Oops, I’m a racist! When perpetrators become victims

This week three young men – Mark Burman, Ross Bartlett and Michael Weaver – who were involved in yet another blackface incident at a historically Afrikaans university – issued an apology, of sorts, for their behaviour. The statement is worth reading on their Facebook page. Intended to convey contrition it achieves the opposite: it stands as a towering monument to the myth of white victimhood.

    ‘In this context, blacks were understood as more body than mind’ – Dr Delia Douglas

The Facebook apology is a seductive attempt by the young men to distance themselves from any racist intentions. They suggest that, even though they were painted head to toe in black shoe polish and made reference to the recent Tukkies blackface incident when they posted the pictures, “There was no racial undertone to the costume. This was not us dressing as a ‘blackface minstrel’, in the sense of theatrical makeup used to perpetuate racial stereotypes and caricatures, or to denigrate those who we were aiming to portray; this was simply us dressing up as two successful sporting siblings, as authentically as possible. As such, this incident is entirely distinct from the recent incident to which comparisons have been drawn in the media.”

Sadly, like too many whites that wear their privilege far too lightly, the men have taken enough responsibility to appear to be contrite, while essentially arguing that they have done nothing wrong. This is part of a long history of white non-apologies for racist behaviour.

This sort of sorry-ness wears a smile but has a dangerous bite…

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