SLR: #WhitesMustPay and what it means for future generations

In this article, Simon Lincoln Reader unpacks what racism means in different nations around the world. What does it mean to be ‘anti-racist’ enough? When will the idealism of social justice finally become a reality, and how is this possible? Is it feasible that future generations will be able to live without the shadows cast by racism and injustices of the past or will guilt perpetuate hyper-awareness of race and where we come from? – Melani Nathan

SLR: An analysis of the thinking behind #WhitesMustPay

By Simon Lincoln Reader*

Yesterday Beijing24 took a painful one. It wasn’t the usual sloppy remark or outrage porn or crisis acting passed off as analytical commentary, but the logical graduation of the effluent Gillian Schutte once composed (after wading in) or the genius trickery of Marius Roodt posing as Shelley Garland that cost the screeching editor of the ill-fated Huffington Post franchise her job. Alexander Strachan’s opinion column ‘Its time for whites to pay reparations’ was the literary equivalent of toppling Abraham Lincoln’s statue in Portland, on grounds that he wasn’t ‘anti-racist’ enough – a way of thinking almost identical to the speech the CCP’s man at the UN performed in 2020, condemning America for ‘systemic racism’ (this fellow’s wife sitting in the gallery may well have been wearing fake nails that once belonged to a tortured Uyghur – but we’ll never know).

To summarise: nothing that the country has accomplished – nothing that its opposition politicians say – addresses the imbalance at the heart of South Africa’s economy. So its time to pay a monthly fee of guilt into a fund that would function in a manner similar to the one established in the wake of the consequences of the rona – a scheme that should be unrelated to what Strachan calls ‘untenable ideologies’ – Jacob Zuma’s radical economic transformation’, BEE or and now EWC. Without denying Strachan the right to interpret present unemployment statistics as a crisis, this is why social justice writing’ is like the conditions Coleridge’s Kubla Khan’ was conceived in – no opioids or adventurous mastery, just the wet, uncontrollable dream.

This way of thinking is intriguing, as it is only in the last few years that complexion has accelerated the idea of reparations – in the US for slavery, in the UK for colonialism and now in SA for apartheid. Undoubtedly provoked by a (generally) hostile media seeking to exploit this division for its own commercial ends, the idea that inequalities can be tempered by the ultimate force of conscience suggests that all human disaster was – and is – caused by people who look a certain way. To arrest this, those who happen to resemble those who went before them must be held responsible.

#WhitesMustPay is a continuum of events that hold increasing power. Just this week: Coca-Cola presented to staff demonstrably false claims that ‘whiteness’ is synonymous with ignorance and arrogance (amongst others). A council in Vermont scrapped the name of a beach – White’s Beach – named after a local family’s surname. In Lake District, the home of anti-slaver William Wordsworth was blacklisted by the UK National Trust ‘because his brother had links to slavery’. In New York and in the same vein as Coca Cola’s presentation, a school principal distributed a ‘tool kit’ for parents encouraging them to become ‘white traitors’. The corporate west has already manufactured a link between pollution – ergo climate change – and racism; soon there will not be a patch of grass upon the earth’s mapped surface that hasn’t been lumped with some fraudulent ‘social justice’ ablution.

Identifying the origins of this thinking is relatively simple. The clear majority of those doing the presenting, the writing, the educating are themselves white, and could probably be classified as middle-class. So everyone else becomes the recipients of their own uncomfortable awareness of circumstance. Because their own privilege cannot correspond to say, pit toilets, they project, and as grievance begets grievance a cycle of desperation is established – one that supplants the instinct of good with wild, selfish ideas and revisionism. In this race to the bottom, the lives of Amy Biel’s mother Linda, Alan Paton, Bram Fischer, Paul Verryn and Athol Fugard, the thousands of charities and other silent, selfless efforts become meaningless, leaving generations to inherit a burden they cannot understand and do not deserve.

  • Simon Lincoln Reader works and lives in London. You can follow him on Substack.

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