The socialist party’s protest action against a racist Clicks advert could result in more hurt for the party and those they claim to protect.
By Alinaswe Lusengo
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 10 of VARSITY News.
The Clicks advert is unquestionably distasteful and offensive. If by some slight chance you do not know the advert in question, the retail and pharmaceutical company Clicks ran an advert on their website wherein a white woman’s hair is depicted as “fine & flat” and a black woman’s natural hair is described as “dry & damaged” and “frizzy & dull”. This perpetuates a beauty ideal steeped in racism and colonialism where Eurocentric features are standardised and black women are forced to assimilate their natural features as close to whiteness as possible. There is no doubt in the harm an advert such as this produces, and South Africa’s outrage is just but is the EFF’s response and call for a Clicks shutdown going too far?
The EFF reacted to the racism of the advert by mobilising their supporters to protest outside of Clicks outlets and calling for nationwide shutdowns of the store. Consequently, various Clicks stores had to close down for majority of the week. The EFF saw this as successful protest action against racism. However, the worker who depends on the wage earned at Clicks and is now forced to sacrifice their income because of these protests, might not think the same. It is a deep irony when the country’s supposedly socialist opposition party, whose uniform is an ode to the South African worker, enacts protest that end up hurting the workers they claim to protect. The irony deepens when anti-racist demonstrations negatively impact the majority black working-class citizens being fought for.
The literal and digital violence of the EFF’s response is also worrying. The literal violence being the petrol bombs aimed at Clicks outlets after the advert that the EFF subsequently denied responsibility for. The digital violence being the twitter response that many prominent EFF members have engaged in, such as Mbuyiseni Ndlozi telling Thuli Madonsela to “find the nearest hell” after her critique of his party’s protests. Many have called this comment misogynist, especially considering the high gender-based violence rates in the country which some have said the EFF have not reacted to with the same energy. It is another terrible irony to berate the black women you are meant to defend, especially when your response to the gender-based violence they are disproportionately affected by has been deemed inadequate.
Ultimately, though some of the EFF’s demands have been met by Clicks, the optics of these protests may end up damaging the already fickle relationship the party has with South Africa.
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