Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Aftermath - 12 Apostles blog gone viral - Apology not accepted

I did not expect the tornado that broke over this blog in the last 48 or so hours. I am glad this story got the attention of so many people. I am also overwhelmed and unprepared for all of this.

I am unprepared for the haters, the irreparable racists and the moaners, who have a problem with just about anybody on this planet. But it is my choice not to let these voices invade my personal space and as such I am not responding to "haters", I am not deleting them either. I leave it up to the many voices of reason, support and emotional intelligence to moderate.

So here is my response to the 12 Apostles public apology:

 Dear Michael Nel -  thank you for posting on my blog - Apology not accepted

We all know that this apology would never even have been made, had it not been for the media-storm of bad publicity that rained upon your institution after it had gone viral.

Your apology did not even touch the experience of my friend. In fact the experience was dismissed, denied and turned into some "misunderstanding based on human error". Now we can all safely assume that no business will ever admit to overt racism or even racist undertones as this would be PR-suicide. So lets just step back from this senseless impasse and look at what we have to work with:

Lets just say for arguments sake, this was all a "misunderstanding based on human error"  (and we will never have prove of either side ).
So lets say: when the black person phoned, the restaurant was genuinely fully booked.
Lets even say that within a space of two minutes (through an alleged cancellation) a table became available and the white person just got lucky.
Lets take this even further by conceding that upon arrival of my friends, their booking was  "mislaid"? 
And then, miraculously (and through white intervention) a table became available.

So what if all of the above was actually true?

Does that mean my friends experience is less real and can be publicly dismissed?

People in this country are traumatized by a legacy of racism, some to an extend that they are suffering from PTSD or other stress related symptoms. (Racism and PTSD). There are numerous studies out there proving the relevance of Generational Transmission of Trauma and to pretend that we can just move on from trauma without healing is delusional.

Black people have been violated, abused and stripped of their basic human rights because of the color of their skin for centuries.The trauma of racism transcends time and space. So to tell a black person that their experience is not valid is tantamount to telling rape survivors to stop complaining about experiences that trigger their trauma response and just get on with their lives because “not all men are rapists”.  

In that vein it is absurd for us as a society to expect any form of healing and reconciliation if we don't allow for the trauma that is sitting with the majority of our people to be recognized and listened to with respect, compassion and consideration. There is no need to be defensive. To acknowledge the existence of racial bias and racist residue in each and every one of us white people is a first step.

Giving to the disadvantaged and occasionally allowing a quota of black people into my business does not automatically exempt me from racism. Racism is not and I repeat NOT exclusively linked to an intent to hurt or to be racist. In fact, there is a good chance the person is not even aware of the fact that they are acting or thinking or talking racism.

I don't know Michael Nel, I don't know the person or persons my friend had to deal with at the restaurant. To try and expose their innermost thoughts and feelings about people of color is futile and not my intention. In fact, it is not even necessary for me to prove racism. The mere fact that racism still exists today puts an obligation on all of us to deal sensitively, respectfully and compassionately with the people who might be experiencing it on a daily basis. To dismiss their reality is only adding to their trauma and the collective trauma of our society. So here is what I would have liked to hear from Michael Nel or anybody else at the 12 Apostles:

Dear Mrs Mpofu
On behalf of my staff and myself I would like to apologize for the insensitive and hurtful way in which you have been treated at 12 Apostles. Even though I am not aware of any racist behavior, talk or thoughts within my establishment, I fully acknowledge that what happened to you and your family could be seen as a racist incident. In that vein, I promise to do my best to create more awareness within  my establishment of the many different forms and undertones of racism. I will encourage dialogue amongst  my staff about our own underlying racial bias. In order for that to happen I will talk to experts to find the best person in the field to undertake sensitivity and diversity training for my staff members, in which I will personally take part. I am grateful to you for having  brought this to my attention as racism has no place in a well known luxury establishment such as 12 Apostles, which is visited by people from all over the world. I am hopeful that this incident will help us to improve our relations with people from diverse backgrounds. I hope we will see you back at our restaurant under much improved circumstances.

Just a suggestion.....


  1. Strange, that.

    I'd have categorised you quite emphatically as exactly: "...a hater, a moaner, who have a problem with just about anybody on this planet" and I believe a strong case can be made for the "irreparable racist" part as well.

    Strange how perspectives do differ.

  2. Wow, amazing account of your thoughts and feelings. Also, what's more amazing is how you state that a person might not know that they're practising racism 'cause, I guess, that would be something they're accustomed to.

    More human beings like you are needed. Humans that will tell the truth, expose lies and will not be messengers of pity.

  3. I love your response, Martina. Michael Nel and all of us other white people: Please let us listen for what is really being said. This may just not be about us for a change. Thanks Martina for your blog, it is so so valuable.

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  5. I avoid places or ask for opinions so as to avoid the racist...
    surprised not even disciplinary action. Some companies call it negligence not human error. Anyways won't go there ever