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[OPEN LETTER] Dear Kessie Nair, racism is not an illness

Dear Kessie

Let’s be upfront about this: You were fully aware that your racist rant on your now viral video would reveal a toxic and ignorant side of you that proves your naivety.

Your intention when recording that video was clear, you were well oiled and ready to expose yourself as a racist. You are the perfect example of complex, internalised racist tendencies, born from a cancer that is the othering of people who do not belong to the same race or class as you.

You were well aware of the algorithms of social media and privacy policies, which are non-existent. Nothing remains in one place and you were sure of this. And so you went ahead and took strategic and well-thought-out steps to uncloak your inherent prejudice, bias and bigotry. You peeled the skin off your privilege to reveal a malignancy that is offensive, in many ways contagious and harmful. And this is your only sickness.

You cannot hide behind the veil of mental illness. Just because you feel entitled and “safe” enough to call the president a k***ir and demand that he be charged for fraud and treason without knowledge of the consequences you would face does not give you free access to any of the diagnoses listed as classified mental illnesses. Ignorance is not complicated. The only thing you can be diagnosed with is a lack of education, understanding and empathy.

Kassie, really, who do you think you are? A small and irrelevant businessman from KZN is just but one sample of a vast population of insufferable humans in South Africa who need only one kind of treatment: A history book thrown at them so that you are forced to deliberately engage with facts, our past and important information.

Although, I think to our credit as a society who is trying to weed out infections like yourself, we must also learn that you can teach a man to fish, but if he doesn’t like fish, it doesn’t matter. And so you are subject to drown in the pool of your uneducated mind. Why won’t you eat the fish Kessie? Why do you insist on starving your mind of reflection, understanding and the basic knowledge of what it means to function as a good citizen?

I do not care about press statements “verifying” your chronic illness. I am unavailable. I will not engage with this notion that you can be absolved of your actions because your racism is a symptom of your mental illness. It isn’t. I have a mental illness. I don’t go around recording viral videos calling anyone racist slur words that are embedded in a tortured past and pointedly exist only to make people feel smaller and lesser than.

Anyone who buys into this lie of your mental disposition is a flawed person desperate to use any means necessary to pardon your crimes. And this at the risk of further perpetuating a stigma against any person who really does live with a mental illness. You don’t belong here. You can’t sit with us.

This need to label anything that is bad as a product of mental illness by a society corrupt with armchair psychologists needs to stop. You need to stop.

We need to stop falling prey to this penchant of invoking mental illness on those who go out of their way to make conscious decisions toward violence, racism and other crimes.

To let you get away with this would be a terrible act. Mental illness is not a scapegoat. It will not protect you at the cost of the rest of the mentally ill population having to deal with the fallout of your despicable behavior.

Racism is not a mental illness.

No biological evidence exists to support this idea. Your superiority complex is but a product of fear and this notion that some sort of racial segregation and cohesion needs to be maintained in order to survive.

This is not the way to go about maintaining this ideology that goes all the back to traditional hunter-gather societies.

You have full control over your beliefs and actions and you have full agency to change them.

Dear Kessie, I hope you free yourself from your primitive mind in the confines of a prison cell where society can be protected from you, and you, can be protected from your own ignorance.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.

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