Miss South Africa Dragged for Wearing Gloves With HIV-Positive Orphans

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters via Twitter screenshot
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters via Twitter screenshot

I can’t roll my eyes hard enough over this one. Miss South Africa has sparked the ire of the internet after images emerged of her wearing gloves while visiting an orphanage for HIV-positive children in Johannesburg.

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Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, whom the Daily Mail identifies as mixed race, posted a photo of herself wearing white medical gloves while eating sandwiches and soup with a group of black children. She captioned the shot, “Winter is for yummy soup, fresh bread rolls and cozy blankies supporting @themaslowhotel’s #wintersoupdrive.” (It’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere.)

Almost immediately, black (African) Twitter went to work.

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Many were outraged, including one asking, “Do you always eat with the gloves on???” and posting photos of Peters hugging white children and dogs sans gloves.

The 22-year-old Nel-Peters released a video on the same day in response, saying that she wore the gloves to be as “hygienic as possible,” and that her intentions were “completely misunderstood” and apologizing. “The real story was that 300 kids got a proper warm lunch and they got that with or without gloves,” Nel-Peters noted. Oh?

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Predictably, Twitter laughed in her face with the hashtag #MissSAChallenge, showing South Africans in gloves doing everyday things, including putting on lotion.

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It’s good to know that black Twitter works around the world.


PSA: The nation of South Africa has been ravaged by HIV and AIDS and has the largest number of HIV-positive adults in the world.

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According to Avert, South Africa had an estimated 7 million people living with HIV in 2015. In the same year, there were 380,000 new infections, and 180,000 South Africans died from AIDS-related illnesses. Millions of children in South Africa have been orphaned by AIDS.

By the way, “AIDS Awareness Day” was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, though I’m not sure it’s real. Regardless, let’s use the day to recommit to ending this devastating disease that disproportionately affects people of color, killing many and stigmatizing many more.

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Editor’s note: The statistics on HIV/AIDS in South Africa have been updated.  

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.

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DISCUSSION

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ScenicRoute

Okay, let’s be clear that she certainly should have taken the gloves off when she started talking to people and posing for photos after handing out food, but did you guys really only pull the images of her wearing gloves while she was handing out food and while they were eating (which mean she’d probably JUST been handing out food), but not pull any of the photos where she wasn’t wearing gloves OR where other black helpers were also wearing gloves? (They’re available on both her personal account and the Miss South Africa account. I know because I checked.)

Like, I’m all for calling out this shit when we see it, but even as a kid if I was handing out open food or drinks to other kids in any “official-ish” situation I was made to wear gloves. I volunteered for Head Start numerous times because my mom worked there and guess what, we were made to wear gloves when handing out food. And sometimes you get distracted by other things and forget to take them off until they either bother you or you have to switch them out for new ones because you’ve touched things other than food.

There are also pictures of her handing out blankets without gloves and of her holding and playing with kids without gloves that same day.