Words are infinitely powerful. Unfortunately, they are oftentimes used to reinforce hegemonic systems of power. In recognizing that words are frequently appropriated to promote racist ideologies and praxis, the members of Woke Twitter are committed to identifying and dissecting representations of racism that manifest in specific community settings such as social media. The Woke Twitter community does this with the expressed intent of raising consciousness regarding the destructive power that racism wields in this 21st century world. Group members feel it is important for people to reject “Rainbow Nation” narratives which state, in covert and overt ways, that white supremacy is a problem of the past and now everyone has an equal chance to excel in society. Recently, the Woke Twitter community drew attention to the racist statements of former real estate agent Penny Sparrow.
What Did Sparrow Say/Suggest?
Racism can take on numerous forms which contain various degrees of ugly import. In a world predicated on white supremacist values, racism typically manifests in terms of denying the humanity and abilities of people of color. Penny Sparrow advanced this type of racist rhetoric through her social media account after observing a group of black South Africans populating a beach near her residence. In evaluating their presence, Sparrow equated them to animals. Upon realizing that Sparrow had called black South Africans apes and monkeys, community outrage ensued. Sparrow’s statement was condemned by many members of her community and people across the globe pointed out how this manifestation of racism via social media proved that racist thought and praxis was prevalent and powerful in these modern day times.
Brenda Wardle’s Telling Interpretation of Sparrow’s Statement
Upon learning of Sparrow’s racist statement, Wardle made many important points. First, she noted that the constitution affords humans the right to free speech. Wardle went on to point out that this free speech has various limitations which people need to be aware of. Specifically, people do not have the freedom to make disparaging, dehumanizing statements about other individuals. Given that Penny Sparrow did this very thing through her racialized dehumanization of black South Africans, Wardle argues that her comment is ultimately an illegality (in addition to being grossly inappropriate).
Wardle’s Background, Academic Interests, and Book
As a legal student, Wardle is passionate about studying the law and analyzing the role it plays in altering and defining human experiences. She is also the writer of the book To Kill A Fragile Rose: The State’s Case Against Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius.