A beauty queen has been accused and condemned of racism just for wearing disposable gloves while distributing food to orphan children living with HIV.
Miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters handed out meals at a soup kitchen in Johannesburg in an activity that was intended to be a feel-good charity event. But she had to fend off bad feelings and wild accusations right after the event as social media users bombarded her with criticisms.
The 22-year-old beauty queen of mixed race explained that she wore disposable gloves solely for hygiene purposes as she was dishing out food to children at Ikageng community center. All the children at the center were either orphans, HIV-positive, or both.
Miss South Africa received a barrage of criticisms and hate messages right after she posted about the event on Twitter. She also shared a photo of her sitting beside a black child, her hands in gloves, one hand holding food, the other feeding what appears to be bread to her mouth. She tweeted: “ Winter is for yummysoup, fresh bread rolls, and cozy blankets. Love supporting @themaslowhotel’s #wintersoupdrive.
One Twitter user wrote a judgment-laden “question “ addressed to the beauty queen: “I want to know why she would put on latex gloves to touch black children.“ Another shared the same sentiment: “I really can’t believe ’our Miss SA is wearing latex so that she can touch these kids.”
A third jumped to a wild conclusion saying the beauty queen wore gloves “to protect herself from black kids “ because she feared that they would “contaminate her. “
Then she trended online for the wrong reasons on Thursday, with social media users having a field day mocking her with the hashtag #MissSAChallenge. People posted various photos making fun of their Miss South Africa. One shared a photo of her hands wearing white gloves while typing on black keyboards, with the message: “Was at work minding my own business but then I remembered. Hygiene 1st. “
Others posted photos of them reading a book, making a drink while wearing gloves.
The community center where the charity event took place reacted and said the Twitter storm targeting Miss South Africa was “ridiculous.” Program director Carol Dyanti even clarified the whole gloves thing and said: “All volunteers, including our staff members, wore gloves during the food preparation. It was mandatory.”
Dyanti also expressed sadness that focus was taken away from the feel-good event and diverted to what could actually be nothing but a petty non-issue. She said: “It was such a successful day and I am sorry that the focus is now on the gloves rather the positive impact it had. “
It’s more unfortunate that in some people’s rush to brand something as racism and take up the cudgels for those they perceive- even when wrong- as the victims, they lose out their sense of fairness and logic and end up ridiculing not the accused racist, but themselves.