A new blog and twitter handle is drawing widespread criticism over its purported depiction of racism and racial profiling on the Facebook pages of several neighborhood watch and community policing forums (CPF). Suburban Fear, portraying itself as the ‘bastion of white middle class fear’, affords citizens the chance to submit screenshots of comments and posts, which supposedly highlight racial paranoia amongst middle class ‘white’ South Africans. The blog also features several images of reported suspects that have been apprehended, and subsequently taken to task by community members.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, the vice secretary of the Western Cape CPF, Michael Jacobs, said they condemned any form of comment or picture posted to the blog, which clearly depicted the racist nature of the individuals behind it.
Seeking to absolve the CPF structures of involvement in racist activity, he stressed that members were subject to a strict code of conduct that prevented them from displaying any form of discrimination towards community members.
“If you look at Suburban Fear’s website, the blog is targeting our foreign nationals and Africans. It is disgraceful and we clearly condemn such actions. We are calling all CPFs and neighborhood watches not to cooperate and send pictures or comments to this blog,” he stated.
The blog has also brought attention to a pre-conceived suspicion amongst many locals towards people of different races, with many of the pictures posted to the respective pages failing to show ‘suspects’ partaking in any activity worthy of suspicion.
“It (online forums) should actually serve as a wide stock over the community, and safeguard them against criminal activity. But when it is being used to classify certain people as criminals, it is really dividing our community. These are structures we don’t want in our community,” he said.
In the case of CPF structures using race as a means of identification, Jacobs said it was understandable that community members would need some form of descriptive to help identify potential suspects. However, the use of those identifiers in a negative manner showed a certain level of arrogance, particularly on the part of those operating the blog.
“When it comes to suspects, there are certainly certain features that need to go out so that people can identify (suspects). We’ve got no problem with that,” he said.
He urged community members to report any CPFs or community watches found cooperating in this regard, either through submissions to the blog or through discriminatory activity on their own personal Facebook page. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)