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Avoiding Sparrow (or Monkey) posts

Avoiding Sparrow (or Monkey) posts

Penny Sparrow has become an overnight success for all the wrong reasons. Sparrow’s post has landed her in big poo and she is now receiving death threats, her former employers are threatening to sue her as are prominent activists. Using ‘monkey’ in her post was the reveal about her feelings.

What Sparrow considered to be an innocent observation about black people celebrating the festive season on Durban’s beaches has gone viral in a bad way. Unfortunately, this mampara did not learn her lesson.

Give that woman a spade

Sparrow’s comment comparing black people to monkeys being ‘released to the beaches [and] town’ was blatant racism and although she later posted an apology, the apology was nullified in an interview with News24  when she claimed that she was ‘stating facts’.

After reading through both her Facebook post and her comments made in the interview, it is clear that Sparrow is a racist and that her comments are far from factual.


Because her comments are personal rather than focusing on the issue that lead her to creating the post in the first place: overcrowded beaches, unruly behaviour and excessive littering.

Sparrow gets emotional

Trying to sweeten the derogatory term ‘monkey’ applied to black people in her social media post, Sparrow claimed that she actually likes monkeys and that she considered them ‘cute and naughty’.  Animals are cute and naughty. Children are cute and naughty. Would one apply this to people like Nelson Mandela or Barack Obama?

I do not think so.

I can think of many positive adjectives the majority would use but cute and naughty would not be on that list.

In its literal sense, monkeys are mammals. Then there is the emotional connection. Monkeys are also known to be pests for many KZN residents and coastal resorts. Definitely not ‘cute and naughty’. Extending this association further, monkeys are also used as derogatory terms when used to describe black people.

Backpedalling from her initial comment will not get Sparrow out of jail. She meant to be offensive to express her disgust.

Justifying comments using ‘facts’

In her interview, Sparrow tries to demonstrate that she is not a racist. “I work with blacks and I am kind to them”. One wonders why she cannot treat black people as equals. Why is kindness an important reciprocation towards black people.

Other comments like “I was born in East Africa and I was raised by blacks” and “She’s a wonderful girl and she’s an Indian” are empty statements. Being ‘raised’ by black people does not automatically release Sparrow from racism and the fact that an Indian lady happened to be ‘nice’ makes the reader wonder whether this is a rare occurrence.

Are people of colour not nice?

Does skin colour automatically predetermine a person’s behaviour?

Consider the facts

In response to her interview, many (white) people felt that Sparrow was stating facts. Some wrote about Zuma and his behaviour and claimed this supported Sparrow’s comments.  It is clear that there are many South Africans who do not know how to separate opinions from facts. Don’t attack the skin colour, attack the issue.

What was the issue that Sparrow failed to express?

Kwazulu Natal beaches are overcrowded during the festive season. It just so happens that certain beaches are populated by a certain demographic and this particular area happens to be frequented mainly by black people. It also means that when large groups of people come together in a public place, littering tends to happen and behaviour can get out of hand especially if there is alcohol involved. This is why we (should) have rules and law-enforcement. It has nothing to do with skin colour.

Has anyone looked at the state of a cinema once the movie has ended and everyone has left? Pop-corn and empty containers lie all over and cleaners emerge with bags of rubbish. People often become amorous in the back row. Sometimes quite embarrassingly so.

What about rock concerts? Different demographic and yet same behavioural tendencies: littering, making out, fighting. So why does the Durban beach issue have to be a black issue?

Generalising about a certain group of people is dangerous.

Rule number one: consider your emotional response before posting

Prejudice is a bitch. It will eventually expose you. Too often, people get away with flyaway remarks when they are uttered to friends and family. The problem is that comments made verbally are easily forgotten. Social media does not provide a sympathetic ear. Words do not fade away and are easily shared electronically. Your comments will remain etched in cyberspace, hauntingly scary – exposing your weaknesses.

Be warned. Clear your heart before you write.  Your words will expose your true intent.

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