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Society is becoming increasingly polarised by racist speech, with fresh cases involving racial slurs occurring weekly. Kessie Nair recently used the “k-word” to label President Cyril Ramaphosa and has been charged with crimen iniuria. In August, Adam Catzavelos posted a Facebook video (strangely reminiscent of Penny Sparrow’s 2015 “beach monkey” post), using the “k-word” to describe the demographics of a Greek beach. Last week, a Hot91.9fm DJ, Sasha Martinengo, was fired for referring to Julius Malema as a monkey during a broadcast. Martinengo has apologised but has since tweeted: “I’m sorry … but … Anyone, irrespective of their race … who disrespects a woman is a monkey.” The EFF has retaliated. It will be pursuing a criminal case against Martinengo, because “racists belong in jail”. Most of those who use racist language face criminal charges or lose their jobs. They generally apologise. Some do so unreservedly; others add the “I’m not a racist” rider. But these apologies have litt...

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