#ZilleTradeOff: Why Helen Zille Could Be Found Guilty

To grow substantively in 2019, the DA has to adopt a jurisprudential philosophy that could, unfortunately, be used to hold WC Premier, Helen Zille, responsible for bringing the party into disrepute through her colonialism tweets and defences thereof.

I have glimpsed Helen Zille’s humanity through her political nimbus.  I’m not sure which shines brighter.  So I regret our collective obligation to examine her actions, which needlessly stand in the way of the political realignment our country needs.

Zille apologised unreservedly and then defended her tweets.  Will she also apologise for the confusion this created as to what was unreserved about her first apology, never mind whether her DA can be trusted to say what it means?

She’s made claims on the relationships among causes and effects (colonialism and progress — the benefits of the latter being unevenly distributed and subjective) but those claims are speculative at best and dangerously mistaken at worst.  So people understandably interpret her argument through the cynical lens of the political moment, as well as varying complex motivations imputed to her.  That comes with the territory!

Apart from these considerations, her tweets are nothing that’s never been said before.  It’s when you start asking, “Why her?  Why this medium?  Why now?  What’s her intention?  What taste does she want to leave in people’s mouths?” — questions she would have asked as a journalist — that you start wondering whether a mind as analytical as hers spent so many years studying how news works “from the inside” that her subconscious could seize this opportunity for a perfect storm.  So what scores is she settling?

Why shouldn’t people find that line of questioning more relevant than her claim that “the legacy of colonialism wasn’t all evil”?

Just as her post-apology behaviour is not consistent with apologising, her tweets aren’t coherent among themselves as to her beliefs on the immorality of colonialism.  And how many of the countries she compares ours to had the former beneficiaries of oppression stay without having to make reparations?

When there is an injured party and a party implicated with injuring (or indirectly benefiting from the injury), it is the injured’s prerogative to rank the pros and cons of the situation — not the injurer’s or beneficiary’s.  I use this analogy because sexual violence was a sub-legacy of colonialism: what if a rapist’s family said to one of his victims, “But what our son did to you gave you this beautiful child, so the rape’s legacy wasn’t only evil”?

Wouldn’t it be more respectful (dignity is constitutional!) for the rapist’s family to wait for the survivor to frame the story?  Everyone frames stories because just as there is no objective fact-book against which to test Zille’s posited relationships among causes and effects (apart from the more immediate contextual considerations of who she is and what her intentions could have been when she pursued this path), no story dropped down from heaven fully-formed.  No court would say her tweets were “correct”, for then it would have to exonerate tweets on how today’s Jews benefitted from scientific advances made during the Holocaust.  It could be easier for a court to condemn Zille’s tweets than rule them “factually correct.”

Even if Zille’s voicing her opinion is constitutionally sustainable on the basis of her right to freedom of expression, the tastelessness with which she exercises it right conflicts with others’ right to dignity (which includes the aggrieved’s right to frame the story) and will be the reason neither the DA’s nor South Africa’s constitution will be supported by voters come 2019: those legal frameworks fail to endow black persons with equality.  The failure happens when those interpreting them don’t impress contextual equity into disputes.  No constitution or constitutional right was ever formed or ever operated in a vacuum.

The justice framework we inherited came about because former President Nelson Mandela, among others, backed down from implementing what would have been seen as perfectly justifiable measures in 1994.  His reticence about justifying that version of justice was prior to and made possible Zille’s rush to justify her interpretation of the rules.  If we’d applied her approach to law during Mandela’s moment, there would have been no Zille moment.

Prior to her self-justification should be mindfulness that a negotiated settlement is negotiated, as opposed to meeting all the needs of every party, let alone the aggrieved who could make the greatest claims.  It’s a settlement as opposed to being an ideal and perfect ending.  From its beginning, “We, the people of South Africa, Recognize the injustices of our past”, the letter of our law decidedly points beyond a threadbare reading of itself towards restoring dignity; towards spirit, not letter.  The constitutions ultimately answerable to the Constitutional Court are signposts guiding us to interpretations that allow aggrieved parties to frame for themselves, to their own equity and dignity, their stories of how they came to be aggrieved.

We’re stuck in 1994 until we outgrow the ANC.  The DA must grow, come Helen or high water.  That the announcement on her possible suspension was mishandled may discredit the DA, but it doesn’t re-credit her.

The DA could be the ANC of the 21st century if it does what the ANC never did — liberate, not tax money, but black people and all South Africans.  But that would depend on the jurisprudential philosophy it segues into.

Thank you.  Please follow, retweet, share and comment: @SKhumalo1987

Book loading

#ZumaTradeOff: Meet Yesterday’s Black Anti-Zuma Marcher

It’s crucial to understand why yesterday’s black anti-Zuma marcher is fundamentally different from last week’s black non-marcher.

Let us first work out why last week’s anti-Zuma marches were so white-dense and black-light.

For the last few days, this blog has been saying that with Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) abused by President Zuma to fund his crony capitalist network, two things happen:

The first is black people think white people are the decisive reason the economy remains untransformed. In reality, President Zuma more decisively slows transformation than the average white South African could.

The other is white people think black people are the central reason Zuma is President. In reality, his patronage network keeps him in power despite his unpopularity amongst even black people.

Zuma plays these two sides off against each other, then.

When it’s time to vote or march against him, this dilemma in conscience affects many black people: they feel Zuma has done more to empathise with, and navigate, the economic exclusions experienced by the black majority than the previous presidents did. And indeed, under Zuma, we have seemingly shifted lefter.

In Zuma’s being scapegoated by what is believed to be white-owned media for his many sins, those black people vicariously participate in Zuma’s reproach and his navigation thereof. So though he steals and lies, he is the imperfect but necessary hero; though he is violent, he is the only husband who will protect from economic racism; though blemished, he is the only sacrificial lamb that bears the sin of structural racism in ways his predecessors never did; though selfish, he is the only martyr who shows black people how to cope before systemic racism.

This is many black people’s perceived and experienced reality, so there’s no arguing with it. For them, marching against President Zuma would be denying the need and the rightness of the little good they pick out of what is otherwise a messy and complicated leader. After all, white people don’t usually march alongside black people on their issues. The suspicion, then, must be that they care exclusively about their economic interests.

It is in this space that Zuma gets to say the marches against him were motivated by racism.

Though Zuma only feigns being a champion of black economic empowerment, each time we call for his removal without offering the trade-off that his ostensive role as economic emancipator will be taken over and consummated by others more capable and sympathetic than he is, we hang the spectre of economic nonexistence over black people’s heads.

So until a trade-off is suggested, the black majority only sees two possible futures: in the one, Zuma remains president but they have access to a junk-rated economy. In the other, if they march alongside white people for it, Zuma is no longer president but they have junk access to the economy.

Now that we understand last week’s non-marcher somewhat, we can discuss yesterday’s black marcher. This is the kind the EFF mobilises successfully. Until that EFF collapses or is absorbed into the ANC, those black people will be drawn by its call for land and asset expropriation without compensation. The majority of yesterday’s black marchers see right through Zuma’s act and want him out of the way so they can also get white people out of the way to their economic liberation. How white people are gotten out of the way for the purpose of black economic liberation isn’t necessarily violent, but neither is it necessarily nice. In the law of eye-for-an-eye, one may not exceed the violence shown under apartheid and colonialism to rectify their effects. You do the math.

Is this to say yesterday’s black marcher is violent and blood-thirsty? No, but it’s no use saying apartheid was a crime against humanity without acting like it was. Black EFF supporters probably hate unprovoked violence more than anyone else. That’s why many of them would respond to the unprovoked violence that apartheid was, with provoked violence — sort of how Old Testament God demonstrates his hatred for violence by inflicting it upon those who benefitted off of prior violence.

My point is calling for Zuma’s fall without articulating what that means economically corroborates accusations that white people will act more decisively to defend their economic interests than to rectify the effects of the apartheid they benefitted from. The untenability of such a status quo, of that post-Zuma South Africa, is why we have not moved past Zuma. If we cannot remove Zuma now, that nuclear energy deal is as good as done, as are whatsoever other rare delights he has in store for us.

Industrial designer and agricultural innovator William Blake suggested anti-Zuma marches be geo-spatially close to townships and rural areas instead of just at city centres and in suburbs. Risk is constant wherever people march; the ANC Youth League will always gate-crash. The greater risk is sitting at home or at work doing nothing about this political battle. The point is, where the marches happen says much about what Zuma’s fall is meant to accomplish and protect.

There are many economic trade-offs I’d suggest but one tweak in BEE would be the simplest. An understanding of BEE can buttress us from being politically manipulated into the false need to change the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land, assets or business without compensation. The onus is on white people to lobby for real transformation and monitor the flow of wealth to ensure everyone has a fair chance to contribute to the economy and be rewarded fairly. One could argue it is on black people to vote differently or hold politicians accountable. But that simply demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the kind of perceived (and somewhat real) political reality many black people live within. In that political reality, everything white people would have black people do benefits white people first and black people last, if ever.

President Zuma’s removal is essential for our economic survival, lest he continue doing naughty things in the name of “radical economic transformation.” But an economic trade-off of some manner, shape or form is essential for his removal, without which most black people have no reason to march against him unless mobilised by the EFF to do so.

And for those who think black people are ignorant/uneducated/don’t understand what’s going on and therefore can’t be mobilised: lo and behold, they freaking marched yesterday. Why? Because the EFF proposes the most “radical” trade-off ever conceived of in our democracy: vote us in to replace the ANC, and we’ll let you take the land back.

One way or another, a trade-off of some nature is the only thing that will bring about political change in this country.

If I understand “the markets” correctly, the #ZumaTradeOff (centred on tweaking the new entry provision in BEE and therefore costing investors much less than the outright confiscation of assets) is our economy’s only hope for not only working better for Zuma’s absence, but working for everyone, lest inequalities persist.

What is this new entry provision? For those who haven’t read previous posts, I gleaned some technical insights from transformation consultancy BEE Novation. In the name of transformation, the current Black Economic Empowerment codes recognise as a “new entrant” to the economy, any black person with a net worth of less than R50 million for the purpose of part-ownership in an empowering company. With a threshold this high, transformation begins to look a lot like the enrichment of a politically-connected few to the exclusion of a politically unconnected many.

If we could drop the threshold to R10 million, and increase the number of points an empowering company could earn for introducing black people whose net worth is less than R10 million each, we could accelerate real economic transformation. If we were feeling drastic, we could consider not counting anyone over the threshold as black for BEE purposes. There is no way an individual with a R10 million net asset value could need support from legislation that was passed to help poor black people. There are real, and really poor, black people waiting in the wings.

At some point in the country’s future, white people will negotiate with black people. They could negotiate today with the black people who didn’t march last week, mobilising them to march in exchange for BEE being changed to really work for them.

Or they will negotiate tomorrow with the black people who marched with the EFF yesterday.

Follow and Retweet: @SKhumalo1987

That book is dancing on me.

Thank you everyone who’s been sharing the posts and the hashtag #ZumaTradeOff. Feedback is most welcome

The ANC Did Not Liberate South Africa

To understand why ANC members make utterances that contradict the spirit of the Constitution whenever their party and its president are threatened, we need to understand why the party is so distant from the Constitution.

Its NEC’s biggest smallanyana skeleton is that those who defend and call the ANC their father are pimped out and thrown under the bus by it because it isn’t their father. Who is, then?

Our country’s regression into Old Testament territory calls for Ezekiel’s unveiling of a similarly deluded nation’s origins:

“On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.”

South Africa is our mother, but the ANC is not our father.

“Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.”

Translation: you’re a bastard.

The romanticized story of how the New South Africa was conceived says the ANC liberated black people and is their political father. The truth is the ANC happened to have been positioned to take credit for the end of apartheid; it did not end apartheid.

This isn’t to say many of its members didn’t make epic sacrifices; it’s to say those sacrifices, in and of themselves, didn’t bring about liberation. Credit was imputed to these sacrificers for ending apartheid because the story of changed hearts would do more to unify us than the uninspiring non-story of that time’s financial realities.

The ANC provided a leader who unified and prevented horrendous bloodshed. But sparing South Africa from conflict is not the same thing as liberating South Africa from oppression. There is a price to pay for confusing the two.

The ANC accelerated a shift in the way black and brown people understood their relationship to the government. It did this at first by talking, then by inflicting violence. The State shook it off. After it was banned, ordinary South Africans used it as a focal point and rallying cry as they liberated themselves.

Post-Cold War trade rerouting made the bans many in the world had been crying out for easier, which brought about apartheid’s economic death. The romanticized version says the bans were initiated because the black lives of liberation stalwarts mattered that much to global economies’ consciences. If that’s so, why isn’t the West not that much ahead of us in eradicating racism today?

Second to its formation, no hour in a political party’s life is more formative than its graduation to being a governing party. The lies a party tells at the assumption of power insidiously latch to its people’s egos, sucking them into the gravity of their own spin machines. That is how the ANC fell under the deception that its members were directly responsible for dismantling apartheid and were to be singularly credited with accomplishments that required global events (and a lot of help!) from beyond their sphere of influence.

An awareness of one’s limits develops humility; self-deception develops entitlement. Without a correspondence between reality and narrative to stabilise the relationship between effort in and results out at that time, the party could never develop a grasp for the mathematical relationship between their ideologies and desired results for today. The ANC can’t govern because at a formative moment, it believed a lie about the relationship between its efforts and the liberation of the country it was to govern. We know it believed a lie because if humility is the mark of knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, the ANC is drowning in hubris and parched for results.

When we believe the ANC liberated South Africa, we follow its lead and fall into confusion about what unseats unjust office-bearers. It is not embarrassment, but if you think it is, you will sign petitions and have 3-day demonstrations. What unseats them is cut-off to resources they need or the unworkability of systems they put in place for their benefit. Previous posts list examples of what that looks like when the laws are unjust; when the laws are fine but their enforcers are not, the target shifts only slightly. You barricade and hold those people hostage until they quit. This is civil disobedience, and I explain its ramifications better in Facebook threads where people ask questions about it.

The skeleton key that unlocks the closet to all the ANC’s skeletons is that its children are political and ideological bastards. They were despised from birth by those who truly fathered that freedom. That’s why the ANC sees them not as trusting, precious supporters to be nurtured, but as objects to be exploited. #RememberKhwezi.

The ANC could not have fathered the New South Africa because it was not there; it was being exiled, arrested and killed in sacrifices that could not liberate South Africa except in the narratives we told to put flesh on and prettify the unfeeling financial skeleton of the world that was emerging. When someone invites you to take over a country the way the National Party did the ANC, it isn’t your victory to claim; it’s that person’s to give. Given that the ANC had been impotent all along, no amount of propping it up at the essential moment could help it father what it, in the end, never fathered. The patriarchal hang-ups that come with knowing this are not mine and are probably not yours, but they’re theirs and they explain why our ruling-party office-bearers are so insecure, paranoid and cynical. It’s because they know that the New South Africa is either the Old in disguise, or the hate child of those who ran and exploited the Old. Either way, it is not their child.

This is why the ANC, in filling Nelson Mandela’s shoes, gave us Jacob Zuma. He is their revenge for having to sustain this lie, their confession on the role that has been falsely imputed to them for years. The memory of real leaders — everyone until and including Mandela — are taunting and tormentous reminders of their inability and the whitewash they had to participate in to cover it. Zuma is how they try to claw out that part of our brains that remembers. But the crude lobotomy only reminds us that a father would never hurt his children.

The ANC did not give us the Constitution; the mostly-white and well-meaning prettifiers of the narrative around the 1994 transfer of power did, and the ANC signed it off but never owned it.

Black ANC supporters know that every victory they score for the ANC is yet more trust handed over to be betrayed in the worst ways possible.

Upon consummation, this misguided self-assertion turns out to be many lifetimes’ worth of self-negation.

Please follow and retweet @SKhumalo1987

The book is almost done, and so am I.

 

There is something about Donald J. Trump

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 11.24.27 PM

Put your race-talk fatigue aside and hear me out.

Yesterday I shared the above Instagram post by one Future Baby Mama (@dynamite8503). It reads, “Trump has disrespected black ppl, Muslim ppl, Mexicans & the disabled. I guess he gotta kill a dog for white people to see how evil he is. Smh.”

The first reply my share received read, “That is such a racist and insulting comment.”

I felt like replying, “Now you know how the black, Muslim, Mexican and disabled people have felt every time Trump opened his mouth.” I did not say that, of course.

Others pointed out that they haven’t met one white person who doesn’t think Trump is evil. And so on and so forth.

Here is my problem with these kinds of responses.

In the States, and in many ways in our home, inequality is systemic, it’s real and the only people who stand to gain from not seeing that privilege excludes anyone who is not a heterosexual white Christian male – are heterosexual white Christian males or people who share in one or more of these attributes and their accompanying privileges.

That is why Donald Trump can get away with saying the moronic things he does about people who do not belong in his demographic as a heterosexual white Presbyterian/Christian male: white people in general do not want to talk about inequality and privilege as demographical realities. Many are not only ignorant of the true extent and effects of systemic racial inequality but are ignoring the reality. And they get very angry at anyone who insists on treating it like the systemic demographic issue that it is because systems, demographics, lump the good and the bad together.

But we must view insults directed against Muslims as the fruit of systemic white Christian privilege preserving itself the only way it knows: systemic exclusion and othering. Because that is what it is.

After this post, I was tacitly asked to celebrate that many people (some of them even white Christians) condemned Trump’s words in general, instead of focusing (as I had been doing) so closely on exploring the mindset in particular that brought these words out of his mouth. Such a focus on the mindset instead of the incident would seemingly condemn scores of white people who are ignoring systemic white privilege.

I felt I was being asked to generalise this particular expression of racism as though it were like any other. You know, the way black people can also be racist towards people of other races and black privilege is so real? Because they can and it is?

Only, not quite. And here is why.

Utopian non-racialism and non-discrimination only work on paper and in theory. The effects of colonialism, heterosexism, whitism, and so on, are the effects of systems that did not set themselves up by accident but existed by ruthless human intent. Recent, relevant history is not about racism in general but systemic white-on-black systemic racism in particular. That is not just a theory but the tragic reality.

America removed racist policies in general without confronting white privilege in particular – and now has the blood of many unarmed black shooting victims on its hands. Had those people had a lighter skin colour, they’d probably still be alive today.

Contemporary racism is the insistence on treating actual history as though it was one of many scenarios that may or may not happened in a past where racism may or may not have flourished: this fuzzy, selective amnesia allows the formerly privileged to say he is now being oppressed when what is happening is that an actual past is being addressed.

What will it take for heterosexual white Christian males, or people who share one or more of the attributes of maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality and/or being of the Christian tradition, to stand up en masse and say, “Enough, Donald Trump, we do not accept what you’re saying about people who happen to not be heterosexual, or white, or Christian or male?”

This is white privilege in a nutshell: if Muslim people tell Trump he’s wrong, it won’t make much of a difference. If white people say exactly the same words, it will make a difference. Nobody has as much power to discredit Trump as his fellow white male heterosexual Christians. That is what actual history has left us with.

Have white Christians spoken out like this? Yes, but we haven’t reached the tipping point where the body of bigotry Trump embodies is rejected in its totality precisely because Americans insist on dealing with bigotry in its generalities (homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, etc.) but not systemic, historic white male Christian heterosexist capitalist privilege in particular. Because that in actuality, and not racism in theory, is the problem. And Donald J. Trump embodies the prejudice that is dominant now. He has not recanted or qualified his words because he has not had to.

So while reassuring rumours about white people who think Donald Trump is evil persist, there is little reassuring evidence that there are enough of them acting on those thoughts hard enough. There is right now in fact more evidence to support claims that Santa Claus is real.

This leads me to conclude that despite reassurances otherwise, white Christian America will take what passes itself off as safety and security at the cost of “the other’s” dignity and humanity.

That is what is not just racist or insulting, but downright evil.

“Racist” Instagram posts should be getting shared. We should all be uncomfortable.

Thank you for reading. You may take up your race-talk fatigue now.

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share @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

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

Dear Black People In The U.S: Please Join Forces With The Gays

I’ve been observing the endless liberation struggle in the land of the free (ha!) with great interest, waiting for the day that black people realize the truth of the saying, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.” 

It’s astounding: having raised preachers, orators, writers and all manners of excellent academics to highlight the plight of ethnic minorities in America, you, broadly speaking, have not realized that you and sexual minorities have the same problem and could join forces to tackle it. Good people, why are so many of you so slow to realize and speak up about this?

By “enemy,” of course, I don’t necessarily mean white individuals: I mean a pervasive system that “others” those who are not white, not male and not heterosexual – othering them often with fatal consequences – with your aid. To the degree that you allow homophobia, to that degree you are complicit. Your struggles have so many overlaps with the struggles of the LGBT community that I don’t understand how you and they have not become best friends. If you are black in America, homophobia and transphobia are not things you want to tolerate, let alone perpetuate. You cannot afford to.

“But homosexuality is against God!” many of you will say. That argument has been used against emancipation, desegregation and against everything black people have needed to enjoy full equality in the U.S. It’s the same argument dressed in the same pious hypocrisy and the same imitation of godliness.

Homosexuality will undermine black society, they say. Will it do that in the same sense that racists say full black  emancipation will undermine American society, or am I only imagining the one argument to be an echo of the other?

Black people and sexual minorities have faced the same kind of hatred, similar types of endangerment and have been viewed with the same disgust and mistrust. It’s all learned and it can be unlearned. A change in laws and national policies are not going to help; in fact their multiplication will antagonize and intimidate those who do not understand. You have to internalize and become the change you want to see.

The LGBT community can help amplify the voices of black people fighting for justice but you need to make it safe for them to come out. Many say the murders of black people at the hands of white policemen have been senseless. Well, so has much of the murderous hatred faced by the LGBT community. The gender, social and religious constructs you’ve used to shun LGBT people are part of the package of ideas that have been used to shun black people. It’s the same poison, copied-and-pasted, and many of you have embraced it wholeheartedly as Gospel Truth. Many of you have thusly embraced and agreed to your own genocide. If you have kept quiet about the struggles of the LGBT community, you have exacerbated your own, tacitly saying Yes to the violence against people of colour.

You will not see justice until the LGBT community sees justice. You must understand that the senseless, systemic hatred you’ve felt directed against you is the same that the LGBT community has been receiving; the complaints and rationalizations and excuses you’ve received from the beneficiaries of the system that privileges white people are the same complaints, rationalizations and excuses that the LGBT community has received from the beneficiaries of heterosexism. If same-sex love is the same love, then racism and homophobia are the same hatred. For God’s sake, denounce the evil.

The belief that creating room for LGBTs will somehow take from straight people is the same fear held by many white people in your country. You cannot afford to hold to it any longer.

Form more and bigger coalitions. Get deliberate about tackling the intersectionality of your struggles, and use one another’s struggles to corroborate what you’re saying. It’s leverage; use it. Vast numbers of white people won’t understand what you’re going on when you insist that you feel systematically trapped or endangered, unless and until gay people get an opportunity to explain the same oppression in terms of being a sexual minority. Then both your stories will be understood, and the system that oppresses both black and gay people will be illuminated from both sides to the visibility of all. You will unmask the system as a team.

In other words, your chains fall off when you loosen those that bind the ones you have kept chained until now. If you want The Other to transform revulsion to understanding, start with your own hearts if you have not.

The world is watching, and, for better or for worse, taking your country’s lead on many issues. Kindly see this responsibility for what it is, and step up to the plate.

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

 

What Just Happened, @MmusiMaimane?

On The One Hand

Shadow Minister of Transport Manny de Freitas promised to host the Mr Gay World delegates at Parliament last week.  He did.  He also promised to invite some other openly gay MPs to say hi.  He did.  He promised to draft a congratulatory motion without notice concerning the Mr Gay World competition.  Zakhele Mbele did, going so far as to mention its only two African delegates by name.  I was one of those delegates.  That is three out of three political promises kept by members of the DA.

When we went to Knysna, the Mayor Georlene Wolmarans promised to see us once.  She saw us three times.  That is three out of one more political promises kept by the DA, not to mention overwhelming support for LGBTI visibility over the course of the week.  This is in line with the DA’s liberal stance.

On The Other Hand, And In The Same Week

How does one criticize something said by the popular individual who will likely lead the DA without criticizing him personally, or the DA as a whole, or the people who stood by us in the last few weeks and continue to fight for our rights to be observed in Parliaments and city halls across this country?  The answer is in the nature of the DA itself.  This party champions open debate, freedom of expression and constructive criticism.  Unless the party changed while I was not looking.

#TheDebate

The debate between DA leader candidates Wilmot James and Mmusi Maimane is available here and here.  It was chaired by Rapport editor Waldimar Pelser.

There was the question of whether Maimane would support a referendum on gay rights.  Maimane replied, “Well if South Africans felt that they needed to vote on the issue, they should.  I still stand on the view that gay rights must be protected, South Africans who are gay, who want to marry each other are entitled to do so – the law gives that right so I don’t know what the referendum would be about.  In fact, I still maintain that those rights are in the constitution and must be protected.”

Pelser pushed the topic of referendums on anyway.  He brought up the death penalty and asked why Maimane had once said it, too, could be put to a referendum. 

“Because without fail I’m a democrat.  I would not support that view, I would not support the death penalty as an example.  I still sit here today and understand that our judicial system still has flaws.  I don’t think the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, but ultimately as a democrat I still uphold that the rights democracy upholds it’s not the best system, but it is a system that we have.  It upholds the fact that if people – it’s by the people for the people and if people want to vote on it the people must vote on it.”

“What happens if the views of the people clash with that which is enshrined in the constitution?” Pelser asked.

Maimane replied, “No, I don’t think, I think in this instance it’s quite clear, I think we can accept the fact that many South Africans will believe in the protection of the constitution.  For example even on the expropriation bill – so long as we uphold the constitutional bill principal and the right to life.  I think South Africans can stand up and vote in against the death penalty and I still uphold that view.”

What is the basis of Maimane’s confidence?  Across the continent and in South Africa, a considerable number of people does not support many of the rights enshrined in our constitution.  And two weeks ago, a few South Africans, prompted by some leaders’ utterances, took it upon themselves to hold a referendum as to whether foreign nationals (sometimes also known as human beings) should remain alive or not.  So with regards to what is negotiable and what isn’t, Maimane’s view would leave everyone legally vulnerable.  A referendum on a Bill Of Rights matter could amputate the constitution.

After the debate, Maimane tried to backtrack: “Some people are distorting my position on gay rights as expressed in the televised debate last night.  As I said last night: ‘I still stand on the view that gay rights must be protected.  South Africans who are gay and want to marry each other are entitled to do so.  The law gives that right, so I don’t know what the referendum would be about.  In fact, I still maintain that those rights are in the constitution and must be protected.’  I have been a vocal supporter of gay rights in every sphere of my life and I will continue to stand up for the constitutional rights of all South Africans.”

I don’t know of anyone who’s distorting Maimane’s position on gay rights.  However, there are a lot of people saying that Maimane’s understanding of constitutional democracy and the fundamental rights of individuals is what’s distorted.  Maimane failed to question the bureaucratic validity of the hypothetical referendum; he only questioned its purpose.  In his worldview, South Africans are nearly unanimous in their understanding of the indivisibility of the Bill Of Rights (the world must be pretty through those rose-tinted spectacles); they are so constitutional and liberal and democratic, he says, that their power to infringe on the rights of others shouldn’t be infringed upon; the referendum should happen so as to show that South Africans support the democratic principles of the constitution by which they democratically received a voice, he’s telling us. 

This is not an abstract issue for me.  I am a gay black man living in a township, as do many gay black men.  I get stopped in the streets to be questioned by people who recognize me and have read my words in newspapers and on television. 

I openly question and critique dangerous, heterosexist ideals of masculinity that lead to domestic violence and rape.  Does Mmusi Maimane understand the risk I put myself at to sell his party’s policies, let alone how those policies were formulated?  And mine are a drop in a bucket of other human rights’ activists’ struggles and sacrifices.  People have died, and continue to die, for human rights.  How on earth could they be the subject of a referendum?  If people’s lives can be subjected to a referendum, why shouldn’t masturbation?  It is illegal in some places precisely because someone said it had to be illegal.

And who gets referendumed about whose rights?  Would men vote in a referendum about women’s rights?  Vice-versa?  On Maimane’s logic, South Africans should get a vote on issues they feel strongly about.  But which South Africans?  Are some South Africans more equal than others?  If gay rights can be voted on by South Africans, then gay people are not, by implication, South Africans; they are squatters at the mercy of South Africans just as foreign nationals (again, human beings) were.  A referendum on human rights is a denial of human being

Such a referendum could justify what many politicians have said about their countries and cities being “100% moffie-free” and other statements to that effect. 

Does Maimane know how many lesbians get raped in townships across the country, by people who seek to “cure” them?  How would he feel if someone told him the answer is probably in the region of 500 a year in some townships?  He probably knows, and he probably cares.  But to support a referendum on gay rights legitimizes the mindset that says that women ultimately do not have a say over their own bodies because society does.  When South Africans “feel strongly” enough about what women should be doing with their bodies to rape them, then capitulating to those strong feelings by supporting a referendum is just a step away from handing the lesbians over to be “cured.”  This was probably not the intention, but it could easily be the effect.   

Is it not enough that the basic human rights enshrined in the Bill Of Rights are more honoured in the breach than in the observance; would Maimane want to take the risk that there should be nothing to breach or observe in the first place?  Because that is what that referendum means.  How he feels about gay rights gives me warm fuzzy feelings too, but it does not matter if he has no mechanism by which to keep gay rights protected.  I vote DA because I vote with my head, not with my heart.  I am very concerned when the blue party sits by while the reasons I vote with my head are eroded in broad daylight.  Why isn’t the party that marched with us in Knysna saying something?

Maimane’s understanding of the Bill Of Rights leaves all of us stark-naked without a non-negotiable right to stand on – except the non-negotiable right to negotiate on other people’s non-negotiable rights.  Because we got these rights in the first place not through the process of discovering what it means to have human rights, but of deciding what human rights were, he is saying.  We negotiated them into existence, so our ability to negotiate rights in and out of existence should remain intact, never mind that our right to negotiate rights in and out of existence could also be negotiated out of existence. When the source of these rights is not the state of being human, but other people’s say-so, and other people’s say-so must always have the voice whereby people created and continue to regulate those rights, then being human guarantees no one the right to say anything in the first place.  Democracy becomes an absurdity.

If we can have a referendum on gay rights, then why not one on straight rights, insofar as straight people also participate in non-reproductive sexual activities?  Are we all Catholic, all of a sudden?  Who died and made who God?  Is heterosexuality the default by which the legitimacy of gay rights may be measured, and do straight people have a right to hold a referendum on gay rights because they are superior or because there are more of them (or so we are told)?  We must answer these questions very carefully.  Stripped of my bright blue flag, I am feeling naked right now.

A few months ago, a white Facebook friend suggested (out of frustration) that black people should hold a referendum about whether white people should leave South Africa or not.  I respectfully balked.  That would be like saying that the 1992 referendum was valid and that white people had a right to decide on black people’s right to vote for their political fates.  For years, many of them have congratulated themselves for the benevolence they showed when they voted Yes to having the vote extended to black people.  But given the circumstances, they were not performing an act of kindness; they were performing their moral duty, and not one black person owes one white person a thank you for that, just as not one white person ought to ask permission from anyone to remain in South Africa as a fully-fledged citizen.  The system was wrong, even if it had gone unquestioned for some time and no matter which way you counted the votes.  The system was not changed because it was not nice: it was changed because it was not right.  The Bill Of Rights says that no citizen may be denied citizenship.  If we ever hold a referendum about that or about anything else in the Bill Of Rights, it is the end of South Africa.  Mark my words.

No matter who you are reading this, you have a race, you have a biological sex, you have a sexual orientation, you have beliefs surrounding ultimate concerns and you have people you associate with and people you do not, by choice.  You are not superior to persons of other races, genders or sexual orientations, and you may not decide on their rights in a referendum because some politician has convinced you that you are the normal by which the others may be measured.  But that is how politicians divide and conquer communities: they convince the section that could empower them that they are the normal, and the others may be decided about.  Some referendums are wrong upfront, and the politicians who use them to gain popularity are wrong too. 

This is not to say that James did not make a similar slip-up on the television debate concerning the right to bail; he readjusted his position rather fast.  Maimane held on to his, and nobody, as far as I know, has corrected it.

When each person’s right to have a voice is contingent on other people’s decision to let him have a voice, then human rights are mirages, surds that have no basis in anything fundamental; they can be given and they can be taken away but nobody knows who does the giving and the taking away because where individual rights are in doubt, nobody has an ultimate right to give rights or take them away; we would have to become a dictatorship though a benevolent one. 

If we take Maimane’s premise to its ultimate logical conclusion, the whole Bill of Rights is an endless hall of mirrors, fingers pointing at fingers pointing at fingers pointing at fingers.  It doesn’t settle anywhere except at the biggest finger in the middle of them all saying F**k you to everything the struggle heroes fought for.  Surely Maimane does not want to be the next Jacob Zuma?

Jacob Zuma Middle Finger

Jacob Zuma Middle Finger

It is my belief that we did not negotiate human rights into existence; we realized them in our awareness and have been sharpening that awareness for 21 years, (often badly) wrestling with the implications where redress and land ownership is concerned.  Is it possible to defend both the absolute rights of each individual, yet right the wrongs of the past?  Absolutely, if the right people are doing the job; that is the promise the DA has held out to us for years.  Some of its members are on the verge of breaking it whether they realize that or not.

Human Rights: Given, Or Discovered?

This is a very simple but very important idea, one that many politicians don’t grasp.  I don’t have human rights because other human beings decided I have them; I have human rights because I am as much a human being as any other.  My human rights may only be infringed upon when I am infringing on those of another.  All we can do is improve our understanding of what human rights mean and what those rights are.  Yes, this is a metaphysical claim, and yes, Pastor Maimane is free to respond, and yes, ACDP (African Christian Democratic Party Of South Africa), I know what you did

Is Mmusi Maimane the best leader that the DA can produce?  The DA will decide that, and in so doing, will make a fundamental claim about its identity.  If it uses this as a teachable moment and is willing to lose face in order to clarify what it stands for and why, it would have chosen principle over perception.  In fact, this may be a golden opportunity for the DA to continue with its internal elections while clarifying to voters just what it stands for.  The only thing needed for that to happen is for Mmusi Maimane to admit the same thing we need King Zwelithini to admit: that he was wrong.  Not that the two errors are the same size.  We need for our politicians to admit that they are human and fallible; in so doing, they, too, would have called upon and validated the very human principles that are currently at stake.

But if the DA allows this kind of thinking to go unchecked into its leadership, it will be a betrayal of its principles and its people.  That is the simple truth.

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@SKhumalo1987

SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Why The Fight For Gay Rights Is A Fight Against Dictatorships

When government has a say in how consenting adults may behave in the privacy of their bedrooms, it has too much power over its citizen’s choices.  Government’s job should be governing economies and policies and environments, not ruling people or policing morality.

But we see in Africa that when government officials can’t fulfil their promises, they turn to governing what isn’t theirs to govern.  These politicians divide and conquer; they put up scapegoats and play on myths and fears, recklessly endangering the most vulnerable and misunderstood people in society.

When they are asked to dispel the myths behind prejudices like homophobia – which would expose that they’d exploited those myths and prejudices for votes as well – these types of governments hide behind the excuse that the majority has no tolerance for same-sex relationships; therefore, the gays should perish as per the demand of the majority.

But where do we draw the line on the majority’s power?  If the majority can decide that a man should be burned to death for loving another man, then why can’t the majority also be called upon to decide, when a woman is raped for example, whether it was her fault for wearing clothes that indicated she “wanted it,” or whether her attire and make-up that day was that of a modest, “decent girl” who wasn’t out to provoke and tease male lust?  Why, for that matter, couldn’t the majority be called upon to decide whether all men should be castrated seeing as they cannot (and should not, it would seem)  help raping women who wear anything more revealing than a brick house?  Why are there never majorities convened on the issue of general male culpability where rape is concerned?  I digress.

How much power should the majority have over human experiences?  If a gay man’s right to say “Yes” to personal happiness is up for public discussion and may endanger his life and the life of his relatives, then we’re a step away from having a woman’s right to say to say “No” to personal violation also being up for public discussion.  People say that gay rights are a slippery slope to immorality.  But whatever they imagine immorality to be, it pales, pales in comparison to the very real violations currently perpetrated against very real people.

When the majority has the power to make sexual choices for adult citizens, then no individual has sexual autonomy or self-governance.  Majorities are groups of individuals that happen to be invincible at that moment because they’ve got numbers on their side.  In principle, that power is an illusion because, like the gay man and the rape survivor, not one of those individuals comprising that majority ultimately has the power of self-determination, and any of them can end up on the receiving end of the majority’s prejudice.  Power ultimately belongs to some shifting “majority”; depending on who and on whose altar he needs to sacrifice on that day, a politician will shift the power to decide to whichever group of individuals is least likely to see that they have no individual rights themselves, let alone the power of some supposed majority.  Their vulnerability is eclipsed by their immediate context in which they feel morally superior and enjoy the safety of numbers.  Straight-identified people don’t feel threatened by anti-gay laws, so they can be used by prejudiced politicians to decide quickly without thinking deeply.  If they knew what was at stake, they would know how dangerous (and dangerously false) that power is.  Because whatever majority the individuals comprising that majority think they’re part of, it’s a mirage that could and eventually does betray them.

When the South African government was asked why it didn’t condemn the anti-gay laws of other countries, the excuse given was that the other countries’ autonomy must be respected.  But we have just seen that when the majority can decide what happens in the privacy of an adult’s bedroom, then no individual truly has sexual autonomy or the power of self-governance; you can multiply those individuals into a so-called majority and stack them into a so-called government, but they have no more autonomy as a group with titles and offices than they did as individuals without titles and the offices.  In the absence of a noble social contract that protects the rights of each person, rulers use brute force for they too have no real power.  Hence, we have dictatorships thriving wherever individual human rights are not thriving.  Tell me how homophobic your environment is and I will tell you your political destiny.

If you tolerate an environment where it is not okay to be gay, you deserve everything such an environment brings with it and it can be hell on earth.

The fight for gay rights is a fight against dictatorships.  It is a fight for your freedom, no matter who you are or what you currently believe about gay people.

Thank you

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@SKhumalo1987

SKhumalo1987@gmail.com