We know that racism, sexism and discrimination are still around. Despite the world of the 21st century being a connected, technological wonderland, these archaic issues are prominent today. So, when these wildly debated issues come up in our highly connected world, it’s easy for the entire globe takes notice.
The social networking site Twitter has grown to become a common place for news, debates, and information around the clock. Recently, the “#Woke” campaign has caught the attention of millions. The idea behind the movement encourages becoming aware of everyday controversies (or being “woke” to them), such as racism, sexism, gender issues and more. The movement has garnered a strong following, and early this January in South Africa, that following had a new topic to discuss.
Right at the start of the new year, KwaZula-Natal real estate Penny Sparrow angered millions with a highly controversial post on Facebook. While it’s tradition for many people around the world to celebrate New Year’s Day bay the sea, Sparrow complained specifically about about the crowds on her local beach. She notes a “discomforting” amount of litter and “black on black skins,” remarking further on the beach goers’ apparent “no education whatsoever.” In just a few days, the comment drew international attention, and she has since posted an apology on her Facebook account as well.
But the comments made by Sparrow aren’t just offensive; they carry potentially legal fallout. Brenda Wardle is a legal analyst and the Chief of Operations for the Wardle College of Law. She notes that “… free speech or even freedom of expression, unlike human dignity, is limited by specific clauses in the constitution.” The South African Democratic Alliance has since cut ties with Sparrow, and filed criminal charges against her.
Wardle’s understanding of human rights and their protection under law has made her an advocate for social justice. “Simply put,” she points out, “she unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impaired the dignity of black people by using racially offensive language.” She has taken to multiple social media platforms to address growing concerns of racism and other social injustices.
In addition to the legal ramifications, several people close to Sparrow have been targeted by angered activists. Charmaine Crowie (Sparrow’s daughter) and Jawitz Property (Sparrow’s former employer) have both made statements saying that they don’t share Sparrow’s views. However, for the people of South Africa, it’ll take more than words to heal this wound.