Black lives matter. Farmers’ lives matter. They don’t exclude ...

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Black lives matter. Farmers’ lives matter. They don’t exclude each other

If you’re shouting ‘all lives matter’, you misunderstand the issue or don’t believe that lives matter equally

Editor: Vrye Weekblad
Protesters in front of a mural depicting George Floyd during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest.
This life didn't matter Protesters in front of a mural depicting George Floyd during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest.
Image: Getty Images/Media News Group/Helen H Richardson

Yes, but what about farm murders? Why don’t you say anything about farm murders?

This has been the stock response by many in the white community when anyone outside their small white bubble comments on virtually any issue, but specifically racism.

I think this growing trend is counterproductive and does the plight of vulnerable people living on farms no favour. It has become weaponised; a slogan that is too often not purely rooted in concern about farmers and farm workers.

For too many people “farm murders” has become code for discontent with our new order and for white victimhood.

One has to be a real monster with a lot of hatred in your heart, or perhaps completely uninformed, not to be worried about the large number of attacks on people living on farms.

I suspect it is my socialisation as a rural Free State child and that I still have many family members, friends and acquaintances on farms that make me read every story about farm attacks, but often not give as much attention to crime in cities and townships.

This violates my basic philosophy that every life, rich or poor, black, white or brown, has the same inherent value.

Archie Mountbatten-Windsor’s life is not worth more than young Mzwandile Gqwetha’s from Khayelitsha. The alternative, that one values a human life according to his or her status, wealth, profession or origins, must surely be morally untenable.

This violates my basic philosophy that every life, rich or poor, black, white or brown, has the same inherent value.

Most of us regularly transgress this moral principle, for a variety of reasons. We are upset when George Floyd is murdered by a white police officer, but we hardly take notice of the plight of the Rohingya of Myanmar who are the victims of a brutal ethnic cleansing. We are shocked when a bomb claims a few people’s lives in a European capital, but we hardly raise an eyebrow when a dozen people die in an attack in Yemen. We are much more outraged when a celebrity is sexually attacked than about the snippet, hidden in our newspaper, that nine women were raped in Delft last weekend. And yes, we look differently at a white beggar in Pretoria’s streets than at a black person asking for small change at a traffic light.

This is just human, you may say. One pays more attention to events familiar to you, one is touched more by things in one’s own cultural environment — and the media is certainly partly to blame. This is true, but we should never forget the principle that all human lives have the same value.

For someone from Bonteheuwel, Nyanga, Dobsonville or Umlazi the terrifying crime situation is the burning issue, not the safety of a white farmer in the Free State. Many of these townships and informal settlements are a living hell.

AfriForum, the FF Plus and the DA all drive aggressive campaigns against farm attacks. There is a whole army of people on social media that do little else but talk about farm attacks.

AfriForum has made documentaries and written books about it, even lobbied foreign governments.

(I don’t say this flippantly, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes if AfriForum is using this issue as a tool to recruit more members.)

When Proteas cricket player Lungi Ngidi asked Cricket SA (CSA) last week to embrace the international Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign, former players Boeta Dippenaar and Pat Symcox (and a few others) attacked him and said 1. Why not rather launch a campaign against farm murders? 2. All Lives Matter. 3. Black Lives Matter is a communist plot.

When I criticised Dippenaar and Symcox on Twitter, I was swamped by hundreds of angry people wishing my demise or calling me a homosexual, a traitor and an Afrikaner-hater — and asking me why I didn’t rather campaign against farm murders.

Dippenaar and co don’t differentiate between the formal BLM organisation and the current worldwide campaign using that slogan. BLM was formed by three young black women to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013 after he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Some BLM officials have said some pretty radical things over the years and one had indeed, as many now point out, said they are embracing Marxism.

But BLM was a relatively peripheral phenomenon until the world witnessed, on video, how white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt for almost nine minutes on George Floyd’s neck.

Ngidi and other sports people who stand in solidarity with the international campaign aren’t embracing Marxism or communism. The original BLM organisation has no impact on the worldwide wave of sentiment; it simply borrowed its catchy slogan.

The use of farm attacks as a metaphor for perceived white victimhood is wholly counterproductive.

West Indian cricketing legend Michael Holding has destroyed the All Lives Matter myth in moving television interviews on the sidelines of the England vs West Indies cricket Test. We all know very well that white lives matter, he said, now we want to make sure black lives also matter.

So if you’re one of those shouting “all lives matter”, you should know: either you misunderstand the issue completely and need to open your eyes and ears, or your heart is really not behind the sentiment that all lives matter equally.

Back to farm murders.

The more white conservatives, Afrikaner nationalists and racists use farm attacks as a political weapon, the stronger the apathy to this problem will become among many in the black community, including the governing ANC.

Nobody is going to persuade the ANC and the government to do more for rural security by insulting them or shouting at all black South Africans.

The use of farm attacks as a metaphor for perceived white victimhood is wholly counterproductive.

Farm attacks, so every bit of proper research tells us, are a crime problem. They are not a concerted campaign to drive whites off the land. If it is true that farm attacks are typically more brutal than other violent attacks, researchers tell us, it is probably because farms are remote and the criminals have more time to perpetrate their evil without fear of neighbours or security companies rushing to the scene.

It is possible, and this is my position, to declare loudly and clearly that something should be done to make farms safer and, in the same breath, to say, black lives matter. 

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