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  • Thandiwe Ntshinga

'You make me wish I was Black'- white shortcircuiting and other responses to Black Racist Bitch

The past month has been the most memorable Heritage Month of my life thus far. I introduced my book, Black Racist Bitch: How Social Media Reveals South Africa's Unfinished Work on Race, to the world around 8 September 2023 and I couldn't be more proud of my firstborn. She's done so well, already.

Let's start with the name of the book, Black Racist Bitch. I have heard a number of variations of this book title, a comment that was hurdled at me as an oxymoronic insult- oxymoronic because, as I will continue to argue, Black racism does not exist. I've embraced the title and so have many Black people I have come across who have called me, 'Racist Black Bitch' and my favourite 'Motherf*cking Racist Black Bitch', in public. These have all made me smile, especially when I heard other Black wom_n claiming the title of 'Black Racist Bitch' for themselves. That incident caused a scene with white people staring. It was great.

On the other hand, there are white people, who appear disappointed that, what was apparently meant to make me cower into a corner somewhere, hasn't. It was revealed to me by Black bookstore employees that white customers are offended by the title. Imagine that, not being bothered by this slur itself but rather that it was repurposed for my benefit? When they go low, write a book about them...and that's exactly what I did ;).

As far as white staff at bookstores have gone, only one has acknowledged me and even that was done with a forced tight-lipped smile that the Black staff informed me differed from that of the wide-smiled enthusiasm when a white author visits this particular store.

In Cape Town, I participated in the Open Book Festival between 8-10 September. My conclusion from the Festival is that Afrikaans people felt vindicated by my critique of white liberalism while English white liberals shortcircuited right in front of my eyes. One of the most unexpected displays of this short-circuiting was while talking to a white middle-aged wom_n as the "author of Black Racist Bitch", she bowed. Like literally, with her hands in the air and everything, bowed, saying "You make us all want to be Black". This white liberal didn't know what to say to me. Highkey, I think that now that white people know a bit more about critical whiteness studies and that I have the ability to analyse white identity, they are nervous.

Either way, I was a bestseller at the Open Book Festival and by the time I left that Mother City of self-serving white liberalism, I had heard that my book needed restocking in some stores and that I was also a best seller at the Exclusive Books at the airport. Oh yeah, I don't think I mentioned that my babygirl was selected for the Exclusive Books Homebru promotion which puts the spotlight on South African stories during September. I'm not too sure the sponsors knew what/who they were being affiliated with when I was selected.

Upon my return from Cape Town, I had my launch in Johannesburg on 12 September. Some expressed disappointment at the lack of white attendance as if white people go out of their way to be confronted by racial truths. For me, I wasn't bothered as attendance in Cape Town was mostly white. It was quite nice for me to talk to a Black audience and for my work to be understood by a Black crowd. This has not always been the case for me where the most Black support I have received prior to this book has been from African Americans. Being ridiculed by Black South Africans for my work in antiracism has long been a source of pain for me over the years. I am so grateful that, finally, my people understand what this work does for us.

As I catch my breath and continue basking in debut author glory, I am excited for the possibility of more engaging interviews and discussions. Because, my goodness, it's clear that those who have engaged thus far, have not read the book and are still grappling with the title.


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