Manufactured racial outrage just a distraction from society’s real injustices

Backlashes against Adam Habib and Gauteng teacher are distractions from much deeper social ills

There is a new madness in our social interactions that is tearing us apart. An older teacher standing at the gate of her school pushes a comb through the hair of a boy bending forward, presumably to make him look more presentable as a pupil. “Next,” she shouts as another youngster moves forward to assume the position. All hell breaks loose. Our effervescent MEC for education in Gauteng springs to attention, calls the hair-combing incident “completely unacceptable”, orders a probe, and suggests such incidents could lead to suicide. Seriously. Schools have codes of conduct. The teacher, I have no doubt, cares about the appearance of her pupils. Now she will be humiliated because of this fake anguish of the hypersensitive among us.

More than 13,000km away, one of SA’s most successful vice-chancellors is in trouble at London’s School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) for using the n-word during a response to students in a virtual meeting. In the online session, a student tells the new director of SOAS that a lecture had previously used the n-word without consequences. Adam Habib makes the point that such behavior is unacceptable, that this is the first time he hears about the matter, asks the students to come forward with the complaint, and promises action will be taken. In his response, Habib uses the n-word in full. Habib is told that he is not black (to the surprise of many of us) and therefore he cannot use the word. The board of SOAS, no doubt spooked by the reaction of some of the students, asks Habib to step aside while an investigation into the matter proceeds taking note of his immediate apology for using the n-word. I hope the inquiry also takes into account the doctored video of the interaction placed online for dramatic effect...

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