Racism: Can we, like South Africa, start sending people to jail for racism?
South Africa just sent a white woman to jail for hurling racial slur at a black police officer
South Africa has jailed a white woman for screaming racist slurs at a black police officer.
The event has brought back harsh reminders of apartheid and a subtle jolt that there are still remnants of the system of segregation in South African society.
In 2016, a video clip of the incident between estate agent Vicki Momberg and the policeman whose name has been withheld went viral.
In it, the officer attempted to help Momberg after thieves broke into her car at night at a shopping centre.
Momberg refused to be helped, insisting she would prefer the assistance of a white or ethnic Indian officer.
Her reason? That black people were “plain and simple useless” and “they are clueless”.
She also referred to the policeman as a “kaffir”, an apartheid-era slur used to refer to a black person and one of the worst terms of hate speech in South Africa.
A groundbreaking verdict
After a long trial, Momberg was sentenced to three years of jail time, with one year suspended, for directing offensive slurs at the officer.
The ruling is believed to be the first time a person is going to jail for using racial slurs in South Africa’s storied history.
Previously, persons convicted of the same crime have been let off with a fine.
In a world where Donald Trump is President of the United States and movements like Black Lives Matter have gained global significance, the bias and behaviours that have been termed racism have become more important on a global scale.
The case is usually made that racism is now an institutional problem, something that you can only notice in how companies hire staff or who is more likely to win an election, for instance.
But as instances like this show, there are many overt instances of racism but the perpetrators rarely suffer any sanctions for their misdeeds.
It is a major point of the demand for equality; that racism is no longer viewed as a cultural relic that occasionally rears its ugly head but seen as the very present evil that it is and criminalised accordingly.
That is the obvious first step, but the long journey is in eliminating racism from all society until no man is judged by the colour of his skin.
Is there racism in Nigeria?
The importance of this may be lost on persons who live in countries like Nigeria where the population of white persons is miniscule enough that racism is not particularly felt, but that, in itself, is a misconception.
Many Nigerians who interact or work with persons of other races are ofte subjected to inhumane treatment for no just reason. This is very common among unskilled workers.
To be fair, it often goes the other way too. Nigerians can view caucasians as “soft” and treat them accordingly.
Even at that, the extent of its prominence is negligible. But even at that, you cannot avoid it when you eventually make that trip to Europe and you’re received like the slightly-civilised monkey that your hosts see you as or when in a firm with white colleagues, you stagnate, despite having obvious skill.
Of course, it will take a lot of effort to discard such perceptions but sending racists to jail is a good place to start.