Quiet violence of statues

The late "Queen of Soul", Aretha Franklin, in her role as a civil rights activist once said: "I've been locked up for disturbing the peace in Detroit, and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can't get no peace." In the week following the violence that was unleashed on retailer Clicks' stores following its racist hair advertisement, this might seem like some sort of justification for that violence. Far from it. The peace that Franklin said she was not getting is the kind that was taken away from black people in America by constant police harassment, police...
The late "Queen of Soul", Aretha Franklin, in her role as a civil rights activist once said: "I've been locked up for disturbing the peace in Detroit, and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can't get no peace."

In the week following the violence that was unleashed on retailer Clicks' stores following its racist hair advertisement, this might seem like some sort of justification for that violence. Far from it.

The peace that Franklin said she was not getting is the kind that was taken away from black people in America by constant police harassment, police brutality, underdevelopment in black areas and the presence of daily reminders in the form of statues and monuments that celebrate the people who enacted laws that kept black people in bondage.

The disproportionate violence that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) unleashed that had Clicks closing its stores might seem justified to the perpetrators because the retailer caved in and removed the products from its shelves and established a scholarship fund aimed at addressing diversity (in the future).

The EFF could have achieved more through using its parliamentary voice to enact laws that would ensure diversity is not once-off, but becomes entrenched in the boardroom. While the violent knee-jerk reactions to instances of violence achieve "something" in the short term, it takes away from the deeper conversation that South Africans should be having on the effect that the quiet violence of racism by default(lack of inclusivity) has on the lives of black South Africans.

If the response to all racism (subliminal and overt) was open violence, there soon would be no country left. President Cyril Ramaphosa says statues of colonial leaders must be taken down and placed in theme parks, hopefully far removed from the daily lives of ordinary South Africans.

This is a time for South Africans to engage on why this is a necessary move for the vast majority. This provides a chance to educate the likes of Veronica van Dyk of the DA who said: "This move by the ANC government essentially aims to create sanitised public spaces reflecting a government-approved history that pays tribute to government-approved heroes. Removing statues that do not form part of this narrative allows the ANC to control how these statues are presented in the historical narratives to future generations."

The DA obviously thinks statues of racist colonial leaders do not disturb their peace. No surprises there because the party has just agreed race no longer determines how they aim to address past injustices and inequalities. Maybe it should explain to the rest of the world why Black Lives Matter is resonating with everyone but itself.

The truth is the DA knows the kind of voter its brand of "nonracialism" appeals to: the one who sees nothing wrong with racist hair ads. Part of the reason youth feel enticed to trash and violently destroy public facilities (including malls) is because they feel alienated by these public spaces.

When those public spaces are occupied by statues and monuments that pay homage to leaders who are architects of a system that ensured they are made to feel like strangers in their own public spaces, it is easy to see why they feel violated.

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