CNN’s Fareed Zakaria hosted author Malcolm Gladwell to discuss his new offering, Revisionist History, a 10-week series podcast under the tagline “Sometimes the past deserves a second chance”. Gladwell re-examines past events that have been overlooked, episode 2 deals with a psychological phenomenon known as “moral licensing”.
Mental health website pickthebrain.com describes moral licensing as an “interesting mental glitch”. It is likely that white South Africans – to help strengthen their positive self-image have opened the DA to blacks – this however, allowing them to be able to continue with their oppressive behaviour towards the majority of blacks. The phenomenon of “I am not racist, my best friend is black” – the positive self-image is to have a black friend, but this leads to a likelihood of making immoral choices over race or to take matters lightly.
Pickthebrain explains that: “Moral licensing can be hard to understand sometimes. In its essence, it’s about using something good to justify something bad, often without even realising it.”
Moral licensing has been seen in the country where the DA’s white members have been expressing racial slurs against black people. Penny Sparrow lost her DA membership as a result. Two DA members of parliament who often express disagreement with racist statements found themselves either consciously or unconsciously fondly associating with racially hurtful Afrikaners like Paul Kruger and PW Botha, the pre-eminent purveyors of mayhem and brutality against black South Africans.
The other, in 2014, likened blacks to dogs. Moral licensing found expression in high court Judge Mabel Jansen holding harmful and offensive racial stereotyping of blacks as sexual savages. Her moral licence emanates from her having adopted black children who went to the media – further licensing her by asking, “look at us, how can our mother be racist?”
Likewise, the DA sees no problem in stating that it will, among other things, outlaw affirmative action and black empowerment policies, acts that would be immoral in light of the massive advantage white South African have over their lacking black counterparts. The licence here is that the DA has advanced a few black leaders and are now able to be bold and talk of “freedom, fairness and opportunity for all”.
DA’s freedom is straightforward but when we look at fairness, it is where the monstrous disjuncture arises. Fairness says be fair on whites in so far as redress and the affirmation of blacks are concerned. Fairness says in a job application, ignore race altogether and regard 1994 as “tabula rasa”. Fairness in an unfair slate is immoral. Likewise, the white only referendum in 1992 has whites patting themselves on their backs for their moral behaviour, becoming self-righteous.
The Nazis had Jews they were very fond of, Jews they deeply loved. These Jews were protected with the majority executed by the same Nazis who did not see that their selective love of one among many does not excuse the evil they unleashed. Similarly, you may hold a view that Mmusi Maimane is not a “monkey” as former DA member Sparrow slurred but other blacks monkeys, due to the moral licence Maimane offers.