An interesting thing about this Lydia Polgreen piece in The New York Times: she uses the word “nonwhite” in the course of describing the alleged racial divides evident in Cape Town. My take on that is here (summary: I do think there is a problem), but that’s not what I want to highlight in this post.
What’s interesting is that “nonwhite” is an offensive term in South Africa (Polgreen said to me on Twitter that “coloured” would be more offensive in the US), but that a few folks on Twitter say that this usage in the column is not offensive to them. Is this simply because the column expresses a viewpoint they happen to agree with?
Because, in light of the (sadly, ongoing after 4 days) Twitter war between Helen Zille and her (numerous) critics on her using the word “refugee” to describe Eastern Cape scholars heading for the Western Cape, the question comes to mind: what if Helen Zille had used the term “nonwhite”?
I have little doubt that this would instantly, and widely, be cited as an example of racism on her part. This - if my supposition is correct - would manifest not only confirmation bias, but also eagerness to find fault with Zille in particular, whenever possible.