Defend Truth


It’s time to act and stamp out white supremacy, once and for all


Zukiswa Pikoli is Daily Maverick's Managing Editor for Gauteng news and Maverick Citizen where she was previously a journalist and founding member of the civil society focused platform. Prior to this she worked in civil society as a communications and advocacy officer and has also worked in the publishing industry as an online editor.

Racism and the notion of white supremacy continue to be cultivated and fuelled from each generation to the next. Instead of being eliminated, white supremacy appears to be silently endorsed and instilled among white youth, not least in the halls of Historically White Institutions. 

White supremacy is a concept that has a wide subscription but few choose to declare publicly that it is their doctrine. I say this because of the continual and varied racial incidents that happen the world over that are designed to instil the “gospel” of white dominance.

The theory of white supremacy is anchored in colonial conquest and was used as a justification to subjugate people who are not white by reducing them to subhuman status and, thus, open to oppression and domination. However, as the world has evolved and the human rights of African, Asian and South American peoples, Australian Aboriginals and Pacific Islanders have been asserted and protected, claiming this supremacy is no longer du jour. Acts of white supremacy persist, however.

Let us take the case of Stellenbosch University first-year law student Babalo Ndwayana, who was woken by fellow student Theuns du Toit, who had broken into Ndwayana’s res room and was urinating on his belongings. When Ndwayana asked Du Toit what he was doing, he said: “This is what we do to black boys.” We know this because Ndwayana had the presence of mind to record the incident on his phone.

Most South Africans will know that Stellenbosch has a history of racist incidents perpetrated by white students against black students that are designed not only to assert their dominance but also to make black students understand that they are “undesirables” at the historically white institution.

A 2019 research study of black students’ experiences at Stellenbosch, conducted by Elina Kamanga, found that students experienced incidents of hidden racism, which is described as “racialised interactions performed by white people towards people of colour (POC). It defines an unconsciously natural stance most white people take during racially charged situations. This phenomenon is particularly prominent in interracial spaces where whiteness is normalised and POC are ostensibly the minority, such as at Historically White Institutions (HWIs).” The study found that this hidden racism persisted in lecture halls, residences and other social spaces surrounding the university.

Du Toit’s brazen assertion of “This is what we do to black boys” bears closer scrutiny. The use of the word “boy” in reference to black men is not insignificant. Words in themselves do not have power, but the history and intention behind them do, as well as the audience to which they are directed.

It doesn’t take much to know that using the word “boy” when speaking about a black man is designed to diminish them in order to assert superiority, and that is why Du Toit deliberately chose the word.

Du Toit apparently apologised for the incident after being called in for disciplinary action by the institution, but it would be interesting to know what exactly he was apologising for — as in, what exactly would he classify as deviant in his behaviour and how will he correct it?

Ndwayana’s experience is sadly not unique nor isolated; it is but one of many racist incidents black people like myself and Ndwayana face on a day-to-day basis — whether it be as overt as someone urinating on your belongings or as subtle as having our lived experiences disbelieved or dismissed and told to “get the chips off our shoulders and rather focus on the ANC government’s corruption”, a most absurd retort.

How do we process these incidents with a progressive mindset that goes beyond shock or considering ways of exacting vengeance? I am more interested in how white people, those who purport not to be white supremacists, process such incidents and what work they feel needs to be done from their side and by members of the white community to ensure that we do not continue to find ourselves in these situations. What do they make of black people’s pain? Is the assertion that this is an acceptable way of existing that we should tacitly accept? If so, then why shy away from openly identifying as a white supremacist? If not, then why not act to curb these incidents?

I also have to ask what these moments are meant to teach us and who is the lesson for, really? It’s not about the incident, but about the deliberation and intention behind the incident. That is the work few want to do because it exposes latent prejudices that would otherwise remain covert.

You don’t have to urinate on someone’s belongings or call someone the k-word to be racist or a white supremacist; you only have to look away and dismiss such events as “just crazy”, “embarrassing”, “stupid”, or “boys being boys” because you or your child are not the ones on the receiving end.

So what will it take for white people to speak out collectively against white supremacy and dismantle the bastions that provide fertile breeding ground for it to persist?

I’m not even angry, although I should be; it just hurts that we, and now our children, continue to be sacrificed on this rapacious altar. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Stephen T says:

    This conversation (an by extension this article) is moot and meaningless as long as South Africans are unequal before the law based on nothing but the colour of their skin.

  • Nick Miller says:

    On what basis does Stephen T base his assertion that South Africans are unequal before the law based upon the colour of their skin?

    It may well be that South Africans are unequal before the law depending upon whether they are wealthy or impoverished but I am not aware of people being disadvantaged by reason of there skin colour. I shall be grateful if Stephen T will clarify.

    • Stephen T says:

      It was described in an article on hate speech by Prof de Vos a few months ago. It basically allowed and encouraged such discrimination if certain “cultural considerations” are met. These considerations seemed more widely open to subjective interpretation than any properly codified law based on fairness and equality. The double standard is thus already built into the law on “hate speech” and thus paves the way for legislators to develop laws on “hate crime” with a similar subjective premise.

      Remember also that we have a clear example of this kind of thinking already. There was the case of Penny Sparrow a few years ago and almost at the exact same time a case was brought against a young black man (I forgot his name) for openly calling for an ethnic genocide of whites on social media. Both were found guilty. Penny Sparrow publicly apologised and was still sentenced to two years in prison. The black chap was given a R2000 fine. I don’t believe he was even asked to apologise.

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