#Rhodes, Oriel: The Shame

[Strong language]

There has been a strange apathy – if not smugness – among some of our white friends over the setbacks that have beleaguered #RhodesMustFallOxford.

Many of them want black South Africans to make political decisions as though Eurocentric white supremacy weren’t a global issue with local and worldwide consequences.  But those white people won’t back the fight against the symbols of white supremacy.  They correctly identify “bad leaders” as obstacles to a better South Africa, but they do not realise the role they themselves play in empowering those bad leaders.

Some of them have complained that there are issues more important than statues to discuss.  This misses the question of who gets to set or disparage the agenda of students who have identified white supremacy as a decisive variable in the way things are (and as being partially behind the problems they would have prioritised).  How is it not another instance of white people “knowing better”?  And do they really want to come across as “knowing better” when they’re a voting minority in South Africa?  Knowing better will not help them or anyone else at the polls.

So this betrays an unwillingness to understand the matrix of structural issues that precipitate the unemployment, crime and economic instability they would have solved first.

Many of them have decried the “hypocrisy” of Rhodes scholars taking money donated by a man they despise.  But to the extent that Rhodes took unjustly from their ancestors, it’s the student’s money.

Either Rhodes really was a terrible man and the descendants of his crimes ought to be recompensed (as the descendants of the beneficiaries of his crimes ought to try some self-examination), or there is nothing wrong with the condescending tone with which some white people have described these students as “ungrateful” as though the scholarships are a gift when they’re the scratch-surface, the mere start, of real justice.

As I said before, it was the money-greased 1994 compromise that’s kept South Africa’s white minority relatively better-off than everyone else though many of them piously rage against the corruption that’s built into the status quo without equally hating the unequal status quo.  We want to talk about hypocrisy?  Hello, Pot: this is Kettle.

Others have at other times said consistency would require the removal of Shaka Zulu’s statues.  As long as white supremacy is the felt reality of black South Africans, Shaka Zulu remains relevant to many black people as one of their answers to nonstop messaging that blacks are inferior.  Dismantle white supremacy, and black people will have less to lose in denouncing Shaka Zulu and his violence.  But there is no ongoing tradition of black supremacy to dismantle so Rhodes must go into a museum before Zulu does.  Here or abroad, Rhodes remains a bigger political liability for white South Africans than Shaka Zulu does for black people.

It’s also important to distinguish between symbols of white cultural pride, and symbols of white dominance.  Rhodes represents the quantitative decimation of portions of the human race before he does its qualitative enhancement because all it takes is one crime to ruin an otherwise brilliant track record.  You can’t argue otherwise and say all lives matter in the same breath; too many black lives fall by the wayside for the stance to be sustained.

Many have argued that if the Oxford Rhodes statue is put away, then many other statues across London have to also be put away.  Isn’t this a tacit admission that the global north has an unrepentant tradition of celebrating and emulating the kind of people, men who could only build what they built by destroying the rest of the world (or saving it when doing so coincided with their own priorities as in Winston Churchill’s case?)

The argument that they’re not being praised, merely acknowledged for their impact on history, barely works at a cerebral level.  The end result of this dissonance is the normalisation of abnormal legacies.  That, in turn, keeps the black body as endangered around the world as it was when Europe was carving Africa up for its natural and human resources like a Christmas turkey.

The argument that South African students have no business telling the British what to do shows of a poor understanding of Eurocentrism’s ongoing impact on financial and governance decisions made in our backyard.  The global north is often seen as imposing its will on its southern counterpart.  This is neo-colonialism, a hindrance in Southern Africa’s development insofar as elements in our governments and voting populations are willing to cut off their noses to spite white people’s face.  Do white people living here really want to hand them the knife that they may do so?

The irony is, unless our white friends have secret stashes of even more money – the making of which was indirectly facilitated by colonialism – they won’t even afford to emigrate to the Britain whose atrocities they’re defending.  So white South Africans are generally committing political suicide with the same fervour they see black people as exhibiting.

And I wish they’d stop saying the students are free to study somewhere else because that argument can be turned around to say that white people are free to live somewhere other than South Africa.  If South Africa can accommodate white people, then it’s only fair that white homelands can accommodate black students.  If white people don’t have to beg for human dignity in South Africa, it’s only fair that black students shouldn’t have to beg for it in Europe.

White people can tacitly endorse symbols of white supremacy here and abroad.  Or they can hope things will improve in South Africa.  But they shouldn’t hope for both because they have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting both.

There were plenty of white people who stood for real justice in the past, here and abroad.  Why aren’t they today’s white heroes?  Because the “tradition” that valorises and venerates takers and supremacists in London is the unquestioned cultural milieu of many white people here and around the world.  So everything has changed but nothing has changed.

There are many levels at which reconciliation has happened.

But we must be admit that there are other strata – real, important ones – at which the rainbow nation lie is exactly and intolerably that: a toxic pile of maggot-infested dog shit, which intellectual integrity cannot euphemize for any reason.

Thank you.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).

Please share and follow @SKhumalo1987 and also contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com


#MarchForJobs: Solving Just Unemployment?

We view Nelson Mandela through sunny scenes of “forgiveness,” forgetting he wrote a note in 1990 that read,

“The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and the change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable.  Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable.”

Before he passed, Sowetan Malaika wa Azania railed that “Mandela must not die yet.  No no no.  That would be unfair.  People don’t get away with crime.”

She was mildly echoed farther afield by Harvard law professor Noah Feldman.  “South Africa’s founding pact was born in the sin of compromise.  Compromise is sin because people don’t get what they deserve”:

“[Mandela] brought peace through his ability to convince millions of his countrymen that they should accept much less than they were in justice owed.”  Or as Mandela realised, “What the National Party was trying to do was to maintain white supremacy with our consent.”

Where Canadian author Naomi Klein thinks that, “The ANC failed to protect itself against…[the National Party’s] plan against the economic clauses in the Freedom Charter ever becoming law in South Africa,” I believe the ANC not only resigned itself to the idea that the Freedom Charter would be unworkable but also decided the people for whom it had been drafted were not worth it.  This happens once you’ve been given a taste of the good life, whilst those you subsequently see as the bleating, unwashed masses watch on in rags, thinking the relationship is still as it once was.

And where the NP had severed the political means of liberty from its economic tools, capital (which was initially white) infected the accommodating black liberation movement with what we now experience as broad-scale corruption.  Business owned political parties then as they do now.

So the ruling party knew from the start that substantive equality had been postponed indefinitely; its members looked after their own stomachs.  The Marikana massacre was the ANC’s Judas kissing the workers’ Jesus.  Such things arise from the 1994 deadlock that’s kept South Africa’s white minority relatively better-off than everyone else, though many in that minority piously rage against the corruption that’s built into the status quo without equally hating the unequal status quo.

Into this, #SparrowGate hit the fan.

The official opposition quickly made the issue one of economic inequality instead of just racism (not a wholly invalid view) but then it said part of the solution would be jobs.  It reiterated its position as the party that fights for jobs.

But soon after, rumours that many marchers were given R100 each “for transport” (search #RentedCrowd) began discrediting the demonstration.  The remaining explanation for it, pushed mightily by the ruling party, is that its purpose was to serve white money’s interests.

ANC hypocrisy aside, how is this march different (in its insistence that the job-creating market gods must be trusted and appeased) from the #ZumaMustFallMarch, which was met with widespread criticism for its demand for only a change to one part of a system critics thought had to be overhauled as a whole?  How many intersectional theorists believe that access to the job market, given through existing capital (the face of which remains largely white) have helped society come closer to a solution to racism without re-inflicting it in subtler, more hidden ways that make it more difficult for the efforts of the formerly disadvantaged to get them as far as they would anyone else?

Far from establishing the DA as the pro-job anti-racism party, the march may end up having a different effect.  That the racial profile of the marchers was darker than the DA’s voter base or its parliamentary caucus makes Mashaba’s eschewing of all race-based policies especially awkward.  What do we do with van Wyk’s belief that, “Our government is nothing more than the ‘human resource’ manager for global corporations” other than believe that the DA promises nothing more than to perform that task better, but cannot promise that black people won’t be stuck with bottom feeder jobs and in the long run, none of the lasting financial security that comes with stewarding the means of productions instead of merely servicing them while they are owned by someone else?

The ANC and the DA punt small business as job makers because the alternative involves the nationalisation of big companies, mines and land or a wealth tax on those who have had big businesses since apartheid.  Is the small-businesses-create-jobs doctrine not only another way to convince millions “that they should accept much less than they were in justice owed,” but also that they should start over as though South Africa has never had minerals, or land, or exploitation of the black body?

The only entity that could anticipate a return on the long-term investment arc of funding free education would be government.  The other option would be for businesses to inject resources into high-quality education.  Failing this, key businesses will be absorbed into government as #FeesMustFall and like-minded movements rise up to demand post-apartheid reparations.  ENCA has a video in which student activist Busiswa Seabe insists, “We are going to fight for free education.  Come hell, or high waters or Jesus himself.  Free education will come in 2016.  Amandla!”

She may have not meant it as I read it: broad-scale nationalisation will take place come economic backlashes, private sector outrage, and the end of the ANC’s rule (see Zuma, “Until Jesus returns”) because there is no other way to force anyone’s hand towards quick justice or the free education that goes with it.  And with birds of Sparrow’s feather flocking about, it will be difficult to convince black people to be patient with this system any longer.  Which is what the DA is trying to do moments after Penny Sparrow and Co. opened their mouths.

Did the DA’s speech on racism borrow from the prevailing discourse on race in order to tame the coming revolution?  They whose mayoral candidate for the most important metro has no interest in race-based legislation, were overnight radicalised enough to endear themselves to many black people.  But were they radicalised enough to alienate the capital that went on business as usual while the State legislated the oppression of black bodies before and after 1994?  “The rules were simple and crude, the electronic equivalent of monosyllabic grunts: justice—expensive, sell; status quo—good, buy,” recalls Klein.  “When, shortly after his release, Mandela once again spoke out in favour of nationalisation at a private lunch with leading businessmen, ‘the All-Gold Index plunged by 5 per cent’.”

No matter where it is, Wall Street is rich enough to get the world in its debt but not enough to help those victimised under its nose.  “In the end, South Africa has wound up with a twisted case of reparations in reverse, with the white businesses that reaped enormous profits from black labour during the apartheid years paying not a cent in reparations, but the victims of apartheid continuing to send large paycheques to their former victimisers.”

#MarchForJobs’s job was slowing the inevitable result of a legitimate discussion on race.  South Africa is capital-starved and the world isn’t giving a free lunch.  If the ANC could fail so spectacularly and fall so hard in its compromises with capital, I wonder what makes the DA think the same route (albeit with more slickly-managed levels of corruption) is going to gain them long-term relevance.  Is it the wonderful status of most black and coloured people in the Western Cape that will sell this deal to everyone else?  If not, then more black people will perceive DA and ANC as apartheid in sheep’s clothing and pronounce a plague on both their houses.

Ultimately, :—

The NP’s and big businesses’ ideological conquest of the ANC may have laid the foundation for today’s resurgence of the leftist ideas they meant to suppress in 1994.

The subsequent time lapse with its multiplication of Sparrows has served to remind many black people that they were wronged where many had truly forgiven, forgotten and gotten on with their lives.

The DA’s talk of jobs (mirroring and envying the ANC’s national HR Department role) may serve as the dry straw into which the EFF throws the flame of revival for a Freedom Charter that’s been lip-serviced to death since 1994.

Capitalism’s triumph over socialism may turn out, at its consummation, to be nationalisation’s conquest of what capitalism has accomplished.

The ANC’s expulsion of Julius Malema may have been its catapulting him to dizzying heights of power, or at least a political relevance they no longer command; it may have been their freeing him of the dead weight of their sinking party to run on, opportunist he is, for the finish-line ribbon they left flapping in the wind when they left the Freedom Charter they signed in their own blood.

Every victory big business seemed to win when it kept itself intact – by bleeding the nation dry through the ANC, or the preservation of seemingly unrelated white wealth or our state’s Guptafication – has led to this moment where nationalisation may be dirty and disastrous way out.

The EFF’s recent silences may have been its clearing its throat for its loudest battle-cries.

The last 22 years and the racists they have brought to the surface may have taught black people to never look to the left or to the right of the Freedom Charter for economic emancipation ever again.

In C. S Lewis’s words, “What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us for ever.”

And far from keeping them above the fray, white individuals’ denial of white privilege has only added momentum to the pendulum swing from pre-’94 white money to the opposite many of their parents feared: the swart en rooi gevaar, realised to receive the country on a silver platter with a big red communist bow on it.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).

Please share and follow @SKhumalo1987 and also contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Who Would Defend Hitler’s Freedom of Speech?

[Note: This post touches on race, religion, politics and sex]

A lot of people have been asking what the limits of free speech are. Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos contended that “free speech fundamentalists are undermining the case for free speech” and “no rational person could possibly defend to the death the right of others to say whatever they wish – regardless of how true or false the statement is, or what the consequences of the speech may be.”

Likewise, activist-blogger Tracey Lomax‪ is “over people defending the right to freedom of speech and never mentioning the competing right to dignity.”

There was an incident recently where a resort owner asked a black kid to leave a pool “out of respect” for other users. One still hears of black residents of predominantly white neighbourhoods being asked what they’re doing there. When they become more than makeshift humans that serve to fill gaps in the smooth running of privileged lives, black people are routinely treated as impostors and intruders. Free speech absolutism leaves no room to take these lived experiences into account so as to remain sensitive to national context.

Gareth Cliff played umpire in a discussion on free speech that scarcely paid lip service to combating racism. He later issued an apology. I think Cliff’s mistake was intellectualising free speech and racism in a vacuum. Some would say his status as a beneficiary of past racial injustice discredits him as an authority on free speech and racism (in the sense that men’s status as beneficiaries of systemic sexism undermines their contribution on issues of political and economic import involving women’s bodies and rights).

Under apartheid, white people were allowed to do anything with their freedom of speech except directly or indirectly defend black people’s right to dignity. In tandem with that, there was a heavy price paid by black history teachers who taught the truth instead of the syllabus. Free speech has never been free for the oppressed. That the central fight last week was over Sparrow’s right to say what she wanted, and not the beach bathers’ right to human dignity, shows that the general pattern hasn’t changed.

Many people I’ve debated with would describe themselves as “not easily offended.” But aren’t there things so innately offensive that not being offended is siding with wrong? If Adolf Hitler was here today, who would defend his “freedom of speech”? Even Robert Mugabe’s harshest critics have found gems of truth among his mountains of imbecility. Why aren’t there scads of white thought-leaders separating his bad actions from the truthful points he’s made or defending the necessity of his right to speak?

Is there an agenda that has more use for the freedom-of-speech motif when it’s white people who’re talking?

U.S Senator and Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has asked whether America’s foreign policy and its “making the world safe for democracy” isn’t just an extension of its fiscal policy. Are white people protecting their “fiscal policies” when they sanitise racist statements under the banner of free speech, or when they give those statements an interpretation other than the outraged mainstream’s? When they get black people to do it and to put their words “in context” for them, alarm bells go off in my head.

For if Gareth Cliff can make Sparrow’s comments more palatable, then why can he not do the same with P. W Botha’s Rubicon Speech? Suddenly, apartheid wasn’t that outrageously evil, inequality isn’t that urgent – and there can be a thousand delays between now and the fixing of wrongs from which white people were advantaged as a group in the past. How can I be certain that Cliff does not have the preservation of the status quo in mind when he wrestles with this issue?

Today, most cartoons depicting the Christian God have him as a white man with a flowing beard. He is often doing or saying something funny, or mundane. The message is likely to be non-political unless the cartoon is American. But where the Christian God is depicted as something other than a white man, some sort of political or intersectional statement is being made. The person making that statement risks being branded as “irrational,” “unreasonable” or “radical” for challenging what’s “normal.” It’s difficult to fit a “normal” message about God in the same visual as a “political” statement because the normal and political displace each one another. That’s why we’re not allowed talk about religion, politics and sex in polite company: polite, well-bred people have little to gain from upsetting the system now that it has accomplished for them what it was intended to accomplish.

That a Middle-Eastern Jew appears as a Caucasian is no accident: it’s politics by other means coyly unaware of its political nature and the consequences thereof. When the white Gareths of this world (Cliff or van Onselen, however intelligent or well-meaning) speak, they’re conveniently oblivious that the platform, audience, reception, messaging and reasoning they’re working with is tainted by the same blissful unawareness. This disingenuity is going to backfire on them.

White people who “don’t have a problem with race” wouldn’t, I propose, because they’ve never had a whole system having a problem admitting the humanity of their race. They nevertheless, largely, benefited from the structural racism and violence of those who did have a problem with race and acted on it. Despite apartheid policy wording, whiteness’s genius was in its not being defined as a race to those within the race. If you ask anyone what race God is, you’ll be told he doesn’t have a race. If you ask that person how God is often artistically depicted, you’ll be told he’s white.

So we see the omnipresence of the Christian God is interchangeable with and conceals the power of whiteness to influence things from the top-down of power and social structures; God is mobile and doesn’t struggle to access spaces whose custodians have a direct impact on his life. The incorporeality of the Christian God is comparable to the inviolability of the white body: God’s right to feel safe calls for tight-knit communities that keep black people out. His self-sufficiency means white people were never meant to wonder where their next meal was coming from. His invisibility reveals and justifies the unquestioned normalcy of whiteness. God does not experience the limitations that would accompany having a race. Because he’s white and doesn’t have a race. His sexlessness means he’s a “he” because of innocuous language conventions. He does not experience the limitations that accompany gender because he’s not female. It’s only females, you see, whose gender interferes with their ability to think. And Mandela became a little more dignified when he was given the Christian name “Nelson.” Masculinist Christianity was a scaffold in the erection of the phallocentric and Eurocentric world that’s basically shafted everyone, its own white children included.

The white men who’ve historically benefitted the most from structural racism and sexism insist they’re not racist or sexist. Yet here we are, fleeced by the negation of attributes (race, location and sex) and the washing of hands this makes possible. For the biggest miracle the Christian God performed was disappearing from public discourse. The rise of rationalistic white atheism could be a sign that its god construct had delivered those in whose image it was made to the promised land of privilege; it was no longer needed and its daily presence would serve to expose people’s complicity in its crimes. And once a construct has negated everything that it was meant to “other,” it cannibalises itself. It is negation, illusion and deceit at its core. Now scores of white people get to shrug off racism in the same breath they get to become atheists – after centuries of many of their families getting to enrich themselves in Christian milieus. Slick. The scaffolding is kicked off; the structure is complete. Just as we can pretend that scaffolding was never there and was never white and male, we can also pretend that our adjudicators in the defence of “free speech” aren’t white, male or defending a world that favours white males.

Personally, I trust white men more when they admit their privilege and priorities: then I know what I’m dealing with and we’re being open with what each of us wants in a given situation. It’s easy to cooperate with someone whose concerns are transparent to themselves and to you.

On the other hand, when they suddenly say their gender and race have nothing to do with the “truthfulness” of what they’re saying, we’re back to dealing with the non-racial actually being white and the non-sexed actually being male.

At this point, many white men would stop me to insist that they’re sacrificing plenty to help the fight for social justice and that I have no right to pick on them.

But the sanitisation of history and the unchecked intellectualising of current injustices isn’t helping their case or anyone else, for that matter.

This critique of one manifestation of religion is not intended as total dismissal of any and all ultimate concern truth-claims of this or any other religion. Nor is this critique of one instance of “free speech” intended as a blanket rejection of the right to free speech. Everything is contextual.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).

Please share and follow @SKhumalo1987 and also contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

#DA: Why It’s Perceived As Haven For Racists

Are the DA’s core tenets an unintentional camouflage for racism?

Is the DA a substitute for the inner work the white part of its constituency left undone in 1994?

Does Penny Sparrow embody this philosophical misfiring at its ultimate logical conclusion?

The social media battle around racism is about words. Words are verbal carriers of universally negotiated meaning, connotation and shock-value. Unless you are a brilliant copywriter, you cannot think of a new way to use the word “yellow” and expect people to instantly get or let you get away with it.  Unless the context obviously shows it, yellow almost always refers to a particular colour.

This basic logic flies out the window when we discuss racism in general and skin colour in particular. An instance of this is with the use of the word “kaffir” below. A Marleen Theunissen commented on Facebook, “Can I come in with a side-thing here? The word ‘kaffir’ is definitely offensive. But I use it to refer to a mentality, not a race. If you are a person who is lazy, doesn’t give a f**k about what you do or what your actions do to those around you, you expect everything to be given to you, etc.. then I refer to that person as a kaffir. It’s a mindset, a mentality. And to be quite honest, I personally know more white kaffirs (in said context) than black ones.”

Someone curtly replied, “You’re a racist.”

She negotiated the meaning of the word kaffir by and for herself, (not arbitrarily) kept its historic offensiveness and cluster of stereotyped associations, while distancing herself from the risk of the word being about the race group it is traditionally meant to offend.

But her choice neglected to take account of or deal with the broad, societal racism the word arose from, from which she has unfairly benefited. Unable to read her mind, some child will hear her say kaffir and think that racism is okay.

Theunissen would probably not do this with the word yellow.

This is why Sparrow’s, “Monkeys are cute and they’re naughty, but they [black people] don’t see it that way, but I do because I love animals” is problematic.

By deliberate consensus on the part of those who had the power to make it so, the word kaffir became a slur intended to degrade and demean black people. Disjoin words from how they are commonly understood and you might defeat the purpose of language itself: the only thing left is to let fists do the talking.

The DA often shrinks from using racial terminology, seeing much of it has been found scientifically and morally questionable. One result of this is its flip-flopping on BEE. Correspondingly, white people’s narratives concerning past injustices and present inequalities have fragmented into a thousand sanitised stories that remain above the fray of black people’s lived experiences. Once it was decided that racism was wrong and intellectually untenable, it was also implicitly decided that what had been happening all along had not happened.

Far from helping the person take personal responsibility for the issue, personalising the discussion on racism privatises and sanitises it as though one could overturn centuries of systemic injustice by deciding its vocabulary can be christened into conformity with the non-racialism that denies the causes and patterns of inequality. I could sooner cool the current heatwave down by describing the temperature of the room I am in now as “cold” because it happens to have a fan I can switch on and off at will. How are you liking the relief? Have I not improved things for you?

Knowledge is understanding that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is using the tomato in a vegetable salad rather than a fruit salad. People like Theunissen and Gareth Cliff may be formidably agile in the knowledge realm (even more in some instances than the people they are debating with) but they are often inflexible when it comes to the wise application of their knowledge. That wisdom is developed through balancing one’s views with keen sensitivity to the perspectives of others. And this is something we do not largely experience white people coming to the table with. Many fear the backlash of their peers and end up being bystanders in a pageant of experimental avant-garde racisms parading as “open-mindedness.” This shielding of racists from the consequences of their prejudice may be worse than racism itself.

If one would combat racism, one must acknowledge that the prevailing discourse on racism and white privilege has been sufficiently shaped and is stable enough to allow meaningful discourse for a growing number of participants; questioning it is questioning the intellects and experiences of those who have participated in its shaping up until now. That, or it is jerking off to one’s command of language and rhetoric when the appropriate thing would be to mourn one’s complete irrelevance to the lived experiences of South Africans in ashes and sackcloth.

Alphabetic words add up to stories and narratives. Just as words are most wisely used the way others understand them, telling apartheid history in a way divorced from the shared reality of the other storytellers and experiencers may be a sign that your narrative is conveniently shaped to serve your interests. If your understanding (or denial) of “white privilege” has not been sufficiently exposed to or challenged by the people who report its impact, you will be crucified on social media.

If your definition of “racism” isn’t sufficiently rooted in the history of racial injustices, it’s purely academic – and self-preservingly so. By that token, I have noticed many black people root their definition of “racism” so deeply in historical stories that they neglect to call out black-on-white racism in the present. A regrettable pattern. Nevertheless, it is urgent that we talk about white-on-black racism now.

This apparent prioritisation of black victimisation knocks the wind out of many white people’s sails. @afriforum tweeted, “‪@MlebukaS‪ All forms of racism must be condemned equally and with the same amount of disapproval.” But could this not be read as the insistence that responses to racism should be equalised so as to preserve the status quo? Alternatively, could it not be the tone-policing of black people’s anger at the systemic racism and inequality many white people deny exists in the first place? Bigotry is always ugly but it is 300 years too late to speak about all racists being equal. Some racists are clearly more equal than others.

The urgency with which we confront a racial slur is mitigated by factors other than raw principle unmoored from history and circumstance. Do we always respond to instances of violence the same way? No: we distinguish gratuitous violence from premeditated, self-defensive, retaliative, retributive and provoked expressions of violent force. If we did not bother with these nuances, Barry Roux would not be a household name today.

We can hate racism in general but have our response to its occasion modified by our insight into context at the same time. Equal-opportunity policing of racism is laughable to those who have not benefitted from former large-scale institutionalisations of racism, and serves those who have. And this is where the DA’s non-racialism monotone gets some black audiences chuckling as much as the ANC’s insistence that it fights corruption tooth-and-nail: we all know that due to historical reasons, many white DA members often live in suburbs while black DA members often live in townships. We cannot wish current reality away by looking forward any more than I can cool my room down by daydreaming about how cool it will be in six months. So with both the ANC and the DA, the Emperor is naked even as he waxes lyrical about the cut and quality of his robes.

If you think I’m just saying this because I’m black, I promise there are plenty of white, Indian and Coloured people who apportion their battle efforts the same way. If I did not think like this I would not be blogging about systemic racism but about topics that resonate with many privileged South African readers: rhino poaching, or animals being traumatised by fireworks. Important topics both, but not as high up on my list of priorities as the often brutal injustices faced by human beings at the hands of man-made social systems.

This is where the DA and its constituency have often been accused of being tone-deaf despite their insistence that they acknowledge the injustices of the past. How often have they challenged their whiter members to take responsibility for and do something about the injustices of the past, and not just acknowledge them?

The point is that most black people look not to the DA but to its voters for an idea of what sort of party it is. It appears to grow two racist members for every one it cuts down.

We have seen with the ANC’s refusal to recall Zuma that when someone is tone-deaf to what the crowd is yelling, it means he does not think the crowd is worth taking seriously.

Then again, even God whispers before he shouts.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).

Please follow and share @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

#ChrisHart Is The Problem He Tweeted About

There was little Old Testament retribution for apartheid and colonialism. I do not think that would have been wise but I believe we must understand the effects of choosing against that for the choice to have meaning.

If I can take your life without losing my own, it can be concluded that mine matters more than yours. If I keep the benefits of my crime against you, it means I was entitled to them.

The sin committed against black people was shrugged off; therefore, they remained sub-human to their previous government and subsequently, to the new one that never took a life to vindicate a single black death.

Had someone bled to death at the hand of the new State for anything that happened under apartheid, it would have set a legal precedent stating that black lives have value and black bodies are inviolable. For if, according to Old Testament justice, a life must be given for a life, and none is given, does that not imply that the life taken was worthless? That another one of its kind may be taken or robbed with impunity again and again?

Retaliation isn’t necessarily wrong or racist when it is built on the same bizarre cataloguing that racial crimes have historically been based on. It is difficult to argue for the moral imperative to follow in the footsteps of saints; this is often disingenuous and self-serving when done by those unfairly advantaged by a socio-structural wrong. Revenge may be harmful to all parties involved, but this observation alone does not automatically clear the perpetrator (or his passive beneficiaries) of wrongdoing.

When the perpetrator is not treated as a wrongdoer, the sufferer becomes the ultimate explanation for his unjust circumstances. One unexpected result of the peaceful transition in 1994 was that vast numbers of white people continued with the delusion that everything they had was purely the result of their own or their parent’s hard work. No humans were harmed in the making of this fantasy. The lack of retribution allowed them to mentally separate the houses they lived in and the jobs they worked at, from the actions of some distant government they did not like but many of whom had religiously voted for.

This confusion makes it difficult to tie explanations for inequality into a useful whole. We see this in Chris Hart’s Tweet. “More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities.”

Who are these “minorities”? Did they magically appear only after apartheid ended? Were they in no way connected to or beneficiaries of apartheid? If so, we would all be hard-pressed to explain why “the victims” would direct their anger over it at them.

And when was blood shed to humanise the victims and elevate them from victimhood? When a life is not taken for a life, victims tend to remain “victims”; they are not just political orphans but fate’s bastards and everyone’s favourite target practice board.

The new government repeated the same crime for the reasons that Hart’s world hasn’t been hugely disrupted by black people’s anger: as long as it went unjustified and unvindicated, it could be scoffed at. Once a person is victimised without redress, someone else can do the same thing to him.

When sin is remitted without the shedding of blood, the sinfulness of that sin is minimised or altogether denied: Hart gets to say what he does because there has never been large-scale colonial and apartheid state violence perpetrated on black people to make his world possible; therefore, he is inherently superior to those who have failed to crack it in his world. Once you skip Old Testament vengeance and rush to New Testament forgiveness without imposing a consequence that is proportional to the crime, sin disappears, hell is snuffed out and nobody notices except the wronged.

That is what happened in 1994.

And what exactly does Hart mean about the end of apartheid? Is he referring to all those instances where each of the acts and policies that happened to black people in those dark five decades were repeated, tooth for tooth and life for life, but in reverse? Could he be talking about that terrible time when the new government clicked “undo” on everything the previous government had done detail for detail? This is not even discussing colonialism before that. Because that is how apartheid could have ended with an even or nil number of victims on each of its wrongly created “sides.”

Erase the “sides” into a beautiful non-racism paradigm, and apartheid ceases to be history and becomes an urban legend. The categorisations may have been a lie but their effects weren’t. It could be argued that as long as it left black people with a nil value of their lives in the eyes of the State (again, life for life), then apartheid never ended for black people. The inequality stands, unfairly, until life-for-life vindication is carried out. So whose end of which apartheid, then, is Hart speaking of? Which type of ending would he have preferred? Which end of apartheid is he asking for now?

Where some black people are concerned, 1994 was an anticlimax. Are they wrong for subscribing to an old-school version of justice? If we say they are wrong, then Project South Africa is in trouble because this is the bone of contention: many speak as though historic injustices only happened in their “victim’s” imaginations.

The relative absence of bloodshed in 1994 serves to sanitise and whitewash a bloody history. It also says the beneficiaries of the system were entitled to all of it – the forgiveness, because it was practical, necessary and therefore theirs to receive because they were at the right place at the right time to receive it – and a trouble-free “happily ever after”.

Someone will say, “Shaka did the same thing.” As pointed out in different posts written by myself and others, it wasn’t at the same scale nor was the systemic poverty intended to last as long as the effects of colonialism have managed to last, to the benefit of those who’d now downplay how it happened while valorising old heroes.

As a result of these discordant narratives, explanations for persisting inequality cannot be consolidated. The populace becomes divided on which set of policies government should adopt especially where the effects of historic injustices are concerned.

This is part of the reason we didn’t agree on Zuma’s fall late last year, nor can unite enough to support an opposition to make the ruling party work for its money. If their overthrow further serves the convenient narrative that those who formerly benefitted from apartheid deserve to benefit from the post-apartheid state as much as they did under the apartheid state (that they have anything to defend has been said to prove exactly this), then a lot of black people will fail (or refuse) to grasp what is at stake because seeing eye-to-eye with those who formerly benefited from apartheid is allowing them to “get away with it” as they complain about contemporary disruptions in what they act like they’re entitled to. That they are gloating over their white supremacy even as they deny it.

Who gets to set the agenda going forward? If we say, “everyone benefits” at the end of the day from such and such political reform without truly examining the prospect from all sides, we repeat and rinse the 1994 whitewash. Not “everyone” benefitted then, so why should “everyone” believe the same spiel now if their interest is only propped up when it truly just serves someone else?

And that’s why calling yourself non-racist at this point in history is laying claim to a heavyweight social justice champion title, one only gained after losing popularity for daring to question what has emerged as normal sentiments many white people share among themselves. The most non-racist people I know are the quickest to say, “I’m implicated in racism.” If it has not cost and it is not inconvenient, it cannot count.

Yes, many black people are willingly deceived by the current government. But it’s also that where there has been no vengeance, there is also no consensus on the extent and cause of the damage: where there has been no atonement, there must have been no sin. That in turns means there is no consensus on the explanations for persisting inequalities and what should be done about them. We have the current regime by default. The peacefulness of 1994 quietly unmoored inequality from white privilege. Because this was for our collective good, no?

If Chris Hart cannot make the connection between the victimisations of the victims he sees as having an attitude of entitlement and his own entitlement, we have a problem. Had he and those like him seen that link long ago, the ANC would either be a very good party or be out of power. His racism is as much one of the ingredients towards their ongoing corruption as anything else is.

If Hart climbed into a taxi or stayed in a township, someone would probably ask, “Is everything okay?” or at least do a double-take. Because we went out of our collective way to avoid it, white poverty and powerlessness is abnormal. Black poverty isn’t. White condescension into black-like situations calls for sainthood. I don’t have to know Mr. Hart personally to understand this.

Had Hart been born into a darker skin in another corner of the country, his chances of fully exercising his talents would have been much slimmer.

At the moment, Hart cannot legitimately sell any solution to anyone other than those who share his background and demographic. White people who agree with Hart are, to me, like black people who buy what the ANC is selling just because the people selling it are mostly black.

Violence would destroy our country beyond recognition. State-sponsored violence would have been a sad start to the New South Africa. But avoiding one route does not mean we cannot peer down that path for insights that explain where we are now down the road we did take.

It is practical that black people move on, but this does not make it a given that they should.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).

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