The Images Media Don’t Show The World: Whites, Indians, and Mixed-Race South Africans Also Involved In Looting

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Armed white South Africans who allegedly fired at cars driven by Black South Africans. Photo: YouTube.

One major glaring gap in the on-going protests in South Africa over the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma which has left more than 72 people dead, has been the white right wing media’s sensationalizing of the reporting giving the impression that only Black people have been involved in the looting spree. Whites people, Indians and people of mixed ancestry referred to as “coloreds” in South Africa have also joined the looting.

International media have also ignored attacks by white armed militias against Black South Africans during this crisis.

South Africa’s security forces have been hard-challenged to quell the protests and prevent attacks on major business premises. Of course, Black people make up 80% of the population and so more of them will be seen at the violent protests. They have also borne the brunt of the economic hardships that have escalated due to the raging Covid—19 pandemic over the last year. Videos showing white people and Indians looting during the protests have not been as prominently looped in media in a comparable manner showing Black protesters. This type of reporting bias has been common when reporting such protests and conflicts, not only here in Africa, but also in the U.S. and Europe.

The analysis and framing of information in South Africa is deliberately presented to project whites and Indians as clean and non-violent. A portion South Africa's white and Indian population live in poverty similar to that of many of the country's Black township residents.  A 2014 population study estimated that about 400, 000 whites in South Africa are poor and live in the kind of poverty that the majority of Blacks in townships experience.

The mainstream media hardly report on this. It is hardly surprising that there is little awareness about the issue of growing white poverty including that of Indians and that is the reason why they too are involved in the looting spree, a measure of the economic hardship for many South Africans. Of course, when reporting on something as terrible as political violence, journalists face an impossible choice. This is because language has no neutral mode. Once you step into the process of saying anything about the violent protest in South Africa, language makes you take a side.