As retailers ran to their laptops to punch out statements distancing themselves from TRESemmé it felt performative, reactive and late. It felt like the white power bloc at Checkers and Dis-Chem had reluctantly taken a knee, reassuring their consumers that they were not like “them”.

SA has always had a special place in the fringe imagination of the white right wing, world leaders at the most crass and demeaning displays of racism. Yet for people who have lived with it for centuries we seem to think we can reduce it to these visible acts and “unconscious bias” — innocent acts of prejudice or lapses in social training. Our apologies, emptied of truth, make race relations a game of rehearsed civility rather than the messy work of institutional and economic justice...

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