When eNCA Failed To Read The Room

There are few things more upsetting to black people the world over than blatant racism. It’s been the bane of our collective existence for all time. Tbh: we are tired of it.

So when racist acts are proven to be true, when the evidence is made plain for all to see – it can be extremely triggering for those who have had to tolerate racism, bite their tongues and swallow their pride just to keep jobs and money flowing, to accept those who defend it.

When eNCA’s Political reporter Lindsay Dentlinger was shown being prejudicial in her enforcement of COVID-19 Protocols during a live broadcast following the 2021 Budget speech, instead of a heartfelt apology, the eNC accused the public of being unfair.

“This incident represents an inaccurate and unfair image of her work. In an intense live broadcast environment like the Budget Speech coverage, our journalists are under pressure to remain compliant while delivering fair, accurate and balanced news. The journalist had to contend with being live on air and taking producer instructions via her earpiece and unfortunately failed to request that the interviewee wear a mask. Criticism to this extent leveled at a journalist under these circumstances is unfair and unfortunate. Comments and some video content that are currently being shared is maliciously misleading.” wrote John Bailey, Managing Editor of eNCA

It was clear during the live broadcast that Dentlinger was extremely consistent in her behaviour towards black politicians. She clearly asked them to put their masks on, respect Covid-19 Protocols and be good examples to the public. She never once asked the white politicians whom she interviewed without masks on to do the same; respect Covid-19 protocols or set a good example to the public. Which is what enraged black people and created the eNCAmustfall hashtag.

There was no plausible deniability of preferential treatment in this case. The interviews in question were back to back. Unless Dentlinger has an acute case of selective amnesia, she could not claim as the eNCA’s statement asserts that the public is being “unfair”. Lindsay was the one being unfair when she interviewed Pieter Groenewald & John Steenhuisen without their masks on, while she told UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, to put his mask on before being interviewed seconds after the white politicians exited her stage.

Given the “pressure of live broadcasts” this incident can only be interpreted as a brilliant exposition of Lindsay Dentlinger’s unconscious racism and implicit bias against black people. Implicit or unconscious biases are learned stereotypes that are automatic, seemingly associative, unintentional, deeply ingrained, universal, and able to influence behavior.

In the mid to late 90’s black South Africans went to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to find answers and listen to the atrocities white Apartheid government committed against black people. Black South Africans were repeatedly urged to do the right thing; do the work, forgive, forget, get over it, apologise, appease white fragility by constantly checking their tone of voice, of anger and resentment because Apartheid was now firmly in the past. Racism was abolished. While black people did the work, extended hands, forgave and apologised; white people didn’t have to do anything. They didn’t have to apologise, change their behaviours or ingrained stereotypes which is why today, a seasoned political journalist like Dentlinger with 21 years of experience can display such unbridled racism and still turn around and accuse the public of being “unfair” towards her and her work.

It’s the tone-deafness of some racist white people and the institutions they represent in this country which makes it difficult for black people to “move on” and “leave it in the past” because it is still happening today. Even when Dentlinger was shown to later interview one black politician without a mask also as seen below, a lack of senivity towards racial issues in the country just make matters worse.

Instead of using this incident as a teachable moment, learning from it and apologising for the obvious racism shown on camera even thought it was not intentional, eNCA chose to gaslight the public and be defiantly arrogant. “Through our deliberations, we have found that there is no mal intent on the part of the journalist. We further found that the way the journalist and eNCA has been perceived through this incident is unfair and not a true reflection of the journalist or our channel”.

They should learn from others

In America the Host of ABC’s The Batchelor franchise, Chris Harrison, was forced to issue two apologies and temporarily step away from his 20 year career for failing to denounce racism after it was revealed that one of the contestants in the current bachelor season, Rachel Kirkconnell had exhibited racist behaviour in the recent past.

Questions over Kirkconnell’s social media behaviour began to circulate when a viral TikTok purported to reveal the contestant “liking” posts containing the Confederate flag and sharing QAnon conspiracy theories. Then photos resurfaced on Reddit and showed the Georgia native, who is now 24, attending an “Old South” plantation-themed college party in 2018.

Instead of an apology Chris Harrison admonished ” the work police” for pressing the issue. “Who the hell are you ? Who the hell are you, that you demand this (an apology from Rachel Kirkconnell)” he asked former and first African America Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay in an “extra” interview.

In the interview Harrison urged the public to “have a little grace” and give “poor” Kirkconnell whose life was being destroyed by hate trolls on social media some time. “I respect her enough to allow her the courtesy of time” he said even though six weeks had elapsed since the first accusations and years had passed since Kirkconnell showed racist behaviour.

Similarly like Harrison, in their statement eNCA chose to simply spit on black people’s faces, and continue the long tradition of Apartheid South Africa, of gaslighting black people by manipulating them psychologically, sowing seeds of doubt and making them question their own memories, perceptions and judgements. We are all human and we all make mistakes yes, but failure to apologise and correct those mistakes when they are pointed out is a choice. For eNCA to blatantly defend Dentlinger’s unconscious racism shows how much the media organisation values black people’s feelings.

Again we asked to just “get over it”

What Chris Harrison did in the Bachelor interview is light compared to Dentlinger’s racist behaviour this week, yet even he was cognisant of the gravity of his words and the hurt it caused black people who have had to wage bloody battles with their teeth and nails just to be afforded the status of “human beings”. So he apologised and voluntarily stepped aside to dedicate himself to getting an education because, ” By excusing historical racism I defended it. I have no one to blame for what I said and the way I spoke.” he concluded.

An apology of that nature would have sufficed. Perhaps it is a little too late now for Dentlinger and eNCA. But for those of you who want to be proactively anti-racist in your behaviour – there’s always something you can do, you can start here to UNLEARN.

Unlearn is the only guided program of its kind that shows you how to shed anti-black beliefs or biases. Over nine weeks you’ll unpack your old beliefs and biases, analyse their origins and do the work of racial healing. You’ll move from being nervous and anxious in conversation about race, to confident and ready to be an authentic friend, parent, and ally to Black people.

The tide has turned.

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