Dear Renaldo Gouws, about that Spur video…

Since I do not possess equipment nor the skill to produce a video in response to your’s where you weigh in on “THE SPUR INCIDENT” I have opted instead, to write an open letter. Before I start addressing your video, I feel compelled to state that I am normally very careful not to speak for people of colour as I believe it takes away their agency to speak for themselves. They do not need a white person to reaffirm their position on matters nor do they require a white person to validate what they have to say. This letter will speak for me and my beliefs on this issue and, should not be interpreted as a means for me to hijack the agency for people of colour.

While watching your video, there were two things I immediately agreed with you on:
1. The man was a complete idiot. He is a disgrace.
2. No man should ever lift his hand to a woman, even as a means to intimidate.

I also immediately found myself disagreeing with you on your point that “No self-respecting parent would talk like that in front of their children.” How a parent speaks in front of their children is none of your business. A more pertinent point to make on this though is how you completely ignored the fact that her swearing at the man was a result of his aggression towards her. You fail to include in your highlights that this woman was constantly being spoken over so that the man could be heard, and exasperated by his attitude, she responded by swearing.

Now I know very well that further profanities were exchanged. I will get to this later as I want to undress the racism in this video and expose it to you since you completely missed it. It’s not your fault, though, most white people are hopeless in identifying racism. They resort only to the dictionary definition of the word not realising that racism runs far deeper than just a literal meaning. You see, Renaldo, racism doesn’t have to be explicit in its presentation. It can be deceptively subtle, showing itself in something as simple as the tone of voice or even in the implication of a sentence. It is this understated racism that I feel you missed.

I am grateful for your video as it serves as an easy reference for you. The dramatic opening for your video is the very instance the racism is seen. You say you couldn’t find any examples of racism, and that very well may be true. I don’t blame you because you have never had to live with this kind of racism on a daily basis, so you will not be as familiar with it, but this opening scene of your video shows something every person of colour knows far too well. I call it, “The Baas Mentality.”

Now, stick with me here, because this is where things get sensitive. The source of the Baas Mentality is the age old idea that us whites are superior to people of colour and in charge of them. It traces its roots back to “the good old days”, as many hate mongering whites have called them, where a white person was the boss. The days where people of colour were expected to submit to the instruction of the white or face severe consequences. Although these days are long behind us, the mentality lives on. Whites have not been able to get used to the idea that they are no longer in charge and that people of colour can decide what is best for them without the permission of white people. People of colour no longer have to fear for their safety or their lives if they do not submit to the expectations and commands of white people.

What we see in that opening scene of your video is a white man instructing a black woman to address the incident and discipline her child. His exact words were: “I’m telling you to do something.” First of all, who is he that he has authority over her? What gives him the right to instruct her with those words or in that tone of voice? This is a perfect example of “The Baas Mentality” in all its menacing glory. Just by uttering these words -forget his aggressive and intimidating body language- he has established that he believes he is in a position of power and as a result can issue such a command.

What we see next is the worst nightmare or wet dream (depending on how sadistic the individual is) of any “baas”: insubordination, the blatant refusal to comply, coupled with insolence, disrespecting the baas. The woman responds to him with the words: “Just fuck off. I won’t do anything.” We don’t even need to consider the sheer outrage that was pulsating through the baas in the video. He responds, threatening the disobedient black person with violence, a “poes klap”, a solid backhand through the face. The baas was threatening to beat the woman into submission. Typical behaviour of the baas, typical behaviour experienced time and time again by people of colour in the “good old days”. You would think that this behaviour would have died after apartheid, but no, here it is, reminding us that even though apartheid is over, “The Baas Mentality” survives still, just as it did then, ready to strike down ‘the other’ and enforce compliance.

For me, the best part of “THE SPUR INCIDENT” is how this woman, substantially smaller than the man, rises, threatened and fearful but also powerful and defensive. She made it known that she would not back down, that she will not be intimidated by his aggression and threats. This reaction sent the man into a testosterone filled tantrum where he endangers the safety of children, other patrons and staff. So fragile is the ego of the baas that he cannot accept her reaction. He tips over a table, threatens more violence against her. His world is spinning out of control, he is out of control, but despite all this, the woman never backs down. This brings me back to the use of profanity after the original “PK threat”. Given the situation, I don’t blame the woman for using the language she did. She was scared and intimidated but trying to put on a brave face. He, on the other hand, was at a melting point, ready to combust at any moment, his swearing and performing in the manner he did because of the damage caused to his ego, the last ditch effort to remind her “who’s boss”. What I have understood by reading responses to this incident, is that many people believe that somehow, even though there is a tower of muscle putting their safety at immediate risk, the kids are going to be adversely affected by the swearing.

Not only do we see a stunning example of indiscreet racism via the incident at the Spur, but you also gave us another example of it when you went ahead and pointed out all the “racist comments” on social media, specifically by “Black Twitter” and black people on Facebook. You go on to make hasty generalisations about black Twitter, a social media entity you neither belong to nor know anything about except for a ten-minute hashtag search. You show your very own racial bias when you mention that no media house has reported on the racism in “black twitter”, and yet you have failed to provide a balanced and objective report. How have white people reacted to the video on social media? The very same individuals who feel that the woman was equally at fault – as if the physical danger she and her children were in poses the same threat to their safety as the word “fuck” – can be seen all over social media spewing endless racist drivel. Where are those comments dealt with in your video? Double standards much? If you wish to amend your video and include some, look no further than the comments section of your Youtube video for some content, as a start.

The reason all whites get tossed into the same box and labelled racist is that, despite apartheid dying out just over two decades ago, our attitudes remain very much the same now as they were then. We refuse to acknowledge the privilege apartheid and colonial rule has afforded us. We refuse to see people of colour as equal. We have made no effort in identifying our racist behaviour and correcting it. So very few of us are actually willing to listen to what people of colour have to say about how our actions affect them. How we treat them, how our actions still oppress them, how we still abuse their rights, how we still display our deluded notion that we are superior. These are things people of colour have to live with every single day; it is what they have to endure to succeed in a society that is still dominated by whiteness and belief in white supremacy.

I would also like to point out to you, as well as those reading this letter – as a means to address your inability to spot racism in this particular incident – that an argument can be made that the man’s reactions are also the result of toxic masculinity and the effects of patriarchy. Of course in many cases, especially this one, toxic masculinity and the ”Baas Mentality” and white fragility are not mutually exclusive. For centuries white men have enforced their dominance over women and people of colour. The belief that the white man is the pinnacle of the human hierarchy is something that all women and men of colour can assure you is still alive today. It’s right there in the video.

I hope this letter makes things clearer for you. Your video lacks anything more than a superficial analysis the incident. Perhaps in future, instead of lambasting black people and other people of colour for their reaction to a video, try to understand why they are reacting that way in the first place? In future, I hope that instead of making a video condemning cries of racism, you will first seek to understand why people are calling the incident racist, to begin with, and present a more informed and balanced argument.

Regards,

Charl Botha


4 thoughts on “Dear Renaldo Gouws, about that Spur video…

  1. What an eloquent letter. You have put into words the feelings that people of colour find so difficult to express. I was just blown away by this letter. In my opinion, a very Mandelaesque response to a close-minded bigot. Thank you for taking the time to break down the video with such grace and understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

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