Monday, 05 January 2015 17:28

Sunette vs Vinette and Our Real Fear of Violent Crime

Written by Ryan Swano
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What is most disturbing for me about the much publicised "racial spat" between Vinette Ebrahim and Sunette Bridges is not the fact that it even exists but all of the commentary in support of Sunette and the clearly misplaced idea a handful of racists have of what it is to really live in fear of violent crime.

No disrespect intended at anyone of any population group who has been directly affected by violent crime, but this discussions is about the actual fear of violent crime and not so much about physically  being the victims of violent crime.
This is about what we as a society perhaps do not realise we should really be afraid of.

The real fear of having to live with crime is not manifested in panic at reading or watching news reports of violent crime or of being able to brandish around terrifying statistics on social networks but manifests in being forced to become desensitized to the actual crime that surrounds you on a daily basis and on a personal level while living your life as if it does not exist.

It is about tuning out the sound of gunshots throughout the night, still taking your very early morning taxi after the shots rang out a few minutes ago, so you can get to the train station on time, then hoping not to be robbed by train bandits while your children are still asleep before they get ready to go to a school that could at any time turn into a gang-war zone.

You are then expected to seem to be extra sensitive and sympathetic to the idea of "white genocide" when your boss discusses it in your presence yet when violent racist attacks by whites against non-whites occur you are expected to accept it as "a normal crime for which the perpetrators must have been provoked".

The majority of violent crimes in South Africa are however not based on race and have a host of other 'motivators'.
Those who statistically have the most to fear of violent crime do not have the privilege to use (and abuse) public platforms or media resources like Sunette Bridges and Steve Hofmeyr in speaking about a scourge that effects us all while placing the attention squarely on a minority of the victims of violent crime.

Irrespective of "race", violent crime affects people from poor and lower middle-class areas much more than it does people from upper middle-class and wealthy areas. Undoubtedly that divide between rich and poor neighbourhoods is still predominantly, though not strictly, along "racial lines".

It completely scared me when I recently spent a few days in a very quiet upper middle-class area and I realised on the third night that I have not heard a single gunshot or even heard someone talk of shots being fired. What scared me the most was that I have grown so used to the sound that it felt almost unnatural not to hear it.

We have somehow learned to cope with violent crime instead of dealing with it and erradicating the root-causes.
We should be scared of the fact that we have knowlege of a constant clear and present danger and still are forced to continue living our daily routine with the illusion that the danger will not affect us.
When we accept that danger as natural and learn to cope with it in the ways that we do, we are actually allowing it.
Shouldn't we be actively rejecting it? There are many questions about how we should go about rejecting crime and I don't know the answers but I have come to realise that accepting the sound of gunfire as "normal" in some way means that I am allowing it to continue.

The fact that I have somehow hijacked the Vinette vs Sunette story to highlight my own slightly different issue does not make light of the fact that while there are so many people who have this skewed racial attitude towards crime statistics that affect us all, we still do need to address the very issues of racism that Vinette Ebrahim is talking of in the video further below.

If we do not address the inequalities of the past that still firmly are visible in the mere distribution of wealth and the simple access to resources and if we do not acknowledge that equality did not automatically and magically appear when South Africans voted in 1994, then there will aways be a separate set of statistics by which a few racist but highly vocal white South Africans will measure the failures as well as the successes of this country.

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