In a disturbing incident, a 15-year-old boy’s use of a racial slur triggered a disproportionate social media uproar. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) organised a march to the boy’s school, raising concerns about the appropriateness of such actions. The incident shed light on the persistence of racism, with calls for a nuanced response rather than resorting to violence. Ivo Vegter underscores the importance of addressing racist indoctrination as a form of child abuse, urging societal intervention to rehabilitate, stigmatise responsible parents, and ensure a non-racial future for South Africa.
Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.
Racist upbringing is child abuse
By Ivo Vegter
A 15-year-old boy uttered a racial slur. The mob, led by the EFF, took umbrage and went after him.
Imagine my surprise to wake up and find the word ‘kaffir’ trending on X. Briefly, I hoped that it involved the Arabic word for heathen, but it was not to be.
According to a viral TikTok video, a 15-year-old white boy from Tzaneen appeared on the channel of a streamer named Sonwabile and called him an ‘EFF kaffer’ (which is the Afrikaans spelling).
Other videos made by the boy surfaced that appeared to confirm that the kid really is a mean and uncouth little racist.
As Sonwabile rightly pointed out, ‘that is not nice’.
It is odious behaviour, to which no South African should stoop. Not in public, and not in private, either. Expressing prejudicial hatred is offensive, and detrimental to social harmony. I do not believe that mere words ought to be criminalised, but I do believe they ought to be strongly condemned.
Epithets do not say anything about the target but reflect very badly upon their speaker.
I associate the use of racial slurs or the expression of white supremacist views with low intelligence, emotional immaturity, psychological insecurity, an inferiority complex, bad manners, and cowardice.
It is what Afrikaners might call ‘common’, a word indicating a disdain for lack of class or civility.
Of course, there’s been an uproar entirely disproportionate to the crime. It is natural that the video clip would cause offence, but the frenzied outrage whipped up on social media does not strike me as a reasoned or productive response.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who were themselves insulted, drummed up a well-attended march to ‘fetch’ the child from his school, Hoërskool Ben Vorster.
It didn’t seem to occur to them that sending a large mob of angry adults after a teenager might appear excessively threatening and could actually precipitate a dangerous situation.
What an electoral gift for them, though. That kid has no idea how many votes he might have influenced in favour of the EFF, or an EFF/ANC coalition.
On X/Twitter, the video was held up as evidence that all white people secretly use slurs for black people behind closed doors, which is patent nonsense. To draw such a conclusion is just as racist as making stereotypical generalisations about black people.
The boy’s words were blamed variously on his school, on AfriForum, on the Freedom Front Plus, and on the Democratic Alliance (DA), which happens to represent the ward in which the child lives.
This is political grandstanding. None of these groups actively promote racism. All of them formally condemn it. None, except perhaps the school, had any control over, or responsibility for, that racist boy from Tzaneen.
Some called for people to respond to verbal racism with physical violence, which seems disproportional.
Notable for their rarity were more mature comments: ‘Calling me Kaffir means nothing to me, in primary I was amongst the 1st blk kids in a white school, was called Kaffir so many times, I care less, when I got better grades over white kids that’s when I knew being called Kaffir does no damage to me/us, so try elsewhere S’hlama.’
The accusation that white people use racial epithets routinely behind closed doors does not agree with my experience. Racism does persist, however, and is undoubtedly worse in some communities than others.
Even as a white person living in a small town with a large white retiree population, many of whom really are racist, I don’t hear racial slurs very often. Among that older generation, the insidious ‘they’ is far more common.
But that generation has little influence and will soon shuffle off this mortal coil.
What distresses me far more is when younger people are openly racist.
Some years ago, I encountered a couple in their 40s who not only routinely use racial slurs, as if it is okay to do so in the company of other white people, but also started home-schooling their children so they didn’t have to mingle with black and coloured people at school.
For obvious reasons (but also because they were simply awful people) I disassociated myself and my family from this odious pair, so I have no idea how their little racist-raising project is going.
I worry about and feel very sorry for their children, however. They are being indoctrinated and will end up just like this kid from Tzaneen.
Those kids will get hit by a wall of angry protest, and lifelong cancellation, as soon as they’re allowed on social media, perhaps without even fully realising what they’ve done. The hateful reaction they receive will do nothing to change their minds, and instead just reinforce their prejudices.
The chances are good that they will be lost to the civilised, non-racial world, even once they grow up.
I consider racist indoctrination like this to be child abuse.
Classical liberal thought doesn’t have very much to say about children. Questions of political and economic freedom, human rights, and the role of individuals in society, typically involve adults.
How and when children gain rights, until they are fully emancipated at the age of majority, is not a matter of broad consensus among classical liberals.
On issues that do affect children, such as education and healthcare, classical liberals often defer to the rights of parents to raise their children as they think best, without undue interference by the government, provided the children are not abused or neglected.
Yet there are many ways in which parents can ruin a child’s life, short of actual physical or sexual abuse. Even when a child’s basic needs of sustenance, education and security are met, parents can inflict lasting harm on children.
It is these things that give me pause and lead me to question the view that parents should be largely free to raise their children according to their own personal beliefs.
When those beliefs are hateful or discriminatory, or are a threat to the health of the child, how can we stand by and let harm befall those children?
Indoctrination can scar children for life. Raising children to be racist is abuse, with life-long consequences.
I am not quite sure how to address this issue.
It would be hard to reliably prosecute child abuse of this nature, since it will be challenging to ascertain where, exactly, children picked up racist views or learnt racist epithets.
The stock response from parents (and schools) will be ‘we didn’t teach them that’, and proving otherwise may be impossible. Teenagers can turn into evil little monsters all by themselves.
I in any case don’t trust the iron fist of the state to deal thoughtfully with such issues.
I think that as a society, we should help to rehabilitate rather than punish such children. Teenagers don’t yet have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex, and as a consequence lack judgement and impulse control. Their decision making is poor, at best. They do not act thoughtfully; they act how they were raised to act.
For this reason, we ought to stigmatise the responsible parents. They failed to raise a decent, respectful child. To teach a child to be racist, or to let them grow up to be racist, should be just as socially unacceptable as domestic violence, or alcohol and drug abuse, or child sexual abuse.
As the white adults of the apartheid years shamble into their dotage, there really is no excuse for the next generation to let their children grow up to be racist.
It is up to every single one of us – including schools, religious leaders and political figures – to put a stop to this cancer within our own communities.
The long-term peace and stability of South Africa depends upon it.
- The death of truth by a thousand cuts – Chuck Stephens on global Israel-Palestine divide
- 🔒 From the FT: Ramaphosa kicks off campaign, faces uphill battle to revitalise ANC support
- South Africa’s “Bernie Madoff” faces second bail hearing amidst BHI ponzi scandal
*Ivo Vegter is a freelance journalist, columnist and speaker who loves debunking myths and misconceptions, and addresses topics from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. .
This article was originally published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission