South Africa considers making hate speech a criminal offence as it seeks to improve on racial harmony.
151 years after the end of slavery, the N-word is still and explosive word that opens up old words. In South Africa, there is an equivalent to the N-word that stirs up racial tension and that is the K-word, kaffir.
Kaffir is an offensive word used to insult black South Africans. Back in the dark days of South Africa, it was used a lot by Afrikaans to insult black South Africans. The word is so racially charged that the word is whispered in public or not said at all. It reminds South Africans of their ugly past as they try to forge a delicate racial balance for the future.
Vicki Momberg didn't care about the future when she used the offensive word to address a bunch of black policemen in Johannesburg after thieves broke into her car.
Angry, she lashed out at the policemen and the black people in Jo'burg. "The kaffirs here in Jo'burg are terrible. I'm so sick of it, I really am...I don't care what anyone says, I do not like a single black in Jo'burg...They are opinionated, they're arrogant, and they are just plain and simple...useless."
Momberg's rant captured on video has gotten her into trouble. She is presently on trial and will pay a hefty fine if found guilty.
The South African government is looking beyond fines when someone uses a slur. A new legislation is being considered and if passed into law, a person can be sentenced to 10 years in prison if found guilty of hate speech.
The move has supporters on both sides. While others are hoping this becomes law, others believe this law would infringe on the right of South African's to freely express themselves.
In America, with its racial complexities, there is no such law like this. Freedom of expression reigns supreme which is why a legislation against hate speech doesn't exist.
South Africa is imitating nations like Britain, Canada, France, and Germany that have made hate speech a hate crime.
While the country has made giant strides from the days of apartheid it is still too early to think words from the past no longer hurt. Maybe this legislation would help hasten the future of racial harmony that South Africa wants.