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The use of ‘the K-word’ indicates a ‘a thoroughbred racist character at work’ – Eusebius McKaiser

Run Racist RunEusebius McKaiser’s most recent column for the Cape Times is titled: “The k-word leaves no room for doubt”, and looks at Matthew Theunissen’s recent letter of apology.

Theunissen rose to infamy after posting a racist rant on Facebook, referring to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s ban on South African sports associations from hosting major international events and calling the government “a bunch of k****rs” and “black f***ing c***s”.

The 26-year-old Cape Town resident has since offered a public apology.

McKaiser, however, does not altogether buy it.

Read his column, as shared on his Facebook page:

* * * * *

The k-word leaves no room for doubt

Matthew Theunissen – he of k****r infamy – has penned an open letter of apology addressed to the universe.

Apologies for racism are now as popular as racism itself, so what do we make of this latest attempt by a racist to cover up their naked parading of their true self?

Well, I am not convinced by this apology. Theunissen insists in this open letter that he is not a racist, as he did also a few days earlier in a radio interview with CapeTalk’s John Maytham.

I can think of few things as hard and humbling as accepting that you are racist, let alone admitting to this stain on your character. But when you have just gone viral for calling blacks k****rs, then you have no room to hide. It makes nonsense of the open-letter apology if you insist that all is well with you.

Besides a deep sense of shame blocking one from seeing such stains on one’s character, another reason for the denial that one is racist is an embedded belief that you are decent. White South Africans in particular – in the context of the histories of colonialism and apartheid and anti-black racism which these histories are in service of – want to think of themselves as decent people.

And that is understandable. Who wants to be indecent or seen to be such? But no journey out of the heart of racism can begin with any prospect of success unless we are willing to face up to what the mirror reveals. And the casual hurling of the word “k****r” reveals a thoroughbred racist character at work.

Theunissen’s unwillingness or inability to plainly see what lies in his heart means that the apology solely serves the functional purpose of minimising the social backlash he is receiving. Not until Theunissen comes to grips with being in fact a racist is there a chance in hell that he may yet become an anti-racist.

I am always careful about character ascriptions on the basis of one speech act. After all, one might not be a bigot and still do or say something on occasion that smacks of bigotry. That is why we have the phrase “out of character” in the English language.

For Theunissen, however, this defence isn’t available. Firstly, the internet doesn’t forget. Social media postings from him going as far back as 2012 show that he has been racist towards other groups, too, like Asians and, for good measure, Islamophobic. In other words, the posting about k****rs is part of a pattern of racism rather than a rare incident.

And whatever you do as a matter of habit cannot be excused as being “out of character”. Your character is precisely a reference to your behavioural disposition over a period of time in varying contexts. It is revealed through your habits.

But at any rate, I have long wondered about the word “k****r”. It is such a singularly poisonous word that when someone uses it, once off even, with intention to hurt those the word is thrown at, I think there is no room for further investigation into their past.

The word k****r simply doesn’t allow for innocent non-racist usage. If you casually say something like, “Black people love their chicken”, we can reasonably disagree whether that kind of stereotype constitutes unambiguous racism, let alone definitively reveals racism at the heart of your character. It is a borderline example.
And that is why we cannot routinely make easy judgements about character based on thin evidence. The word “k****r”, I am afraid, is so uniquely loaded with derision, malice, hatred and viciousness that no one who is not a racist would use it.

You could quote the word for purposes of discussing it or use it in a song to evoke its poison in an artistic attempt to open up a discussion about racism, perhaps, but that is not what Theunissen did. He hurled the word at black people with the same force and intent as a violent criminal pinning down their victim, viciously assaulting their dignity.

So, how can Theunissen possibly have any room for being unsure as to whether he is a racist? That lack of certainty is pathetic. And it finds expression in another part of his open-letter apology, too, when he pretends that his intentions and actions do not match.

His intentions are pure, and his actions accidentally do not track them. No one of anti-racist intent accidentally shreds the dignity of black people by calling them k****r. Theunissen’s racist intention was revealed to him and to us. By continuing to try to drive a wedge between intention and action, he shows his apology to be mere survival instinct at work.

You can only begin to chip away at your racist character if you accept that you are racist.

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