#KeeganHirst Is Still The Hero – And Why That’s A Problem

“Rugby League Player Keegan Hirst – First British Professional To Openly Say He Is Gay,” the news headlines say.  They talk of the outpouring of support he’s been getting.  He tells of his past denial regarding his sexuality.  “I had a wife and kids.  I’ve been a builder, doorman, worked in factories – I play rugby.  I tick every macho box.  How could I be gay?  I’m from Batley for goodness sake.  No one is gay in Batley.”

Now I don’t want to be that guy who takes anything from Keegan Hirst’s coming out story, or from him.  His achievements are remarkable.  No doubt he is a wonderful person.  Whatever this moment means to him, it is his moment.  He doesn’t need my or anyone else’s permission to do that.  And of course, he’s in the UK and hasn’t got a clue that this piece is being written.

But I’ve run out of credit to give to these big athletes coming out.

When the straight-acting, white, beautiful white male rugby player comes out, what actually changes?  We’re still celebrating the fact that his world has not disclaimed him.  He’s still the hero on that world’s terms.  So what’s changed is that the matrices of dominance – male hegemonies and the bro code – have expanded to include gay people who, in essence, don’t look or act different from everyone else, and therefore don’t disturb the equilibrium.  The most importants part of the package he represents as a brand have not changed.

He is still the promise of physical prowess and machismo and coolness.  Nobody actually has to see what he does in his bedroom anyway, so the “important” bits are still there.

What changed in Uganda when Keegan Hirst came out?  Did something improve in the situation of the township lesbian in South Africa who has been brave enough to live her life as authentically as she could from the start despite the overwhelming risk?  Why did Duduzile Zozo have to die for me to find out who she was?

How can I share and celebrate the coming-out story of a highly-paid athlete who has sacrificed – what? a shot at one endorsement but the greater prospect of that other one instead now that there’s a story to sell? only he and God and those close to him know what he has sacrificed – when all it is, is us convincing the same power-brokers and gate-keepers that the brand, the surface appearance, the thing that people like and buy into and find familiar, can accommodate a homosexual orientation?

How is that bringing about fundamental change in a world that is desperate for more than just a cosmetic face-lift?

What are we trying to do as consciousness-raisers?  Convince the same people within the same structures that we’re just like them, or critique their structures completely?

Another example.  I’m tired of hearing people say, “Wow, I like this new Pope.”  Why do we want the Pope to have an epiphany about gay people when we should want for gay people to have an epiphany about themselves and stop trying to get that system, that establishment, that institution, to “accept” them?  The question shouldn’t be whether that establishment can accept gay people.  The question should be – how in God’s name can gay people forgive and accept these establishments.  This Stockholm Syndrome business has got to end.  This sucking up business, this thing of believing the Oppressor’s narrative about his superiority or the order, the security and the stability of the world he’s selling, has got to come to an end.  It is  religious establishments that need diversity and gay people, not the other way around.

So I ask you again: what changed for the sensitive, artistic gay kid who is being bullied in school?  He won’t be called “faggot” but the underlying attitude will still be there.  The words change.  The intent behind them doesn’t because all that’s happened is that “faggot” got shifted from the “insults” column to the “we don’t call people that anymore because some macho rugby players are gay” column.  That’s what political correctness will do.  But the underlying contempt for difference and femininity and vulnerability is still there, fundamentally undisturbed.  I can’t, in good conscience, play along any longer.

So congratulations, Mr Keegan Hirst.  Whatever this moment means to you, take it in and relish it.  You don’t need my or anyone else’s permission to do that.  You have every right to be proud of yourself, and the people around you have a right to be proud of you.

But you could be the among the last sports’ stars to be celebrated for coming out.  It’s achievement that’s been done to death – and I do mean to death – by heroes whose names will never make as many news headlines.  Their stories were just not as glamorous, I guess.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com


About That Sowetan News Headline: What’s Wrong With Being Called A Woman?

Yesterday Facebook went crazy over a Sowetan headline that read, “Gays Can Join ANC Women’s League” because what the paper really meant was that transgendered women can join the ANCWL.

If we’re talking technicalities, the headline was wrong; if we’re speaking colloquialisms, maybe a few years ago the word “gay” would have been a fitting catch-all for all sorts of gender non-conforming types of people. Should the headline have provoked the outrage it did? I don’t know.

I believe that once upon a time, faced by a mob of homophobic thugs with baseball bats, some gay guys defended themselves by saying, “We are not the women impersonators/fraudsters you’re looking for! No! We are just men who love men in private. We are harmless. We do not confuse little children about gender identity. We are men. We can do man things. We can fight in wars and play sports. The people you’re looking for (who we are now distancing ourselves from) are technically called…”

Thus were born the letters LGBTIQ+ in man’s attempt to identify and box every deviance from heteroexpectancy. Separated by the hills we chose to die on (because we were dying) the masculine/straight-acting gay guys ran one way, denying any connection whatsoever with the feminine/flamboyant/obviously gay guys running the other way. And to avoid the embarrassment of not acknowledging the balance of the lot, we hastily stuck the label “transgendered” on anyone who felt that his biological sex was different from his gender identity. But we still pretended that there don’t exist gay (and straight!) men who embrace their feminine side but do not, for whatever reason, experience many of the internal struggles typical to transgendered persons.

We tried to capture Job’s whirlwind in a teacup.

What if we protect and distinguish these labels because we are afraid? Out of one side of our mouths we preach that sexual orientation, sex and gender exist on continuums; out of the other side we lash out at the implications, terrified when a label used to identify one landmark on that spectrum is used instead of a more accurate technical term. Isn’t it all part of the same humanscape?

We lash out not in the interest of preserving scientific accuracy but because whatever we have set ourselves up as is under threat and the perception management is not working. When someone calls you something other than what you would call yourself, he is telling you what he understands you to be. And people will see you as what they see you no matter how hard you’d want them to see you another way. Here is the reality: whoever created that headline has been not been exposed to the technical knowledge we have agreed upon about LGBTIs (for that knowledge did not fall from the sky but was artificially manufactured in laboratories and lecture halls) but that person has been exposed to enough feminine gay women, and myths about them, that to him, rightly or not, “gay” is synonymous with “transgender woman.”

Are we not just afraid, maybe? Shoring up a masculine identity that has been a “get out of jail free” card, so to speak, through most of our lives? The more masculine you are, the less suspicious everyone else is about you? Of course the headline was wrong. But if you are unsure about your particular constellation of gender, sex and sexual orientation, it comes as a relief, I imagine, that some social scientist is saying, “No; gay men are not women at all.” So your doubt is just paranoia, and the person who dares say that there is something very woman about (some) gay men, is just ignorant. Isn’t that a relief? You never have to face the issue because it is that other person that is ignorant, not you who is anxious.

A gay friend of mine seemed to agree with some of these observations. “It is necessary that we overreact to some of these errors,” he said. Surprised, I asked why. “Well, after the hell we have endured from them (heteronormative society?), we must, must draw lines in the sand.” He used Zizipho Pae as an example of necessary overreaction and outrage. “They made their beds. They have to lie in them.” We cannot afford to let such remarks slide. In an ideal society you could find out how someone truly feels about you without feeling threatened; in our society, the more we allow prejudiced opinions free reign, the more likely they are to lead to violence.

He went on to explain that while it is tacitly understood that a gay man may be feminine relative to his partner, we do not, ever, tolerate the question, “So which one of you is the man and which the woman?” We do not just reject the question because it conflates gender identity with sexual orientation, or because it denies our identity as men, or because of any disinterested or technical reason like that. Rather, at the, er, bottom of our rage (for the issue is not academic but truly visceral) is The Fear Of Being Called A Woman (TFOBCAW).

Because there is nothing worse that you can call a man in our society.

Let that sink in.

Woman. Weakness. Receptivity. Vulnerability. Powerlessness. Dependence. Being blamed for the ills of society. Seen as trying to be pretty or using one’s looks. Asserting individual rights but not having the balls to back it up. That is what comes to mind to many, whatever we say to fill the white noise through August.

I dare gay guys to tell me they’re so secure in their masculinity that I am talking nonsense, that they simply respect the essential, God-given differences between men and women. Because I have no doubt that many will give me this reasoned response instead of admitting that part of the reason so many of us got upset was TFOBCAW.

Gentlemen, gay and straight, I do not think we have a right to defend our masculinity for any reason, however lofty, if doing so affords us an opportunity to turn aside from the reality that in our society, many suffer from TFOBCAW. That is misogyny, and it is a far worse problem than being mistaken for women.

Let me explain it another way. A straight celebrity is rumoured to be gay. How would we want him to react? If he strongly affirms and defends his heterosexuality, is he in fact saying there is something wrong with being perceived to be gay? Sure, he could be setting the record straight (pun intended) for the sake of setting the record straight. But let us not be naïve: many straight men feel they have a lot to lose from being seen as something other than completely straight. People of certain races feel there would be something to lose if they were thought to be members of another race. And so on. Is the humanity of “the other” not dignifying enough? Must we preserve the distinction in the details as well? Apparently so.

By all means, ladies and gentlemen, stay up to date with the latest glossary of terms by which people are calling themselves and one another. But we should use labels as a guide and not as the Gospel truth. Don’t believe everything you read.

My friend would not relent though. “When you move,” he said, “You must pack things in boxes and label those boxes to avoid confusion.”

I replied, “I’m not moving anywhere. We’re here, we’re queer (whatever that means) and we’re not going anywhere. My boxes are unpacked. Everything of me is in the open, not in a box. This is my world, too. I have every right to make myself at home in it.”

Regardless of whether a journalist somewhere thinks “gay” is the same thing as “transgendered woman.” The thugs with the baseball bats are now the defeated minority, I would hope.

Or am I just idealistic?

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Church And Kids: 18 Reasons Why Not

Ecclesia de Lange’s experience as a lesbian minister who was fired from the Methodist Church after her engagement announcement will make its way to the Constitutional Court where we will test the relationship between church and state.

But many have argued that churches are voluntary membership associations; as such, they do not have to be constitutional at all points. They can have their own rules. Within reason.

But if that’s so, then shouldn’t people have to be 18 years old before they are allowed to attend church sermons or homilies?

Shouldn’t churches that do admit minors adhere to publicly-known broadcasting and pedagogical standards?

I really would like to know: what has the State put in place to regulate the influence that churches and other religious institutions have over children? I am happy to admit ignorance but if any measures do exist, then their effectiveness must be limited because from what I see and hear, children are still present in church audiences where the sermon material is not entirely suitable for people of all ages.

This is something I have written to the Human Rights Commission about (giving its local office many headaches) – churches’ unmitigated influence over vast portions of society, as well as the absence of any aggressive public push to regulate what children are exposed to in churches.

Are children able to consent to having this influence exerted over their impressionable minds? Dare we believe that their sponge-like minds do not absorb everything they see and hear? Some churches have the good sense to send children off to kid’s church when preaching starts. Some preachers ensure their messages are age-sensitive. But I imagine that many don’t; they simply steamroll through the message with little or no thought about the smaller ears in the audience. The number of churches this happens in might not be great, but I imagine it is significant; we cannot rely on complainants to highlight issues before we take action. We must be pro-active and ask for the upfront regulation of the church’s influence on the public, I believe.

If courts cannot force churches to behave constitutionally, then to whatever degree churches refuse to play along with the Bill of Rights, to that degree sermons, homilies and the like should not be broadcast to minors.

True, nobody should have his freedom of speech, religion or conscience curtailed. But neither should minors suffer any form of harm as a result of another person’s spiritual beliefs. Minors are suffering even if the damage is not apparent.

My Testimony 
When I heard my first anti-gay sermon, my vocabulary and sexual awareness had not advanced to the point that the term “sodomite” should have made sense, or, for that matter, have meant something significant to me. But that does not mean I should have been exposed to an atmosphere where such vitriol could be stirred up and revelled in on account of people’s sexual preferences and choices; that left an impression. And I believe I was one of the lucky ones.

Nothing but rape and other forms of coercive, abusive and otherwise deceitful (but still blatantly hurtful) sexual choices should provoke even a fraction of that sheer congregational outrage or the self-righteous chorus of Amens. Peer pressure, crowd psychology and the impressionability of young minds form an intoxicating cocktail of influences that in turn shape young minds towards prejudices and attitudes they otherwise may not have picked up and clung to.

Nobody should be in a position to instil the idea in a young mind that to fit in with those who “know best” and hold the power to include and exclude, he has to absorb and perpetuate the same prejudices. But many are in such positions, and worshiped and admired as they are, they and their teachings are beyond question, beyond reproach.

So while I applaud the Constitution for protecting adults’ right to believe whatever they want and sign up for whatever private clubs they want to sign up for, eating and drinking snakes, rats petrol and fire as they wish, I have to ask: who is protecting the children from the adults’ choices? Are kids driven out when “exorcisms” (otherwise known as beat-downs) are conducted? My mother told me about one in Umlazi J section, I think it was, where the exorcist managed to pull out a child’s entrails in a bid to cast out demons. It may be an anecdotal account, but it is still indicative of a disturbing trend. There is a real danger here; I see striking parallels with ritual circumcision but that is a whole other can of, er, worms.

Real or not, the child in this instance died. But do these preachers even say, “Kids, don’t try this at home!” before doing the holy work of God? Or do they rely on the Holy Ghost to clean up after them?

Hellfire And Brimstone Sermons Are Not Suitable For Young And Sensitive Audiences

Does there exist a being with the power to send vast numbers of people to an everlasting hell? Perhaps. Probably. But there is no good reason to introduce the imagery of it to young, fertile imaginations.

The doctrine of hell is mentally violent. It is intended to scare people into obedience, and often it accomplishes that goal. But more so than adults, children’s understanding of personhood is limited. The idea that some people should be cast into hell can undermine the foundation of the understanding of personhood, which, in turn, will undermine children’s ability to grasp the ethos of the Bill of Rights. We do not (or should not) torture criminals. But according to the doctrine of hell, the God of the bible subjects his criminals to everlasting torment. The State images benevolence as non-violence; God, however, vindicates his benevolence by threatening its alternative, and that is supreme, absolute violence. Are children able to cope with this dissonance? I doubt it.

Piousness is not necessarily a constitutional value. Don’t children living in a constitutional democracy have a right to learn more constitutional ideas before being exposed to the idea of hell (or, for that matter, many biblical motifs)? It is traumatising and dehumanising to learn such a potent idea at such a young age, much like being exposed to a no-holds-barred talk about sex when you are just seven years old.

None of this actually has to do with whether these beliefs are true or ethical; the point I am stressing is that there is nothing to be gained from exposing children to these concepts that cannot be gained by other, better-thought through means. The fact that we have not, generally speaking, really discussed alternatives (as members of churches or as citizens of the State or both) is a sign of our collective lethargy when it comes to constitutionalism.

Sexual Orientation And Religious Homophobia   

The Constitutional Court will hear the story of Ecclesia de Lange. But maybe it is an opportunity for us to also discuss children and other vulnerable people in the cross-hairs of religious discrimination. There is nothing to be gained from exposing children to sermons teaching that some kinds of boys, girls, men and women are more deserving of hell because the popular prejudice of the day says so. History tells of great religious trauma over the centuries. This is to say nothing about immersing children in normalised sexism passing itself off as orthodoxy. That is what many children are exposed to, is it not?

My formative years were spent under the fiery preaching of a Charismatic-Pentecostal church whose homophobic head pastor infamously raped a slew of high school boys. Whoever wants to go deal with that kind of twisted, toxic, hypocritical, repressive shit has my blessing and the constitutional right to sign up for it.

But for Christ’s sake – and I do mean for Christ’s sake – suffer the children to be kept out of it: not for such is what masquerades as the kingdom of heaven.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com 

The Crucial Queering Of Women’s Month

If you’re straight, there’s a great likelihood you’ve only read this far because your eyes took in more than just the title that may have otherwise put you off.

Queer things are, you might believe, for and about queer people who queerly go on and on about how marginalized and victimized they are. And on some level you might want to say “Boohoo” but it’s not PC since we’ve all suddenly woken up to tolerance and non-discrimination and all this namby-pamby inclusivity stuff.

Well, I am very pleased to tell you that “they” and “us” is an illusion. If all the oxygen on this planet evaporated out of our atmosphere, the disaster wouldn’t befall just “us” and leave “them.” We would all be in trouble.

A queer perspective on society is on exactly the same group of people that comprises and holds together them and us. It’s about stuff that’s happening in your backyard.

What we call “corrective rape” makes it way in and out of public discourse whenever the media highlights a particularly gruesome case. Wow. They raped her because she was lesbian. That’s awful. Then we move on, as we feel we can, because it only affected that isolated group of people there, namely, women who have sexual and romantic relationships with other women.

If August is to be Women’s Month in any meaningful way, we, and not just some government departments, need to talk, as society, about why corrective rape happens. On National Women’s Day, we commemorate the march of 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in 1956 to petition against pass laws. After we observe that day, scores of women will continue in relationships with scores of men who, at one fight or break-up, will circulate naked pictures of their bodies on social media, or beat them – or worse.

And the people who knew them will take sides and say things like, “He is such a reasonable boyfriend and has given her everything a woman could have asked for, so she must have done something to bring this on herself.”

We do not say it in so many words. But we think it. 

The scandal with our society is that as a collective, we have decided we would rather have a woman in an abusive relationship with a man who still has work to do on his character, than have her in no relationship or in a same-sex relationship.

That’s why “corrective” rape happens: women’s rights over their bodies are contested all the way beyond even the boundaries of heterosexuality. Women belong to men: she may choose which man she belongs to – see? she has rights! – but she cannot choose not to belong to one if, as a visual and sexual commodity, she is deemed desirable enough.

The prettier and more desirable women are as potential trophy wife material, the less capable they must be of, well, doing anything on their own, right? Good femininity is prettiness, and prettiness is objectifiability. Every woman belongs to a man and it is each man’s responsibility to protect the woman who belongs to him. The prettier she is, the more of a man he must be. And this all gives him near-total power over her body. Yay.

We call it corrective rape because the norm, the default, is a woman who has no rights except in and through that man. And when she assumes any right, any self-determination outside of a relationship with that man who is to be her protection and her “head,” she is corrected. 

We call it corrective rape because it reveals the true status quo. Everything else (including Women’s Month) is a holiday from the way things really are.

That’s my queer perspective on Woman’s Month.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com  

If We’re Serious About Women’s Month, We Will Seriously Legalize Polyandry

Some say two’s company and three’s a crowd. Others reckon, the more the merrier.

For some people I know within the Zulu culture I am (supposedly a very treacherous) member of, having more than one wife signifies the ability to establish and maintain large or multiple households, which, in turn, gives you social kudos and say-so among fellow male household heads in society. Because you’re responsible for more of society’s growth and sustenance.

It’s not purely about one-upmanship, but it is an opportunity to display raw virility and capability. Whichever way you spin it, the number of female spouses, kids, cattle, etc. is seen as directly proportional to a man’s power, and therefore, rights.

This is why, for example, a certain high-ranking government employee in a polygamous marriage is willing to all but break the public bank to keep the pomp and shine of that living arrangement. And it is why vast numbers of his worshipers are willing to sacrifice almost anything to his network of patronage and friends. For his is the power, the honour, dominion, glory and praise, forever and ever, amen.

As a real Zulu man he has single-handedly populated a sizable part of our Zulu nation, rescuing it from oblivion, insignificance and erasure among the other black tribes and, for that matter, other races.

So we owe himhe does not owe us for the cost of this exercise or for Nkaaaaaaandla. So much for #PayBackTheMoney

I digress.

As a country, we legally recognize polygamous (technically, polygynious, “to many women”) marriages but not polyandrous (“to many men”) marriages. When asked why polygamous relationships are recognized, the experts I’ve spoken to cited people’s right to self-determination. If many women want to marry one man and vice-versa, our Constitution makes provision for the choice.

But when asked why polyandry isn’t recognized on the same grounds, they quickly change the reason we recognize polygamy in the first place. Then it becomes the recognition of indigenous customs and customary marriage. The Constitution of South Africa prioritizes the protection of indigenous cultures because colonialism and apartheid disparaged the heritage of indigenous people-groups; in fact, some people do even now, unable to distinguish between critiquing a culture and outright dissing it.

And that’s the problem: many people think the constitution’s protecting a culture from disparagement is the same as protecting it from examination. And while this assumption props up the enchanting mystique and impenetrability of the “it’s our culture” trope, the reason is circumstantial without on-going relevance at best, and a generous allowance we’ve made for traditionalism at worst. In our constitutional democracy, nothing should fall beneath the realization of the Bill of Rights. Not even the culture that my proud, wise ancestors handed down to me as a Zulu man, nor, for that matter, the President’s right to practice it beyond the reasonable boundaries of public need and safety.

As for that much-lauded commodity consent (“But these women have agreed to marry the one man”) I think we owe it to one another and ourselves not to always accept a person’s consent at face value but to try to see whether it was in any way coerced, if not by people, then by circumstance. And to resolve those circumstances.

In other words, if I am reading my Bill of Rights correctly, we ought to work for the maximal empowerment and emancipation of each and every individual in our country.

The most loving thing societies can do for their girls and women is instil a culture-based sense of identity in them as women.

The most loving thing I can do as feminist is withhold my rage against that understanding of love.

Do you see the conflict?

Self-determination in its fullest sense is only real when a person has been exposed to and empowered to pick from many prospective ways of being in the world.

An empowered, educated woman may legitimately choose marry a man with many other wives. This is hypothetically possible.

But she should just as easily be able choose to have more than one husband herself. For that is also hypothetically possible.

that thing about all persons being equal before the Law of the Land, yes?

Your thoughts?

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com 

White Atheism: The Individual’s Denial Of Invisible Ideas

In the last 24 hours I found myself (once again) in a Facebook post-thread-reply orgy. At one point, a scary-smart straight white guy asked me to define “white privilege” for him “and then apply it to the following rant: 

“What of white-privilege – that fine institution that welcomes other people’s bigoted opinions without violent retaliation (think Islam & Communism), ended slavery (which still exists in Africa and Asia), doesn’t behead or necklace gay people (still happening in Africa), and is the only culture that will censor and admonish its own members publicly ([himself]) – must I pack it up and go somewhere less unappreciative? Or should I stay here and use it to empower as many people as I can influence?”

I offered to derive a definition of white privilege from his rant instead of creating a definition and then applying it to his rant: 

“White privilege is the ability to identify with the actions of the skin-pigment group to which biology assigned you only insofar as it’s convenient, believing that the world will overlook this selective individualism since whiteness (being strongly represented in media and in corporate in its infinite, nuanced human complexity) is the unsuspicious, trusted default. For this reason, white people are often thought of and treated as individuals while everyone else is thought of more often as part of a group. 

 “That privilege, which you wouldn’t see as such because it’s only right that you be treated as an individual, allows you to cherry-pick the best of which your immediate racial compatriots have done in the deceptively recent past, hold that up as representative of whiteness in general, then ask me to apply an alien definition of white privilege that won’t match up to the picture of whiteness that white privilege has allowed you to put up anyway. Then I look like an idiot trying. I might be wrong and it might be due to our own social failing as black people, but from where I stand, most white okes have the luxury of more interior, #DawsonsCreek type struggles, which come with having been afforded more room and education to define and assert your individuality. I envy that.”

I also said,

“What gives you away is the paternalism (which bordered on but didn’t cross over into a patronizing tone) when you ask whether you should ‘pack it up and go somewhere less unappreciative.’ So you admit that you have the option of global mobility, to an extent, and it is by sheer graciousness that you deign to stick around where you are accused of being the bad guy by virtue of your skin, and try to show people that you are an individual white guy who isn’t as bad as some groups of white guys have been. You’re typing this from the United States where a great number of black men have a relationship with the police force that is precisely the opposite of that privilege: they cannot just pack up and go though many probably wish, desperately wish, that they could. Just to feel safe in the black skins that get them accused of being the bad guy.”

 Parts of my response were inspired by American John Metta’s I, Racist, where he explains that 

“Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people. White people do not think in terms of we. White people have the privilege to interact with the social and political structures of our society as individuals. You are ‘you,’ I am ‘one of them.’ Whites are often not directly affected by racial oppression even in their own community, so what does not affect them locally has little chance of affecting them regionally or nationally. They have no need, nor often any real desire, to think in terms of a group. They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it. What they are affected by are attacks on their own character. To my aunt, the suggestion that ‘people in The North are racist’ is an attack on her as a racist. She is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.

The result of this is an incessantly repeating argument where a Black person says ‘Racism still exists. It is real,’ and a white person argues ‘You’re wrong, I’m not racist at all. I don’t even see any racism’.”

He also says,

“Even the fact that America has a growing number of violent hate groups, populated mostly by white men, and that nearly all serial killers are white men cannot shadow the fundamental truth of white male goodness. In fact, we like White serial killers so much, we make mini-series about them.”

 He describes black people’s relationship with the system by saying they are “systematically challenged in a thousand small ways that actually made it easier for you to succeed in life.”

“Racism is so deeply embedded in this country not because of the racist right-wing radicals who practice it openly, it exists because of the silence and hurt feelings of liberal America.”

 It is often argued that it is black people who keep racism alive. This argument is often made by people who can afford to individualate from the group they come from, its past, its guilts and its issues. But not its privileges, for it is by those privileges that they afford real estate at a respectable distance from everything negative about the group. 

We all owe a debt to whiteness for inventing (or discovering) the precious but high-maintenance commodity that is the individual in all of his infinite, nuanced complex humanity. When my Facebook friend identifies white privilege as “that fine institution that welcomes other people’s bigoted opinions without violent retaliation….doesn’t behead or necklace gay people (still happening in Africa), and is the only culture that will censor and admonish its own members publicly” and whose individuals have the right to “pack it up and go somewhere less unappreciative” as well as the option to “stay here and use it to empower…many people,” he is admitting that it is whiteness that invented, refined, perfected and redeemed the individual from the mire of historic group guilt and, by extension, individual complicity. 

But what he and many white people cannot admit is that to do so, whiteness required resources, time and sweat, which it took from non-white people-groups at those points in history when whiteness had perfected the exploitation of non-white bodies within those groups before turning around, calling such exploitation uncivilized and pointing out how it still happens “in Africa.” 

If we cannot call this the hypocrisy that it is, it is because the greatest gift whiteness afforded its children was a clear conscience through a liberal education and upbringing; as individuals, they never have and never would have done what some of their ancestors and other white people have done. It is not polite to ask how this gift of moral white whiteness was bought because those kinds of conversations have separated white abolitionist from white church, white integrationist from white separatist, white father from white son and white brother from white brother. So it is that the denial of even whiteness as a construct has this alibi: white people have not agreed on what to do with the other races for long enough, they argue, that they should not even be viewed as a group.

This is why the Western emergence of the individual is viewed with suspicion by other people-groups: white people have not, as a group, admitted that they could only navel-gaze upon and develop the inviolable individual with his human rights (i.e. humanism) while slaves of colour were doing all the manual labour out of sight in those distant colonies. When I talk of human rights to black people, I am speaking in the language of the Oppressor who has denied that he is such.

When today individuals in the West deny the bulk and consequences of past group exploitation perpetrated by ancestral groups from which they have unhinged with a change of mind but not a questioning or disinheritance of privilege, they can’t expect to be taken seriously when they advocate for human (women’s and gay) rights. The about-turn is not accepted at face value by African and Asian countries: it is regarded as another step in another conspiracy to destabilize non-western people-groups and tribes, or at the least dictate a new ethic to them in the implementation of a moral neo-colonialism.

White privilege is the freedom to deny that constructs exist because once you have the resources and mobility to opt in and out of the group, its guilts and its prejudices, you have no reason to admit that constructs have been constructed, let alone that you have unduly benefited from them. White privilege is the gift of not knowing about white privilege whilst benefiting from it.

A few months ago I told leaders at the church I was affiliated with that I was going to come out and get vocal about homophobia. The pastors graciously offered to formulate a church stance in relation to my decision, if I could convince them theologically that embracing openly gay people and offering them the sacrament of marriage was the right thing to do. In the end, I think what stopped them from accepting the scriptural hypothesis I offered them was who they were: as a group of white individuals, they were unwitting deniers of constructs even while they used their more sanitized permutations to hold their group together.

While they alleviate the effects of practical suffering, I have not heard them preach consistently, cohesively and deeply from a single lexicon be it that of feminism or Calvinism or Queer Theory or Arminianism. I believe they are scared to admit this world of invisible ideas exists and they have to pick one and all its ramifications; they deny the existence of invisible ideas even as they preach an invisible God.

They are sorry for homophobia but cannot denounce (or recognize) church heterosexism as a construct. They do not recognize constructs, at least not in their ugly totality. Their individuality and his innocence from group guilt is too precious a commodity to trade in for the sickening truth of how their individuality was afforded and removed from the constructed world and its connection to slaves that constructed it in the concrete while philosophers were deconstructing it in the abstract, making the world “safe for democracy” and democratic individuals. They suffer from what has been called “white fragility” and I did not have the steel to break it to or for them.

To have white privilege is to be given from birth the tools needed to move through the world without having to reckon with the power of constructs. The final straw was the church’s good-hearted attempt to acclimatize me to a theology of “pure grace” that said that because of Jesus’ atonement for my sins, I was pure in God’s eyes. In not so many words, they said I was as good as straight. But when the blood of Jesus is used not only to redeem white individuals from the guilt of their fathers’ sin (from which individuals still unwittingly benefit today) but also transform gay black individuals with a chip on their shoulder into good-as-straight white-as-snow individuals, then there is no room to discuss the devastation caused by still-existing, persistent constructs, or, for that matter, the price paid for anyone’s ability to remain above the fray. Lambs remain silent as they are sent off for slaughter by the good intentions and white fragility of those entrusted with ministering to the hurt in the world. They put band aids on gunshot wounds. The Atonement they appropriated in their further distancing of the individual from their group’s guilt was also used to sterilize (in every sense) and separate me from my right to speak up about group suffering. There are no groups in Christ because Christianity is a matter of the individual heart.

The white church needs a God who can turn gay people straight even if it’s in their imagination or by legal fiction; such a God supports white Christians’ right to deny the construct and effects of heterosexism, the denial of non-straight bodies and blackness, along with the denial of all constructs and their effects. All I had to do was nod along. I did so while they were watching. And when they weren’t, with more pain than I could explain (but no surprise whatsoever) I turned and left them in the numbing hands of their out-of-touch God. 

I imagine the rise of gay visibility to mean the dwindling of heterosexist white congregations. For once whiteness parted ways with constructs and group accountability; once enslavement and colonialism went out of vogue and colonies had attained liberation, the white male Jesus also lost relevance to his white beneficiaries and pioneers. Christianity once bought colonialists the moral right to annex and enslave; today, it is a lukewarm, toothless faith system that neither denounces the entire package of constructs that allowed it to do this, nor repents to help build a better world based on the destabilization of sexist and racist constructs. Christianity exists now, in part, because the idea of God has been incubated by non-white groups who saved it from the humanistic de-grouping of white individuals. That, or the idea of God has ricocheted between the West and the rest of the world enough times and with enough tweaks to keep him (or her, or it, or them) tenable through one revival after another. But as more black people afford to become individuals, more of them will trash God altogether.

Until then, we have to make-do with “God,” that is, an invisible realm of constructs and indescribably powerful ideas that privileges (straight white male) persons while blinding them to their scope and extent of that privilege. We cannot as yet afford to adopt white atheism in relation to this God: like apartheid police or the boys in blue using black men as target practice, he is still out to get us. Whether we believe in him does not stop him from believing in us.

We cannot afford the luxury of white atheism.

This morning, I saw a post by author Gillian Schutte:

“Just to be clear I am of the opinion that the killing of Cecil the Lion and the killing of Black people is part of the same ‘phallocratic homophobic self-centred resource extraction murderous entitled white male settler bullshit’ syndrome. They do not care about the wild life, the ecosystems, the feminine and black lives. The only women that matter to them are patriarchy-servers contorted into barby bodies and high heels with the sole purpose of patting their phallic egos. The only good black to them is one who can be exploited oppressed bribed monetised deified and eaten. The only appealing land is land with resources that can be raped by them. The only interest in wild life is whether killing a majestic lion will make them feel something akin to being truly alive because they are dead with power. It is a form of sickly ego driven cannibalism and emptiness. They will destroy our world with their voracious vacuous idiocy. The police who do their bidding are there to serve this vampirish brutal class of pac men.

Having said all that why have over 1 million Americans signed a petition for a lion and ignored the deaths of so many fellow citizens. WHY? Because they are part of the same syndrome I have just described in that they willingly serve it. That is the syndrome I will rail against with all my might. They will not have my humanity and none of us should stay silent on the issue of the denigration and devaluation of black lives around the globe.”

I rest my case.

White Jesus v.s. Black South African Liberation Struggle Heroes

White Jesus v.s. Black South African Liberation Struggle Heroes

The genius of racism

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Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com