One of the latest controversies online is how reigning Miss South Africa Demi Leigh Nel-Peters was being called of as ‘racist’ after wearing gloves while being with orphaned black children with HIV in Soweto, South Africa…
Demi Leigh served food for orphaned kids living with the HIV virus while wearing gloves and was pictured with them while being with the kids on her Twitter account. This sparked some comments over Twitter that she was being ‘racist’ for wearing the gloves as HIV and AIDS aren’t transmitted through skin to skin contact but through passing of bodily fluids (through intercourse, contaminated needles, etc…). Some comments questioned the need for wearing gloves in mingling with the kids questioning her motives. In some other photos though she is seen touching the kids without the gloves on. But the barrage of angry tweets have already made this an issue. This prompted Demi to release a video explaining the use of gloves saying, “all the volunteers on site wore gloves because we were told it was the right thing to do while working with food and we were handing out food to young kids. That was our only intention with wearing the gloves; to be as hygienic as possible. I really feel that my intentions were completely misunderstood. To me, the moral of the story today is that 300 kids got a proper, warm lunch and they got that with or without gloves, so I am a bit sad my intentions were taken completely wrong and I can only apologize if I offended anybody.”
My personal take on this is that there was nothing wrong with the usage of the gloves. It was actually a hygienic practice among food servers to wear them. What was taken out of context though was when she mingled with the kids while still wearing them. If she knew that media are there to photograph her charity work, she should have minded to have taken the gloves off after serving food and started being photographed with the children. There was no wrong omitted here except for the fact that Demi or her Miss SA team should have been more aware of implications if she was photographed wearing gloves interacting with HIV infected kids. It did give off a negative note, specially as it was Demi who posted the pic on her social media account.
I hope that she would be more media savvy in the future to avoid these kinds of social media mistakes. In a world where everything is at a digital fast pace, a picture may depict a thousand words but it doesn’t always speak the full truth. Race still seems to be a touchy topic in South Africa, a shadow of the apartheid policy that divided the country in the past. So Demi should have been more aware and sensitive of that, or at least people around her should have been.