#JusticeForNathanielJulies and other Coloured Boys With Targets On Their Backs

With the killing of 16 year-old Nathaniel Julies at the hands of police officers, regular Bruinou.com content contributor Angelo C Louw prompts us to take a more critical look at the disproportionately higher occurrences of police brutality that is particularly aimed at Coloured males.

Police gunned a 16-year-old Eldorado Park boy living with Down syndrome with nothing but biscuits in his hand, allegedly because he couldn’t answer them as they interrogated him. Residents say that the officer then dragged him by the neck into the back of a police van, preventing his father from accompanying them to the hospital. When there, police told doctors that he was involved in gang violence.


He died... And when his father finally found his lifeless body at the hospital, he noticed several wounds on Nathaniel Julies’ head and chest.

This is certainly not the first time that apartheid stereotypes have been used to justify transgressions against Coloured men. In fact, in our recent history, the Mayor of Welkom Nkosinjani Speelman instructed members of the South African National Defense Force to brutalise members of a Coloured community (whom he referred to using the apartheid slur “boesman”) because of how unruly he believed Coloured people behaved under the influence of alcohol.

The shackles of apartheid stereotyping have not only kept us under constant scrutiny, but have allowed many perpetrators to carry out racist agendas against us without fear of retribution. Not surprisingly, Speelman’s suspension as a party official was recently cut short, and the South African Human Rights Commission has conveniently forgotten its promise to lodge an investigation into his hate speech as soon as lockdown regulations allowed.

This free-for-all is nowhere more apparent than in our country’s incarceration rates, where Coloured males experience imprisonment at a rate twice as high as any other race group. No one ever stopped to ask why that is, because society’s perception is that Coloured men are criminal - deviant, at the very least - and so naturally, would end up in jail more frequently.

But has anyone ever considered that perhaps this happens because of what people have been taught to believe about Coloured men? That maybe our people are over-policed out of an irrational fear instilled in the rest of society to keep us in our place.

These divide-and-rule tactics of apartheid maintained the social order of the repressive regime, and justified some of the worst atrocities known to man. It’s a legacy we cannot seem to escape; and rears its ugly head every time an irrational act is perpetuated against someone because they just happened to fit the bill.

The police officer(s) in question certainly employed this logic when dealing with Nathaniel Julius; their assumptions about who his must be as a Coloured youth blinded them from the fact that he was disabled - not disruptive, or uncooperative to their questioning. Their predisposition to the members of that community prevented them from recognising his needs, and responding to his vulnerability as a person living with a disability. Racial profiling has led many down this path.

It is a target Jan van Riebeeck placed on our backs when we retaliated against Dutch invasion of the Cape; when they declared our ancestors virmen and then proceeded to systematically hunt them down. It is a target that has remained there for close to four centuries, through one of the most racist regimes the world has ever seen, and is evidently present within the context of our newfound democracy.
How many Coloured men have lost their lives at the hands of the authorities by virtue of their skin? How many have been wrongfully killed, detained and convicted because of this perception that Coloured men are seemly troublesome?

Every single man entered into our prison system is stripped of any real future and demoted to a subhuman status - turned into the vermin van Riebeeck tried to exterminate. They keep taking our lives, whether we maintain a pulse or not... and I’m not entirely sure that they understand why, themselves.

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Nathaniel Julies is just another causality of a systemic issue rooted in this colonial agenda; an erasure of a people, standing their ground against those draining the resources of this bountiful land. And true to that agenda, the real criminals continue to steal and loot in plain sight; because when everyone stays focused on the so-called threat, who is watching them?

If we are to break the cycle and shake the 400-year-old target off our backs, we need justice to prevail. The police who murdered this Eldorado Park teenager must be brought to book. We need to set a precedence that will discourage others from committing similar transgressions, and make clear that rule of law applies to everybody. Because, if we are not able to hold those abusing power accountable at a grassroots level, what hope is there for accountability all the way at the top?


Angelo C. Louw is the former advocacy officer at Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII). He is also a Fulbright Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship 2016-2017 awardee. He writes in his personal capacity.