Convicted racist Vicki Momberg in the dock.
If you don’t intend to read this column to the end, you’d better stop now lest you be left with a misleading impression. My point is: all South Africans owe a deep debt of gratitude to that rabid racist Vicki Momberg. Not because of the criminally offensive content or the supremacist tone of her foul-mouthed tirade about black people, but its consequences.

For too long now we’ve kidded ourselves that as citizens of the rainbow nation we have been converted to non-racism, and the ugly racism which dominated our lives for decades has all but disappeared.

Having brought the white oppressor and angry black oppressed together to the negotiating table to end apartheid, surely racism would dissipate swiftly through natural attrition? We may have overcome racial oppression, but not racial prejudice. So when Momberg spewed out her vitriol at black policemen, calling them k*****s no fewer than 48 times, it was a chilling wake-up call.

The obscenity of her actions shocked us out of our complacency. It helped raise our collective consciousness about the evil of racist thinking and behaviour more than any academic lecture speech.

We may quibble about whether the three-year sentence meted out to Momberg was just, not harsh enough, or too extreme. But we largely agree her conviction was correct and racism had to stop.

Remember when we were less than conscious of the prejudice against people living with albinism? We only began taking it seriously when Gabisile Shabane, a 13-year-old girl with albinism, was found murdered and her body parts mutilated. The sheer horror of her killing was the wake-up call we needed.

Similarly with prejudices against gay and lesbian people. Public consciousness was aroused only after details emerged of the horrific killings of several people simply because of their sexual orientation.

So, take this as a back-handed compliment, Ms Momberg: your act of naked bigotry has had the unintended consequence of helping unify the country against racism.

Racism starts and ends with each one of us. If we can commit to start looking at one another not in racial terms but as fellow citizens, we will have made great headway. The danger, of course, is that if we fail to act with urgency, the Mombergs of this world will have the last laugh.

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