Why I, a white man, support the EFF
Pieter Howes had his epiphany during #FeesMustFall
Pieter Howes is an EFF supporter, because it is “where you should be if you want to be pro-black”, he says.
If you don't know Howes, check out his Twitter profile. It consists of pro-black sentiment, a few liberal diatribes, defence against -isms. All as a means of him atoning for his ignorance, he says.
His pinned tweet is: “Everything I say has been said by black folk. Know that I only echo. I should not be praised for doing what’s right.”The sentiment is not dissimilar to White Nonsense Roundup, a US organisation that was “created by white people to address our inherently racist society and stand up against racism in our own families, work spaces and communities”.
White Nonsense Roundup says: “We believe it is our responsibility to call out white friends, relatives, contacts, speakers and authors who are contributing to structural racism and harming our friends of colour. We are a resource for anti-racist images, links, videos, artwork, essays, and voices. These can be used by anyone for a DIY white nonsense roundup, or by the WNR team to support people of colour upon their request.”For his troubles, Howes has been called everything from an apologist to a bigot. He’s non-plussed.
“I always say to people, I don’t complain about the abuse because people of colour have been doing this all their lives. I feel it’s an insult to make myself a victim. It is now part of the job of whiteness,” he says in a soft voice.
“Growing up. I never thought I had issues with racism. The cliché about my best friends are black was true. I then started realising that there were certain ways I was reacting to political events in SA that was problematic. I never thought I could be racist in any way, but it turns out I was.”
Howes, a former actor whose stage name was Bosch Botha, said it happened around the #rhodesmustfall protests.
“I was asking why are they so affected by a statue, it can’t hurt you, and it’s got political history. Then with #feesmustfall I asked things like: ‘Why must they block the entire road? It is such an inconvenience’.
“I’ve never overtly in my head thought people of colour are inherently different. Of course I understood the definite differences in socio-economics and history, the lingering effects of apartheid. But some of my friends were calling me out on it. They cared about me enough to say you need to evaluate the way you are speaking and what you are saying as a public voice, it is problematic,” says Howes.“I really valued their advice and feedback. Obviously these were my very close friends. So I investigated what was going on in my own head. In order to not comment ignorantly, I closed down all of my social media accounts for a whole year. I started reading, critical race theory, Fanon, Biko, Sobukwe.
“Something in me shifted. The power dynamics with my interactions with black people changed. I used to voice myself too much. I had to change my attitude and listen, stop responding. It was a massive, massive change that happened within me.”Of course, Howes has found pushback from right-wing Trump supporters and local racist trolls. In his own family, it became a topic to avoid around the braai and one person shunned him completely.
“I started to speak to white people about this and challenging them because of my learning and I noticed white people are extremely reluctant to research and investigate. They might agree but they don’t take the initiative to go buy the books on black consciousness, or read online. I mean, it’s on Google.”His website, enwhitenment.com, is a forum to educate and explain.
Social media followed. Public discourse will come, he says.
“Feeling not worthy as human beings is a legacy of apartheid ... It would lift the sense of depression and negative psyche to know that actually your history is powerful and you are as amazing and talented as any human being on the planet.”