Among all the adventures I have had this year, one of them made my dream come true: To be a real journalist. I applied to Stellenbosch University’s newspaper, Die Matie, about two weeks ago and I was accepted (albeit on trial only). I recently wrote my first article to be published in Die Matie next week about a Blackface protest that took place last week. Last night I realized that I wrote something that truly matters…
So I think I should go back a few steps. I will start by defining blackfacing: It is a form of racism that involves a person (non-black) painting his/her face black, often meant as a mere joke. If one considers the South African context though, it is understandable that blackfacing would - more often not - not be viewed as a joke.
The following incident took place in Stellenbosch: There was a party with the theme “twins”. Two white guys decided to dress up as Serena and Venus Williams. A friend posted a photo of them on Twitter and that is how the uproar started…
When the culprits realized how upset some people was about their behaviour, they posted an apology on Facebook - which was not entirely accepted, however. Sisonke Msimang from Daily Maverick responded as follows:
I would like to think that they are just naïve, but experience tells me accepting their ‘apology’ at face value would be silly. [They] are the product of families, schools, religious institutions and a campus culture in which negative ideas about what it means to be black have primacy.
The full article, “Oops, I’m a racist! When perpetrators become victims”, was pasted on a board along with the words “Who owns this space?” last week - the visual protest. The protest’s initiator, Kylie Thomas, explained that it was only meant as a forum to raise awareness about racism at Stellenbosch University and in South Africa. That goal was certainly reached!
Many people urged me to choose a side in this cold war going on at Stellenbosch University (and throughout South Africa, actually). As a journalist, I may not do that - articles are supposed to be neutral. As a person, I may choose any side I want, but I prefer not to take a side. Why? Because my dream for South Africa is racial harmony.
So, what I realized is that I wrote something that will influence thousands of people (More than 30 000 students = at least 1 000 of them read Die Matie? Not to mention the hundreds of lecturers). And this is just the beginning. Scary? Yes. Exciting? Yes!