There is an absurd idea, Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya says, that one mind cannot at the same time accept the historical fact, and present-day effect, of white racism and white privilege, and still believe that everyone, including the beneficiaries of that system, can have the heart and the capacity to contribute towards creating a better society for all. He looks at “Black Twitter,” a place where fake radicals reside.
Despite the obvious crucifixion this will bring, I am going to write what I think anyway. It is, after all, that week of the year in which we commemorate Jesus Christ taking up his cross and being put to death for what he believed in.
Black Twitter is increasingly becoming a lynch-mob, not much better than the street committees of the 1980s who dispensed some of the most horrific “rulings” in the name of “the struggle”. It has become a home of fake radicals and black nationalists who seem to have a one dimensional and simplistic answer to all the complex and nuanced questions in our society today.
These questions cannot be dealt with by simply shouting a slogan, projecting oneself as a disciple of black nationalists, pan-Africanists, scholars and activists of yesteryear, and shouting-down anyone who does not fall within that school of thought, or does not look like they do.
At the heart of this pseudo-radicalism is the absurd idea that one mind cannot at the same time accept the historical fact, and present-day effect, of white racism and white privilege, and still believe that everyone – including the beneficiaries of that system – can have the heart and the capacity to contribute towards creating a better society for all.
To this group, being “radical” consists of nothing more than looking at the skin colour of the person making the point and when seeing that they are white – or worse, white and male – demand that they shut-up and sit down.
These peace-time revolutionaries are the flipside of those who think every conversation about race and racism is “living in the past”. It is as though our options are limited to “let bygones be bygones” or “one settler, one bullet”.
The intellectual laziness of this approach ought to be obvious and exposed. One cannot be deemed radical and progressive purely because they are black; just like one cannot be conservative and narrow-minded just because they are white.
This is not a “not all whites are racist” piece. Neither is it a defence for the routine racism black people encounter in virtually every area of their lives every day. My point is that every contribution to the discourse deserves to be treated on its own merit and not be dismissed simply on the grounds of the contributor’s place in the historical, political and economic divisions of our society.
Being white and wealthy does not, in itself, make you unable to see the socio-economic contradictions, nor does it render you unwilling to do something about them. The flipside of that is that being born poor and black does not necessarily make you a champion of the oppressed and marginalised. Think Herman Mashaba.
This means that the likes of wealthy businesswoman Magda Wierzycka – who caused a social media row for suggesting our unemployment situation could begin to be solved by having every family that could, hire an extra domestic worker or gardener – can have their thoughts dismissed on the basis that her proposal is unsustainable, but not because she is not allowed to venture an opinion because she is white and wealthy.
Remember the reaction of Black Twitter after Miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters wore latex gloves while feeding black children in Soweto? These self-appointed champions of black people, and their condition, suddenly went quiet when it turned out that other staff and volunteers wore similar types of gloves at the same function and for the same health reasons.
Politically we have seen how some within the so-called “progressive forces” have sought to silence the likes of Derek Hanekom or Jeremy Cronin by referring to the genetic luck or bad luck of being born Caucasian, whilst at the same time saying nothing about the ideas they raise. I shudder to think what some of these radicals would say to, for example, Braam Fischer or Joe Slovo today.
Not that we owe whites and privileged folk the duty per se of being nice to them for fear that they will take their toys and pack for Perth, but the blanket assumption that the historically privileged are forever banned from saying anything about society today does nothing for those who have come to terms with their own instinctive racism and want to transform themselves for the better.
Amazingly, many of those who are among the first to use race as the basis for not hearing another viewpoint, were among those who led the lie that Africanist and Black Consciousness formations were intent on “driving the white man to the sea”.
Some of these individuals and the organisations they belong to led international campaigns seeking to label Africanists and Black Consciousness adherents as “black-supremacists” when the truth was that these formations emphasised black and African self-reliance and own leadership in all matters that included their lives, including their own freedom.
In 2018 we find ourselves in a different phase to the one we had pre-1994. Unlike during apartheid when the struggle was about dismantling a divisive system, today we have a project of building one nation from the jigsaw puzzle made up of pieces at odds with one another.
This is a puzzle that makes do with pieces made up of extreme poverty and extravagant opulence; of those educated in universities, ranked among the world’s best, and those who risked falling to their deaths when they went to their pit-latrine lavatories. We are saddled with the historical duty of forming a nation between the beneficiaries of racism and their victims; between the exploiter and the exploited.
I repeat, for emphasis, the social and political concept of whiteness has many questions to answer for the crimes committed against black people. To conclude, however, that this therefore disqualifies all whites from participating in the creation of the society memorably described by Steve Biko when he said: “in time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more humane face”, is simply illogical. That conclusion cannot be termed progressive. It is actually fascist.