Gillian Schutte
Gillian Schutte

Dear Brendon Henry Shields,

I am writing to let you know that your whiteness is not my whiteness. I am doing this because contained within your “frank” confessional piece is the absolute assumption that this discourse represents all white views. Your tone is jocular, earnest and guileless — in fact I can almost visualise you patting yourself on the back when you had finished it “because someone had to say it didn’t they?” You write with the smarmy assumption that you will still be liked, no matter how prejudiced you confess to being.

I am here to tell you that your “prejudice” is even more despicable and dangerous than Steve Hofmeyr’s racism. You see Hofmeyr knows he will be hated for his tirades and he simply does not care. His fans will continue to love him for speaking their views. He spews his racism out with no bars held. That is honesty. He does not want the people he is speaking down to, to still like him for insulting them. Your confession though, is more despicable because it disguises the same sinister supremacist belief; except in your case it is unconscious and you are clearly unable to recognise it for what it is.

To quote a tweet, your confession is nothing more than “honesty dripping with prejudice” which you assume is normal and therefore acceptable.

Like so many privileged white folk, your common-sense discourse completely lacks the ability to be introspective about where your racism stems from. It does not occur to you that historically, white culture owned the power to “colonise” the definition of normal with respect to race, class, gender, heterosexuality and nationality … or that this is exactly what you do in your cringe-worthy letter to the world.

It is not, however, you alone who is to blame. This normalisation of “white as right” is still force-fed to the South African public through the social machinery in the form of the print and electronic media, advertising and white-boy satire. All this ensures that whiteness remains normal, unnamed and invisible. In this worldview it is only blackness that is called out as abnormal, substandard, dirty, corrupt … and our media has a field day spewing forth this form of black bashing. It even pushes certain phenomena such as high crime rates or rape or littering as “inherent traits” of the black race. This is exactly the premise Hitler used to demonise and exterminate thousands of Jews.

It is no wonder that young men like you feel so damned superior to black Africans. You have been told that since the day you were born.

Now you want all people to be “just like you” because you are (in your mind) the best of what humanity has to offer. You say, with such annoying confidence, that you do not want to meet black South Africans halfway any more — because you have tried this and they have never lived up to your standards. Has it once occurred to you that the black people you met may have found you offensive — that you probably wore your white assumptions about them on your sleeve — that you probably smiled too much, spoke in an affected accent and generally acted both foolish and superior in the company of black folk?

You are, believe it or not, dealing with fully-fledged human beings with brain cells, emotions and psychology who can see straight through spoilt white gits like you – or did this simply not occur to you?

You talk about loving soccer matches at Wits Bidvest and in the same breath blame the dirty toilets on the race factor — which were not cleaned prior to the matches — not once casting your prejudiced eye to the management of the stadium as the perpetrators of these unhygienic conditions. You assume that none of the black people at the match were also turned off by the state of the toilets. After all, in your mind they are little more than degenerates who revel in dirty public spaces.

Now because of the dirty toilets and waste, you say you “became” prejudiced and started noticing more “differences” between “us and them”. You noticed how some couples, for example, would send their kids to substandard schools in the area yet had enough money to purchase some extravagant motor cars and clothing, how black folk had very little respect for each other by playing loud music late into the night — at times outside in the hallway right next to where small kids were asleep. And this all downright pissed you off — because in your mind these things are black things. These things are not white things. In your mind white people are way too superior to indulge in loud music, in maxing out credit cards on expensive cars or throwing their waste out the car window.

To quote another tweet in response to your pious white shit (vomit).

Your whiteness was so injured at this substandard display of humanity around you that you then became a wounded recluse who now finds it impossible to even consider the humanity — the diversity — the texture of black society. In your mind blackness is homogeneous. Yip, in your white imaginary black South Africans are one big muddy blob of dirty toilets, littering, cellphone stealing, loud music, expensive car buying and children neglecting miscreants.

It makes me sick that you felt that by telling us certain things in that friendly confessional tone that we whities would sympathise with you willy-nilly. An example is when you state in a common-sense tone that expects to be agreed with, that confronting “these people” with your own prejudices filled you with the fear that you would be accused of being a racist.

I am here to tell you Brendon, that no matter how much you try to deny it — you are a racist. That is the first step to recovery — admitting this fact. Like so many liberals, you pretend you are not racist, that the fault lies in the fact that “black people are not just like you”. You go as far as to say that if they were more like you then you would be friends.

That is a racist belief Brendon — there is simply no way around it.

By your own admission you hug black folk and pretend to be great friends to be politically correct and avoid confrontation.

I am glad you have finally laid bare the pretence that exists in your social circles, your class, your type. You look kinda cool, hip and open-minded — yet underneath that act is a polite white supremacist.

You are representative of so many middle-class white South Africans with university degrees. You carry the invisible knapsack of white privilege on your backs without recognising it. You work from this base of unacknowledged privilege and fail to see how this oppresses those who are not like you. You enjoy “unearned skin and gender privilege” and yet have been conditioned into oblivion about the existence of your white male privilege.

Instead of looking inward in self-reflection, you project your narrow lens onto two experiences and write-off an entire nation of people because of your skewed reading of the situations you found yourself in.

Brendon — I too lived in a post-1994 Yeoville. Allow me to share with you my perspective of this wonderful, diverse, colourful neighbourhood in this documentary I made on the area. This story of Yeoville is told in a diverse range of voices too — because believe it or not, people other than whites have opinions too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAuMxWZ-gjs

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  • Brett Bailey’s human zoo and discourse bunfight
  • The problem with being previously disadvantaged
  • Don’t talk to me about race or blackness!
  • A big, fat, Mzansi advertising migraine
  • 78 Responses to “Dear Brendon Henry Shields,”

    1. WTF #

      @Gillian,

      Please read Brendon’s piece again. Slowly. Perhaps, with a bit of brandy.

      You have baited him, or has he baited you?

      Is he the racist, or are you?

      He is honest, knows he is wrong, and willing to change. That is refreshing. His piece was brilliant. The entire message has flown over your head.

      December 7, 2012 at 6:52 am
    2. bewilderbeast #

      I found Shields’ letter painfully honest. It struck many chords. It felt like a guy called Shields wrote it. I find Gillian Schutte’s very formulaic. I felt Schutte was writing what she felt she should say. And then I also agree she lost it in para 5: Godwin’s law.

      December 7, 2012 at 8:58 am
    3. Shields’ article was certainly painfully honest, but it was also painfully racist. Honesty is good, but racism is not, so the best you can say is that someone came out and confessed to their racism (although Shields almost certainly didn’t realise that he was doing this).

      Schutte at least calls a spade a spade, and has aroused a lot more hostility from the white audience than Shields aroused from the black audience. My guess is that most blacks expect whites to be racist, whereas whites are upset when whites are anti-racist. After all, white politics revolves around race, whereas black politics revolves around class. (Though the two are interlinked behind the scenes, where neither black nor white politicians go.)

      December 7, 2012 at 11:10 am
    4. Oh pleez #

      @ IMWIM
      Of course not everyone is like me, I never said they were. I was sharing my experience for you to accept or reject. I maintain my view that we are all racist whether we intend to be or not. If you can assure yourself that you have never had a negative thought towards another person of a different race based on received and learned stereotyping for example, then I salute you. But I am not convinced, and I claim my right to disagree, with respect. I genuinely try not to be racist and certainly don’t intent to be, and I hope I am perceived by others as being sincere in my friendships, but there are times when I catch myself out in my thoughts (and that is usually around stereotyping)- and then my own rationalisation shows me it is nonsense. So it is a constanct process of rewiring the way I think – almost like rewiring a hard drive. My partner is undergoing the same process.

      December 7, 2012 at 11:11 am
    5. Sean #

      Sanctimonious is the word that comes to mind, we all have opinions based upon our perceptions and when we state these we are not necessarily spouting them as dogma.

      Brendons article whilst disturbing in that it highlighted how easily human perception can be formulated and even changed based upon a few negative experiences was at least honest in that it included a sense of personal unease in the fact that this had occured.

      Unfortunately Gillian, your vitriolic response highlighted your unyielding opinion which leaves no room for personal doubt and became a peronal attack based upon your narrow view on what is right.

      The fact is, we are all human and none of us perfect, we all have preconceived expectations of the behaviour of others and tend to judge them personally and the extended group they belong to when the reality is far from our expectations. We are all flawed and should avoid rushing to judge others.

      I have travelled extensively since leaving SA 10 years ago, living in 7 countries and visiting close to 30 (and of course this fact will immediately influence opinion), having grown up in Apartheid SA. My journey has been more than a physical one, it has been a journey of self discovery as I have learnt after extended exposure to different nationalities and races just how many versions of acceptable there are.

      In the process I have learnt to be less judgemental and to listen more, I would suggest that you could benefit from the same experience.

      December 7, 2012 at 11:18 am
    6. Okay so now you feel great about bringing another down to the point of calling him a racist. Whoopee ding.

      Madam my first question is why you felt the need to defend your position as a neo liberal? Is Brendon not entitled to think and say what he wants?

      I somehow missed your posts about Malema’s rants or others that share this forum when the boot is on the other foot.

      What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. You demand that the man changes but does he ask the reverse?

      In my world we are entitled to have own opinions and allowed to air them. My world accepts your opinion but not sanctamonious poppycock attached.

      I do not insist that you change to seeing life from my perspective, for even Malema had a right to say what he did.

      We should have listened and taken heed as this was a possible future but No the majority wanted him shut up. Now we learn nothing but what we are fed by Neo liberals and government.

      Consider that rebuff articles stiffle freedom of speech and there is nothing more stiffling than creating the FEAR that an opinion cannot be aired because of peer condemnation.

      December 7, 2012 at 11:54 am
    7. C #

      “…contained within your “frank” confessional piece is the absolute assumption that this discourse represents all white views”

      - How so? I did not get this impression when reading the piece in question. What did I miss?

      December 7, 2012 at 1:09 pm
    8. The Critical Cynic #

      The more I think about this article the more it bugs me.

      Gillian, it must be wonderful to be a non-racist person like you, to KNOW deep down inside you aren’t susceptible to the common failings of most SAns, racists (from mild to frikkin hot) of whom some, like Brendan, are painfully facing themselves and having to admit the failings they have but fortunately you don’t.

      It must feel marvelous to climb into bed each night KNOWING that you don’t suffer the hypocricy, guilt, angst, bigotry and whatever else the racists are trying to overcome. Perhaps you used to be a racist but have now managed to overcome this completely (kudos to you on getting there) but if this really is the case (which isn’t all that likely) why not use your experience to help other racists like Brendon attain your Nirvana instead of pushing them back down into their racist skins and reinforcing their own view of themselves with your far dimmer view of them?

      You appear to suffer from the illusion that you aren’t racist, but I’m here to tell you (sound familiar) that your article is, and also displays a serious superiority complex. I think Neutral Observer appraised your attempt best.

      How would you feel, you who label others so glibly, if you were labelled a non-racist supremist? I know you are white but let’s leave that out of it and focus on the relevant facts…

      I love your sense of irony though. Your tone is jocular, earnest and guileless — in fact I can almost visualise you….

      December 7, 2012 at 1:11 pm
    9. The Critical Cynic #

      @ Po my point exactly! (and Brendon did admit he’s a snob anyway!) but that laziness you refer to is rife and not restricted to the whites either.
      @Lennon – at least the Rolls Royce owner is honest about his attitude towards the poor. I find that kind of honesty far more paletable than the lies and lip service that the politicians pay to the poor. Of course there’s the other bumper sticker that says “eat the rich” so it’s a two-way street!

      @Gillian. I disagree with your view that Bredon’s confession is more despicable than the outright racism of Steve, and wonder if you thought about what you are saying here, especially if, as you say, it is “unconscious and you are clearly unable to recognise it for what it is”. How exactly is an “unconcious” thought like that more despicable or dangerous than an out and out conciously and deliberately racist person, and one who doesn’t care nogal? That kind of thinking condones murderers but not those with murder in their hearts, and reinforces the views expressed here that your ‘logic’ isn’t. As the saying goes, I think I prefered you when you were merely conceited…

      and the hypocricy Gillian! how do you, without guile, spew out sentences like
      “You look kinda cool, hip and open-minded — yet underneath that act is a polite white supremacist.” and
      Now you want all people to be “just like you” because you are (in your mind) the best of what humanity has to offer.

      without seeing it might also apply to…

      December 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm
    10. Gillian, Thank you for your honesty. Everyday I have to live with this sly liberalism, this false kameraderie, yet all the while seeing in the actions of those liberal whites, the true colonial nature of their racism. To them we are still the savage barbarians that need to be civilized. What really upsets me though, are those white liberals who then go around in their NGO`s claiming to be doing good work in black communities when what they are truly doing is treating black people as savages who must be educated in being white, while using money that is meant for Skills development and or Enterprise development, to further line their pockets. Then these white directors walk around as if they are Gods Gift to Black people. Now that is a singularly offensive reality that black people have to endure on a daily basis….and no matter how one tries to make white people see the error of their ways, they continue…mindlessly, preaching and converting and insisting that white is right. Racism has not simply disappeared…it has morphed into the NGO`s and people like Brendon will feel right at home in that environment.

      December 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm
    11. The Critical Cynic #

      @Oh pleez – very well articulated, echo’s my struggle with racism and I suspect many others.
      @the creator – the white backlash wasn’t because Gillian is being anti-racist – it’s because she is being sanctimonious (right word Sean), condescending, and supremist and attacked him with the same sort of generalisation tactics of a racist. Hence, most of the backlash was aimed at her blatent hypocricy. She could have written “Brendon, I think you need to keep on working on overcoming your racist prejudices” and more good would have come of it.
      @C you didn’t miss it, it wasn’t there. Gillian was exercising her right to put words into Brendon’s mouth….

      December 7, 2012 at 2:55 pm
    12. Max #

      *no bars held*

      What does that mean?

      December 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm
    13. Marius #

      Also, Gillian is clearly Leon van Nierop in drag.

      December 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm
    14. Benzo #

      @The creator: “….My guess is that most blacks expect whites to be racist, whereas whites are upset when whites are anti-racist. After all, white politics revolves around race, whereas black politics revolves around class……..”

      ???? The many forms of AA disguised as many B’s followed by EE, where the first “B” stands for Black, seems to indicate that black politics are not just about class.

      If 90% of the “B” representatives of a population needs legislation to be recognised by a minority of 7% the B’s need to do some serious soul searching about the “if” and “why” of this phenomenon.

      December 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm
    15. jack sparrow #

      Whew, surely you can see that all stereotyping, particularly that based on race, is incorrect, both practically and in principal. How Verwoerd and Mbeki must laugh when they see their flawed ideology perpetuated and finding such ardent disciples. Currently race is used, both as a smokescreen and an indicator, for incompetence, corruption, nepotism and just bone idleness. Both are wrong. I believe that it is an indication of SA’s failure that silly Thoughts, not Leaders for sure, get published and attract (or should I say distract, so much attention (from the real issues). If you think massive SA issues like Marikana were about race; grow up.

      December 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm
    16. Maks #

      These people who are so keen to write about Black and White prejudices would have nothing to write about if they wrote about the HUMAN RACE. These are prolific writers, gifted with the power of words, but they would have absolutely nothing to write about. Not only have they defeated themselves they have also failed their cause, ultimately their supporters as well.
      The subjugation and abuse of the black people in this country has occurred long before many of us came into existence. Within academia, the systematic subjugation and repression of the black people is well documented and occupies and impressive body of knowledge.
      They choose to write from the two extremes of the continuum, one seeks to offend black people and the other seeks to defend them, but what is taking place here is the weakening of the arguments as they both ignore the other side. Their argument is helplessly skewed in balance in favour of their pre conceived notions whether those notions are well founded or not.
      In their quest to defend or offend, their impoverished arguments are left wanting. So they go on with their ego driven argument, to win the hearts and minds of their supporters. But, they give up the importance to take the lead to invoke an argument that unifies the two sides. We all know that we hold prejudices, and the reason it is difficult to openly come out as prejudice or even racist is that these views are, more often than not, held privately. Black and white people have prejudices and…

      December 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm
    17. seajaykay #

      Hi Gillian

      sounds like you may have the same thoughts as Brenden but are ashamed to admit them as Brenden has done? the question here is ‘ how many whites think the same as you or the same as Brenden ‘

      by sledging Brenden you can’t ‘make righ’t what he thinks.

      December 10, 2012 at 8:26 am
    18. Tofolux #

      @Gillian, it is quite obvious from some of the comments that denialism is the order of the day. What is quite amazing too, is those (the usual suspects) who have jumped to the defence of this brendon. But clearly, this debate is totally warranted given the painful, everyday experiences of some, even today, of racist practises. It is apparent that we have a long way to go to nation-building and social cohesion. It is also apparent that the wounds of our painful past is festering. The fear I have, noting the sinister and underlying hostility, especially as seen in the public space is that we do not have a lot of time to build the cohesion we so desperately need. Lets raise Brendon as an eg. How is it this person is allowed to peddle his views in a public space without any recourse? Whose societal responsibility is it to tell this bigot that in the interest of our nation, this is not allowed. Sure issues of freedom of speech can be raised but critically at what point is it A personal or corporate responsibility to build our nation and steer it in the right direction of cohesion. In the interest of our nation, this bigotted views shud nt enjoy public space and someone must make those difficult decisions and why didnt they. Our past is recent and very painful and clearly something is very wrong when perpetrators of racism think that it is a joke and should be taken lightly.

      December 10, 2012 at 9:19 am
    19. Zeph #

      I did not read that Brendon hates anyone. He just admits that he has stupid prejudges which he knows he should overcome. This to me makes him more human with a sense of knowing himself and his flaws. He might have been a bit too flippant for some on a topic that they think should only be discussed in stoic seriousness. Personally I liked the lighter side of how he breached the topic; everyone to their own.
      I don’t quite know where the hate is coming from here? Dishonesty perhaps? Positions of being on the moral high ground? The love of talking down to people?

      December 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm
    20. Sean #

      What disturbs me most about responses from most people on this forum is the tendency to establish a position and attempt to defend it to the death.

      The fact is, we all have viewpoints and based upon our experiences these viewpoints are all justifiable.

      It is only when we make room for doubt, when we attempt to understand the justification others have for their viewpoints which are the opposite to ours that we make progress towards finding a common ground in which we can comfortably co-exist.

      Is that not ultimately where we all need to go to find a solution to the problems being faced in SA.

      December 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm
    21. The Critical Cynic #

      Oh Shame on you Tofolux, now you are really starting to reveal your closed-mindedness and the thoughts you reveal are a threat to open-society. I agree with you, someone should be guarding us against being able to read your bigotted opinions – the difference here being that I know that I am the person responsible for guarding me against the thoughts of others.

      You and Blade should do the same and be glad too that you are allowed to disagree with other views, even official ones. Instead you are trying to find someone to blame for allowing this blatent display of freedom of speech in a public forum! More than just hints of a controlling personality there…

      December 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm
    22. Graham #

      @Tofolux
      “is it this person is allowed to peddle his views in a public space without any recourse? ”
      It is called the Constitution. Maybe you have heard of it?

      December 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm
    23. Stephen #

      @ Tofolux: silly girl, sharing views is a pilar of a free society. Freedom of speech and economic good health for all. When at Manguang, be a good girl and ask uncle Tokyo how many houses he can build for a tehth of his fortune. My shack still leaks, after twenty years.

      December 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm
    24. Potato #

      We live in interesting times.

      I am 32. I am married to a “pale male”. I mention this only to give you some context to some of my experiences. At the slow food market this weekend in stellies, a woman just came right out with it and said upon seeing us together “What a strange match”. Usually, we just get the hairy eyeball, from all colours and creeds.

      Ahem, to any who know us well, we are perfectly matched. We read the same books, drink a lot of normal tea, and most importantly, share the same values. Race has never been an issue between us. My only concern about his skin tone is that, unlike me, he has to be slathered in sunblock to prevent nasty sunburn when we venture out in summer.

      Our group of friends are an eclectic mix of folk, skin colour, age, religion, musical preference, sweet toothed or those strange people who prefer savoury are all included. If asked what the biggest surprise friendships are, it would be that we befriend artists even though we find them a bit woolly headed at times. (I do have a prejudice that comes from a scientific and logic driven background that surfaces when homeopathy and the like enters conversations.) We fight, forgive and laugh about it. Mostly, we just enjoy each others company.

      It makes me sad to think that we do still judge each other on such a minor phenotypic difference before looking at the whole gorgeous smorgasbord of the person inside.

      btw, I am also a fatty. When is someone going to talk about that…

      December 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm
    25. @author

      Brendon made it quite clear that he spoke for himself and not for all whites, as I read his article. Pour another glass of bitterness and read it again.

      Your writing is more enthusiastic than your thinking – numerous conclusions are jumped to and drawn from your purely emotional response.

      I am of the humble opinion that citizens agree that frank and open discussion about race, economics, politics etc seeking solutions rather than defensive “I have lots of black friends” ramblings, will contribute more positively than the victim mentality you exercise in choosing to speak on behalf of all blacks.

      And yes, I just said “all blacks” because let’s be honest, neither you nor Brendon speaks on behalf of an entire race and hence I choose to express my sarcastic opinion – much as you express your misguided hatchet operation. We are both entitled to!

      December 10, 2012 at 11:24 pm
    26. Mark_DE #

      I am taken aback by the aggressive tone and hatred spewed. Why the hysteria?

      I’ll think it over and comment some more later on. First have to regain my composure.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:39 am
    27. Gatekeeper #

      Gillian Schutte Will Remain a Lemming!
      Also with reference to “Dear White People”

      I’ve seen this over and over again. Whenever someone has done or said something extraordinary bad against government institutions (or anyone) they realize how open they are to litigation and the consequences thereof that they would go and blog on almost every possible forum or site to protect themselves. Writing the absolute complete opposite of what they have done or said just to protect themselves for things that they have said or done. Now claiming how good these people or institutions are and what we must not do (or the things she has done) and how to support these organisations. This article of Gillian Schutte is full of it. I think especially the part where she uses the Lord’s name in vain (Blasphemy) is particularly telling.

      Well good to luck to her.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm
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