The racist ‘Poor Little Me’ complex carried to extremes.

An article currently appearing on MSN news:

JOHANNESBURG – “You speak English so well” are words many people of colour in South Africa have heard at least once in their lifetime. However well-intended it may be, though, it’s simply offensive.

On Radio 702’s Weekend Breakfast, a listener by the name of Malcolm called in to congratulate host Phemelo Motene on the way she speaks English. (He didn’t, actually, having called on another topic, but mentioned it in a preamble.)
The radio host responded to Malcolm’s comment by saying that she takes offence to the statement he made.
“The assumption that us, who are not of English origins, chose to speak English is a sad thing she says,” (sic) Motene says.
“To congratulate me, and to make it seem like this is an accolade (sic) is extremely offensive because of our history.
“It’s not an honour to speak English well… It’s very painful that we find ourselves where one language is more dominant than the others.”

The opening paragraph is as absurd as it is untrue. Only a warped viewpoint could translate such praise into something offensive. This perception has been nurtured by endlessly dwelling on all the negative aspects, for members of ‘other’ races, of colonialism and of apartheid, to the extent of bleating, against all common sense and evidence, that positive sides do not exist.
Should an English speaker have occasion to learn Chinese or Spanish (as languages spoken by more people than English) and receive praise for proficiency in speaking them, can you imagine this being taken as anything other than a pleasing compliment?
Is there something wrong with me that I find no pain whatsoever in contemplating the fact that my language is not the dominant one? Is there anywhere on earth where no particular language is dominant?
This is not so much a case of people who take such offence having a chip on their shoulders, it is more one of them electing to carry round a great big log. This is done in apparent blissful ignorance that it is not only extremely uncomfortable, but also makes them look ridiculous.

© August 2018 Colonialist

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Africa, Current Affairs, Language and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to The racist ‘Poor Little Me’ complex carried to extremes.

  1. gipsika says:

    Voice from Cork. (A bit raspy, therefore. 😉 )
    There are Polish people here and German people and Irish people and also a fair number from India, Lithuania and various other places, and if anyone non-Irish is complimented on their English they without exception take it as a compliment. It really takes a politically blinded SJW to make an insult out of it.

    She could also have said with a smile (and a Queen’s accent): “Thank you, dear, actually I learned English when I was a child.” Correcting the “error” of the well-meant compliment. It wouldn’t have cost her any skin off her teeth. But if you’re into “all publicity is good publicity”, making a scene is more effective than being nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • colonialist says:

      Putting it into a personal perspective, I would be delighted if somebody complimented me on the way I spoke Afrikaans. even if the acquisition of that language was forced upon me as a child against my own preferences. I would now be proud of the accomplishment, however it came about.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think she has a right to be offended!


  3. Inira says:

    I also found this article a bit irritating although I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. Technically speaking, only the European English South Africans have English as their native language. An Afrikaaner also has a tough time speaking English, so what? Articles like this just cause issues and take up space when we could be reading something worth while


    • colonialist says:

      It could be argued that regardless of the faults in writing, the article was the product of good reporting. What is truly irritating is the ridiculous attitude of the announcer, and the fact that it is echoed in a number of other similar immature reactions with a racist basis.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. disperser says:

    The ironic part is that — be it “their” language or not — few people speak well. Our own president is a glaring example.

    Still, I can somewhat understand the underlying sentiment. At the same time, I agree it takes effort to look for and find insults even when not intentioned.

    If I say Obama spoke well I’m likely to be called a racist but not if I say Clinton and Regan spoke well.

    I’m sometimes told I write well . . . I be no sure if be it an insult as engleesh ain’t my native language . . . but, it is my adopted (native) language. Regardless of which language I use, I’d like to think I’m expressing myself (speak or write) well.

    . . . but, that’s just me . . .


You have the right to remain silent - but please don't!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s