[OPINION] Silence and acceptance of racism close to home makes us complicit



What racism enjoys the most is complicity. It is a branch of evil that thrives in the awkward silence and nervous laughter when a k-bomb or a similar racist event pops up. We find it between good friends and family members, sometimes even between strangers. And often we have neither the courage nor the inclination to speak against it. We remain bourgeois at the dinner table, and then we shrink back to check our lack of attention on our timelines.

"How can a family member be racist and yet I do not consider myself a racist? Well, you can not choose your family, right?" And we're going.

Except that you CAN choose your family. The idea that a family member or good friend alone is racist, we have to look the other way, is ridiculous. We can get up from the dining table, we can excuse ourselves, call them out, draw a line in the sand – leave no doubt, no awkward silence and no gray area.

There is a difference between the racist video of #AdamCatzavelos and say the tirade of Vicki Momberg in front of the camera. Momberg abused a policeman verbally and swung her abuse openly. She was overwhelmed. The video that Catzavelos made was more intimate, it was meant for a closed group. He did not put it on social media himself. He was completely in control and aware of his repulsive behavior.

Go back and listen to his tone and conviction in his voice. Watch his trust. This is not the voice of a man who believed that his friends and family would find him offensive. This is also not the voice of someone who used the k-word for the first time. As far as we know, Catzavelos believed that he was talking to people who shared his intolerance, and who had previously condemned his racism.

The fall-out about Adam in his so-called Eden was spectacular and rightly so, but that does not stop there. Much of the prohibition and exclusion of Catzavelos from business and social circles is about self-preservation, rather than reconciliation, and ownership of the problem. The Catzavelos family must have this regrettable episode instead of trying to cut off a branch, why not heal the entire family tree with more meaningful involvement and service to disadvantaged communities. A racist legacy is toxic to the tree in its totality.

Nike closed the store out of fear of violent protests and the family business of Catzavelos broke it. Smart movements. Suddenly, for 24 hours, racism became this contagious disease that no one wanted to be near or in contact with. Everything and especially everyone with whom Catzavelos came into contact did not want anything to do with him. He was so offensive that even his family could not bear him? Or perhaps creating an environment in which Catzavelos felt comfortable enough to use the k-word was the real disgrace?

It is easy to present racism as something that can be caught just like a virus, and that it randomly chooses its victims, such as cancer. But denying that racism is grown in children from an early age is the denying of the cause of the problem. Racism is an ideology formed in the home and strengthened by the power relations that exist alongside that ideology. It must be dismantled in the house before it manifests itself on our timelines. If children are taught that black people are inferior and the only people in color are ever in an unequal position, what kind of person do you think you are raising?

We raise our children to behave in a certain way, and we raise with our own example. And so, the things we actively learn such as "please" and "thank you", cleanliness, how to eat without feeding the pets; and the things they learn unconsciously, such as self-esteem, patience, courtesy, humor and respect for others, are what they form as human beings.

In the real world it is too late for warnings. Racism will be severely punished. It is best to prepare them for being good people, while giving them information about drinking and driving.

Catzavelos is not a child, but he is someone's son and he is someone's father. His children undoubtedly have a lesson in not being racist because of the experience of their father.

As an adult, Catzavelos made a choice to be racist – and in choosing his racism he chose ignorance about enlightenment that undoubtedly offered his privileged position in society. He chose to be racist, chose a certain image of his fellow men, chose to make those beliefs public (and we are glad he did) – and he now pays the price. We knew that there would be more Penny Sparrows and Vicki Mombergs. And there will be more Adam Catzavelos because fanaticism needs oxygen.

There is a standing joke about everyone who has that drunken uncle in the family. For many white and brown families it can be the drunken, racist uncle – the wacky one we try to protect during the wedding reception that treats the waiter badly. It is time that we kick that uncle to the sidewalk and expel him from the dinner table, not just as an example for our children, but as a way of making us.

You do not have to use the k-word as a racist. Complicity and acceptance of devotees like Catzavelos in our daily lives, without declaring them, make us more guilty of racism than we would admit.

Adrian Ephraim is deputy news editor and national sports editor Eyewitness news. He is a writer and expert in the field of digital media with almost 20 years of journalism. Follow him on Twitter: @AdrianEphraim


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