungible, co-modified, externally controlled and subject to value or non-value as decided from without. Koch reaches the conclusion that Chester Missing could be blue and still be funny so it doesn’t matter that he’s Black!
Essentially Chester Missing and Koch represent first the slave-master paradigm, and fundamentally not a relation between equals. Chester can speak, move, even tweet, only through Koch.
The t-war between the two white men which now involves more white lawyers is a celebration of white power and privilege, whose role is to channel black rage into castrating constitutional courts and ultimately silence.
Blacks must passively listen to white lawyers argue why Hofmeyr’s court order application should or should not be granted, while Koch is celebrated as a white anti-racist. Regardless of the outcome, Blacks stand to lose as an insignificant variant, just like Chester Missing, in the white privileged discourse about white racism.
Koch is a friend of natives, a liberal who is ultimately in defence of whiteness. He has taken it upon himself to defend whiteness, by disassociating himself and the rest of whites from the extremists and ultimately claiming the “moral high-ground”. Koch’s t-war is aimed at condemning white supremacy, but also to appeal to white conscience, that Blacks are human too. He appeals to Hofmeyr’s sponsors, saying that by sponsoring him, they give credibility to his views. @PicknPay simply tweeted in response: “[We] support Afrikaans music, not individuals.” Of course Koch accepts this, since he seeks to solve the peripheral problem that discharges all whites to be painted with the same brush – moreover to silence Blacks.
Koch and Hofmeyr are two sides of the same coin – whiteness. They occupy the same socio-economic and political existence. Their t-war, including the court battle, will have no bearing whatsoever on Hofmeyr or his thousands of white supporters, but more importantly, no bearing on the criminalised Black bodies who are easily beaten up and mistaken for prostitutes or simply sjamboked because they are black in white spaces.
Koch’s t-war with Hofmeyr, and the court battle, are simply a dance of white power and privilege, an example of white intellectual liberal arrogance that makes Koch the master and the rest of us Blacks his puppets who can only speak through him. I must admit, I find Chester Missing wittingly funny: if I didn’t, I would (cry or) react to his use of a Black body like the Black brother who messed up his white shoes after being called a K***. DM
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Social Justice activist and researcher in the EFF Parliamentary caucus, Tokelo writes in his personal capacity Former Deputy President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at Wits University. BA in Politics and International Relations from Wits University (2011). BA with honors in Journalism and Media from Wits University (2012). Master of Arts candidate in Political Sciences at Wits University. Twitter: @tokelonhlapo
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