Some thoughts about wearing black on Monday for the farmers

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Some thoughts about wearing black on Monday for the farmers

Today’s Facebook status with regards to the #BlackMonday in response to farm murders has garnered a lot of attention. This is what i wrote:

Anytime someone is murdered it is a tragedy.

But, if you are concerned about the farm murders to the point of wanting to wear black for the victims, but have never considered wearing black for the black, coloured or indian victims of murder [which check your statistics, are all being killed at a greater percentage than white people – a white person is the least likely to be killed in South Africa] then maybe it’s not so much murder that you are concerned about, but white people, and there may be a word for that.

i think my friend Claudia Klaase just helped bring clarity for me with the phrase ‘selective outrage’.

= = = = =

Lorenzo Davids commented this earlier, which also helps capture the helplessness and disconnect i think many people are feeling:

“I feel this incredible sense of despair when I read the “wear black for farm murders” posts. Total despair. If ever there was a sign that black deaths doesn’t matter, doesn’t register on the white conscience then it’s this.

Even saying that “it’s just natural to feel more for your own” carries such deep rooted culpability for this culture of insensitivity towards all deaths.

Here’s my conclusion of racist thinking:

Black Deaths: “hey shit happens, they mustn’t complain.”

White Deaths: “oh my god, it’s a genocide!”

I’m sick of it.

I’m black and I’m sick of it.”

= = = = =

i remember taking part in a march/walk for Sinoxolo Mafevuka, the young woman who was found dead in a toilet in Khayelitsha last year, and the response to the death of Franziska Blöchliger in Tokai Forest and just how the two events and responses to them felt so completely different.

= = = = =

My friend Jacqui Tooke asked this, which i think is a valid question:

I also feel a deep concern about this campaign but not for the reason you stated. If we follow logic we used when people shouted “All Lives Matter” when we were saying “Black Lives Matter”, are you not now, in essence, saying “All Murders Matter” to those who are calling for us to remember “Farm Murders Matter”

I think the murder of farmers is tragic, heartbreaking and wrong. We need to stand in solidarity with these communities in their call for protection.

What does concern me greatly is that Farm Murders have become the poster child for the “white genocide” narrative that falsely declares that white folk are under threat. As we know, all measures of human well being in SA show that white folk are, in fact, least under threat, least likely to be unemployed, least likely to be poor, least likely to die early.

I cannot support this campaign because I will not do anything that gives oxygen to this racist and oppressive narrative that puts white folks as victims when in fact they remain beneficiaries of the system. Wondering how we can “mourn with those who mourn” and “comfort the broken-hearted” in the farming community without feeding the “white genocide” myth, because as politically incorrect it may be, I do believe Jesus would call us to do so.

And i responded with this:

“i’m not sure it’s the same thing, Jacqui Tooke, although perhaps worth giving more thought to so thanks for the challenge. When Black Lives Matter came out the point was that black lives obviously did not matter as much as white lives mattered and so a call for White Lives Matter or All Lives Matter was ridiculous in the face of the message.

With the farm murders there has been a general lack of feeling that Township Lives Matter or Cape Flats Matter and so it is not going against the general understanding that All Murders Matter but rather suggesting that all the other murders don’t matter so much because they happen all the time and no one does much about it and certainly never calls for a campaign or protest – so i think these are two different things?”

To which my friend Alexa Russell Matthews responded with this:

“Been wrestling with what does it look like to both stand with and challenge the white genocide myth.

I have friends who have had to ‘clean up’ blood and sit with children who witnessed their parents being raped and tortured in horrific ways.

Been trying to work out how do we engage invitationally in this all.

Knowing I have friends in my world whose lives and families are living in violent systems and spaces because they are black or coloured.

Also knowing that I have friends in my world who have lost family members in farm attacks.”

= = = = = = =

i think my friend Robyn Wolfson Vorster also gets to the heart of much of our frustration on this issue with some helpful context, going back to selective outrage:

I can’t speak to the intent behind the campaign, but the effect (which should have been foreseeable) is racial polarisation. For some it is blatantly so, I have even seen a “whitelivesmatter” hashtag associated with the event.

But for those who don’t see it that way, this is a country where statistically, 52 people are murdered every day. That means that in the tragic five day period the campaign is referring to when two farmers died, they were two of about 260 murders. It does not make their deaths less tragic, but why don’t we wear black for the matric pupil caught in the cross fire of gang violence who died just days before writing his finals, or the ten year old girl raped and murdered and dumped in the veld, or the two people shot dead in Scottsdene or the 14 year old boy shot in the head while playing outside of church in Uitsig? They all died during the same period.

And what about the others who didn’t make it into anyone’s newsfeed who died because they were poor and easy targets and have poor policing in their neighbourhoods? Murder is a devastating force in this country. Surely it would be better if we all worked together to deal with the reasons why it is so rife (like poverty, unemployment, injustice, economic disenfranchisement and the systematic devaluing of people’s lives), rather than singling out one group to mourn.

As with anything in this country to do with poverty, race, violence, class etc etc IT IS NOT A SIMPLE THING and there are probably no easy answers… and it is uncomfortable to keep on going there – especially as white people if white people are being called out as the problem [but let’s look back at decades of apartheid and throw in some colonialism and maybe ask ourselves if maybe it’s okay if we as white people feel uncomfortable for a little while longer?] but because the country is still a mess and because racist thoughts and attitudes and actions do previal, we need to continue to have these conversations.

These are some of my thoughts:

# Every murder and violent act is sickening. Some feel more so than others because of how they play out but i don’t think that’s super important. Any time any person in this country is killed that should move us.

# If we only react when a certain group or type of person is being killed in the face of overwhelmingly more deaths to other groups or types of people, that feels unjust and deeply so and a spitting in the face of people belonging to those groups or types of people.

# We need to learn to value every person as bearing the image of God [if we believe that] or just beautiful and worthy of love [if we don’t] and so any harm be it physical or emotional or situational or political should move us.

# Twenty-three years down the line, give or take, there are still circumstances that were put into place during apartheid [i’m thinking specifically of geographical shifts so the formation of townships and the cape flats, the situations of lower education that were presented there to intentionally dumb down those populations, economical disparity of those who worked and so on] that have present day knock-down effect and to make statements like “it’s been 20 years, can’t we just move on?” and others like it misses the extent of the original problem and the lack of work done to eradicate or restitute or reconcile the people involved.

# i am convinced in the depths of my soul that fostering deeper relationships with those who don’t look like us – specifically when it comes to race, culture and background – is the way forward for South Africa. The ‘Us vs. Them’ language seen in generalise statements like “those people” and in coded neighbourhood patrol whatsapp messages up and down the land is doing us no favours, and quite the opposite.

While we don’t know people, an issue concerning someone of another race is just that, an issue, and because it doesn’t affect us deeply we may or may not have an opinion and are unlikely to get involved. The moment we have deep relationship with someone and something affects them, then it automatically affects us because that is our person [not possessive] who is involved and so it’s no long “an issue” but an act of injustice that must be dealt with.

# As white people we need to be wary of the apartheid-amnesia that is settling over so many of us like a mist [it is easy to forget something that didn’t affect you personally on a deep cost level] and so even the idea that “apartheid was a bad thing that happened” is unhelpful – No! Apartheid was a horrific thing that was soul-destroying, dehumanising, identity fracturing and deeply intentional and continues to affect millions of people across South Africa because something so dark and insiduous cannot just be swept away in a moment or a law change. We cannot call for the conversations to be comfortable and palatable because we are tired of discussing them. Other people are tired of living them.

Those of us who have the privilege [which i feel i can be spokesperson for to some extent cos i tick pretty much every flippin box] need to quieten down and push into the discomfort and spend time learning and listening and trying as best as possible to understand, whether this is conversations about race [me as the white person] or gender [me as the male] or a host of other things… we need to stop making it about us and really press in to the greater cause.

There is work to be done. It is going to be messy for a long, long time still but i am encouraged by incredible people and organisations like BottomUp and Ujamaa and Life Matters and Common Change and The Warehouse and The Message Trust and The Justice Conference and so many others who are working so hard for change and i believe we can get better and be better and hopefully be kinder to each other in the process [no-one likes being called a CHOP!] and continue the hard but necessary work of building relationships and bridges and stepping towards other people and listening and learning and more.

[For a helpful step towards each other, click here]

[For the difference between All Deaths Matter and All Lives Matter, click here]

[You can watch the Facebook Live chat around these things over here]

About the Author:

Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.


  1. […] i shared a whole bunch of thoughts – mine and others – about the concept of #BlackMonday and wearing black to honour the […]

  2. Roxanne October 29, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

    I relate to all the comments and responses mentioned and I am equally uncomfortable about this protest. It pains me that all the discussion seems to omit to mention the impact these attacks are having on the farming industry and future food security of the country which impacts everyone. This would have been the time to raise and have this conversation publicly. It is sad and incredibly frustrating that this issue has been used as a poster for a ‘white genocide’ narrative or in support of one race over another. I do not support this narrative at all. If anything it highlights how desperately we need transformation in the commercial farming industry. But what young people will go into an incredibly difficult and risky industry with now so much risk to safety too? Who will teach and coach them if they do? Commercial farming is on a severe declining trend in SA, food imports on the rise. The poorest are suffering the most. As our currency weakens this situation gets worse. I can’t speak for the original intentions behind the campaign …but the food security point seems to have been lost in the wash 🙁

  3. Rean October 30, 2017 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Dear Brett – I remind you of a picture you posted a little while ago during #BlackLivesMatter

    I believe your friend Robyn did indeed get to the heart of the frustration of the matter with her idea that much of the problem resides with racial polarization. This was exactly the same for the BlackLivesMatter movement. You praise one, and condemn the other. How so?

    • brettfish October 30, 2017 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Good question and not sure if you watched the Facebook Live video i did because i think i addressed it there:

      It is different because with the disease example all other diseases are already seen as serious but the question here is whether other murders are being taken seriously at all – so quite the opposite thing… which i also answer here:

      Definitely worth engaging more deeply on
      but in the context of the bigger picture – i stand by my words on both occasions and don’t find they contradict at all.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  4. Rean October 30, 2017 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Hey Brett, I’ll have a look at the facebook video tonight, I try to stay away from facebook during work hours.. I did read your post on blastingnews and found it to convey a completely different message from this one… You said no one is suggesting that the farm murders do not matter. Please bare with me. Reading this article it seems like that is the message you try to convey.

    “If we only react when a certain group or type of person is being killed in the face of overwhelmingly more deaths to other groups or types of people, that feels unjust and deeply so and a spitting in the face of people belonging to those groups or types of people.” Yet in the same breath you suggest we do exactly that. You condemn reaction to this group being killed, yet hail reaction to another.

    I know I have a habit of coming across as confrontational, I’m trying not to. I suppose the key point here is exactly the one you raised in both articles.
    That you feel farmers lives have always been important, and the lives of black people not so. Thus it is rather biased to single out farm murders for mourning, but oppose the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

    This is not a viewpoint without merit.

    Thus it is quite understandable that these people would feel the same way… They feel black lives are much more important than theirs, with international movements created and celebrities delivering speeches when a black man is killed. When they try to raise the fact that they are being murdered, they are told to be quiet.

    These people feel the same way, for the same reasons, and with the same merit, as the BLM’ers. Shall we then treat them differently because of the colour of their skin? I say not.

    • brettfish October 30, 2017 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rean, but i think you are missing me. Yes, they FEEL as if it’s the same way for the same reasons, but that is not an accurate portrayal of the reality because white lives in South Africa have always counted for more and white farmer lives have counted more than black and coloured farmer lives. There is a group of people who are feeling hard done by, but they are not taking the time and effort and energy to look in the mirror and realise that the pendulum has always swung in their direction in terms of privilege and advantage and opportunity.

      i am not calling for people to be treated differently because of the colour of their skin – i am saying they [the white farmers] have been, but in their favour and it’s time for them to be treated the same as everyone else. There is nothing in any of the pieces i have written on this that says or even suggests that the farm murders do not matter. That might be a language thing on your part? But it is very clear that i have not said that at all and have repeatedly said that the point is that all lives should matter equally [and deaths] and so when black and coloured and indian people are dying we need to see where the uproar and mass gathering and clothes campaigns are for them, because to my experience they are lacking or completely non-existent…

      • Rean October 30, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

        Hey Brett.

        I’ve written a long piece stating why I think these arguments are *incorrect* to put it mildly, questioning whether a couple of points are language issues on your part, but I won’t put them up, they are not very pleasant. And that’s no way to argue.

        I try to see both points of view, and though I’m not all that good at it, I try. Trying to feel the other point of view as well helps a lot.

        If I was a black man with a history of being a second class citizen, I would probably feel that a bunch of white folks dressing up and making a big hoohah about farm murders, when murder in the entire country is rife, as just being stuck in a mindset of it happening to the rest of the country (the rest of the country being black people), cause, y’know, this is SA and there’s a high murder rate. But if it happens to white people it’s an outrage. They certainly can’t have that… So where’s the outrage when it happens to us?

        I get that, I can feel that.

        You said yourself where’s the outrage.

        We see only what we wish to see.
        Did you not post at length about the BLM movement? The England riots, following the police shooting of Mark Duggan? it was more widely publicised than the american election. The rioting outside Forest Gate police station following the Death of Edson Da Costa? The Rodney King Riots? The Charlotte riots just last year, the Milwaukee riots last year?… But The BLM movement is the best example. Because it wasn’t rioting. It wasn’t violence. It was an international movement with millions of adherents.

        It’s there. No one claims it’s not after even a cursory objective look.

        There’s the classic right-wing argument of “but name one for white people”. Which is also seeing just what we want to see. They’re not there because police gunfights as a rule of thumb don’t happen in middle class suburbs, and white people as a rule of thumb live in middle class suburbs. So as a rule of thumb there’s no reason to have any.

        Here there is a reason for them.

        History and our feelings (from both sides) aside, We cannot treat two groups of people by two different sets of rules. We did that before. It ended really badly. A friend once told me that people complaining about being on the receiving end of laws that assign advantage by race have no cause if they have been on the giving end of it. If it was wrong then, then it’s wrong now. When something wrong was done to you, doing it to someone else can’t be right. Even if it’s the person you perceive as having done it to you.

        • brettfish October 30, 2017 at 5:07 pm - Reply

          i am seriously confused by what you are trying to say here – i don’t see any disconnect between the things i have stood up for and am not following your reasoning. The point being that there is a lack of outrage when it happens to black and coloured people and a presence of outrage when it happens to white people. The selective outrage is being questioned.

          i tend to write on behalf of the marginalised or from the perspective of the marginalised and so in Americaland it was the Black Lives Matter people [no-one needs to suggest white lives matter cos it’s a given] and here it is those who see countless murders [well close to 19000 a year actually] with no response and now a response for 74 murders [with a lot of stuff added to that] – the point is not to not be outraged by murders to farmers but there has been an invitation to be outraged by all murders to all people.

          So, ja, not sure of your point, sorry.

          • Rean October 30, 2017 at 6:04 pm

            Never mind Brett. When I very literally list outrage after outrage and your response is “The point being that there is a lack of outrage when it happens to black and coloured people”… I mean this not as an insult but as a sincere desire that someday you might value your principles above the approval of what is popular – Your prejudice has overtaken your grip on reality.

          • brettfish October 31, 2017 at 7:49 am

            That is a very chop response Rean and it is insulting so don’t try and couch it in wordspeak – valuing my principles above what is popular is responsible for me spending most of my online life fighting, arguing, engaging with people in the hope they will wrestle with what they believe and do and move towards being better people.

            Please don’t misunderstand someone disagreeing with you as someone not thinking – my grip is very much on a reality where black lives still for the most part matter less than white lives. The sooner you realise that, the sooner you will be able to be part of the solution and not the problem.

  5. […] titled Some more thoughts on #BlackMonday and #AllDeathsMatter because while a LOT of people read my first post, which i also think was really helpful as it collated what a number of people were thinking and […]

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