Take a stand against injustice and racism even if it's not trending on social media
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In most cases, there is a certain wisdom that comes with old age. This week I enter the realm of old age - I am turning 60 and have been in the media industry for 40 of those - and I hope that I have learnt something from my time spent on this earth.
Two things I have learnt is that history has this nasty habit of repeating itself and nothing in life is as clear as black and white.
There are some stories that repeat themselves on an annual basis, while there are others that are repeated more often. We know that there are going to be murders of innocent people on the Cape Flats every week, we know that drunk drivers, at different times of the year, are going to kill people. We know that, in Cape Town, when it is winter, some areas are going to be flooded and, in summer, there are going to be infernos in informal settlements.
A story like Covid-19 is unique. It has not happened before and this is why everyone is grappling with understanding it and taking proper precautions against it. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the dismantling of the Soviet Union as a world superpower, the destruction of the World Trade Towers in a terrorist attack on 9/11 and the end of apartheid are among the stories that happen once in a lifetime.
Racism and violence against the vulnerable, however, are among those things that happen almost every day and hardly ever get recorded or reported, unless, as in the case of George Floyd in the US, there is a video to show it in all its brutality.
One of the reasons why there has been an international outcry over the killing of Floyd is that, in the days of social media, you can become a journalist just by owning a mobile phone with a camera. Anyone can record anything and distribute it worldwide within minutes using social media.
South Africans have been slow to condemn the killing of Collins Khosa, who was killed by soldiers in his house in Alexandra on April 10, apparently over a beer found in his fridge. The soldiers who were present - and whose names have never been published as far as I could ascertain - were ordered to be suspended by the High Court.
We have been slow to condemn the killing of Petrus Miggles, who was allegedly tasered and beaten with a hammer by police before he died near his home in Ravensmead. We have not expressed outrage over the death of Sibusiso Amos, who was allegedly killed by Ekurhuleni Metro Police and private security during lockdown patrols. We have been mainly quiet about the killing of Adane Emmanuel, who died after being arrested and assaulted by police for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes. All of these incidents happened in March, but have remained under-reported in the media, including on social media.
There are many others who have died during the lockdown and all of them lived in South Africa’s dormitory townships where the government continues to condemn the poorest in our society to lives in hell on earth.
The reasons why we have not displayed the same kind of outrage over the killing of black people in South Africa at the hands of police and soldiers are twofold: most of the police and soldiers are black, making it difficult to accuse them of racism, while none of these incidents have been recorded to be played over and over again on social media.
I am not opposed to anybody taking a stand against racism and authoritarian violence, but these stands must not only depend on what we see on social media or when it is pushed into our faces. Our stands must be rooted in deep principles of opposing injustice because it is happening every day, whether we can see it or not. Otherwise, injustice and racism will never end and history will just keep on repeating itself.
* Ryland Fisher is an independent media professional. Follow him on Twitter @rylandfisher
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.