EVER since Jacob Zuma spoke about whites and their pets, South Africans have been talking about stereotypes and labels.
It’s a good thing, we need to talk.
I have always found it interesting to ask people how they label themselves. They come up with answers that reveal their beliefs, values, fears and prejudices. From there you can begin an interesting, probing conversation that can challenge your own beliefs, values, fears and prejudices.
As with all stereotypes what the president had to say had within it a general truth. There are many people, many of them white and middle-class, who are more ready to protest about rodeos and rhinos than the nondelivery of schoolbooks or the rape of 11-year-old girls.
Often they argue that animals are voiceless and cannot defend themselves. True, but what voice does an 11-year-old girl have? Most of us heard that radio report, shook our heads and moved on. There was no outrage.
Thought could have transformed Zuma’s comments from ham-fisted and insulting into insightful and challenging. Then they could have aided nation-building. Criticism is part of creation, but it needs to be eloquent and insightful, provoking thought, not reaction. It is the fire in the forge, but we need — and need to be — talented blacksmiths, not linguistic thugs.