#CorruptFreeAfrica – “Corruption Via Tribalism” (competition entry)

Category: Non-Fiction

Each tribe’s greed-to-glory cannibalizes vulnerable people while allowing it to commit atrocities against competitor tribes.

Each one’s city walls have to be impenetrable, unconquerable and unrapable.

Being a machine of conquest and sovereignty, each civilization values the strength of its men.  Each man’s armor and body protect him from being stabbed, gored, penetrated or raped by another, while his weapons allow him to inflict the raping and the stabbing.  Each male body is the State in miniature.

When an invader does breach the fort that is the male body (which is a microcosm of the State) it brings shame and pain to the victim as well as the city he protects.  In the ancient world, experienced armies would add the final humiliation of raping the men of the cities they’d conquered.

The male body is so wired that in the over-stimulated disorientation of an adrenalin-fuelled moment, it can be brought to any extreme.  Nobody speaks about male rape because it sometimes has an “unexpected ending”, and the face of the rapist haunts and blackmails his victim forever.  “I have power over you, and on some level you wanted to give it to me”.

In the absence of scientific knowledge about the male anatomy and psyche, it was therefore believed that each male rape victim pretended to be a trustworthy guard for his city but really wanted front-line duty so that he could experience a pleasure that his culture and society did not cater for, receiving it at the hand and the “spear” of any man who’ll offer it even if he is the enemy.

From this primordial crisis emerged masculinity as crisis- and image-management; from this one invisible archetype of the shameful man and “failed” masculinity arose a preemptive, performative response to that crisis.  Masculinity as we know it is a panicked retreat from this raped man who is seen as feminine, weak or soft.  It holds  nourishing, diplomatic traits in contempt.  Homosexuality has been seen as the cancer in masculinity whereby masculinity abdicated itself and its role as a brick in the city wall – and perversely enjoyed every moment of its glorious undoing.

The gathering of heteropatriarchal entities such as the South African government with the ANC on the pinnacle, the various indigenous royalties and nobilities, and even the black male presidencies of neighboring countries, have silently watched over the coats of those that stone lesbian and gay persons across Africa.

With every election, most black South Africans vote their culture, tribe and tribal representative into office in order to assert the superiority of their own tribesmen over every other – the Zulus over the Xhosas and the Sothos – thus vindicating their ancient claim to supremacy, conquering power and unrapability as a nation.  By voting, each tribe gathers in its numbers to establish invincibility and immortality for itself lest it be consumed by other nations.

And that’s why the ANC will remain in power “until Jesus returns” in spite of its corruption.  So nothing even gets achieved for or by the black majority to vindicate the whole scheme.

When tribalism disguises itself as patriotism, everything hides in double-talk.  No words mean what they’re supposed to mean.  Accountability, truth, justice, transparency, democracy, Constitution, republic, God and State – it’s all lip service used to disguise, divide and conquer.  The government could play the Zulus off against the Xhosas by illicitly passing over Xhosas for Stare posts, giving them to the Zulus.  There are no principles: there are only circumstances, shortcuts and underhanded dealings.  Above law, these political and traditional leaders uphold and defend “African tradition” from the ravages of colonialism – and they’re so good, they defend African culture against colonialism from their houses in Sandton, their vehicles from Germany, their suits from Italy, accounts in Switzerland and while smoking their cigars from Cuba.  Then they blame apartheid and white people for their subjects’ suffering.  Eventual white genocide is optional but if white taxpayers continue to cooperate like they’ve been doing, the thought won’t even cross anybody’s minds the way it so violently crossed their minds with that little appetizer of Sowetan xenophobic attacks against scapegoated foreigners.  The government doesn’t want to admit that there’s a xenophobia problem because that would mean admitting its complicity in playing up the tribalistic tendencies of one group against the other.

Bad leaders need tribalism.  Tribalism needs homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia and racism.

Tribalism 101 says every woman has to find a man who embodies everything one’s tribe wishes to be.  The social group as a whole has to reject men who do not fit into the picture of masculinity that protects its tribalistic priorities.  Likewise, the people have to find a leader, or a “husband” that represents everything the tribe wishes to be – able to rape without being raped and conquer without being conquered.  Patriarchy is phallogocentrism, the worshiping and privileging of the conquering and raping power of men.  But this phallic idol we trusting in thrusts into all it comes across, impaling its worshipers.

Praising it, the voting majority has asked to be ravaged, broken and eaten up by this phallocentric god.  To be raped.  They display the very shame they point out in homosexuals.  They voting majority wants to be fucked by its government, and is willing to throw away its right to decent service so that it can be fucked by its government just as the stereotyped homosexual is willing to throw away everything that is represented by his masculinity in order to be fucked.

It has become the thing it feared becoming and is experiencing the thing it feared experiencing.

This rigidly held insistence on this myth of its unrapability is the reason the majority keeps getting raped.  It’s why beaten wives go back and betrayed voters keep voting.

Awareness is the first step out of the maize.

Thank you for reading.  Please follow me on Twitter or send me an email




SONA2015 Debate: Maimane’s Sermon On The Mount

A few days ago, DA Parliamentary Leader Mmusi Maimane told Jacob Zuma where to shove it.  “For you, honourable President, are not an honourable man,” he declared.  “You are a broken man presiding over a broken society.”

I heard of black ANC supporters that said they will vote for the DA in the 2019 elections after hearing Maimane’s words.  I heard of these people from non-black people who were stunned that one man’s voice could shake the 62%.  But I didn’t come across any of these black people myself.

Maimane didn’t say anything Lindiwe Mazibuko didn’t say.  So contrary to impressed reports about how Maimane changed black people’s minds, I have instead met many black people that were repulsed by Maimane’s words, calling him a “puppet” that’s played into the white minority’s hands.

“Maimane has proven how unAfrican he is,” an Indian ANC-supporting colleague pointed out in his lecture to me about African manners, values and etiquette.  “I don’t care what Zuma’s done; you don’t speak to an elder like that”.  He was not impressed by the black messiah’s Sermon on the Mount.

The Standard Response

The Standard Response

Most of us darkies were raised on a diet of fierce tribal loyalty, an unquestioning respect of elders and the fear of the rod. Apartheid exacerbated this through its culture of violence, oppression and control; nobody could rise much higher than the known environment.  The problem with corporal punishment is that it causes pain.  Pain is trauma, and where there is trauma, consciousness is distorted by its attempt to withdraw from or cope with the point at which trauma is inflicted.

Consider domestic abuse.  The beaten wife normally doesn’t leave her husband; instead, she tries to earn his “forgiveness” for whatever she believes she’s done to “deserve” the beating.  She must be the one in the wrong, she thinks; why would someone so strong and powerful pick on her unless she really deserved to be hit?  In her eyes, he becomes the embodiment of goodness, and she sees herself as riddled with sin.  She needs him to validate her worth; his desertion would be eternal damnation.  He is her savior.  She will try to appease and placate the one she believes has power over her and her conscience – that is, the power to forgive her sins and restore her sense of self-worth; the power to silence those voices in her that told her she’d never find a man because she wasn’t a good-enough woman; the power, with one bouquet of roses and a promise of “I won’t do it again, I’m so sorry”, to ease her niggling self-doubt.

We view those who’ve inflicted pain on us through a lens of fear though we don’t always realize that we are afraid.  Fear is in conflict with our ability to think rationally or tell our thoughts from our feelings.  Dissonance then occurs between what we (should) intellectually know about the situation, and what our fear tells us.  Unable to remain close to those who inflict pain on us without explaining their abusiveness away, we invent a story that allows us to cope with remaining in intimacy with them in spite of their ongoing abusiveness.  I’m not a psychologist but I think this is why beaten wives invent the story of their own guilt as explained above.  The abuser relies on her trust (she is psychologically cornered) and on her buy-in for the story to serve its purpose; he feeds and encourages it.  It’s why hostages sometimes exhibit signs of Stockholm Syndrome.  Wikipedia says that “Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.  These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness”.  Note that: victims mistake a lack of abuse for an act of kindness.  In the words of my Indian colleague we need instead of focusing on everything that’s gone wrong under Zuma, to focus on everything that’s still intact and praise the ANC for it.

Unable to cope with the idea that those in power over us are indeed evil, we locate the evil somewhere outside of them whether that somewhere else is in ourselves or another place.  For in what kind of universe is power in the hands of the wicked?  The notion is untenable.  So we invent a story and we hold to it as though it were religious dogma.  Because that’s precisely what it is.  We are sinners.  We deserve to be punished.  Otherwise we’re being punished unjustly without a greater power (that we know of) to rescue us.  Such a universe is the essence of hell and we’d never admit its possibility.  The story saves us from such a possibility.  Alternatively, we find sacrificial lambs and scapegoats who take away the sins of the nation.

If you’re Mmusi Maimane and you attack the captor of someone who has Stockholm Syndrome, you’re the bad guy; the captor isn’t.  In other words, Jacob Zuma laughed through most of the debate because Maimane was playing into his hands.  Zuma knows his people because he was one of them before the ANC made him bigger than they were, exposing to him many things about the human psyche.  Maimane won black voters over for Zuma.  All that was left for Zuma to do was charm everyone else.  And so he did, especially white people with his speech about how the Afrikaner “will not be driven into the sea”.  But he knew that like good beaten wives, black people would stay loyal one way or the other; that was in the bag.  So he laughed.

The ANC’s intense hatred of “clever blacks” who have “forgotten where they come from” and “how they were raised” is because these blacks didn’t “learn” to switch off original thought and obey what they were told by their unquestionable elders and tribal chiefs.  Maybe they weren’t hit hard enough.  Maybe Mom and Dad didn’t give them enough of the Sergeant-Major treatment.  They didn’t conform.  Most alarmingly, clever blacks refused to remain underdog victims along with other black people.  Black people’s security blanket of perpetual victimhood can serve a purpose other than always telling the truth.

Raised, as most black people are, on the holy communion of the bodies and blood of those martyred by apartheid, black people have much too much vested in not taking real control of their destinies.  For one, whenever a black person takes responsibility for his fate, he is forced to admit that he’d previously relinquished it for absolutely no good reason.  He is forced to admit that he’d lived in fear of those with power over himself, as described above.  The domestic abuse survivor who tries to leave knows she will get the worst beating ever if she is caught, so she goes fetal position even in her mind where she now blames herself for wishing things were better. Black people who wish their lives were more decent begin to feel guilty for it so they recommit to the struggle for “democratization”.  They know that once they start speaking out against what they’re seeing and what they know, they will be punished, so they switch off or they also partake of the corruption and crime.  It’s the only option the system offers.  The oppressed joins and becomes the oppressor.

This doesn’t mean that black people in this situation completely lose the ability to rationalize: it means that this ability now must be channeled into explaining why they support an essentially broken system.  Wishing to save face and stay loyal to other members of their tribe, the black man would rather blame the past and present circumstances than break out of self-limiting patterns or take responsibility for his fate.  This isn’t to say that past and present circumstances don’t exist: it is to say that on some level, the black person needs them to exist so they can corroborate his story about why he remains disempowered or chained to a government that leaves him powerless.  It’s safer to have that story than to point out the reason and expose its abusiveness.

Being stuck in an abusive situation also churns up feelings of inadequacy.  Accusing other races of racism protects the black man from having to confront where these feelings of inadequacy begin.  For if he admitted that the elders he listens to, the superstitions he holds to and the political mistakes he repeats are the reason he suffers and has a low view of himself, he’d be admitting that he, along with the black South African majority, have been doing it to themselves.  So he’d rather believe that the white MPs behind Mmusi Maimane are the reason he continues to suffer, and he’d rather believe this no matter how clearly they articulate their desire for non-racist policies.

White skins and faces are “other” so accusing them of racism helps him expel these built-up feelings of self-imposed anger and frustration where it’s morally safe to throw those feelings.  White people are extras in the story, and through these evil extras, the black man may weave a story that, unlike the abused wife’s story, locates the evil not in the abused or the abuser, but in a third party.  In those instances that it has no basis in objective reality, the black man’s charge of racism allows him to project his insecurities into the other’s face as contempt whether contempt was there in the first place or not (“Seek and ye shall [eventually] find what you’re looking for”).

The black man cannot, however, afford to recognize the real contempt in the leaders and middle class who share his skin colour as they treat him with absolute arrogance.  Contempt from his people sticks.  Contempt from someone who shares his skin colour is a family betrayal; it’s too much power in the hands of people too close and too powerful – a moral contradiction the mind rejects and replaces with the easier story of white racism.  In this new story, Zuma wasn’t laughing at democracy’s death; he was laughing at the failure of white counter-revolutionary and undemocratic elements to thwart the advance of the Liberation Struggle.  Aluta Continua!  Rather than admit that her husband is beating her, this abused wife has been afforded a scapegoat to blame.  Whites become the sacrificial lambs in this religious sacrifice, taking away the combined sins of apartheid we thought we abolished and the tribalism we never even learned to name.

Contempt from fellow black people wounds as deeply and personally as if the mirror reflection leaned back and spat in one’s face.  It is because white people are “not human” or are “secondhand humans” that racism from them doesn’t count as much.  In a bizarre table-turn on Eurocentricism, blackness becomes the unquestioned normal against which every other race is measured and viewed.  This is a healthy sign of selfhood intact despite centuries of being told to worship a white God and reject a black Satan.

In this algorithm, whether whites truly are racist or not is of secondary importance; their racism – invented or not – becomes a welcome relief from having no other story to explain the irrational loyalty to factors that inhibit growth and success.

So in morality’s most scandalous hypocrisy caused by history’s deepest wounds, the reason many black people seek and identity racism even when it isn’t there, is the racism whereby they feel morally permitted to impute a lessened humanity to white people.  Growing up I was told that if I so much as dreamt of a white person it meant I had been tainted by a tokoloshe.  Well into my adult years, I would wake up in a panic if my dreams had white visitors.  Tellingly, the Zulu word for human (“umuntu”) is always assumed to mean a black person and is never used to denote a white person (“umlungu”).  I know of only one black person has ever questioned this linguistic anomaly.  So intense is this suspicion of white people that they are understood not just as an entirely different “race” but almost as an entirely different species.  This doesn’t necessarily make them less-than human, but it does make them extremely “other” and human at the same time.

So for many black people, watching Maimane talk down a black elder with white people clapping in the background – even if that crowd had some token colour splashed into it – was a sight so bizarre, so “window-dressed” and puppeteered, that it will forever be remembered not as the moment the DA declared victory over the ANC but as the moment that the DA’s “apartheid tendencies” stretched to whiten the black out of yet another African child, divest him of all the behavioral hallmarks of “sound” Africanness, and spit the talking shell back at black people in what they’d see as an arrogant display of “white” or “unshackled” behavior.  It was a middle finger at black people; possibly the last they’ll tolerate.  But Zuma is immune from such harsh and unfair judgment.

Moses told Pharaoh to go to hell, but the slaves he’d been sent to free resented Moses for causing their taskmasters to worsen their burden.  They didn’t blame the Pharaoh.  Black people will blame anyone but Zuma just as the Jews affirmed that it wasn’t Jesus but Caesar that they acknowledged as their king.  Caesar was divine and therefore not accountable for the blood of 200 000 Jews crucified by the Roman machine.

Mmusi Maimane gave an excellent speech.  He “spoke so well”, as many have said.  And that’s the problem.  The black child who “speaks so well” transgresses both white and black limitations on black people’s abilities.

The black child is not supposed to be clever.  That disturbs the narrative told about him.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive overview of all that’s happening. It’s just my two cents’ worth.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate feedback – Skhumalo1987@gmail.com Please don’t forget to follow me @Skhumalo1987 (I follow back – let me know if I haven’t) on twitter, and also to retweet the link to this article.

#SONA2015: God Giggled Because There Would Be “Absolutely No Consequences”

We are faithful to our short- and medium-term plans for keeping our bodies off the streets, out of jails, away from emergency rooms and further away from mortuaries.  Our children, businesses, employers and employees rely on our political silence and invisibility.  We trend #JeSuisCharlie when it’s about Europeans that would rather die standing than live on their knees.

But when the rubber hits the road it’s not our feet, but our knees, that hit the ground.  Then we realize too late that our fear of being too radical protected us from being radical enough when the hour demanded it – and therefore did not protect us at all.

National Assembly is the sacrosanct gathering of those that represent all of us and our rights.  Their job isn’t to score political points.  But never has the number of points scored been this far ahead of rights protected.

Let us consider even that final hope of Constitutionalism, the DA.  I hope I’m imagining things here, but I sense their Pharisaic holier-than-thou syndrome seems to have intensified as of late.  They turned down an invitation to the SONA after-party at the last minute (not everyone is convinced that their being invited late necessarily means they weren’t expecting an invitation), and then, having recoiled at its costs, still made plans to eat at a restaurant.  My facts on this are scant and I’d welcome clarification.  But from down here many of us are not hearing about how the restaurant the DA went to was more economically sensible or that the party spent its own funds, if it did, instead of public funds.

Many of us are hearing instead that the DA went out of its way to “prove” how wasteful government is.  Some are also seeing traces of self-imposed alienation in their refusal to sit at the same function with the other parties – who are their colleagues – which could be perceived as a form of apartheid.  Suddenly, the Cape Town racism stories hold more water.  For many people, “We won’t eat with them on principle” becomes as difficult to distinguish from “We don’t eat with those kinds” as “They are black leaders who should step down because they’re bad” is from “They are bad leaders who should step down because they’re black”.  The words and thoughts swap that easily.

Nor have many of us seen the party’s more mature white boys rub shoulders with other MPs from other parties.  It may be that I don’t watch enough TV or have missed the pictures, but I’ve yet to see pics depicting less adversarial moments of camaraderie, off-the-cuff joking and good-natured ribbing around, selfies between Ministers and their Shadow Ministers, or of disarming post-debate handshakes.  Whose Facebook page must I follow to see this?  It would be healing in a nation so brutally divided over party politics.

What we have seen is the DA Caucus use the EFF’s rabble-rousing to its advantage and then release a newsletter within the week in which they extol the superiority of the path the blue party took – a path or opportunity that, in many cases, would not have materialized hadn’t it been for the EFF doing the dirty work, digging up the soil where the DA would plant another seed of constitutionalism in our rock-hard political landscape.  The EFF at least tells you ahead of time that they’re planning to disrupt: what you see is what you get.  The DA never admits that the EFF’s disruptions may be needed in some of their stratagem.

Most unforgivably, the DA repeatedly fails to anticipate the ANC’s anticonstitutionalism.  This exaggerates their responses to the ANC’s infringements of the lesser matters of the law and dilutes their responses to the ANC’s breaking of its weightier preceipts.  From turning down the invite, to wearing black, to shunning the red carpet, the DA had been coming across as the sulking, jilted lover.  Sure, their MPs were arrested and now have “struggle credentials” as one of my friends pointed out.  But short of sitting outside in ashes and sackcloth, the DA had done everything in its power to remind everyone of just how squeaky-clean they are.  Problem is the perception could be that they’re still jealous after last year’s elections.  By the time the ANC Chair/Speaker of parliament called the police to deal with the EFF, the DA could not do anything to top what they had already done in terms of moral point-scoring.  They staged a walkout – and staged is the right word – but from everything they had done until then, they might as well have not attended SONA; many South Africans chalked their walkout not to a response to a breach in law and ethics, but to their not wanting to be there with the other parties and Jacob Zuma to begin with.  Their exit was seen as good riddance to the scorned prophets of doom.  Some of the MPs clapped for that reason and not because they perceived a victory.  It wasn’t necessarily all about power trumping principle, and principle exiting to the sound of power’s arrogant applause.  That would be too simple an explanation but it seems to be the darling one at the moment.

Morally, then, the walkout was an anticlimax; elegant, but its force lost on the 62%.  The reason for the walkout, instead of being perceived as a legitimate constitutional gripe, was seen by much of the public as just another point the DA felt like scoring on another triviality among many.  A teachable moment in which the constitution could have shone went to waste because the DA’s need to appear constitutional had, far from bolstering its teaching credibility, actually wore it thin.  They overkilled on the morality.  My personal vote for the blue party is assured, but it is also cast with a sighed “…nevertheless”.

Four questions arise:

1.) Is the DA fully aware of the dissonance between its claim to constitutionality and its need for the EFF’s unconstitutionality to accelerate its own interests in Parliament, namely, the need to emerge smelling like constitutionality on a bed of roses?

2.) If they can’t see that for themselves, then can their promise of getting South Africa fixed without a breach of the law be trusted?

3.) Is their insistence on being the constitutional party blinding not only themselves to how they rely on the unconstitutionality of others, but also distorting our assessment of what can still be achieved through the structures of government that have been so badly infected that they can only serve Zuma’s ultimate interests?  Is their drive for scoring points on the “we are the party that protects constitutional structures: please ignore how we ride on the EFF’s effing them up to come across as its constrast” front blinding them, and consequently us, to the country’s need for a (hopefully peaceful) movement of civil disobedience that, while defending in the long run the spirit of the Constitution, remains unshackled from its letter?

4.) Which country has gotten where we are, and fixed things without colouring outside the lines of a law that had become leverage for the despot of the day?  Please name one.  We may be the first to try it, and the reason we will is that whatever our feelings about the DA, the DA’s brand image relies on the idea that it’s possible to beat history’s odds even if their strategy betrays that it isn’t, which they seem to either not know or not want to know.  This keeps people complacent.  I mean, if the severely left-brain DA says we can still win this battle by the book, then there must be something to the idea.  They’re the clever kids, no?  Even their enemies think so.  So there is no need to plan an uprising, it would appear: our institutions are strong enough for the Opposition to appeal to them.

In other words, the DA’s strategy of appearing constitutional may be overshadowing the way we calculate the country’s options.  After describing how the night was a successful branding exercise for the three parties, Richard Poplak says, “So everyone emerged a winner, which is to say we all emerged losers”.  They will continue being winners because they are the Establishment.  There are no banned parties.  It all looks like good-cop/bad-cop but the house always wins and they are all in the house having a violent ménage à trois.  Just when you thought you’d picked SONA over 50 Shades, you get both in a bizzare reality TV drama.

In light of this all-round political point-scoring, it is disturbing that many of fundamentally rights were violated with relish.  The Constitution was all but abolished.  Why does South Africa have such a high crime rate?  Look at National Assembly – literally the Assembling of the Nation – and you will see why our nation is racked in crime: it’s how we settle the room before a speech by the kingpin.  And we continue with business as usual as he giggles.  Because when we’re willing to let this happen in there for him, we let him feel like he’s God.  In a supreme twist of irony, the very protocol we look to keep our constitutional institutions intact will be used to defend Mbete’s choice to summon the police.  Beware of rigid constitutionalism when your competition has power over its resources.

It is said that any idiot can count the number of seeds in an apple but very few can see the number of apples in a seed. Each event is a seed waiting to blossom into future events.  Very few people foresaw their daughters someday being kidnapped by the Boko Haram and other atrocities happening in Parliament’s unraveling.  Because if we can’t protect human rights in Parliament – where the Nation Assembles – we won’t be able to protect ourselves when parasites recognize South Africa for the soft target that it is.  Very few people foresaw, in all its vividness, the human rights violations, the failed/police state, the censorship and the confiscation of property and the loss of lives that were tucked into SONA 2015.  Africa north of us is a vivid picture of where we’re headed, and we’re still business as usual.  We insist on playing safe as discussed in the opening paragraph.  And that’s very dangerous.  Very few people really counted the number of toxic apples in this one seed, SONA2015.

Very few people realized that the time for analysis followed by business-as-usual is over.  We may already be too late for a revolution.  Politics was left to the politicians for too long.  Jacob Zuma has infected Executive, Legislature and Judiciary enough that being in good standing with one of them may be enmity with all that is good and true.  In the movie “Doubt”, Meryl Streep’s character said that sometimes to serve God, one has to take a few steps back from him.  I submit that a robust love of the Constitution will need a populace that can admit where the rules need to be broken so that those that rule and break at will may be brought to book.  That civil disobedience can only emerge from citizens outside the Establishment.

Someone may ask, “But where do you draw the line, and on what basis would the line be drawn there and nowhere else?”  I’ll be very honest: I don’t know, but I don’t believe I have to know because those who have truly internalized the Constitution would still be pretty human while revolting, and those who haven’t are troublemakers either way.  For better or worse that line would draw itself.  The troubles are inevitable.  Trying to hold on to a visage of cconstitutionality will draw out the pain.

I also do know the heat has been going up so slowly that the frogs in the pot will not gather the resolve to make any startling leap for their lives.  If we knew what was at stake we’d be planning a staggered tax revolt or an acute Arab Spring while today is still today.

But for many of us it’s business as usual.  Nothing will happen.  Playing it safe, we will unleash Absolutely No Consequences.  That’s why God giggled from that podium.

SONA2015 – Aftermath: What Are You Doing On Monday, 16 February 2015 09:00?

While SONA2015 was collapsing into chaos, I was scouring social media for a feel of our nation’s temperature.  One tweet had been retweeted almost 30 times in a very short period: “The time has come for a soldier to march to demand Zuma resigns. Monday is coming”.  I retweeted and added, #MondayIsComing and #DropEverythingOnMonday

I don’t know why this tweeter picked Monday as D-Day, but it was out there already.  The idea was surprisingly popular. So I went into the tweeter’s profile and discovered that he was serious when he spoke about soldiers marching.  He’s got a strong association with the Defense Force.  I followed him, asked him to follow me back (I’m ex military).  He then vanished.

So I began speculating on what had just happened.  Did someone warn him to drop the idea?  Was he plotting something he suddenly realized needed to be kept top-secret?  I say it’s the first issue.  His “common sense” kicked in, his blood cooled down and he dropped the idea.

Either way, the ANC-led government now knows with increasing certainty that we’re wimps.  They know that there is no action so bad, no state of affairs so severe, no injustice so great, that it will cause South Africa to rise up.  We’re scared.  We don’t think anyone else has our back.  The law doesn’t allow for sudden mass gatherings, and we’re law-abiding citizens.

In the face of all this, I ask you: what are you doing on Monday?  What could be so dreadfully captivating?

Because on Monday, I would love to go to my nearest City Hall at 9am with a placard asking, “Who is the new president?” and in a smaller font, “Who is the new Parliamentary Speaker?”  By Monday, National Assembly would have – by assembling over the weekend, if need be – decided who the next president is.  It might be Ramaphosa but I won’t assume it.  They have until Monday to atone for the many, many sins committed to protect one man from justice.

But that’s possible only if you’re in and you believe in your power to change things.  So what are you doing on Monday?

What South Africa saw last night wasn’t entertainment, though it may end up on CNN’s entertainment section as has happened before.  Last night was proof that a Mafia-like organization loots public funds, resources, powers and systems for its own benefit.  What are you doing on Monday?  I submit that your time would be better spent pushing back.  That if you tolerate this much longer, you send a message that it’s okay.

On Monday I would like to sit outside my nearest City Hall, taking shifts with whoever else shows up, picnicking peacefully, with an umbrella, sunscreen and protest signs.  Call me a dreamer, but I would love to send out tweets hashtagged #OccupyCityHall DBN and see replies hashtagged #OccupyCityHall JHB and PMB.  On Monday, I would really, really like to feel like this country matters and people care.  Do they?  Do you?  What are you doing on Monday?

On Monday, I would like to see people struggle to find parking in the CBD areas, and then deciding to just leave their cars in the street to come occupy City Hall.  Call it a dream, but what if every city hub came to a standstill until the next president and parliamentary speaker was announced?  Because a congestion that big would put pressure that intense.  I didn’t choose Monday.  Someone else did.  I’m just saying, look: if enough people decide on it and spread the message and commit, Monday could be the day we stop complaining about it and start fixing it.

What are you doing on Monday?  Are you working?  Seeing a client?  Attending a lecture?  A breakfast meeting?  Your weekly briefing?  What’s your excuse?  Is it too soon?  Is it impossible?  How many excuses do you have, and how many scornful disguises do they take to hide you from the prospect of discovering just how much or how little power you have?  Are you afraid to do something about the state of the nation?  Is that too much responsibility for you?  So you agree with government that you should only have power and citizenship on paper?  If so, then Monday will flop because South Africans are a flop.  What are you doing on Monday? 

One girl said she’s working.  But we won’t have jobs for much longer.  She said she’ll leave the country. With the value of the Rand plunging, she’s left it too late.  Look, if not 9am then later in the day or the day before.  Or support strongly on social media.  But do something.

If you’re not standing, who will?  If not now, when?  If not this way, then which way?  When the Constitutional is optional, processes are sidestepped, MPs are punched and arrested for nothing; when the signal gets cut in National Assembly and armed forces – police or parliamentary, Mbete Almighty only knows – are called into a sanctuary that was built on the promise to be the bastion of democratized civilization no matter what, then what is left to negotiate about?

What are you doing on Monday?  What are you doing on Monday?  What are you doing on Monday?

This won’t be a Polokwane and Mangaung.  The Party’s had a chance to elect a leader.  It’s enough of that, now.  Monday is coming.  When it’s here, I want my first tweet to read, “Thank God it’s Monday”.  Tweet it out: Monday.  City Hall.  9 am.

Let me know about Monday.

Technically, The City Press “Sodomy” Headline Was Accurate. Keep Calm And Hear Me Out.

Disclaimer: This blog post will be different from what most readers are used to.  I have to take you back to Sunday School for ten minutes.  Whether you and I believe the stories below is irrelevant.  In view of the rising Christianophobia that’s gaining traction on the internet, the rape of the Northern Cape schoolboy will add fuel to the fire and I would bet good money that some people want that fire to burn out of control.

Imagine the confusion amongst Christians (whom many of us are trying to teach to affirm sexual diversity) when well-intentioned writers like Brad Cibane reinforce the traditional understanding of sodomy as consensual male anal sex, while those of us working towards reconciling the Christian and the LGBTI communities explain the biblical story as detailing an attempted male rape, and therefore, sodomy as male rape.

Because as long as Christians believe that the sin of Sodom was Sodomy as “consensual male sex”, then they will also believe that their God was destroying the cities for having gay sex.  This will inflict irreparable harm on the gay liberation movement.  Whether its champions like it or not, a great number of the people they are speaking to are Christian, and in spite of overwhelming evidence suggesting otherwise, some Christians have read the bible.

That these writers and activists have a different worldview does not give them license to bludgeon their readers with those worldviews as though having decided upfront that the one is “more accurate” than the other.  But that’s not the issue at stake.  I don’t have to be a/theist to agree with many a/theists’ basic understanding of justice.  But if someone with a different worldview makes his case for his preferred path towards justice by trashing my worldview instead of taking the time to find out what we have in common, he doesn’t get me closer to agreeing with him.  He might be impressed with his own syllogisms and what he understands to be the superiority and clarity of his own mind, but he’s alienating me by dismissing the lens through which I interpret reality.  It’s very counter-productive.  South African audiences comprise not only of “enlightened atheists” and “brights”, but also of people from at least one Abrahamic tradition – be it Islam, Judaism or Christianity.  Convincing them to read their holy books differently is tough enough.  Convincing them to throw those books out would be nigh impossible.

Much ink has been spilled about City Press’ choice of words in the initial headline about the schoolboy who was raped by his classmates.  I believers they initially used the word “sodomize”.  Many have correctly pointed out that in South Africa’s legal history, the word “sodomy” referred to prohibited consensual anal sex between two males.  They pointed out that the headline, though possibly an innocent mistake, may have also indicated society’s deep discomfort with what is still considered taboo.  “The word ‘sodomy’ betrays the entrenched homophobia in South Africa.  Sodomy—or male anal penetration—was a common law crime until it was declared unconstitutional in 1998.  Today, the word ‘sodomise’ is derogatory; it refers to consensual male sex,” wrote Brad Cibane.

This is where things fall apart.  There hasn’t been an unbroken transmission of meaning for the word “sodomy” through history.  So whose definition of the word is correct, if each definition is based on slippery matrices of prior opposite (sometimes incorrect) definitions?  This isn’t about semantics: it’s about forecasting the Zeitgeist that’s being birthed before us.

Through their many travels from Europe to Africa, laws against Sodomy have presupposed that the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah tells of an invitation to consensual male anal sex by the inhabitants of a city that had gay orgies night after night.  But the story is about a man whose uncle had a feud with the king of the city (Genesis 14) he lived in.  His name was Lot; his uncle was Abra(ha)m, and the city was Sodom.  One evening, Lot took it upon himself to shelter two traveling strangers.  It was Bedouin custom to extend hospitality in this manner.

Feeling that this man was testing the tolerance of the city-dwellers, the men of Sodom gathered around his house and demanded that he bring out his guests so that they could “know them” or, denuded of biblical euphemisms, “fuck them up”.  Panicked, Lot offered his virgin daughters instead but this gesture only made the hostile mob even more aggressive.  He didn’t realize it, but his repulsion at the crime they wanted to perpetrate played right into their plot to get him to say something bossy, something that made it sound like he thought he was in charge of them and could tell them what to do or not do.  They’d been looking for an opportunity for payback, and in a five-minute kangaroo court at his doorstep, they’d accused him of “coming here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the prince!”  Their sentence?  “We will do worse with you than with them!”

Then as though things were not chaotic enough, all hell broke loose.  Or was it heaven?   Something like history’s first stun grenade was detonated: a blinding and disorienting light paralyzed the mob.  It turned out the two strangers were angels who’d infiltrated Sodom to investigate a report or an “outcry” that had “risen to heaven” against the city.  As numerous Jewish commentaries and biblical passages (Ezekiel 16:49) reveal, the Sodomites were greedy and indifferent to the plight of the poor and oppressed.  They were territorial and violent.  They committed war crimes and were given to robbing and raping passers-by for sport.  Lot’s uncle had barely got his people and relatives out of Sodom alive during the war that had led to the feud.

One legend says a little girl offered a piece of bread to an outcast, for which the people of Sodom tortured and executed her.  She cried aloud and it was that particular cry that made God say, “Okay, now, this is ridiculous” and start planning for the overthrowing of the Jordanian plain and all the cities that had been infected with its violence.  By the time the angels entered Sodom that evening, God had already revealed his decision to incinerate the city (Gen 18:17).  The angels only went in to run a final “trial” on its inhabitants, the dismal result of which was Sodom’s third strike.  The city was doomed.

The same angels were sent also to find righteous people they could rescue or on whose behalf the city could be spared.  But overall, they were sent to condemn a city-state whose wanton crimes against humanity had moved even God to intervene in a cataclysmic display of Old Testament justice that stood as a monumental warning to civilizations for centuries to come.

In its original context, then, the word “sodomy” never was about consensual same-sex couplings.  It was about an instance of attempted male rape by the inhabitants of a city called Sodom.  Commentators, preachers, translators, theologians, bible scholars, historians and in turn, law-makers down the millennia have gotten this wrong, sticking whatever definitions suited the prejudices of their day on the word.  Sodomy has been redefined and mistaken for oral sex, mastubation, Onanism (named after a kinky bastard in Genesis who wanted to do his brother’s widow as custom allowed, but didn’t want to impregnate her as the same custom required) and a whole host of really repressed meanings by people with more hang-ups and neuroses than we can keep track of.

Cibane goes on to report that “the word (‘sodomy’) maligns an acceptable, legally-protected sexual practice, thus marginalising a minority group.  Sodomy—which is reference to ‘unnatural sexual relations’, such as those imputed to the inhabitants of Biblical Sodom—reinforced biblical stereotypes about same-sex relationships”.

But nowhere does the bible impute “unnatural sexual relations” to the people of Sodom, though in other discourses the bible speaks of “unnatural sexual relations” among – guess who? – the Greeks.  But that’s in one of Paul’s rhetorical diatribes about the redundancy of the Mosaic Law.  His sermon is written, in part, to unify the non-Jewish Greco-Roman believers with Jewish-Christian converts on the fundamentals of the Christian faith, fundamentals which needed clarification in what was otherwise a cultural (and sexual) melting pot.  Whether those passages were meant to be taken at face-value or not is left, quite deliberately, open to interpretation.  The reader is warned to tread carefully (Romans 2:1).  Other biblical passages cancel others out by a change of well-marked ages (“aeons” or “eons”) and changes in the Law (Hebrews 7:2).

The closest the bible comes to imputing “unnatural sexual relations” to the people of Sodom is in the Epistle of Jude where it speaks about how the people of Sodom went after “sarkos heteras”, or “strange”, “other flesh”.  This could easily be a reference to how they attempted to rape the two strangers, who weren’t human.  It could just as easily be a reference to Sodom’s cultic rites.  Sleeping with representatives of “other” deities is a practice as old as the hills in henotheistic and polytheistic worlds.

To read the bible as suggesting that the people of Sodom were judged for homosexual relations, one has to first find an example of a consensual homosexual relation in Sodom for which they could be judged.  The bible as such gives no such example.  Law-makers have been reading it into Genesis 19 to feed their own heteropatriarchal fears and prejudices.  Today’s Christianophobes join their ranks.

The danger with believing that there are “biblical stereotypes about same-sex relationships” is that people will think that the bible has a single narrative on same-sex relations when there’s a wealth of evidence to the contrary.  The bible has a messy, nuanced and highly contextual body of teachings and stories about sex and sexuality.  That’s why there’s a shift in contemporary Christianity towards the recognition and celebration of same-sex love relationships.

One of the outcomes of that shift is that the word “sodomy” will be restored to its biblical meaning of “male anal rape”.  Leviticus 18 will be read together with Leviticus 15 and Romans 3, and many other things will fall into place.  Religion will be disarmed.  I’m glad that cultural Christianity is in decline, but I’d prefer for worldviews to die natural deaths.  We cannot afford for people to affirm the traditional legal understanding of sodomy.

But if the one-story view of Christianity prevails, it’s going to be lumped together with how there’s a monolithic Christianity that is conservative, homophobic and a menace to twenty-first century progress.  That is not a natural death: it’s death by slander.

I submit that because it will keep their lives and research simple, some writers and intellectuals want exactly the negative perception to win out.  It’s convenient.  It’s expedient.  It suits the story they want to tell about civilization today.  I don’t think Brad Cibane is one of those writers but he has unwittingly handed them ammunition.

If this Christianophobic view does win out, though, then the thing that would have failed to survive into the twenty-first century wouldn’t just have been Christianity.  It would have been the search for objective truth, of which many of these writers say they are champions.

Not only is this a tad hypocritical, I find it saddening.

Brad Cibane’s piece

Stay in touch.

Follow me on @SKhumalo1987 or contact me on SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Race, Rape And Reprobates – Part 1

Let’s start by examining the the sudden and popular demand for white people to examine their white privilege.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post titled, “Struggling To Master This Trendy White-Shaming Thing.  But I’ll Get There” which pointed out that though supported by factual reports of racism in Cape Town, much of the acute anti-white sentiment that’s flared on the blogosphere may be black people’s disguising their disillusionment with national leadership.  Reports of racism in Cape Town are popular on the blogosphere because many of them are true and because they feed the story of how bad Cape Town/the DA that runs it/white people are for black people.  Because if that stopped looking bad, the ANC would stop looking good.

Peggy McIntosh introduced the “invisible knapsack”.  This is a set of privileges that accompanies being white or the member of the dominant group in a given setting.  The privileged person makes a list of privileges he may have been unaware of, as this blogger has done, and thusly becomes aware of how being white/a member of the dominant group affords privileges that he has been taking for granted.

But when we ask white people to dismantle white privilege by picking it apart in lists, we risk turning this exercise into another chapter in another module in an expensive sociology course, taught in English, that mostly just white people can afford for precisely the reasons that are being discussed and dismantled within those institutions.  Remember that nowhere was apartheid better dissected than in the most sheltered lecture halls in white-dom.  So just as those institutions simultaneously symbolized bastions of liberalism and apartheid, so, too, can the exercise of dismantling white privilege become a white privilege.  I have far more to say in this direction but I’ll leave it at that point.

We must also ask ourselves whether black people, generally speaking, would act any differently given a complete reversal of circumstances.  Remember Nkandla.  Look, also, at MPs’ parking lot at SONA so we can have a nice conversation about how white and racialized entitlement and unquestioned privilege are.  Or let’s sit and read George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Couldn’t the R700 billion lost to corruption in the last two decades have helped level the playing field?  Couldn’t maintaining Eskom the way it was found (because it fell out of the sky after the revolutionary Chinese discovered Africa; we mustn’t dare admit it was left behind by the apartheid government *covers mouth in shame*) have helped improve our collective lot, and not just the lot of Eskom executives?

Watching white people make lists of their privileges is a bit like watching Jesus on the cross.  You may attain spiritual salvation by doing so.  Or you may figure that since he’s the Son of God, he could be anesthetizing the whole ordeal for himself anyway.  Either way, emotional control of the situation remains mainly with the person administering this treatment – to himself, of course, much the way the ANC investigates allegations of corruption launched against the ANC, or Zuma’s yes-men investigate allegations of misconduct against him.  I’ve met white people who seem to have this need to explain how they also helped combat apartheid.  Not that I’d asked or given any indication that I was judging them or even that I believe being black gives me the right to judge them.  Yet when I’ve heard them, some of their stories impressed much as the ANC’s boast on how it single-handedly shut the burgeoning HIV/Aids pandemic by rolling out medication.  Please ignore your memories of their kicking and screaming.  Trusting in white people to dismantle the privileges they live in is a bit like trusting Zuma to dismantle his network of corruption.  Please let’s not insult one another’s intelligence.

We want white people to question white privilege.  And then what?  The beautiful catharsis that accompanies the new-found awareness of their privilege becomes another #BringBackOurGirls.  The very fact that one has to ask the other to enter one’s felt situation indicates that the empathy isn’t an organic outgrowth in the other’s journey – perhaps for reasons that include his systematic sheltering.  One has to make the other aware wherever there are gaps in the other’s awareness.  The real bullshit is our collective insistence that this always makes the other a bad or deficient person, as is the case with overseas people who don’t know who Nelson Mandela was.  Who said they need to know that in order to count as good people, or, for that matter, that knowing immunizes them from being bad people?  Who comes up with these checklists, and does he know the licence for shallowness he gives everyone?  Because when the totality of being a good person is being aware of a set of realities that someone else has decided for you, you are under no obligation to figure out for yourself what being a good person actually means.  So you’ll get trolls on the internet who’ll spew absolute poison before sanctimoniously reminding you to “check your privilege” as they sign off.  Privilege-checking becomes a ritual for those who’ve been initiated into the new clique of apparent social awareness.  I’ll pass.

I would hate for black people’s suffering to be another trinket that can be owned, studied, dissected and published in someone’s MS thesis so that the person, having spent some time among disenfranchised black people, can be absorbed back into the sheltered arms of white academia.  Or worse: for their stories to become commodities that can be used by the mostly black-personed government to emotionally blackmail a white minority into staying in its corner when blind people can see the nonsense happening in this country.

For white people to not fully empathize with black people’s pain (as complicit as the past and their present privileges makes them) shows that those white people are human and humanly limited.  Even when white people have reached the ceiling of their collective empathy, our thirst to make them understand won’t be sated.

For the government to manipulate black people’s lingering pain and use it to emotionally blackmail white people is also normal because that’s what governments do: they mess with your head, tell you that you’re sick, put you in a padded cell and keep you medicated.

But for black people to allow their pain to be so easily used, cheapened, currencied and transacted by their own kind in the further division of the country – that is the final 30 pieces of silver.  We sold our souls.  Have we gained our own country, let alone the world?  Um, no.

We say we want white people to question white privilege. To “understand what it’s like” to be the suspected, the disparaged and the systematically overlooked.  This is rich, coming from black people.  When blackness gets to question white privilege, at best, it will then replicate the fundamentals of white privilege, displacing it with an unquestioned, unexamined sandwich of “black culture”.  Between the bread slices of necessary human recognition for black people will be found the fillings of hetero-patriarchy and other trappings of a “black culture” that can be as abusive as “white culture”.  I wish my straight friends (many of whom are black and in no hurry question straight privilege) understood that inasmuch as many of them wanted me to be considerate over my family’s feelings when I came out, I also wanted someone to consider how hard it would be on me to come out in the first place.  But I had to consider their feelings, as though I had more power to wrong them than they had to wrong me when realistically, it was and remains the other way around.  I had to be prepared to be the bigger person though realistically, I stood to be crushed by them who were really the bigger persons.

Then the same black people think it’s strange when I point out that consistency to their values demands say that black people consider white people’s feelings too, though white people, arguably, hold more power to wrong black people than vice-versa.  Demanding that the gay black boy consider the feelings of the black establishment that reserves the right to shame and reject him, is the equivalent (I believe) of demanding that black people consider the feelings of the white people with whom they must now make friends as though apartheid never happened.  The one demand is as (un?)reasonable as the other.  If the black community’s precious hetero-patriarchy must be handled with kid gloves then so must white hegemonies.  We cannot make them feel guilty and terrible for the unexamined ways in which they wield power over the very people whose forgiveness and subservience they seek.  The unquestioned rights of the one privileged group (black straight people) stands and falls with those if the other (white people).  Unexamined privileges?  Just a white thing?  Personally, I can’t see the speck in white people’s eyes because I’m so fixated on the beam in black people’s.  “But if you do not forgive others their sins,” someone once said, “Then neither will your Father will not forgive yours”.

Shouldn’t we be more interested in how government spends taxes?  Building human privilege for all is more important than guilting white people for enjoying their privilege.  If I were in their shoes I wouldn’t be any different.  I want privilege, I want lots of it, and I know the only real way towards getting it is ensuring that everyone else gets it too.  I may have very little company in my “idealistic” beliefs  of how we could get and stay there, but I know I am not alone in my desire for a slice of the privilege pie.  Now there, I stand in the company of silent black people who, instead of calling out black leaders that plunder like there’s no tomorrow (and there is no tomorrow because they’re taking tomorrow out of our mouths and eating it) are standing in line waiting for them to hand the loot, the tenders, the free houses and the contracts over to us even as we bitch and moan about the unfairness, wrongness, immorality, criminality, illegitimacy, pervasiveness and perversity of white privilege.  If half this beautiful, spiteful, judgmental hypocrisy could be monetized into currency, the rand-dollar exchange would flip the other way. I f we could monetize that too, we would.  There is no shame.  Vultures, the spouses of political party officials form overnight companies that would take advantage of crumbling infrastructures, snatching the business opportunities out of other equally greedy but more-decently-spaced-from-government civilians.  If we’re less privileged than white people, it’s because we’ve retained a government that keeps us there.  Dismantle that for breakfast.

Further proof that the white privilege exercise doesn’t always work is that the boys that raped their classmate attend an institution where “since 2010,” Northern Cape Education MEC’s Grizelda Cjiekella-Lecholo’s office has been “working consistently” to “build a consciousness among our children and communities of one nation, one community”.  I don’t know whether they studied McIntosh but whatever they’re doing at their Life Orientation classes, it only filters in as deeply as each individual wants it to.  As one commenter replied to a white boy’s dissertation on white privilege, “One way to shed your ‘white privilege’ is to let go of it. I’m tired of hearing very privileged whites like yourself groveling on about their privilege and somehow thinking anybody cares about your guilt complexes. The right thing to do is to resign from your privileged white job and make space for a black African woman (even when she lives in Sandton and you live in Danville), sell your house and your car or donate it to Cyril Ramapahosa and then go clean some toilets in Alexandra”.  The author didn’t engage his challenge.  But what if he did those things?  “Oh wow. A white person who actually understands what it’s like to be black” would be his next badge of approval.  If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there, does it make a sound?  If you do something good, and people see it, was it really good?  How good is good enough, and how much awareness is enough, and how many sorrys will it take?  Who determines that?  Frankly, I’m tired of the race wars.  I have nothing to gain from them, and I’m black.  If the person who’d stand to gain the most from stock says it’s not worth buying, it’s bad stock.  And the race wars are a booby-trap.  Stay aware, stay awake and stay away.

Some black people said they wouldn’t vote DA and then gave this strangest reason for this decision: the DA, they said, protects white privilege and interests.  I have my own issues with the DA.  But I also have issues with this line of reasoning against it: given that healthy people want privilege as shown above, then if the DA can’t be trusted to protect white privilege and interests, can it be trusted to protect human interests and privilege?  Say what you want about Maslow’s Hierarchy or the difference between needs and wants, but why should we stop at begrudging white people their attraction towards privilege?  Why not begrudge them their gravitation towards being alive?  It’s really part of the same spectrum. We already crossed that line with the Soweto xenophobic attacks.  For there is no difference: everyone’s our enemy, and they all have done something to intrude on our right to be alive.  On our privilege.

Aren’t we scared, now that the tables have turned?  We wield so much moral power, the power to decide at a whim what’s wrong and what’s right, who’s good and who’s bad, with absolutely no one to call us to account for the way we call others to account?  Aren’t we kids with matches?  Are morals real things?

Back to “I can’t vote DA because they protect white interests”.  That’s sanctimonious.  But is privilege always a zero-sum game?  Can it only be had by one group at the expense of another?  Isn’t that an apartheid mentality?  By refusing continued privilege for another, we have refused it for ourselves as well.  If we insist on thinking that there is only so much of anything to go around (instead of working together to build more) then we will precipitate that self-fulfilling prophecy.  If we’re less privileged than white people, it’s because we’ve retained a government that keeps us there.  Given this, the chronic demand that white people examine their privilege is like insisting that I won’t eat my food until you’ve picked yours apart and maybe even thrown it away.  Despite what white people may have done in the past, if we’re now doing it to ourselves can we at least take enough pride in ourselves to make our problems our problems, and nobody else’s?

Black people will not be saved from white privilege by white people making lists of how they’re privileged or, for that matter, giving up their jobs to scrub toilets in Alex.  Black people will be saved by putting some thought into their own salvation.  Running a country is not a mystery.  It’s a science.  We need to stop determining who the next president will be by looking at his (or her) skin colour, tribe, gender etc. and make a decision that whoever the best person is with South Africa’s best interests at heart and the best strategy for getting us all there in the quickest time possible, needs to step up to the plate.  Or be stepped up kicking and screaming.  If the basics are taken care of, “privilege” will follow in good time.  Cultures change as people acclimatize to change.  This is common sense.

The danger with unskillfully dismantling white privilege is that its exclusivity will simply be shifted to another hegemony or another way of being in the world. Such as being heterosexual, male or ANC.  Then someday another Peggy McIntosh will be helping us make invisibility knapsack lists for why being a black man brings with itself unexamined privileges.  While we squabble over that issue, all the real power will remain limited to a handful of white boys – the CEOs of corporates that maintain the most discreet, most invisible relationship with the government – and it will be as though white privilege never had been examined.  Our distraction with this shiny new obsession to make white people examine white privilege may just reinforce it.

We think making white people face white privilege will begin leveling out the inequalities in South Africa?  Unless we examine our entire economy of power on a social level, the inevitable failure of that approach, as explained above, will allow us to legitimize violence against “the other”, whoever the other may be at that time, who is perceived to be the reason “we” are not succeeding.  Another hegemony, another dominant power-group, another replica of the same system we’d just dismantled.  And within that dominant group will arise the question of which sub-group is supreme.  The Zulus or the Xhosas or the Sotho?  It’s tribalism, whatever the skin colour and ethnic background of the person wielding the scepter.  And under tribalism, nobody wins.  Ask 90% of the countries north of ours.  Most of the whites there had their privilege dismantled right out of the country but the Shonas and the Ndebeles are still starving and still clawing one another’s eyes out in Zim.  No matter how academized and high-minded this fresh call to question and dismantle white privilege is, at this point it could be a lethal distraction.  We should have done it 20 years ago when it was still more relevant, relative to the then-nonexistent corruption and uselessness of today’s government.

Two decades ago, when the ANC was a-tumble in the beds of white money, everyone – black and white alike – was starry-eyed in love with the reconciliation process.  Now that party has come to an abrupt end, finished by the finitude of squanderable resources, a slew of black (and non-black) intelligentsia is coming out with a new-found love of asking white people to examine their privileges.
Funny how this didn’t matter when hope and a functional economy greased the wheels of racial integration 20 years ago.  This change in MO has the finger of a cash-strapped Luthuli House on it.  They’re hoping to keep the country distracted with the unfairness of white money long enough to wheel the next government contract in to their cronies; long enough to secure the next desperately-needed shot of financial adrenalin.

The answer to white privilege is human privilege.  In politics – because politics underpins how we experience religion, politics and sex, making political bodies absolutely accountable for the rape of students’ bodies – this means voting into power a government shrewd enough to invite the private sector into sustainable projects to help build in previously “black” areas, utilities that people of any race would be happy to frequent as an indulgence in privilege.  This would dissolve the privilege concentrated in and associated with previously “white” places and ways of being.  Instead of renaming old places we must create new ones, and that needs commerce-friendly government.  Ot of sentiment, trust and gratitude, we voted in a liberation party.  Twenty years later, it’s still liberating South Africa one parastatal at a time.  No new things will be built.

BEE was the promise that black people would enjoy privilege as well.  That promise was agreed-upon by that white super-elite that had no interest in a communist South Africa, and by the ANC.  Once again, these two sides probably still maintain a discreet and invisible relationship.

That promise was kept.  Black people became rich beyond their wildest dreams.  The new face of privilege was black, urban, middle-class – “black diamonds” – and it was not unusual to see them wear the latest labels and drive the coolest cars.  The fact that there were only three or four such black families doesn’t negate that the system we kept choosing worked for black people.  But if we want more black people to enjoy the same status, we need an upgrade on government.

We want to question and dismantle white privilege?  If all we’ll ever amount to is people on the outside looking in, then fine, let’s have issues with old white money and privilege.  But let’s respect ourselves enough to have deeper issues – institutionalizably deeper issues – with the very new but very dirty money that was minted right under our nose two seconds before we were supposedly liberated.  The face of that money, I repeat, is black.  And we’ll only come of age once we’re grown to the point where we can do to the ANC government what we did to the apartheid government, should the ANC do to us what the apartheid government did to us.

If we don’t clarify the political congestion, then in what I see as a knee-jerk reaction already present on the internet, the rape of the black student by white ones will be simplistically used to justify violence against white peoples the way the shooting of one teenager was used to justify violence against foreigners in Soweto.  Instead of examining the abuses of power by the old and new regime (cut from the same cloth but dyed in different colours) we will just escalate and shift abusive power around.

The white boy rapist simply exemplify a hangover from the old version of the same new thing.

Continued here


Race, Rape And Reprobates – Part II

Continued From Previous

City Press published an online story about the hostel gang-rape of a black student by his white school seniors. Understandably, everyone in blogosphere and social media world has been outraged and disgusted.  They’ve all condemned what has been broadly understood as an act of racism.  Many have also asked what kind of home the student-rapist-monsters came from, as though they were not normal South African kids from normal South African homes.

Which they are.

If our formerly black, coloured and Indian schools are notorious for gang violence, “standard” heterosexual rape and a shortage of teachers, then former Model C and private schools are equally notorious for initiation rites.  In the States, these rites of passage are called “hazing”, though in that context more foreknowledge and consent exists.  Nobody talks about the abuses though they are part and parcel of “white” schools and institutions.

Masculinities are strange things.  In their organic developments, some are receptive to the message that they have to “belong” in some hive or tribe.  The apartheid government in South Africa and the military complex in America took advantage of these types of masculinities by teaching them to channel sexual power and violence into expressions of dominance.  With the help of some strands of Christianity, the whole affair was christened as “godly”; it was a tacit part and parcel of each young man’s learning how to defend “the tribe” “the Volk” belonging to “die Vaderland”, “the Chosen Nation” from “them”, whether “they” were the blacks, the reds, the natives, the slaves or whichever “other” any given government has found it lucrative to oppress and dominate.  All this fell under the banner of “Manifest Destiny” or other beliefs that God had blessed those white people, at those times, with the right to rule and sweep aside opposition (you know, like Jacob Zuma tells ANC MPs to “crush the opposition” so that the ANC, which is the only party that is blessed in heaven, can rule until Jesus returns?  Yeah, like that.  Same system being replicated, but now black).

With the onset of puberty coinciding with the crises every boy goes through in working out his identity, sex became military training.  Failure to use sex as “power over” others was and is seen as a precursor to failure to serve under conscription, whichever military service it was that was defending whichever land in whatever name of whichever God.

The imperialist agendas of their respective governments needed for their white men – both in the States and here – to experience a guided transition between childhood and adulthood, a transition that would prepare them for the military training they would be subjected to later on.  As a result, male sexuality and power are never spoken of together but they are never experienced or expressed apart.  This is where the culture of school initiations, rugby and other expressions of “power-over” come from: they are that culture’s way of easing young boys into the military service they will someday be required to perform in the protection of “us” from “them”.  Or as a commenter stated, “This kind of nonsense happens in many school or university hostels.  Initiation traditions etc.  The report I read said black boys were watching.  So this is bullying at its worse and not necessarily racism” and later that, “I also recall from more recently, the active participation by the black head-boy of a prestigious KZN Midlands school in an initiation ritual, where he beat the new boy with a piece of reinforcing steel.  The youngster happened to be white”.

In case someone is keeping score to point out that a black kid has also inflicted harm under similar circumstances, I stick to my belief that the culture of initiation is largely white, though it is potentially replicable.  The reason is that this above example intimately links the hierarchy of prefect-hood with the ability to wield “power over”.  In just about every school that plays active rugby there is the expectation that the captain of the first rugby team will be head boy or deputy.  The system, as we can see by the black boy’s participation, is transferable and replicable to anyone prepared to buy into the culture of “power over” regardless of his race.  But the system, as we find it, has been handed over by “white” patriarchal culture.

Not one of white society’s cultural symbols alone stand for all evil but brought together to reinforce tribalistic messages, they prop up systematized and unspeakably brutal system of domination – justified in the name of God.  The kind of system which will be copied and pasted into a replica of the same old system should we plunge unthinkingly ahead into a white-free Utopia without questioning what black people plan to do with exactly the same powers and privileges they’ve pretended not to want from white people.  Accusing someone of racism/anti-revolutionary tendencies/disrespecting heritage and culture, can be one way to bypass such critical questioning even as one plays with the same matches.  It shuts down conversation and deflects questions.

Oh, reader, never, ever, stop asking questions.

But is racism a solitary evil, or is it composed of a mish-mash of other evils?

The rape of slave women across colour lines in American cotton plantations 90 years ago cannot be explained or expressed by solitary understandings of “racism” because rape includes touching someone of a different skin colour.  And racism, at its most basic, means despising and fearing “the other’s” skin, its smells and its colour.  Why all the forced intimacy, then?

Forced sex forces race into an expression of a power dynamic whereby some men prove themselves worthy to rule.  Reducing these acts strictly to “racism” without allowing for a definition of racism that questions the very handling of power we each are tempted towards, allows whoever names that racism to stand apart from his own tendency to someday do the same.  It allows us a blind spot to what we’re letting our leaders do.

We overuse the word “racism” in our attempts to stabilize the complexity of what are really “racialized social dynamics”.  Was the incident not racially motivated, then?  Partially, it was.  I will go into greater detail about the part played by racist humiliation and slurs in this rape, but I see it as rape with strong racist overtones, akin to the way interracial sexual contact and assault is “glamorized” by racial slurs.  Had the rape victim been a ginger white kid with freckles, his rapists would have picked on that instead.  So while South Africa convulses in shock over this disgusting act of “racism” and follows the #RacistSchoolRape court case in the next few months, other boys and girls will be raped around the country.  And whatever happens to distinguish them from their rapists will be turned into the set of slurs that glamorizes and romanticizes and fetishsizes those instances of sexual violence.  “South Africa has a race problem!” they say.  But I promise you now, exactly the slurs that were said to or about that boy during his rape have been said in moments of consensual sex between members of different races sharing beds across this country.  Look up the Locanto ads for gay interracial sex requests.  So the vectors are very slippery, in some ways, interchangeable; in others, not; either way, we cannot afford to make them seem more stable than they really are.

The rape of transgender people of colour on the east coast of the United States cannot be expressed or explained solely in relation to “transphobia” for the same reason, for if the rapist were that disgusted with transgender women he wouldn’t be caught dead on the same side of the street that they are on.  What he has for them isn’t disgust so much as it is contempt.  Disgust makes us move away from the object of our disgust: contempt allows us to step on it.  In this instance of so-called transphobia, the rape helps the rapist distinguish himself from, and demonstrate power over, that which is weaker, feminine, failed-masculinity, and “other”.

It’s important to understand the distinctions because if we have a hope in hell of fighting misogyny, this is its groundwork.  It is therefore more accurate to phrase the discussion along the lines of masculine power instead of silently sheltering masculine power behind the closest available labels.  Had the rape victim been an old lady, we wouldn’t call out patriarchy but ageism; disabled, ableism.  Anything to avoid a conversation on patriarchy.

Because that is what was at stake when the student was raped in the hostel – the same thing that is being negotiated, violently, in every rape: power.  That’s the more urgent discussion: the core, as it were, of that composite experience we eventually call “racism”, however many social layers it is filtered through that disguise its patriarchal origins.

A friend of mine commented, “Once again, we cannot ignore colour in this situation.  It is one of the underlying reasons if not the most obvious reason for that boy being chosen to be abused.  It could’ve been a small frame, a funny facial feature, a weird voice, a personality perceived as weak, a skin colour, a difference in status / class in society or a lack of sporting ability for example that lead to this boy to being picked on.  However, it’s idiotic to ignore the obvious ie the race issue.  How many hostel incidents have we had where racial tension lead to brutal and demeaning acts.  I can personally attest to being in those type of abusive situations.  It’s an evil that must be uprooted.”

This comment was posted  in public.  If I told you the number and frequency of men who’ve attested “to being in those types of abusive situations” in coffee shops, in my Facebook inbox and on other platforms, you’d break down.  Racism was incidental in those other stories – they were stories about male-on-male violence.  From this, I gather that the evil of racism cannot be understood or confronted apart from the evil of “othering”, as well as the insistence on defining identity and power along the lines of distinguishing oneself as above “the other”.  We could flush out white privilege tomorrow and still be stuck with that problem.  How do I know?

Consider the racially mixed group that observed this incident.  From the City Press write-up, I gathered that the first accessible family respondent was the boy’s grandmother.  She confirmed that the boy was new at the school. I suspect he was also “new” in the social setting, unknown to the other kids.  I may be stereotyping, but I cannot help picturing a family not quite as well-off as the families of the other black boys in the hostel.  When you’re the poorer and newer black kid, you are what the other black kids could have been and possibly once were; you become an eyesore for them too because you become the reminder of where the white kids in the room subtly remind you that you come from and belong to.  Defending this kid would have “cost” the other black kids.

So through peer pressure, white privilege has been transferred to class privilege among black people, and the transaction happened as black kids watched over the coats of those who raped one of their own.  The system merely changed hands and distinctions, but it’s in essence the same system.  We could flush out white privilege tomorrow and still be stuck with the basic problem.  When the problem isn’t named but its shell is dismantled, the problem reincarnates.

Were none of the kids confirmed racists, then?  No doubt some were.  As another commenter said, “I believe that this should be laid at the feet of the white parents.  I am sure their kids hear them speaking disparagingly about JZ, Robert Mugabe, the government etc. all the time and the take away for the kids is that all black people are crooked and lazy and not like us.  These kids grow up with a sense of superiority and entitlement which makes them believe, not only that it is ok to do something like this, but that is it cool to film it”.

So I’ll leave the racism-dismantling to people who’re actually good at that, and instead continue on to other examples of male-on-male rape in similar settings.

As a commenter said when he read this story, “Not necessarily racist.  I remember a similar incident at a university quite a few years back (during apartheid) when a first year student died as a result of internal injuries sustained after a similar incident”.  A replica of the old homophobic/patriarchal system, our new ostensibly tolerant one has no tools with which to critique the very power it seeks to wield.  Jacob Zuma has no interest in dismantling patriarchy.  So he has no choice but to prime everyone into a state where expressions of male domination are seen, firstly, as racial acts (or something else), and later, as rape.  The former relies on the latter for its reality.  Racism relies on patriarchy for its expression, not the other way around.  The distinction between the one and the other is as important as where the X and Y axes belong on a Cartesian plane.  Get that wrong, and your math is out.

Some sites describe how “pulling train” or “gang rape becomes a normative part of fraternitys’ behavior and group identity”, identifying “the pledging process as an important means of socializing men to endorse such attitudes and behaviors”.  They also say that “If a young boy plays with a doll in the presence of older boys, it is likely that he will be teased and will quickly learn that having a doll is outside the bounds of acceptable masculine behavior.  This is particularly troubling when one considers that having a doll is an important way for young children to develop important human qualities of nurturing and care-giving.  Beginning in early childhood, boys learn to de-value activities that are associated with female-identified qualities while they simultaneously learn that rough and aggressive play are acceptable for boys.

“When hazing occurs among men, regardless of the type of group, it is often framed as a test of ‘strength’, ‘courage’, and “determination” as well as the ability to withstand humiliation.  So the racist slurs in the rape must also be examined through the lens of hazing and initiation.  Anyone remember Shrien Dewani?  He liked racial slurs during degrading sex acts.  In other words, in what communication among masculinites has been reduced to since patriarchal society got too scared to look at the monster it had unleashed, humiliation became yet another syllable in a language of violence.  The terrifying thing – and I’ve seen this when dealing with bullies – is that the perpetrator will tell you afterwards that he didn’t mean it that way.  C’mon, he’ll say, back to being his family’s responsible, wonderful son.  Normal, like normal society.  He’ll say that what happened that Sunday in the hostel… it was, it was…

It was me finding the limits of my identity by pushing your person-hood and psychological endurance to its limits, because that’s the language I know that really resonates with the only facet of me that anyone else can get to see as the dominating bully.  It was me expressing myself in the language of manhood, which is an echo of the preparation young men my age had to undergo before they were fitted to defend their people, which language shall be replicated among black people even as you focus on the racism of this act, neglecting that I’ve raped other juniors that happened to be white.  It was, it was, it was –

It was boys being boys.

Because we wouldn’t have them as anything else.  Society has stunted their development at that point and they grow up to become violent men.

And we replicate the power structures they understand themselves called upon to dominate within.  We replicate them when we focus on one aspect of the attack as it eclipses the replication of similar power structures.

“While many of these attacks have taken place in the context of sports culture, they have also occurred outside of athletic settings, as well as on and off school property.  In the past year, more than 40 cases have been documented across the nation, in California, New York, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Massachusetts, and other states.  A decade ago there was an average of two or three cases of any type of sexual violence reported among high school-aged boys” states an American site.  “High school hazing rituals among adolescent boys once involved upperclassmen stuffing freshmen into lockers or garbage bins, teasing, or towel-snapping in the locker room.  But recent cases have introduced new and disturbing dimensions to these abusive practices that now seem tame by comparison.  Unlike the type of hazing that takes place in college contexts, these practices are absent the initiation rituals commonly found in fraternities, where excessive alcohol consumption or other behaviors play a role in establishing one’s worthiness for admission into the brotherhood.  By contrast, in recent cases of anal hazing, there are no pledging objectives propelling the acts, no alcohol is involved, and both victims and perpetrators are minors between 13 and 17 years old”.

So what happened in the South African school isn’t new: it’s the vestige of an old system that contained patriarchal domination in racial boxes and taught its young men – who were all white at the time – to practice on one another.  The danger with the rally cry to dismantle white privilege is that it may be followed  by a replication of the same systems of domination because the patriarchy underlying all systems of domination will still go unquestioned.  “Between April and August 2012, three soccer players at La Puente High School, east of Los Angeles, penetrated other students with a javelin and a broken flagpole.  The perpetrators were convicted (of ‘sexual penetration with a foreign object’) and sentenced in May 2013.  Also in California, a Fontana high school student was sodomized with a broom handle and metal concrete-reinforcing bar during masonry class”.

“At New York’s Bronx High School of Science, three members of the school’s track team were arrested for pinning down a freshmen teammate and penetrating him with their fingers, a ritual that repeatedly took place over a three month period on school property.  One of the attackers reportedly told the victim: ‘you need a good fingering!’  In Missouri, a boy was sodomized with a water bottle in the school’s locker room while being held upside down by two other students.  At Maine West High School, just outside of Chicago, prosecutors report that older soccer players regularly penetrated younger players with fingers and sticks before and during practice.  In this case, the coach of the soccer team, Michael DiVincenzo was charged with fostering a hazing culture, one in which he personally threatened younger soccer players with anal penetration by varsity players, should they miss practice or fail to communicate effectively.  DiVincenzo was fired from Maine West for sanctioning a hazing culture and failing to report the abuse.  In the summer of 2013, three junior varsity soccer players from Somerville High School, just west of Boston, entered a cabin and sexually assaulted three freshmen at a summer camp in western Massachusetts.

“…After the principle [sic] contacted police to report the incident, residents of the town turned against him”.  Notice how we don’t want to talk about it.  “The ‘townies’ directed their anger at the principle, his 13-year-old son, and their family for reporting the incident, which they believed brought trouble into their town.  As Sheldone Cline, a town electrician insists, ‘it should have been left alone’.

“Another woman, Jennifer Long, a local waitress asks: ‘How [are] you going to be tough if you don’t get bullied sometimes?’  Residents of Norwood overwhelmingly blamed the 13-year-old victim and sided with his attackers, much like the recent Steubenville case from Ohio, in which the town turned against the 16-year-old female rape victim, accusing her of lying and subsequently siding with the two popular high school football players who raped her”.

“Jessica Bicknase, the mother of one of the attackers in the Norwood case, had t-shirts made with slogans in support of her son and the other two attackers.  More than a dozen students wore these t-shirts to school because they believed they were doing the right thing by supporting their hazer friends”.

See?  Normal families.  Normal family values.  Not monsters.  Normal human beings.

“The standard explanations offered by clinical psychologists and other professionals now widely cited in interviews in mainstream media, pin the blame on the presence of an atmosphere that increasingly values hypermasculinity and accompanying acts that demonstrate one’s masculinity and power, especially by practices that humiliate or subordinate members of the peer group.

“Nowhere do we find any mention of patriarchy or internalized homophobia as possible factors propelling the adolescent fascination with anal hazing”.

Patriarchy.  Heidi Hartmann describes it as “a set of social relations between men, which have a material base, and which, though hierarchical, establish or create interdependence and solidarity among men that enable them to dominate women”.

“Children internalize domination by observing the myriad ways in which men dominate women in the private (in the home) and public spheres (society at large).  Connecting the link, they soon realize that patriarchy is also effective in dominating other men, or in this case other boys.  In this way, they learn that ‘patriarchy is not simply hierarchical organization, but hierarchy in which particular people fill particular places places: those who dominate and those who are dominated’.  As boys intuitively begin to understand the need to dominate rather than be dominated, they fulfill such patriarchal expectations through anal hazing, which then becomes a vehicle for releasing patriarchal pressures”.

“Nowhere do we find any suggestion that internalized homophobia plays a part in fostering an adolescent culture that views anal penetration as a form of punishment, indeed, the most extreme form of male humiliation.  It is after all, gay men who are penetrated, simulating a practice so abhorrent enables the hazer to ‘faggotize’, that is, to subordinate and degrade the victim with the taint of (passive) homosexuality; for what could possibly be more humiliating for a man than to be anally penetrated?  Indeed, even our language alludes to the widespread fear of anal penetration.  Common expressions such as ‘dropped the soap’, ‘I got screwed’, ‘I got reamed’ ‘I’m not willing to bend’, or ‘cover your behind’, enforce this paranoia, because leaving one’s behind exposed entails that one risks getting fucked”, observes Massachusetts’ University philosopher Bassam Romaya.

The Ultimate Point

Keep your head.

Don’t panic.

Don’t hold back on hugs and affection when dealing with your sons.

And stay awake.

Thank you

Follow and contact



Struggling To Master This Trendy White-Shaming Thing. But I’ll Get There

I was Catholic in another life and I’ve still got burn marks from where the holy water was sprinkled on my skin to prove it.  And while I have discarded much of what the religion taught, I retained its moral introspectiveness.  I would read situations from the inside out, starting at my role before other people’s.

Until this morning, when I began to question my focus on my culpability for the situations I find myself in.  I saw this in Eusebius McKaiser’s Facebook status:

EVERY DAY I judge a white person, including one born after 1994, for being oblivious to their unearned privileges, for example.  I judge FW De Klerk.  I judge Wouter Basson.  I judge the racist trolls.  I judge English speaking white South Africans who think they are a different species to white Afrikaans farmers, say, and oblivious to the ubiquitous nature of white privilege flowing from racism.  I judge Max Du Preez, and his ilk, who think that a past that included a few days in jail, or anti-NP media, means they could not be racist ever, as if that past gives them immunity from racial politics in our democracy.

For anyone who’s ever wondered whether there’s enough racism policing happening out there, I only counted six “I judge” statements in this paragraph.  And this seems to be the unquestioned norm among black thinkers I read, love and admire.  Did I miss the boat on this one?  Am I being too sensitive?

I used to assume that some people were assholes, others racists, and that I had to worry more about my part in an interaction than theirs.  Because I have to live with myself far more than with other people.  Speck in your eye versus log in mine, you know?  Also, that nobody can make me feel inferior without my permission?  This sentiment seems lost on many, though; it’s another vestige of an antiquated religion that foists guilt on its victims.  Perhaps I was just being holier-than-thou.  I really meant well; I thought I was taking my personal power back from racists both real and imagined.  Because I thought that was the only cure for both.

Some background to the quoted above paragraph: Eusebius has been statusing and writing about Eugene de Kock, FW de Klerk and many other key apartheid players now that they’re reappearing in conversations of national import.  So brilliant was what he wrote last night that I remarked, “You’re on fire!”  The above paragraph was this morning’s instalment in that larger discourse.  Follow him and judge these words in the larger context of those reflections, if you wish.  I’ve spent the day turning them over in my head.  I do not presume to know his broader message.  But I can share the impression that’s developing as a result of these types of messages: some academic utterances justify this kind of wording, and in fact you won’t sound like you’re dealing with the issue of the day unless you’re honest enough to use language like this.  The below thoughts show what I mean by “language like this”.

Amidst truthful write-ups about racism in Cape Town, the blogosphere has been saturated with many writers’ white-shaming sentiments.  It’s trendy and legal.  If you’re one of these writers, if the shoe fits, wear it.  If you’re not and it doesn’t, then don’t.  If you feel, as I’ve done with Eusebius, that I’ve extracted something out of its original context to show how easily the original point can be lost, I get it.  But I cannot remain silent about the impression I just keep getting.  Because if I’m right, silence would be complicity.

Subtle, insidious white-shaming, much of which is based on facts.  One never runs out of facts in South Africa.  Apartheid, colonialism, inequality, unexamined white privilege and so on: pick one, pick all.  The key is in the way these facts are narrated, in the way the human storyteller arranges their elements and the conclusions he draws concerning white people, as though his own (potentially racist eye?) stands apart from what he’s observing.  Beneath the gentle, concerned tone of the author, whichever author it is, that dissects racism in South Africa, is there a need to wield the pen like a scalpel, teasing the wounds for just enough of bleed to sate the blood-lust and anger of the readers once again?  Are we dabbling in reasoned hatred?  Are we Trojan-horsing it amidst true stories and legitimate concerns, disguising it as merely an examination of the social dynamics of such-and-such an event, such-and-such a structural inequality or the goings-on of such-and-such an institution?

Do we use it to distract ourselves from problems that are inflicted by leaders who share our skin colour?  I didn’t think of the pen-scalpel metaphor myself: I got it from a white reader who, after reading many of these kinds of pieces to see what role she could play in mending South Africa, felt instead that she’d “undergone open heart surgery” and that “the surgeon had nicked my lung in the process, just out of spite, and has stitched me back together again so badly that I am weak and bleeding and not at all in a state to be able or even willing to cooperate with whatever is expected of me”.  I’m sure she feels encouraged to face the demons of her white privilege and racism, now.  She finally got the message.

Pity this piercing moral gaze is seldom turned closer to home.  If apartheid once privileged a few white people at the expense of many black people, and white people failed to immediately do everything in their power to stop that system from the day of its inception, can’t it be argued that we black people are showing streaks of a similar tendency?  Right now, we have a group of mostly black leaders that steal, lie and rape; they perpetuate the effects of the very apartheid we still blame white alone people for.  We voted these leaders in: where is the meā culpā, meā culpā, meā maximā culpa? that’s supposed to show our awareness of our complicity in perpetuating apartheid’s effects today?

I feel this binge of white-shaming has come with weird timing.  Why have we waited 20 years to dump this guilt on “them”?  My theory is that 21 years ago we felt, with good reason, that we could rebuild the nation without resorting to heaping guilt on white people.  We chose that constitution, we sang along with the songs, we clapped at the sight of the same rainbow formation, white doves, new flag, and so on.  We had the good sense to elect leaders like Nelson Mandela into presidency.  The rebuilding got off to a slow start but had we continued on that trajectory and learned our lessons as we went along, I submit, we would be having very different conversations today.  We would have a different country on our hands.  And we’d still have built on some redeemable facets of apartheid’s infrastructure.  In short, we could be building relationships with less friction as races.  We, black people, have been at that particular wheel (political) for two decades and we’ve been perpetrating much apartheid on ourselves, by ourselves.  Isn’t a balanced perspective on apartheid’s lingering legacy a perspective that takes this fact into the equation?

Or at least that’s how I thought until this morning.  Now I’m struggling with doubts.  When the brightest stars among us so frequently make it seem so okay to just shame white people, and do not often enough annunciate why it could possibly be wrong to do so (or pontificate on when it is okay at such length and complexity that I cannot follow the nuances of their argument) then why not join the masses beneath them and hate white people?  Isn’t that simpler?  Why continue presenting white people 40 million differing perspectives on what does and does not constitute racism, and just unite in hostility against them?

Someone who takes exception with this piece may say, “Nobody claimed that no good white peoples exist; it’s simply that…”  But that sounds an awful lot like, “Some good blacks exist; it’s just that…”  Does such a statement become correct when its black-on-white because of apartheid?

I believed that another reason we refrained from white-shaming for that long was because (and even McKaiser admits this) a lot of white people did fight against apartheid.  Others suffered in other ways – think conscription – at the hands of the system that, though privileging them more, also controlled them on many levels.  And some black people benefited by colluding with that government against their own.  Now that we don’t necklace our own as often as we used to, I find that nothing black people may have done to betray other black people, then or now, can eclipse the halo-nobility of being a black survivor of apartheid.  If having been an activist against the old regime doesn’t guarantee one immunity from “racial politics in our democracy”, then neither does having been a black struggle hero guarantee one immunity from any form of evil – as we’ve seen!  Yet in spite of this, nothing white people could have lost while fighting against the apartheid government will ever absolve their sin of being white.  Blackness is my license to set the terms, determine the thresholds, and judge white people.

You wrote a few anti-apartheid articles and got jailed for those by the old regime?  Good for you!  I’ve never seen the inside of a jail cell but by this logic I can reserve the right to recalibrate the standard so that in spite of your anti-apartheid activism, you’re still guilty for having gotten a better education in the first place.  Because whiteness.  It appears I can shift the goal posts and you can’t.  It appears you can’t tell me that I’m wrong and won’t tell me what to write.  And don’t dare ask how I snuck into a former Model C high school so soon after 1994, or why I don’t boycott all benefits that may have been filtered to me through white institutions.  It appears I don’t have to be consistent.  Because blackness.  If you point this out, I’ll say you’re racist and you shall feel the Old Testament wrath of black Facebook and have to change your profile picture.

Each time I speak to a white person about apartheid, I absolutely do anticipate he will say, “We didn’t know”, to which I will reply, “You had a vested interest in not knowing”.  This isn’t condemnation, excuse or judgment: it’s an uncoloured observation.  Even the white person who died fighting apartheid had a vested interest in not knowing; he simply chose to forgo that vested interest for a higher truth.  How do I know what each white person did with his vested interest in not knowing?  See, there is a fine line between ignorance and ignoring, and I am not in the business of figuring out how deep anyone lived on which side of that line.  Can I presume to know?  If I do, I guess I’ll be forgiven because I’m black.  So much moral power: where do I begin misusing it?

I am tired of being reprimanded for how idealistic I am.  All along, I resisted the urge to assume that beneath the thoughtfulness, principled sensitivity and whatever else a person of any race present to me, there must exist a racist core, hidden by the niceness, of which even they are not aware.  I resisted it because while it could exist in them, it could also exist in me.  The bible says, “Seek and ye shall find”.  Look for the flaw in the way someone interacts with you, and you won’t be disappointed.  Decide to create distance instead of understanding, and nothing the other person does will ever be right – not by your standards and not by theirs.  If he learned Zulu* it wouldn’t be seen as an attempt at reconciliation.  It would be seen as his attempt at appropriating my mother tongue into his self-congratulatory agenda to “white-wash” just how extensively he has benefited from apartheid.  He wanted my approval for learning Zulu when it should be standard for people to learn one another’s languages – I never got a pat on the back for learning English – and maybe I should stop feeling like he’s reaching out across the divide and instead point out how he keeps missing the mark.

If he says, “We’re learning the Zulu language because it’s spoken by the majority of people in this province, which is the only one named after a language, this language”, I can simply point out how he’s now admitting that he’s a foreigner and tourist in this land.  Being South African requires internalization; he’s still essentially a European with a racist background.  “No, I’m learning Zulu because I like it and I really want to!”  Goddamn, that’s my language, a part of my identity.  Where do you get off just “liking” it as though it were a triviality that crossed your Facebook timeline?

Once I’ve decided to create distance, nothing anyone can do will ever close it.  Once I’ve shut the door, nobody can ever open it. 

And if the imaginary person did find the right response to my accusation that he’s learning Zulu or doing what he’s doing to help integrate himself in the new South Africa, he would have stripped me of the security blanket of perpetual victimhood.  His rationality would be the final proof of his limitless racism.  He’d be taking from me the one identity apartheid gave me: the morally wronged, the righteous victim, the one the world owes amends to.  Don’t you understand that I need it so that I never have to look within to see where my feelings of inadequacy begin?  Given the bottomless need to be vindicated and affirmed, the charge of racism may allow me to take my insecurities and read them as contempt in your face whenever I see you.  I’m able to do this with you because you’re white; you’re “other”.  I can’t afford to read contempt, however, in the multitude of black leaders as they recycle lies and treat me with absolute arrogance.  Contempt from one’s own people sticks.  I need you, and your white face, because once I read racism in it, I can purge away, I can finally expel, the accumulated feelings of hopelessness about my situation, both internal and not, which are as a result of the choices I make and the leaders I choose and the elders I listen to.  I can do this by twisting and uglifying whatever you do and are as racism.  I then feel superior to you and can live with myself.  “Siya, you just can’t see how much the whites really actually hate you”, I’m often told.  “They only pretend to want you to have a share in the wealth of the land, and you’re naïve enough to believe them.  They’re using you and your blog posts”.  Well of course I can’t see the mote of how much they actually hate me: I’m so fixated on the beam of how much we need them to hate us.  What would we be without that story?  There are enough racists in the world: why does it have to be only and all white people?

Normally I wouldn’t want white people to be white around me on my terms, which on a bad day may be full of resentment, bitterness and judgment, just as I will not be black around white people on their terms, which may be based on their systemized ignorance concerning how “white-washed” the terms have been for the last four centuries.  Please ignore the fact that I’m writing this in English.  But slowly, I find I’m losing my religion.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing, if you were white, and someone just said it?  “I hate white people, and short of handing everything over there is nothing they can ever do to change that”?  No more figuring out subtleties and nuances that require advanced degrees in ethics, philosophy and law, not to mention a thorough knowledge of history, anthropology and God knows what else.  No more chasing this mirage of getting to know people who are different from oneself, only to find out that one haven’t even started hearing their story?  No more emotional cat-and-mouse, tip-toeing, fearing that someone will take offense at an accidental action or word, or that there may be yet another way one doesn’t realize one is being racist towards me (but never vice-versa)?  Isn’t it nice that one can finally reclaim one’s pride at being white without feeling like one is offending me, because I have now finally capitulated to the hatred that saturates the blogosphere?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the rigmarole ended?  To admit that white people can never get it right?  I’m tempted to end it by just giving in to this building impression that it’s okay to shame white people.  And maybe attack a few foreigners in Soweto while I’m at it.  It’s their fault too, isn’t it?

Sure, such levels of hatred may be toxic for my health and cloud my judgment, but it seems I have a moral obligation to hate all white people while blending that hatred with a love of academic truth.  A love of truth that never makes the astoundingly simple observation that the people now perpetuating the effects of apartheid happen to be black.

*no offense intended towards the growing number of my friends and acquaintances who’ve decided to study Zulu.  In the spirit of white-shaming, you must suffer for my craft.

Stay in touch


Open Letter To The Presidency: Discuss Nothing – SONA2015

Dear Mr. Zuma

This is in response to your Office’s call for public contributions towards the State of the Nation Address.

I would like you to discuss nothing at all.  Other than (bad) entertainment, what are your words good for?

You rose from the poverty that apartheid left you in, and by some mysterious power (which you have mistaken for your ancestors’ blessing) soared to the very pinnacle.  That’s not just heroic: it’s messianic.  You think an ancestor did that for you?  No.  It was your moral power.  You’ve reduced that to nothing, too.  That’s why you feel this infinite need to look to the dead to inspire the living.  You would rather credit ghosts for your good deeds lest those deeds haunt you with the unbearable knowledge of who you could have been.  I don’t think you can understand the magnitude of what you have lost.

Had you simply come along to do evil, history would be more forgiving.  That you first showed so much promise and then squandered it is what makes your betrayals so much more spectacular and hurtful.

Who is praising you now?  Are they praising you from the heart, because of who you really are?  Or are they just tickling your ears as you give them what they want at the expense of the people who look to you?  Do you have to pay for the forced applause?

How much did you sell the little, little pieces of your great, great soul for?  Did you at least gain the whole world?

They’re sainting and ordaining you.  But are you ready to meet your Maker?  Will you lie to him who knows how to ask questions?  You don’t have much time left.  However much longer you live, you’ll still be a long time dead.

Many will line up to dance on your grave.

It won’t do for me to magisterially weigh the cases made for and against you to determine their merit.  Instead, I’ll tell you the cumulative impact of your presence on the media – the taste, as it were, that you leave in people’s mouths – in personal terms.  I do not take pride in being Zulu anymore, and you are the reason.  When you are presented as proof of our people’s nobility, I shudder.  For if you’re the best the Zulu people can produce, then we are what happened when God decided to curse this land.

No, please, I am not interested in Jan van Riebeeck: he is not my blood relative.  He does not make me ashamed of what courses in my veins.  You are and you do.  If I wanted to hate white people I could simply stay away from them.  But you and I have too much in common for me to escape our shared heritage that easily.  Sesilahlekelwe yisithunzi.  You took all our dirty laundry as a people-group – some of which was a result of historical influences, I know – ran it through the mud and soiled South Africa with it.

I know, I know – I have no right to talk to elders this way, anginanhlonipho, etc. blah blah blah.

If you would prefer to be spoken to like an elder, then behave like one. Otherwise you will be booed.

But let’s imagine I did still care about etiquette.

Is it nice, being able to chop and change the rules to your benefit and convenience?  You’re the president of a republic when it suits you and a patriarchal elder when it doesn’t suit me?

Yet I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’ve resigned.  #ZumasResigned.

Or do say something.  Tell us more beautiful lies about our plastic democracy and paper rights and your multitude of token efforts at fighting with your left hand the corruption you commit with your right hand.  Give the speech in Mandrin or Russian.  Either way I will not watch SONA2015 if you’re speaking because it will be a waste of time.  If I wanted to watch drama I’d do that, not listen to you tell a good story.  Leave fiction to the people who get paid to produce fiction.

Or say nothing.

You have washed out the meaning of words.  You were.  You no longer are.  You counted.  You no longer count.  You mattered.  You no longer matter.  And that’s why I’d personally prefer it if you said nothing for SONA2015.  This is my call for you to #SayNothing.

Say nothing.  Silence is golden.  Give us the peace, the time, and the dignity to mourn what’s left of this nation.  Respect us enough not to take any more of our time and attention.  Let some meaning remain in words by not abusing any more of them.  Do not insult our intelligence once again by standing in front of us to recite a speech written in an ivory tower by someone who doesn’t even know.  A speech, frankly, that you won’t even know.  The charade is abhorrent.  Spare us.  Most importantly, if who you used to be matters at all, if you want to spare your old self and leave something good about you for history to remember, refrain from saying anything.  Say nothing.  That’s the only worthy tribute you can pay to a legacy you have reduced to nothing.

Do not say that you have resigned – that’s an accomplished fact.  We  accepted that without your help.  Do not say that you will pay back the money: there isn’t enough of it to go around for anyone anymore.  To borrow a song line: you say it best when you say nothing at all.  There is nothing left to say.  So say nothing.

Thank you

Siya Khumalo

Stay in touch

#SONA2015 #SayNothing #ZumasResigned #FormerPresidentJacobZuma