Where Are The Voices Against Hate Crime? By Cheryl Roberts

26 Feb

In the wake of several attacks, killings and abuse of non-heterosexual and gay people, human rights and LGBTI activists have become more than alarmed, are refusing to remain silent and are fighting back against the perpetrators of hate and those who advocate for rights of non-heterosexual people to be removed from South Africa’s democratic constitution.

The hate-related attacks are aimed largely at black people, mostly women, living in townships. It would appear, that because one does not hear of non-blacks being attacked or abused, they do not suffer this discrimination and victim assault.

One too many deaths have occurred because of hate crime. Senseless time, energy and money is wasted on court trials, justice campaigns and funerals when these hate killings shouldn’t have occurred in the first place.

Hate mentality must be removed from the hearts, thoughts and minds of people. Heterosexism is not the only sexuality which should exist: freedom of sexual orientation is guaranteed in the SA constitution.

What is alarming is that this appears to be a ‘black woman’s thing’. When these attacks and killings happen in the townships, non-support from non-black people at the memorial services, funerals or court trials, is visible. It seemingly appears that the black women are forced to stand on their own, against hate crime. However, when the black women are needed in the city for protests and marches organized by other activist structures, then they are called on to support. Surely it’s a human injustice to bring in black support for your own activist initiatives, but you are not there to give support and respect to the black women, when they need all our support.

I attended as many court proceedings of the Zoliswa Nkonyana trial in Khayelitsha and have attended several events hosted by Free Gender in the townships, yet I can count on my one hand how many non-blacks attended and gave support. And the main culprits who don’t give support are the middle class, academics, professionals, NGO careerists and full-time, salaried social justice employees. I do admit that several convey messages of support via social media, but they are not there, not present when and where they should be.

But where are all the social justice activists, the anti-homophobic heterosexual people who believe in sexual freedom, the non-heterosexual people, who should be supporting each other? Women are being attacked and killed because of hate, they are living in fear, afraid to walk in the hood, fearful of even being at home, or socializing in the location.

Surely we can’t leave black women on their own to fight against hate crime? Surely we can stand together, roar with one powerful and mighty voice and call upon government and society to stop hate attacks and hate language against those who choose non-heterosexism.

What this shows is that whilst we are women, we are not supportive of all women’s social justice initiatives. How can the anti-hate campaign be strengthened and roar louder if it’s just the township-based black women on their own. And when we honestly admit to this failure and criticism, do we fully understand the pivotal role played by human and social justice activists like Funeka Soldaat who co-ordinates a campaign with no financial assistance, no foreign funding, who doesn’t pay herself a salary, yet manages to give a powerful voice to anti-hate attacks, assault and crime.

It’s amazing what campaign and activist success Funeka Soldaat accomplishes with little and few resources. And she ain’t a one woman show, claiming Free Gender to be her personal entity. Funeka has developed and encouraged young women leaders to lead and drive justice campaigns. Free Gender doesn’t have salaried employees, yet they accomplish much more than some organizations with funding budgets and paid employees.

I raise these issues because we can’t be quiet about them anymore and because we need to tell people they are being opportunistic for wanting to derive from the gains accrued from social justice activism, yet they are not visible in support.Image


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