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What if Oscar’s victim had been black?

The world’s media has descended on South Africa for the trial of the country’s former sporting hero Oscar Pistorius. It’s been called “the most eagerly awaited trial in South African legal history”. But what if his victim had been a black man?

Oscar Pistorius would not be on trial for murder if Reeva Steenkamp had been a black man. In fact, on Valentine’s Day last year when Oscar fired four fatal shots at close range through a locked bathroom door he thought he was hitting a black man. Or so he wants the black female judge and the world to believe.

It’s worth a shot, for had he killed a black man, it would not be an issue in our “Rainbow Nation” South Africa.

You see, when white South Africans buy and collect guns, it is to kill two things: animals and black people. In fact, as far as gun-toting white males are concerned, sometimes there is no distinction between the two. There have been more than a few instances where white males have shot and killed black men and children thinking that they were shooting at animals.

So there would be no trial if he had shot and killed a black man of any age. He may instead have been hailed as a hero and even given an award that would have read: “Here is a man who did good by shooting to kill a black thief!” Everyone would have understood because everyone accepts that crime has reached intolerable levels in our society, and that the perpetrators of all these crimes are unemployed, poverty-stricken, criminally-inclined black men who are envious of the white lifestyle and so they prey on hard working white families. So they deserve to be shot down in cold blood for disturbing the peace of suburban life.

Whites in South Africa live in fear of being attacked by black male criminals. They surround their houses with sky high walls, but the fear remains so high calibre guns are a necessity, in case their black security guards manning the gates allow a black criminal to slip through. You know you cannot trust a black man, even if he is paid to guard your home. This is what paranoia has driven white men to do: shoot first and ask questions later. This is the story of our lives.

Oscar's account of the sequence of events
Oscar’s account of the sequence of events

Oscar made a terrible mistake. As a white male, you do not kill a white woman, especially the one you professed to love. Your role and responsibility is to protect and defend her against marauding black thugs. But if you happen to kill her, for whatever reason, you must pin the blame on black men. Presumably, you would have hired them to rape and kill her, like the ones hired to kill Anni Dewani a few years ago. If there were no black men anywhere near the scene, just say you thought you were shooting at a black man. Nobody will ask awkward questions. It is expected for white men to shoot and kill black men to protect their property and beloved families. And the rest of the world understands and accepts this, too.

For those of us who are black males, it is painful to see how our lives have become cheap. We get killed for cell phone and for driving expensive cars. Above all, we are condemned for being the source of white insecurity and fear in this beautiful land. Easily fired from jobs and fired at by threatened white men. In a country where the majority of the population is black, we should be concerned about how the business of justice is conducted in this most unequal land.

Something in the soul of this nation has died because of the emotionless way we brush off the killing of black men by white men. There is no doubt in my mind that there would be no national debate, let alone international television screening of the trial, had Oscar’s victim been a black man. What is another dead black man? The dead man, even in death, would have been tried and condemned for having been a robber and a thief in his motherland. And if he’d really been a thief, no one would have cared for the circumstances that compelled him to prey on sleeping white families at night. No one would have said a word about the moral crimes of inequality, poverty and unemployment, nor about the justified envy the downtrodden and forgotten might have for what white men have. No one would have considered the deep seated desire for revenge for stolen land, the monopolisation of mineral resources and wealth, and the uneven playing field that is maintained by those who hold most of our country’s economic wealth.

If there is anything that Oscar regrets now, it is probably that Reeva Steenkamp was not a black man.

Alan Paton said in his Cry, The Beloved Country: “it is fear that rules the country.” White South African men: continue killing black men!

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