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Black Lives Matter: Admit to white privilege before you 'join' black struggle

Black Lives Matter supporters gathered outside Parliament in Cape Town last week. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Black Lives Matter supporters gathered outside Parliament in Cape Town last week. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 8, 2020


The recent protests in America have unearthed a dark and evil truth that we as black South Africans have always lived with. An undeniable fact that we have tried to explain countless times to our privileged counterparts, at dinner tables, sport bars and even university halls. Yet, each and every time we try to unearth this dark truth we are met with “alternative truths” of ‘all lives matter’, farm killings and the blatant denial of white privilege.

Addressing these truths is not at all an attack on white citizens, but a simple seeking of acknowledging the truth; that the current system is highly unjust towards black people.

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I am happy to see that an enormous amount of our privileged citizens have come out in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM). But I cannot help but wonder; what took them so long? This is not a new issue. The Rhodes Must Fall movement addressed this issue as far back as 2015. Did it really have to take George Floyd being murdered on camera for us to realise this truth?

I have noticed the black blank posts streaming in on social media platforms almost as if it’s more of a fashion statement to post about BLM, than it is a call to action. Never have I been more shocked to see friends, classmates and colleagues who are against the acknowledgment of white privilege post so quickly in support of BLM. For me these two issues go hand-in-hand, you cannot support BLM without acknowledging the fact that white privilege, racial inequality and racism still exist in our post-democratic country.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the power of social media in terms of conscientizing the public. However, I know that we can do more. Let’s start by challenging that racist family member or friend at the dinner table, let’s start by acknowledging the inequality and injustice between black and white South Africans. Only then can we start to address the socio-economic structural issues.

Yes, I don’t have all the solutions, but one thing is for sure; it goes beyond just giving your domestic worker leftovers, beyond just giving your garden worker old clothes, and certainly beyond just posting a black blank post. 

* Luthando Kolwapi is a political commentator. He is a MSc candidate at the London School of Economics and obtained his a Bachelor of Social Science at UCT.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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