Sharing racist and offensive materials over social media is by no means new. In the past, such postings or sharing has led to public shaming, separation from employment and even legal repercussions. This is the case even in South Africa, where groups like “Woke Twitter” are on the prowl to expose such behavior and the people who perpetuate them online.
Penny Sparrow, a woman made famous after sharing a racially incendiary post demeaning Black South Africans at a beach, has been separated by the Democratic Alliance which quickly tried to distance itself from her and her views. Woke Twitter also exposed Chris Hart and Justin Van Vuuren for their racist posts.
Woke Twitter, which has aligned itself with movements such as the #BLACKLIVESMATTER organizations that have been active in the US over the last year, has become something of an Internet crusade to expose harmful views on race, sex, gender, cultural stereotypes and the people who share them. Their intent, they’ve stated, is to promote tolerance and encourage the South African government to legislate in favor of protections for people of color in their nation.
Charmaine Crowie, Sparrow’s daughter, spoke to the Cape Argus following the fallout that publicly shamed her mother, claiming that the family has been the target of harassing and threatening messages in response to the post. This mirrors concerns some have over groups like Woke Twitter and the effects of their well-meaning actions.
But what of Penny Sparrow and others like her? The end of apartheid as an institution of South African society was not that long ago, meaning there would be others like her, and technically nothing she did could be considered criminal or in violation of the South African constitution. Or could it?
Legal analyst, Brenda Wardle, has stepped forward to make sense of Sparrow’s posting. She stated that although Sparrow has a right to free speech, the dehumanizing components of her post broke clauses of the constitution, placing prejudice on Black South Africans and limiting their opportunity to equal speech with her racially offensive language.
Operating as Chief Operations Officer at the Wardle College of Law, Brenda Wardle is a respected legal analyst of South African law. She became a prominent legal mind during the early days of the Oscar Pistorius trial and authored her analysis in “To Kill a Fragile Rose: the State’s Case Against Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius”.
When deciding what is and isn’t worth sharing online, it’s safe to say that someone is watching and consequences may be inbound.
Watch Brenda Wardle: