The outgoing Western Cape premier, Helen Zille, waded knee-deep into troubled waters again when she shared her very own definition of “black privilege” on Twitter.
Zille has shown just exactly how tone deaf a person can be when it comes to nuances of discussions about race, class and privilege, and her tweets are something to behold. For all the wrong reasons.
The debacle started when a Twitter user known as ‘Baas’ shared a clip of an American poet addressing white privilege. ‘Baas’ captioned it: “White privilege? This outburst sounds more like ‘I hate whites.’”
That prompted Zille to ask: “Why is she saying this stuff in English.”
The fact that the outgoing Western Cape premier would align herself with a person whose timeline is filled with racism, Islamophobia, sexism and other -isms, is a discussion for a different day.
When South African actor Hlomla Dandala responded to her tweet, another Twitter user asked him “why are you wearing a suit? Suits are associated with colonial influence no?”
Spoiler alert, it is because we exist in a post-colonial society where these things are required to survive, but I digress.
Black privilege and ‘whataboutery’
Zille’s use of the term black privilege is problematic in and of itself as it is really just another example of flippant ‘whataboutery’.
Whataboutism – also known as whataboutery – is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument.
Instead of acknowledging the idea of white privilege, Zille would rather we went on a wild goose chase lifting up rocks and saying but ‘what about those guys that did corrupt things and got re-elected”.
Two things can be wrong at the same time without being remotely the same thing. White privilege is the societal privilege that in some countries benefits white people over people of colour. It’s really as simple as that.
In order for Zille’s definition to even make sense, all black people should benefit from this black privilege she’s created just by virtue of being black. One Twitter user summed up it up succinctly:
Another user points out that defining the privilege of a whole race based on the corruption of a few members of that race is rather problematic.
Leigh Matthys said that Zille was “using looting and corruption to define ‘black privilege’ and using it to deflate from what white privilege is.”
White privilege has everything to do with structural racism and social advantages that exist for white people, it’s not a stick to beat white people with and make us feel guilty. It’s not personal, it’s systemic.
Of course, Zille took the opportunity to condescendingly whitesplain privilege by tweeting:
“My point, clever one, is that racial generalizations work both ways. If you can generalize about “white privilege” there are plenty of generalizations that can be made about “black privilege”. I’m sure you can grasp that point. NO??”
Unfortunately, Helen, your generalisations only work both ways if we ignore facts and logic. If only it ended there. But no.