Johannesburg- It is not anger that blazes and then dies down that petrifies me.
Nor is it brooding anger that is deep-seated and cannot be pacified that scares me either.
I’m scared of anger that turns into an insult. It horrifies me.
It is anger that looks at another human being with contempt that makes the hair at the back of my neck stand up.
It is anger that looks down on another; that belittles, demeans, dehumanises, and distances others that frightens me the most.
This week, when an unflattering picture of popular singer Ndivhudzannyi Ralivhona, fondly known as Makhadzi, was splashed online for all to see, I was very afraid.
Just one bad picture from an unflattering angle and the anger that looks down on another got into high gear.
It is the anger that elicits responses that label a darker pigmentation as dirty, ugly, unhygienic, and inexcusable. It manifests in many ways; in what we have come to call in degoratory terms as a “big nose”, “dark”, “ugly”, “dirty”, “poor”, “lowly” and “untidy”.
It is this anger that we need to accept we harbour and then start the long and painful process to rid ourselves of it.
This anger that turns to insult is the anger that many generations before us have been loath to acknowledge, confront and heal.
Social media, which allows people to wear many masks, is exposing the perverseness of this anger and the reluctance to acknowledge it.
It is the anger that translates into insults such as “lento emnyama” (you dark thing) spoken by a mother to a child, a neighbour to another, a friend to another, a teacher to a pupil, a brother to another, or an enemy to a foe.
This anger reverberates throughout Africa because it is so familiar. The storm over Makhadzi’s inner thighs even made it to BBC News Pidgin, the Lagos-based online news service written in West African Pidgin English, launched by BBC World Service in 2017.
With the headline “Makhadzi: South African female singer ‘dark inner thigh’ picture make Pipo dey tok on social media”.
And “pipo” [people] did talk, hey. And this made headlines in West Africa’s most populous country because they too also recognized themselves in this anger that insults.
It is the anger that calls another “big nose”.
Until we recognise that which we call “ugly”, “dirty”, “bad” is informed by many years of being dehumanised, demeaned, devalued, disdained, demonized, we will not be able to rid ourselves of this anger that turns into insults.
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