An ad featuring a white man and a black woman locked in a naked, Trojan-commercial embrace with the tagline, "In OUR future, you wouldn't look twice," has given all the dormant racists in post-apartheid South Africa something to gripe about this week. The ad, which the youth wing of the Democratic Alliance party created and posted on its Facebook page, has drawn the ire of both white and black South Africans, including an especially bigoted reaction from one commenter who posted a picture of a placid, Aryan-looking family on the DA Youth's Facebook page with the charming caption, "Now that's how it should be!" (If that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, try repeating it with the amusing, sing-songy Boer accent, which will help underscore how absurd such an outburst really is.)
Another commenter complained that the genders of the libidinous poster-couple insinuate the racial dominance of whites over blacks since men are the dominant gender in traditional cultures and the man, in this instance, is white. Coincidence? Well, if you believe that, then you probably think that men and women living in a domestic situation should form an equal partnership or some other such new-age silliness and this, according to the commenter, is most definitely not the case:
Who is the head of a house? Yes, a man, and the man makes the choices and the women listens. So to some it has been offensive that the man is white and the woman is black, because it places the black nation under the head of the house, so to speak.
Acknowledging how patriarchal domestic arrangements work and defining those arrangements simply as "the way things work" are two different things, and this comment goes beyond the bounds of racial politics to reveal that gender inequality is the inflamed nerve at the root of outrage over so-called "miscegenation." Though when viewed through the patriarchy's lens this poster implies dominance of whites over blacks, reversing the genders does little to alter the perception that women are a thing to be dominated, governed, or, according to the mutated coded of chivalry that gave the Ku Klux Klan license to murder African American men who slept with white women, protected. What sort of reaction would a poster featuring a black man embracing a white woman get? Outrage from white misogynists and approval from those black misogynists whose only issue with the current ad is that the perceived dominant figure is white.
In spite of the controversy the Democratic Alliance youth wing has defended the ad with a firm declaration of the group's unwillingness to bow to the divisiveness of racial politics:
We will not defend people who try to force others to comply with their preferences when those preferences show intolerance, unkindness, lack of imagination, failure of sympathy, absence of understanding, ignorance of alternative interests and needs in the human experience and arrogance in believing theirs is the only acceptable way.
The controversy over the poster highlights the trouble South Africans still have in trying to bridge racial division in a post-apartheid era, but it also demonstrates that a struggle against inequality isn't a one-front war and so long as traditional gender norms remain unchallenged, interracial partnerships will carry a cultural stigma.
Interracial ad sparks controversy in South Africa [Washington Post]
Sexy interracial poster sparks furor in South Africa [Globe & Mail]