When ‘deep regrets’ are not enough

The country is abuzz with comments on the Facebook rant of Corien Steenkamp, a second-grade assistant teacher from Hillside Christian College in Walvis Bay. The mere thought that someone with such guttural racist beliefs is anywhere near children, is extremely disturbing. She has made a statement that she deeply regrets her racist rant. Does she regret the fact that she is holds racist beliefs or that she was caught doing so? These are two very different things.

We believe everyone is very sorry when they get caught. Very few are actually sorry that did the nasty deed in the first place.

Something can set each of us off and we can get angry and react on a base level. None of us would like to be judged by our most uncomplimentary moments. And yet, the vitriol that spews from our mouths when we are in a high emotional state, is exactly, at the core, who we are. The comments made by this teacher is exactly who she is.

Corien Steenkamp believes precisely what she wrote. Incredulously, she posted it online. She needs remedial lessons on Social Media 101, Class #1: “How the world can read what you post on Facebook.”

Namibia has laws dealing with public racist statements and they must be applied to this woman as quickly as feasible. No white privilege please – let her face the music. The world is burning in a pandemic meltdown and people are in the streets protesting against a white man who killed a black man with his knee. In the midst of this flurry, two young white men allegedly led a gang of black men to kill a Zimbabwean right here in Namibia. Such an assault would never have been done on a white person.

Then, we read the racist comments of Corien Steenkamp.

None of what is happening to this woman will change her views on black people. Her position was clearly written in her own hand. No country can pass a law that eliminates racism. But, the government and the courts must make the price for being a racist very high. The cost of such divisiveness must break the arrogance and bank accounts of those engaging in it openly. In addition to jail time in cells with the black people she disdains, the young students of this woman should speak to a lawyer. They must ask if there is a case that she must answer in civil court for damages.

This woman has had experience hiding her destructive thoughts for years. Still, as the saying goes – Those who know her most; know her best. Those around her knew that she held those ugly thoughts. Their silence gave her the green light to lash out and show her true self. They are also responsible on varying levels for her racist outburst.

Steenkamp is not a once-off. She is representative of such sentiments amongst whites in Namibia who are content in their assumed superiority.

Hillside Christian College responded quickly to the illegal racist statements by one of their teachers. They are holding a disciplinary hearing to handle the situation. A slap on the wrist will not do this time. Deep regrets are not enough. She must not be anywhere near children with the harmful beliefs that she holds.

The damage that could already have been done to any black child in her ‘care’ could have been devastating. Telling an innocent young person that they have a “rotten and smelly mouth” or that the “bible was not meant for them”, is an assault on a soul.

How many times in a classroom did she discipline a black child by making them believe that they were “meant only for the bush?” Teaching is a job, but it is also a commitment. Where is the commitment of a person who would publicly make statements like that?

Aside from dismissal and a conviction in the court, we would like to see recompense. Let her volunteer in the black community full of people who she thinks civilization was not made for. We recommend a transformative learning program for her. She needs a history lesson on the immense waste, corruption, and multiple failures of her beloved apartheid system of the past. She needs to teach herself how to see God’s children as human beings just like herself.

Deep regrets alone, in this case, are not enough. The police must arrest her and the prosecutor-general should move fast on this case. The whites who secretly feel just like Corien Steenkamp are watching. The official action as a result of her posted comments must show them that the nation is watching them too.

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