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Danny K says he called out racism because he is Jewish

  • DannyK
Jewish South African singer Danny Koppel, better known as Danny K, tweeted to his 44 500 followers that South Africans should stand up against racism – and received a vicious backlash in response.
by TALI FEINBERG | Mar 14, 2019

“Im totally bewildered with the lack of empathy shown by many white South Africans. You don’t need to be woke to get that for the most part we have benefited from the marginalisation and exclusion of people of colour. Own your priveldge (sic), appreciate it and pay it forward,” he wrote.

But many South Africans called him out, saying he should “get off his soapbox” and “stop being condescending”. Even Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said Koppel “needed spelling lessons”.

“Danny K seems to have touched the ‘I don't see colour’ brigade on their studios,” tweeted video journalist Wesley Fester. Another Twitter user, Thabo Makhado, wrote: “Hi Danny K, I know you mean well. But in case of South Africa, Afrikans/Blacks aren’t ‘people of colour’. Afrikans are indigenous in this part of the earth and therefore their skin colour is a norm. Other races can be called ‘people of colour’ in Afrika, but not Afrikans (sic)!”

But Koppel has stuck by his tweet, responding to each attack with reasoned responses. Speaking to the SA Jewish Report, he said he wrote his message because “I would like to think that I have always been a person who finds racism intolerable. Being Jewish, I am acutely aware what it’s like to be on the receiving end of bigotry and hatred.

“This forms part of standing up against any form of social injustice. We find ourselves in a deeply divided society, and you don’t need to look far to find an event that is perpetuating this divide. My thoughts are to start the conversation and continue the healing.”

Koppel says he was truly shocked that a simple call to action to stand up against racism, or own one’s privilege, “could in anyway be considered as revolutionary or controversial. I think it’s incredibly revealing of those who interpreted this as a problem, or had a problem with me saying it.”

He adds that “most, if not all, black people celebrated [the tweet], and what was really revealing was the amount of hurt and pain that still exists out there. Many people thanked me for voicing what people may be feeling, but are not voicing publicly.”

He said it’s never easy being attacked. “But if I take a balanced view of supporters versus haters, then I am left feeling more positive than despondent.”

Koppel says everyone has a duty to stand up for social justice – celebrities included. “People with big, powerful voices should be using those voices and that influence for good. Racism is in every community, every country, every religion globally – ours included.”

Koppel said if he was to go back in time, he would definitely tweet the same message. “Since this exploded, I have continued to hold firm and stand by my principles. I am committed to rebuilding and striving for true social justice and cohesion, and we can only do this if we are having honest and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.

“My acknowledgement of my privilege frames my outlook and brings empathy, gratitude and responsibility into my life. It’s the driving force behind all my social cohesion work – Shout for a Safer South Africa, our library building project, and my keynote, Worlds Apart or Partners, with Kabelo Mabalane, where we give people much-needed tools to navigate around our racially charged society.”

Koppel says he is committed to creating a place “where tweets like mine don’t make news, or stir up emotions on both sides of the aisle. Then we will have built a society and country in which we all can win.”

He encourages young people in the Jewish community to stand up and make any contribution that will result in us moving forward as a country. “My parents instilled this in me and it’s the reason I do what I do.

“Jews have always been great soldiers of social justice in South Africa. Our charitable contributions in every area are meaningful and well documented,” he adds. “I am proud of my community and the values instilled in me through my Jewish heritage.

“Our religion is based on principles and values that are in total unity with the views expressed in my tweets. It’s for all these reasons that I know I will continue to be supported by my own people.”

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