Leon Schuster’s use of blackface is nothing new – but many have spoken out about the racial insensitivity in his portrayal of black people and it’s sparked a movement to have his films removed from all broadcast platforms. While the SABC and Multichoice are still looking into removing his catalogue, nine Leon Schuster films were taken off local streaming service Showmax this week. Now, comedian Rob Van Vuuran is standing up and apologising for his use of black face in one of these particular films.
Rob starred in the 2013 movie ‘Schuks! Your Country Needs You’ alongside Leon, Lare Birk and Alfred Ntombela where they prank unsuspecting South Africans in everyday situations. The star took to social media to publicly apologize for his involvement in the film and use of blackface.
“There is no easy way to say this. In 2013 I did blackface in a Leon Schuster movie. I am deeply ashamed about this fact and very sorry for the hurt it has caused. I wish I could say that I didn’t know any better at the time, but the truth is that I did,” Rob said in a statement on social media.
“I made all sorts of excuses for myself at the time to justify doing it. I pointed to the diversity of the demographics of Leon’s audience; I argued that his work was most powerful when it exposed white hypocrisy in the ‘rainbow nation’ and revealed the fears and anxieties of a white minority unwilling to relinquish its privilege. I convinced myself that any of the characters I portrayed would be from a place of love and respect.”
The 43-year-old is a father to a child of colour and admits that while he knew he shouldn’t have been involved in the film, he told himself that Leon’s work shines a light on white hypocrisy and chose to use this as an excuse to get the pay check and look the other way.
“In the end, the money fades very quickly, but the choices I make stay with me. I betrayed not only myself but also my daughter. Living with the shame of that is a small price to pay for unlearning my prejudices and the growth that comes with accepting the consequences of my behaviour,” he says.
“I have a responsibility to myself and my daughter to be better. I apologise unreservedly for the hurt my actions have caused and for contributing to negative stereotypes from a position of power and privilege. I cannot change what I have done but I can be mindful of how I can contribute to the conversation going forward from a position of empathy and humility.”