#ZumaTradeOff: One Sitting Away From Constitutional Change

Today I had a conversation that picked up from where we’d left off on the #ZumaTradeOff series. It was about why white people have a vested interest in ensuring Black Economic Empowerment works.

BEE was created to protect white people from more radical means of accomplishing redress for historical injustices like apartheid and colonialism. But for BEE to continue doing that, it has to bring about restitution, not postpone it.

[And yes, on this blog we refer to people by the racial classification apartheid would have assigned to them because that’s how political parties and advertisers gain power over us. To take that power back, we need to anticipate their thoughts, not avoid them.]

The conversation reached a point where I started explaining that even white people who do not or cannot have BEE in their businesses need to ensure that where there is a BEE scorecard, whosever’s it is, it must be real and really help with transformation. One way to ensure this would be to lobby for the lowering of the “new entrant” threshold as I’ve advocated in previous posts in the #ZumaTradeOff series. But it’s not the only way to skin this cat.

What happens if white people don’t ensure the integrity and power of existing legislation?

The EFF and the ANC will egg each other towards changing the Constitution, that’s what.

And that change can look or sound like anything. We saw this in late Feb/early March this year — that because existing legislation has not delivered transformation but has enriched an elite few, we are potentially one Parliamentary sitting away from the most radical alteration of the Constitution in recent history. Once someone touches Section 25 of the Constitution, everything comes into question.

It’s that easy to reverse the effects of apartheid and level racial inequality — the EFF’s 6% and the ANC 62% would just have to agree on it.

And nothing could stop it. God wouldn’t stop it. Other countries wouldn’t intervene beyond speaking against it. This is a democratically elected government. Nothing, do you understand me, nothing would stop it. The whole thing dangles by a thread no stronger than a cobweb.

The louder white people call for Jacob Zuma to fall without offering the trade-off of economic transformation, the more desperate Jacob Zuma becomes to sacrifice something to appease the agitated crowds. White people it is; their votes don’t amount to much. Because, as explained in previous posts, unaccompanied by a white-backed call for economic transformation, those calls for his resignation can easily be construed as being horrendously self-occupied with whiteness’s interests at best, and racist at worst.

Again, only way to contest this is if white people lobby and march more for transformation than they do for political reformation, leaving the political reformation to black people who would then have a vested interest in protecting the economy they’d be let in on.

After the ANC refused to vote with the EFF on land expropriation without compensation, Zuma openly said the ANC MPs should have voted with the EFF. The only thing that stopped ANC MPs from voting with the EFF was political ego; at least, that’s what Zuma said when he lambasted [his! I emphasise: his, not their on consciences’; his] MPs.

But now that he’s effected the cabinet reshuffle, everyone in there fears him more than before. If they didn’t, they’d vote for him to go. So if he said yes to land reform, then, why shouldn’t they listen now?

Also, the ANC’s need for a scapegoat is greater now than it was in early March. Whether you and I believe “white monopoly capital” exists or not is completely irrelevant; all that matters is that all protocol considered, we are potentially. One. House. Sitting. Away. From. The. Most. Radical. Change. To. The. Constitution. One. Uno. Like, one take. The real thing. No dry run, no dress rehearsal.

Let this sink in because I don’t think people understand. Everything can change in one blink of an eye. In one sitting.

Think you that State and ANC President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma hates his life, hates his freedom, hates his family so much; think you that he so despises power that he’ll watch his MPs vote for him to leave office to appease white calls for him to step down, but won’t throw dust in everyone’s eyes by pulling the rug out from under white people’s feet?

Do you think he is that much of a saint? That much of a push-over?

The same Jacob who collected Cyril Ramaphosa’s and Gwede Mantashe’s spines after they openly criticised him? A whole Jacob Zuma?

Why do you think he’s been screaming, “These marchers are racist!” if not to prepare the country for his response to their calls for him to step down?

Did we learn nothing from the cabinet reshuffle?

The less power the current Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment codes have to transform the economy, the less resistance the EFF and ANC would encounter from their respective constituencies if they changed the Constitution in this way.

The more power existing codes have, the more resistance these parties would encounter from their respective constituencies.

That’s why, quite simply, white people have a vested interest in what I’ve been discussing in the #ZumaTradeOff.

This is all assuming that they want to keep their assets. I don’t know. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with altering the Constitution if the people affected don’t mind, I guess.
Thank you. Please share, comment and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff: please send questions, make comments, share and tell your friends.

My book is coming. 

#ZumaTradeOff: What are White People Planning?

On Easter Sunday, President Zuma’s risen glory was manifested to (and beheld by) hundreds of the faithful at the Twelve Apostles of Christ Church in Umgababa, where he passed himself off as the lamb that had been slain for championing “radical economic transformation”.

His genius lies in that up until the cabinet reshuffle, other political players had merely spoken of transformation. But there was no action prior to Zuma’s to measure it against. So transformation can be whatever Zuma says it is — including reckless cabinet reshuffles and credit ratings downgrades — because nobody has seen anything else.

A large part of how he has retained power was his abusing the most potent tool we had for transformation, Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE), to fund his crony capitalist network — while passing that off as his navigating the economic exclusions experienced by the black majority. And, given that nobody else had really done anything to relieve this exclusion, Zuma’s friends could call whatever he did “radical economic transformation”. Again, there was nothing else to measure it against.

If Mandela and Mbeki were sheltered by the cosy, respectable arms of white veneration, Zuma passes himself of as in the trenches with the ordinary black South African. When he is scapegoated by what he covertly describes as racist media for his sins, black people vicariously participate in his reproach and his navigation thereof. Sure, those black folk who saw Nkandla with their own eyes, put their finger in the wound in its side and saw it wasn’t photoshopped by said racist media, they voted IFP. But for many black people, marching against Zuma would mean marching with racism against one’s alternate universe self lifted up and crucified at the pinnacle of political power. For championing radical economic transformation.

If people’s perception is their reality, Zuma knows how to keep hope going.

There is a black marcher who can be mobilised against Zuma, though. He wears a red beret and is drawn by the EFF’s call for land, asset and business expropriation without compensation.

Do you see how the black majority, as a whole, faces no shortage of ideological suitors beating down its doors, offering it schemes for radical economic transformation? None of those ideas has to be particularly sophisticated or helpful because there’s nothing to compare them to. They also lack holistic stakeholder participation because most white people barely grasp their role in systemic racism, let alone contribute meaningfully to the discussion on transformation.

The suitors have multiplied. The other afternoon, the Department of Trade and Industry tweeted that we “need to broaden the base of participation in our economy, so for us black economic empowerment is imperative.” I’m not sure what the Department is thinking now or to what extent it will just continue serving the needs of the politically-connected few, but this isn’t the first time Minister Rob Haydn Davies has made noises on stricter BEE in the last few days.

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said at his Easter sermon that rich and poor need to negotiate trade-offs at an economic and land Codesa. UDM’s Bantu Holomisa also tweeted about the need for an economic Codesa.

But if the Department of Trade and Industry willingly offers improved BEE, the resultant narrative will be that the Zuma administration is sincerely pro-transformation. This will defuse much frustration against corrupt government officials. We’ll then have a transformed economy with deformed guardians, and therefore no economy at all.

And though we must speak of economic Codesas, we cannot do so in broad terms anymore. We just don’t have the time. We need a framework to work off of, and we need it yesterday.

When one of these suitors, be it Zuma, Malema or Davis, offers a way towards radical economic transformation, we must look for strings attached or the unintended consequences of starting too broad. We must be very careful.

If my analysis that Zuma has abused BEE to gain and keep power is correct, loosening his grip on the economy may be achieved if we, the people, push for both radical economic transformation and political reformation as I’ve been describing under the #ZumaTradeOff series. Let me unpack why I insist white people have to fight for economic transformation, and black people for political reformation.

In line with his narrative that he’s the scapegoat who bears South Africa’s racism, Zuma has been mocking [white] marchers who had never been seen marching until now. He says they’re racist and greedy. How white people could answer that is through lobbying, not so much for a change in politicians, but for a BEE that will stop enriching a select politically-connected few and will spread the wealth more equitably amongst black people instead. I’ll explain shortly why pictures of rich white people climbing into convertibles to protest Zuma just look bad.

So those white people could march for businesses to be incentivised to make ownership deals with black people whose net worths are beneath R10 million. Currently, the BEE incentive is to have any black person as an owner, but there are bonus points that disappear once that black owner has a personal net worth of R50 million or more. Real BEE would cut the line off at a much lower net asset worth. Hence the R10 million mark. It would also make a starter difference between the number of points earned for ownership by someone with a net worth below R10m as opposed to someone with a net worth above R10m. Real BEE would possibly not count any black person with a net asset value of over R10 million as black for BEE ownership purposes. Once you’re a millionaire, you do not need to be prioritised for economic empowerment.

That one change, alone, would shrug a lot of crony capitalists off of government’s procurement chain while freeing BEE to economically empower those who genuinely need economic empowerment.

In exchange for lobbying for this kind of BEE, more black people who’ve previously been sceptical of white motives could then work for political reformation. Where there is the sure promise of economic transformation, black self-interest says to cast out those elements that would abuse the means of transformation for corruption. With a stronger BEE, the corruption no longer takes money out of just white pockets but out of black ones as well. The BEE we have doesn’t put money into black people’s pockets so government corruption remains an abstract idea.

The #ZumaTradeOff, then, says black people will fight for an economy that works by getting rid of incompetent or unethical office-bearers, in exchange for white people fighting to ensure the resulting economy works for everyone.

Our mistake has been that we kept swapping these roles. The optics of having white people fight for the economy to work by protesting black politicians when there had been a reshuffle, or of black people ensuring it works in a transformed manner by protesting white captains of industry when there were calls for minimum wages, have never worked. They have traditionally underscored our differences.

Black politicians would be more likely to listen to black lobbyists (who would be greater in numbers) and white industrialists would be more likely to listen to white lobbyists (who are the majority of consumers and hold more senior positions in business). But you would need both, at the same time, to turn South Africa around.

What this means is that instead of taking a day off work to protest a corrupt government run mostly by black office-bearers, white people really need to go into work to ask why senior management is untransformed.

We need to literally walk a mile in each other’s shoes.

Why am I picking so hard on white people? As said already, they need a distinctly pro-black reason for marching if they are to not play into Zuma’s game. Until then, everything they do or say can and will be used against them in a court of law.

Also, BEE was brought in by white capitalists as an alternative to nationalisation and expropriation. BEE’s primary beneficiary is the white populace. Isn’t it in their interests, then, to ensure that BEE works?  “How can it work if the blacks keep electing corrupt government officials?” many of these white people will ask.

To which I would reply, “Stop that.” Get out of that narrative. It is not in your self-interest to stay in it. Being right about this will not help in any case. You will only get corrupt government officials out of power if you ensure tomorrow’s economy is set to benefit everyone equitably. That’s on you.

How will we get black people to protect something they don’t have if we can’t get white people to use BEE to protect the interests they do have?

Not to put too fine a point of it, but if I were white in South Africa I would be discussing what this blog has been calling the #ZumaTradeOff like nothing else matters. If you’re not sure what it is, look up the hashtag and read other articles on it. Or contact me. A few people have, and I’ve only been to happy to respond to their case scenarios or clear up misunderstandings where the posts weren’t clear.

I respond faster on Twitter and Facebook than I do to blog comments. It’s just easier.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Don’t ask me about the book (I’m joking; I want you to ask)

 

The Case for Letting Helen Zille Stay in the DA (and Keep Her Twitter Account)

Zille asked,

“Would we have had a transition into specialised health care and medication without colonial influence?”

and said,

“For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”

At the risk of making it sound as though whose ancestors built what toys is the measure of which race group is more civilised, I answer in two parts.

The first is that Africa had these things before colonialism.

The second is that the anthropologist jury is still out on whether a civilisation’s development is dependent on the duration for which its people are settled, undisturbed, and their infrastructure maintained — or dependent on cycles of conflict, displacement and resettling.

By either measure, bearing in mind that it had just been settled by the Bantu from further up north (not forgetting the Khoi-San), the region we now call Southern Africa was, by Eurocentric standards, relatively “civilised” in the early 17th century.  So saying colonialism wasn’t all negative is a bit like beating a child bloody, and then attributing the subsequent recovery to the medicinal effects of blood-letting.  It is colonial-age thinking.

If Zille is acquainted with these basics of history, why is she asking what she’s asking?  If she isn’t, what does she gain from wilful ignorance?  Would she tweet of the positives of the holocaust her relatives escaped?  Did she stick her neck out for the Steve Biko story so she could leverage the admiration of liberals for political prominence in this dispensation, only to use it to spew the antithesis of everything Biko died for?  Her remaining role is as a mirror for many white South Africans to look into.

I’ve described why, to the extent the DA explains its governance successes without reference to the post-apartheid gains its mostly-white network got to keep, to that extent, its supporters unconsciously believe corruption and incompetence are inherent to majorly black political parties, good governance and ethics to majorly white ones.  The white intellectual supremacy Zille openly tweets is a natural flowering of this white moral superiority.  This is why black people would rather countenance the ANC get away with murder than vote the DA into power.

The DA cannot denounce those who celebrate apartheid and colonialism without likewise denouncing the blatant economic disparity that resulted from these crimes, and from which many of their members currently benefit.  To hold Zille to account properly, the DA would have to challenge much of the thinking that makes it a popular choice amongst its current constituency.  If the DA is unwilling to go that far, I’d rather they keep Helen Zille and not discipline her at all.  Their feigning a purge would be worse than their not having one at all.

Zille subsequently asked,

“How much does our freedom rating actually mean” when “we cannot even get the rudimentary criminal justice pipeline functioning?”

and,

“What does freedom mean without the rule of law?”

She’s playing God — playing freedom and the law against each other — so as to undermine the equality, freedoms and rights she claims to stand for from the other fork of her tongue.  Yet even she knows that law and order were divorced from justice in 1994, after which apartheid’s beneficiaries used its spoils to dazzle us with their “better” governance and, therefore, white supremacy.

The DA knows that justice isn’t the same thing as order.  But to let white South Africans get away with acting as though they’re more entitled to comfort, law and order than black people are to justice, reparations and redress, it’s conflated justice with law and silently passed them off as conjoined twins, hoping nobody would notice the hidden (and false) premise of white blamelessness, but would call into question black consciousness-style questioning of the structurally racist status quo.  But it seems Biko’s ghost has said, “over my dead body” to Zille’s using the platform he built for her (because the black man has been building shit for white people way too long) to silence the kinds of questions and thoughts he would have us voice today.

Zille’s individual martyrdom would prove inconsistent (and therefore illegitimate) all resistances to white minority rule that pick on some racists, but not on all systemic racism.  She would have “taken one for the team,” and with her expulsion, the DA would have staged a purge, only to re-broadcast its old message — now aired with more apparent credibility than ever before — that it alone can carry the “reconciliation” project forward.  Without redress or the elimination of systemic racism, of course.

Do you see why calling for Zille’s head could be like chopping off the Lernaean Hydra’s?  Other heads, perhaps less coiffured, perhaps less blond and botoxed, would replace it.

Having fought apartheid not because it was evil but because the form it had could not sustain exclusive white interests forever, she’d have triggered the salvation of the colonial project at a level deeper than we can imagine.  Her crucifixion would be the DA’s salvation.  But what DA would emerge, and what would that mean for the rest of us?

Let’s hope the party treats this not just as a PR disaster but as a much-needed identity crisis.  The identity it arrives at isn’t as important as the integrity of the process it follows.

It might be better if they just keep Helen Zille.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

I’m nearing the final stages of that book working on me.

 

 

 

 

Who Is Fooling Whom? (On Current Political Sentiment)

What have

Cyril Ramaphosa

Helen Zille

Jacob Zuma

Julius Malema

Nelson Mandela

Thuli Madonsela

got in common?

They’re populist demagogues.

Lesson 1: Politics is Business

Getting people to buy into a governance vision package is more an expensive exercise than ordinarily expected.  It involves lobbying business, labour, church, environmentalists, civil society  and so on.  Law firms find their way into the mix.

So the politician’s deepest allegiance is to donors who fund the logistics of  schmoozing these prospective stakeholders until they think he or she is God’s gift to politics.  The costs vary wildly.  Mining bosses like expensive drinks; prospective voters like KFC.  The KFC packages for all the prospective voters who eat KFC probably total up to the same price as just one of the mine boss’s drinks.  And some people can drink.  So though campaigning involves telling voters that they’re the buyers, they’re the bosses, they’re actually the product being sold to funders; more fundamentally, they are slaves picking their own slave-masters with government as go-between through the ruling party.  You get said voters to agree to this transaction by having a “good story to tell” about how they’re the primary beneficiaries.

Politicians call this tweak of perspective, “campaigning.”  A little child, unfettered by the moral complexities of adulting, would call it “lying.”  Imagine if children got to vote…

Which leads us to the second point.

2.) Politics Is the Art of Brainwashing People While Convincing Them that Their Superior Control of Their Own (Impeccable) Thought Processes Make Them Impervious to Brainwashing

Think about how often you’ve heard the word “populist” bandied about recently.

It’s become an accusation by the middle class / “the learned” that Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma use frustrations instead of “the truth” to get votes.  The implication is that poor people are more impressionable.

But this allows the upper classes / “the educated” to locate the ultimate explanation for poverty in poor people themselves so they, the well-off, may absolve themselves of benefitting from systems that impoverish those poor.  Believing that the status quo and the rules upholding it are fair enough that everyone has a decent chance at life is how the rich sleep better at night.  The nice cotton sheets probably help too.

The implication is that the poor are to blame for their circumstances — perhaps because they vote in politicians who don’t uphold the Constitution as they should.  You also see identity politics not just critiqued but criticized as though the critics’ real intentions aren’t as obvious as the bigger suburban houses and cars they live in and drive.

Where do the educated / rich get these ideas from?  They get them when they believe that some politicians are demagogues while others are not-demagogues but noble, heroic “truth-tellers.”  They must believe this story to justify the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed, and then, to put the cherry on top, say it is the poor whose desperation makes them more susceptible to emotional manipulation.

The Housewives may have lived on Wisteria Lane, but they, too, were desperate.

3.) Politics is Theatre 

I don’t want to sound cynical, nor do I mean to trample on the great, heartfelt work done by our noblest “heroes of the day.”  But when someone is congratulated, thanked or awarded for serving the state well, he or she is being praised for maintaining the illusion that the status quo and the laws pertaining thereto are just and worth fighting for; that there is a system to put faith in.

The “impartial”  media is there to frame and communicate this drama of heroes and villains to us.  We buy into it, believing it is as real as people thought Ntsiki Lukhele from Generations was all those years ago when they attacked the actress who played her, Pamela Nomvete.  Or Cherel De Villiers Haines when they attacked Michelle Botes.  So Thuli Madonsela: good; protagonist.  Jacob Zuma: bad; antagonist.

But are we not just responding as the politicians’ primary clients (the 1% who own 50% of everything) want us to?  Look at the evidence.

ABSA was pulled into scandal with leaked Public Protector’s provisional report.  Report found State should have made Bank pay back undue benefit it gained in its acquisition of Bankorp, which was beneficiary of apartheid-era corruption.

Did this investigation not take this long to spill into broad public awareness because The System cannot have politicians telling their clients that they’re visibly implicated as the bad guys — as Ntsiki Lukhele, as Cherel De Villiers Haines — of the drama those donors commissioned the politicians to make in order to take attention away from their offstage existence?

It is like that time South Africans were more fascinated by the drama between Generations producer Mfundi Vunda and the cast of the soapie than they were by the storyline of Generations itself.

What we are seeing is the ANC blackmail white monopoly capital, so-called, with the prospect of exposing its role as producer / scriptwriter if it does not stop sending investigators after the party.

The political drama only works as long as the gentlemen’s agreement of not uncovering one another’s most damning sins is maintained.

4.) Politics is Chess

If the ANC were sincere about reversing injustice for its own sake and not just keeping capital in check, its response to the provisional report would have underscored that Apartheid-era crime didn’t prejudice “South Africa” in the abstract; concretely speaking, many white people were enriched by it, and many black people harmed by it.

And if Thuli Madonsela could say she was not going to accept questions about whether the provisional leaked report had been tampered with (which says it was), then neither am I going to say if the ANC were sincere about reversing injustice for its own sake and not just holding capital hostage, it would have told Busi Mkhwebane to tamper with report findings (before arranging for its leak as though it were a sex tape or Hip-Hop single) to end with a stronger, more quotable, more sound-bitable reminder that the people prejudiced were black.   It did not end this way sufficiently to penetrate the media statements on the report.

ANC apathy towards black exploitation for its donors and stakeholders is wholly incompatible actual liberation.  For black poverty is not a problem to be addressed; it is a resource to be harnessed.  Desperate people (are supposed to) accept desperate wages.  Remember Marikana.

5.) Politics is About Stalling Justice

Cecil John Rhodes said UCT would be built “out of the Kaffir’s stomach” as would just about everything else.

It is the noon of apartheid.  A company has two labourers.  One is white; the other is black.  Job reservation says the white person has a more covetable job and higher salary than the black person.  Structured efficiently, this discriminatory labour practice makes the company more profitable, which, if there are enough companies run like this, makes South Africa look more investor-friendly (until the world decides apartheid is morally odious or economically unviable or both).

The State can also tax these companies or their employee incomes harder.  It benefits whichever way; it’s either selling its country as an investor’s dream, or using tax money to bail out banks that are funding white people things that otherwise would not  be funded.  The apartheid state gets to enjoy the thrill and patina of capitalism without doing away with the artificial mechanations of the communism it purports to protect its white voters and business stakeholders from.  Because your impeccable thought processes.

How else do you get the edifice of white supremacy built, unless white people who can’t afford suburban houses get loans from banks that are being bailed out; unless white people who have no capital are lent money to start businesses, at really low rates?

So when white supremacists tell you, “We white people built this country,” please paraphrase Jesus in your response: “Therefore you testify against yourselves that you are the children of them that used black blood, sweat and tears to build what you so eagerly take credit for having built.”

When we separate “good” politicians from “bad” ones in government, we’re saying that the laws we have in place are inherently just, they’re worth fighting for, there is a system to put faith in, and those politicians we’ve deemed “good” have fought well for it.  But is there such a system?

I’m going to make a #Scandal / #TheFixer reference, and yes, this blog will reference Shonda Rhimes’s series without warning.

On one episode, the Vice President was asked to sign a drafted bill intended to decrease the incidence of unarmed black men being shot by white police officers.

To everyone’s surprise, the Vice President insisted she’d have to read the whole bill again — not just the parts that had been amended, but the whole document, before signing it.

After reading it, she refused to sign it off.  Her reason?  “It’s a bunch of requests; it’s unenforceable.”  It was designed to give the impression that the issue had absorbed the government’s efforts.  But priorities and political will were split among too many conflicting interests for the drafters to actually solve the problem they were making a great show of solving.  Its intended end was a quiet death by a thousand compromises.  In the Vice President’s understanding, to quote a review I read long ago, “A bill that would effect no consequences would, in the long run, turn out worse than no bill at all.”

What if our Constitution was a bunch of requests?

What if its intended end was a quiet death by a thousand compromises?

What if, insofar as it speaks to racial inequality, its requests are unenforceable — and that, by design?

What if its purpose was to give us all the impression that somewhere in all the ceremonying and awarding and thanking, there had been found enough alignment along enough interests for a solution to emerge?

The ANC’s losses at local government elections last year weren’t a sign that the party is in decline or that it has to get rid of Jacob Zuma.  Rather, they were a sign that the ANC has used up every card it could play without sacrificing “white monopoly capital.”  The race card has neither expired nor is it exhausted; it remains valid for at least as long as apartheid ran or until the funds apartheid stole are transferred back.

Contrary to the white-populist narrative the DA would have you believe, you can still swipe the race card in South Africa.  Unlike a lot of other things here, it happens to still work just fine.

6.) Politics is War

Does the ANC have enough time to properly implement the BEE that could have possibly addressed public frustration at racial inequality?

Or will its survival lie in white Jesus’s atonement crucifixion?

Will the drama turn to action and the unreal into reality?

Whoever you are and whatever your race: if you have a God, start praying.

Please follow and retweet @SKhumalo1987

There is a book working on me; watch this space

Will 2017 Be the Year White People like #BrendonWare tell Black People they Were Too Sensitive About #PennySparrow?

Happy New Year, everyone!

It has been ages.  I kid you not, I was working on another blog post when something happened on Facebook that I was going to ignore.  It is the kind of thing I ignored throughout 2016.

But this is a new day.

One of my friends posted, “Penny Sparrow sparked the year of racism (2016) a year ago today.”  I replied that this was “the Facebook post that launched a thousand battleships.”

Brendon Ware, whose Facebook profile shows him to be a young white man, replied to my comment that Sparrow’s was a post that “proves people are too easily butthurt and offended. No excuse for letting text or sound vibrations in the air trip you up… wow people…wow.  Be better than them, don’t let them get to you with petty remarks.”

I advised him to delete his reply to me.  I then sent a message to the guy who posted the initial status, saying, “I’m not above crucifying the Brendon Ware character on your thread.”

Meanwhile, Ware was replying to my advice.

“Take what back, a comment on FB, tell every person that posts a chune online to take it back.  I never tuned anything so I have nothing to take back”

and

“I simply made a conscious acknowledgment of the fact that people on Earth get too offended too easily and blow things way out of proportion.  I find it funny how thousands of racist, sexist, xenophobic posts are actually posted on social media everyday and people seem to only nit pick on and run with that and make a mountain out of a mole hill, if other people can’t see that… this species has a serious problem with consciousness, and intelligence.”

Why is this one young man the first topic of this blog for this year?  Isn’t it overkill and vindictive, taking one individual — a young one with his future ahead of him, at that — and broadcasting his moment of indiscretion to the world?  Do we like “manufacturing” outrage?  Am I that desperate for reads?  Shouldn’t I be finding a more “constructive” way of engaging people like Ware and telling them why I think their opinions are inappropriate?  Is this blog not supposed to be holy ground instead of a battlefield?

Here’s why the answers to all of the above are No and Not Anymore.

1.) “He’s young.”

For this, the young master is not too young at all.

Racism, insensitivity to racism and white privilege (among other kinds) are nipped in the bud at as early an age as possible or not at all.  Each time someone feels free to propagate an opinion that excuses or minimises racism, it tells me he lives in a huge social bubble where there are no consequences for racism for those close to him.

If this poster is the age I think he is, he’s a “born-free.”  One of the reasons our economy is defined by racial inequality, and will be for some time, is that a huge number of white children are completely apathetic about this country’s past, though they’re beneficiaries of apartheid.

In a limited sense, then, this comment is worse than Sparrow’s because it shows a total refusal to learn from Sparrow’s.

2.) “He’s just an individual and it’s not fair to blame individuals for attitudes held by many.”

Racism exists because enough individuals harbour it, and other individuals allow them to.

3.) “Hasn’t He Got a Right to an Opinion?”

Sure, everyone has the right to an opinion.  That’s why I’m inviting everyone else to have an opinion about Ware’s opinion.

4.) “If this follows him into the future, it will ruin his career prospects.”

If we can be okay with discrimination ruining the career prospects of those discriminated against, then we can be as okay with the ruin of the career prospects of those who minimise the ugliness of racism.  Besides, I’m pretty sure that all talk of this young master’s career prospects being ruined is exaggeration.

5.) “He’s young. He’ll be traumatised if society reacts badly to his comment.”

He can take it.  After all, he’d have us take Penny Sparrow’s comments with a stiff upper lip.

6.) “Siya, you have no right to judge him.”

I was given this moral-high-groundist admonishment when I blogged about Mabel Jansen’s rant.  But what I’m posing to you isn’t a judgment; it’s a question.  Will 2017 be the year white people like Brendon Ware continue tell black people that their responses to posts like Penny Sparrow’s are hypersensitive?

7.) “We are tired of these racist people outings and pillorying.”

This is precisely the topic the Ware incident brings up, that of who gets to decide what the appropriate responses to racism are.  People like him people can afford to get tired of racial justice because they are buffered from racism.  But South Africa is headed for something disastrous if we, citizens, do not take it upon ourselves to dismantle oppression and inequality.  The discourse does not sleep.

So that’s his name, guys.  Brendon Ware.  I think it’s catchy.  Like a hashtag.  #BlackTwitter, I am counting on you.  You know what to do.

Persons of colour, you allow people to walk over you year after year.

White people, do not tell me you hate racism if you also turn a blind eye to your children when they minimise it, for that is also minimising it.  Those children are simply repeating what they have heard you say.  Is Ware a reflection on you?  Let us know.

That other blog post is coming soon.  May you have a blessed and beautiful 2017!

Thank you

Please follow @SKhumalo1987 and retweet

 

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-3-48-42-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-3-48-24-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-4-25-11-pm

The Case for Apartheid

This post is going to cost me (even more) friends.  Oh well.

Following EWWI (Electronic World War One) over #BlackLivesMatter versus #AllLivesMatter over Friday and yesterday, I hereby make a case for as broad-scale a return of full-blown, institutionalised white supremacy as possible.

We Live White Supremacy Anyway

It has been generally known that Persons Of Colour (POCs) around the world get “the talk” in some form or another.

Growing up, we are made aware that there is a system that should, but does not, treat POCs the same way as white people.  This systemic racism most starkly shows its existence in instances of overt racism; the rest of the time it is subtle and insidious.  We are made aware that ignoring this system’s existence has graver consequences for POCs than it has for white people who never have to come to grips with their place of privilege in it.  This is why movements like #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) started.

On Friday, July 8 2016, this historic experience shared by countless POCs was supplanted in the imaginations of at least three white persons I know on Facebook, by the rantings of right-wing conspiracy theory mongers that explained police brutality as a measured response to black people’s unprovoked, unilateral violence against law enforcement agents.

How did these ill-founded speculations and distortions of fact get more airtime and traction on social media?  How have they come to so quickly shape a disproportionately larger part of the narrative than the lived experiences of many, many persons of colour?

How did mountains of video evidence of police brutality come to mean less than rumours?

Because black lives do not matter as much as the maintenance of white supremacy and the myth of the moral whiteness of whiteness, that is why.  Call people racist for believing this, and you become the bad guy.  Why?  Because whiteness is God.

Said conspiracy theorists say BLM proponents are playing into a scheme Obama’s backers cooked up to get him to power off of the back of (otherwise illegitimate) complaints about police brutality on black bodies.  They chose to believe that black people would prefer perpetual victimhood, the systemic mollycoddling and the “special rights” attendant to that, than to believe that real statistics really reflected real trends; they chose to believe that Obama’s speaking on gun violence and racial injustice was motivated more by political expediency than by actual events.  How was this explanation legitimised, oxygenated and entertained?  White supremacy.  We  are already living it.

How did the cry of one girlfriend of one black shooting victim get chosen to override and represent black voices who would otherwise say black lives matter?  How did these media sources manage to  find this one black woman when they hardly ever give airtime to BLM proponents?  Is that how finely their ears are tuned to the voices on the ground?  They must then know why the other voices are saying black lives matter, and not care.  So you must first give in to white supremacy for it to consider your voice worth hearing and your soul worth saving.

How did Dylan Roof’s assertion that black men were raping white women override, in white people’s imaginations, that it was white slave-masters who bought black Africans and abused them physically and sexually?  That black people have had horrendous medical experiments conducted on their bodies without their consent by the US government?  How did statistics and history get re-written?  White supremacy re-wrote it.

I could continue, but I think it is now plain to see that we live white supremacy.

White Supremacy and the South African Government

What if I told you that voting ANC is many black South Africans’ best chance at overriding the Constitution they see as blocking the path to the substantive equality demanded by the Freedom Charter?  Would that help explain why the ANC’s corruption and flouting of rules doesn’t lose them their core support base?

Government corruption, the melding of different entities’ powers or State to Party is how many of them make reparations happen when the beneficiaries of apartheid won’t admit how they got where they are.

The Mandelification of the 1994 transition served to turn our collective attention away from two questions: one, would it be possible to fix the wrongs of the past without making white people or businesses give up many of their gains?  Two: could there exist non-corrupt reasons for the ANC not to use State power to bring about substantive equality within a short time?

The answer to both questions was, and remains, No.

The fabulous wealth gained by a few struggle veterans who are now corrupt enrichers of their connected few friends was not a surprise or an aberration of the rainbow nation that began as apartheid ended.  It was the pre-planned 30 pieces of silver members of the incoming ruling elite were prepared to accept to maintain the status quo.

Two hypocrisies become clear:

One, the corruption of the ruling elite and those connected to them is railed against while what the status quo let white people keep is not.  Meanwhile, these are two sides of the same coin.

Two: the current government is judged by a standard the previous one was not when the current one really gets away with what it does because members of the previous one were not punished for their crimes.  Had they been punished, white supremacy would have crumbled.  Therefore, the two hypocrisies are one.

We tried to cheat history.  We tried to square the circle.  At best, it pushed out the real end of apartheid out another couple of decades.  At worst, it postponed an inevitable (and hideous) day of reckoning.  These two, also, are the same conclusion.

The case for apartheid, then, is this: bring the whole thing back so it may stand or fall in its totality.  The alternative, which is where we are going, is too frightening to contemplate.

#BringBackApartheid

The trick isn’t to fight white supremacy but to scrape and bow before it.  Let us worship all white people as though they were God, so that if they have any fear of God (conscience) they will fight white supremacy themselves and in so doing, avoid that terrifying alternative we are headed towards.  I see no other way to fix South Africa or, for that matter, every place that is ruled by white supremacy.

We must forcibly deny them and their children opportunities to develop or demonstrate virtues like humility and patience.  They must not be allowed to wait for anything, must always get undue credit for everything that goes right and no blame for anything that goes wrong, even when it is their fault.  Imputing perfect moral track records to them against their choice is how we would reject the superficial virtue-signalling that accompany condemnations of overt acts of racism but never covert and on-going racism.

Many white people have accused us of forcing them into the same mould in our discussions of whiteness.  This is actually a pretty telling (and disingenuous) suggestion on their part, one I think we must take literally.

The “woke” ones would understand why this is being done to all white people; the semi-woke ones who’d have us settle for less than complete intellectual dishonesty, however, would be disoriented by this subversion of their claim to distinctness from oppressive systems.  Their denial of complicity would be rendered meaningless until they all agree to overthrow the system (now in-your-face and out in the stark open) that favours white skin.

White supremacy would be forced to fully come face-to-face with its unmasked self, no filter option.  Brought into the open to rule by daylight, none of white supremacy’s beneficiaries would be able to deny that they have benefitted and continue to benefit from systemic racism.

We would have to make it blatant: “You are getting special treatment because you are white,” we would say as we force that special treatment on them.  They would be damned for accepting it and damned if they don’t.  The only way out of this trap would be their dismantling white privilege in its totality and not a convenient, partial dismantling thereof in its less essential parts.

We would put up signs reading, “whites only” on places: full-on segregation.  This would serve to ensure they can never just take some of the privilege so as to deny having had any of it on account of whiteness alone.

Force them to the front of lines because they’re white.  Imagine, entire supermarket queues chanting the words, “because you’re white!”  When waiters try to pick tables to attend to first, we would yell that they should start with those occupied by white people.  This is assuming we would be in the same restaurants.  Car cut you off in traffic?  Everyone yells “you may because you’re white!”  Refuse equal pay for equal work or access to comparable opportunities (assuming you have been getting it).  Where the world would whisper of rumours of white superiority, let us accept nothing less than it being shouted from rooftops.

Where they previously took it for granted that their discomfort at hearing or reading about white supremacy was sufficient reason for us to not talk about it, let us reject our complicity in our oppression by rejecting the pretense that neutrality was an option or that white supremacy was gone.  Where we were expected to explain white supremacy, let us return it so no explanation is necessary.

You do not have to hate white people to see the logic in what I am saying; you simply have to love intellectual honesty.  Indeed, a love of white people not founded on intellectual honesty is not love at all.

The cost on black lives can be managed once white supremacy doesn’t have to fight black resistance in order to reach total domination.  If we let it win without a fight, we let it revel out in the open in all its glorious shame.  Who, then, will be able to deny that it exists?

For these reasons, I submit that if we cannot completely get rid of apartheid, we must completely bring it back.

The tragedy is that though a lot of black people will agree with this method of confronting white supremacy, I would have to hunt down and entrust right-wing white supremacists with its rollout.  We hate the status quo, but not enough to beat it at its own game.

I would rather have apartheid that calls itself that than apartheid that calls itself democracy.

#BringBackApartheid

Follow and Share: @SKhumalo1987

Why ANC is Unlikely to Recall Zuma Now

Thabo Mbeki was sincerely flawed — but he was sincere.  His deliberate sins were few, obscure, and (to many people) forgivable.  Withdrawing him was ANC’s admission that his attitudes on HIV/Aids and many other issues were a deadly error in judgment, but not malicious or motivated by greed.

Not so with Jacob Zuma.  Recalling him in the midst of so much pressure to do so would be an admission that the ANC stood behind a deliberate sabotaging of government.  They could recall Zuma quietly if there weren’t pressure to do so from society and opposition parties.  They can’t be forced to recall him as long as they have the voters’ consent to keep him.  All the pressure will do is make them dig their heels in and gather ranks around him more fervently.

It would take a proper, physical upheaval — a coup — to get Zuma removed.  Anything between dead silence and physical action will be a waste of time; worse, it will make ANC dig their heels in deeper; it will push the intended result away.  A protest could have removed a Mbeki but won’t work with a Zuma.  They’re wildly different in strength and in error.

When the ANC does recall Jacob Zuma, it will find a distraction for everyone to focus on.  While that trends, they’ll take steps to secure amnesty for Zuma and those he worked with so the whole party doesn’t burn with them.  They’ll methodically take his office apart, get a few foreign governments in on it to make it look like a planned change.  They will then manoeuvre someone else in Zuma’s place.  Alternatively, they’ll make him more of a toothless president than he’s already become and run the country from Luthuli House behind Union Building’s back.  Either way, they’ll regain control of the narrative and secure what little is left of their legacy.

Because that’s what they do: they control the narrative.  They don’t do it on social media but on the streets.  ANC-voting chanters and the toi-toiers are the final authority in this country; that they don’t know how to use it is doesn’t change that they have ultimate power.  ANC could sell the story to their constituency that they’ve been presented with uncontestable evidence that Zuma is bad, and that it was the ANC that immediately did the right thing and purged him out of the presidential office.  And that everyone else was running around in racist circles trying to prove something that wasn’t there.

The recent focus on racism served to give ANC common ground on which to stay in touch with their voters.  Am I saying racism isn’t real?  I’m saying the ANC doesn’t play all its cards at once.  It will sit there, watching racists being racist, bias being bias – in other words, social and mainstream media being social and mainstream media – and then one day when pressure is at its worst, present Zuma to black people as the lamb being martyred by the blatant racism that defines South Africa.

Make no mistake what the narrative has been: Zuma and his ANC have been devotedly trying to manage this racism scourge.  Never mind that it is they who are benefitting from inequality and structural racism.  They’ve done the most to fight these evils even if they’ve also benefitted from those evils themselves.  Forgive us, we are black like you; why are white mistakes forgiven so easily.  They’ll play this game until you don’t know which happened first: Zuma’s badness or Zuma’s blackness.  Because to racists, blackness is badness and that idea filters through and is read back into seemingly innocuous media reports.

As long as social media’s response to mainstream media is peppered (as intended, so white people choose DA over ANC though they’re different-race versions of the same party) with intimations of “we told you they couldn’t govern” and “we told you they would be corrupt and lawless,” the ANC can scream, “racist conspiracy,” “media bias,” “double standards,” and their voters will flock to the polls to defend them as their own.

Nothing has been found to convince ANC voters that they should vote differently.  The Guptas?  What’s that?  A set of islands off of Madagascar?  Nkandla?  He never asked for those upgrades and he’s agreed to pay back that “reasonable portion” everyone keeps talking about but nobody’s worked out, so what’s the problem?  Poverty, unemployment and inequality?  White capital with power to change these things is complaining about them as though they are the ones suffering; who are they trying to fool?  They are just trying to use the situation they benefited from for years to bring about a regime change.  And spy tapes?  Right to privacy, nobody is perfect, please.  700+ corruption charges?  Racist white counterrevolutionary tendencies.

Deflect, deflect, deflect.  Deny, deny, deny.

A week or so ago, Simon Lincoln Reader wrote a piece titled, “The day London saw through Jacob Zuma” in which he pointed out all the ways British economists and politicians had not been fooled by Jacob Zuma’s tactics.  “Zuma spoke like someone convinced that, whatever he was, whatever he had done or was going to do, the British had already done far worse,” Reader said.

But hadn’t they?

Having discredited Zuma’s many tactics, Reader did not take the trouble to concede this point.  He did not even dignify it with an attempt at a refutation.  To him, it doesn’t matter whether Britain has violated South Africa more than Zuma or not; it’s only black lives and those don’t matter.  All that matters is the economy and the way Britain sees it.  Why, then, should black people trust social and mainstream media voices on Zuma when those voices (speaking to and for white supremacy) have barely started describing the very evident inequality caused by apartheid, which they benefitted from?

Short version: if you are black, you must protect Jacob Zuma at all costs.

Racial oppression is the biggest reality in black people’s lives.  Racial oppression is something white people hear about and are tired of hearing about.  If they’ve more than heard about it (that is, experienced it) they see those isolated instances as reason enough for black people to stop seeing their experiences as uniquely horrendous and ongoing.  “You’re not especially victimised except in your minds” is the constant message.

If the ANC wants to get rid of Zuma, they will have to drum up a charge that their voters will relate to, and then very regretfully ask him to resign.  Then they’ll be the good guys all over again, continuously fighting for equality and non-racism though benefitting from inequality and structural racism in full view of their voters.

When Reader failed to give Zuma’s point about the British having done worse any credit, he wrote about what he’d probably only heard about.  To a black reader, Reader glossed over what colours and defines a huge part of their life experience.  You tell me whether black people care, then, what London thinks about Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma.  Keeping Zuma would be their way of saying Screw London and their access to South African minerals, resources and labour.  Rather have it stolen by one of our own than them who will turn around and be holier-than-thou.

The EFF is the only party that promises to do now what the ANC has been promising the black majority for the past 104 years – to deliver black people from tangible white supremacy and ongoing apartheid.  The question, then, is who is funding the EFF and what will those funders do once the EFF grows enough to pose a threat to other parties’ caucuses?  For all we know, the EFF could continue to be be bankrolled only on condition that it someday merges with one of the other parties – and it could truly be any of the other parties, economic policy differences be damned.  If racial and racist policies could be swept aside in the 1990s, nothing is sacred; it’s only being sold as sacred.

And that’s why the ANC cannot let the EFF win this battle because if it does, EFF will go on to win the war as completers of the black liberation project.  If Jacob Zuma is recalled, it would be the second time that the ANC’s youth, whether in Julius Malema, now EFF leader, or Ronald Lamola as another Youth League leader, would have confirmed the impression that the ANC is no longer there to liberate black people but benefits, through Zuma and his connections, from the exploitation of the country’s resources.

The ANC could create a distraction; Gwede Mantashe could pick up the phone and tell every news editor to focus on that or kiss state advertising goodbye.  Watch ANN7 and The New Age break it first and the Guptas leaving Saxonwold at their own leisure.  Money always wins; The House always wins.

Alternatively, we the people can focus on something else and give the ANC the space to give Zuma a dignified, peaceful exit.

Or, third option, the people themselves can take on the black-and-everyone-else liberation project, removing government’s supposed monopoly over the task from it.

But the head-on “Zuma Must Go” approach is moralistic grand-standing for opposition parties that will achieve nothing except the opposite of what’s intended.  It will simply continue the game.  The DA will always be there to rescue white people from Zuma and the ANC; the EFF will always be there to complete what the ANC started, and the ANC will always be the party that’s done more than any other to alleviate the inequality it also benefits from.  Whether it is sincere or not, the EFF is the fastest-growing party because it most directly speaks about the issues that visibly, physically make South Africa what it is.  Open your eyes.

If you want Zuma gone, sit back.  Conserve your energies for the time you go to physically remove him from presidency.  Which you will only do if you have nothing left to lose.  You only have nothing left to lose if you have not been benefiting from the status quo.  Which is exactly who the EFF has been speaking to.

But hash-tagging that he must go may simply serve to keep him in place and all these political parties fed and relevant.  It will give the ANC something else to spin and channel and re-narrate.

Have you not had enough of that?

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book.

Please share and follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact on SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

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

His Name Is Cayden

Sydney Jace took her son Cayden with her to work. Her colleague Geris Hilton (also known as Gerod Roth) took a selfie with her son in the background and made it his Facebook profile picture. Roth and his (white) Facebook friends then made racist jokes about Sydney Jace’s (black) son.

The words “racism” “white supremacy” and “privilege” have gotten tired in online discourse. Because of their perspectives, powerful and vulnerable people are sensitive about and find humor in different things. If I had a white kid wearing a Yamaka in the background of my picture and made jokes about gas chambers, I am sure I would receive a long, harsh lesson on sensitivity. Make it a black kid, and the offense would probably not be as vivid to (some) white minds because where media has made white experience “default,” “normal, “universal” and “human,” black experience awkwardly tries to elevate itself to a similar status by repeatedly reminding everyone that black lives matter. I imagine grasping black people’s experience of reality (and the moral imperative to do so) does not come easily to all white people. But I can only imagine.

I was once struck by something said by a black female commenter speaking from a live TV show audience. Among the topics they were discussing anti-Semitism. She corrected the panelists’ popular description of Hitler’s extermination pogrom by adding two words to it: “The Holocaust was simply the biggest atrocity on film.” She then pointedly added, “Ours was not filmed.”

This really speaks to a broader, more global context so it sweeps over a lot of nuances. But I have noticed this:

Genocide perpetrated on white bodies on ethnic grounds: evil.

Same thing happens to black bodies: it’s a mistake.  It’s called genocide only if it’s perpetrated by the dictator of an African country only known for what has gone wrong with it since it gained independence, in which case consciences can release a secret sigh of relief.  At least it wasn’t us this time.

Anti-Semitism happens to human beings so it’s insensitive and we must never forget.

Racism against black people happens to a previously disadvantaged focus group so it’s un-PC, tasteless and embarrassing; everyone wants to forget.

The approach to the first crime against humanity is humanizing and humanized; the approach to the second is clinical, political, token and perfunctory.

What I find disturbing is how that segment of society that is statistically most likely to subscribe to fearful stereotypes about black men, is also the demographic represented here as turning a black boy into the butt of a joke. So which is it? One cannot expect a ghetto of fully realized black men who contribute meaningfully to society and dehumanize, fetishize or trivialize black boys at the same time.  It’s got to be one or the other.

The tragedy of racism is that many of us may never become truly human to one another. The greater tragedy is that many people go through their whole lives never seeing that they’re incomplete without the fullness of the human race in their hearts and minds.

In the end, Cayden’s Mom posted pictures of her son as she knows and loves him, and reminded her friends, family and supporters that that’s how she wants her son seen and experienced: as the lovely and lovable (but, I would add, very, very impressionable) child that he is. That way, by the time society’s snickers and voices make sense to him and he comprehends the incomprehensible, he will know better than to believe people’s stereotypes about him and his potential.

#HisNameIsCayden

Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex

Please follow and share

@SKhumalo1987

Contact

SKhumalo1987@gmail.com  

image

image

image

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