When white losers de­feat black win­ners

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@ city­press. co. za

Let’s not be emo­tional about this. Let’s be prac­ti­cal and bru­tally hon­est with our­selves. These days, it’s hard to com­plain about your prob­lems with­out feel­ing like a self­ish bas­tard. Think about the Yazidis fac­ing a holo­caust at the hands of the Is­lamic State; the mil­lions of refugees flee­ing war-torn Syria; Nige­ri­ans dy­ing at the hands of Boko Haram.

And all that is on my mind is that, last year, ten­nis cham­pion Ser­ena Wil­liams made $10 mil­lion less than Maria Shara­pova in spon­sor­ship money.

The lat­ter has been in the shadow of Wil­liams for years; and if life were fair, she would be a for­get­table, dis­tant sec­ond, yet she is in the lead when it comes to earn­ings. Pun­dits have a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion – racism. Shara­pova is slim, blonde and blue-eyed ... a dream model, the white per­fec­tion mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies want from a woman, and so they shower her with deals.

Num­ber one is the op­po­site. She is a black woman, and so gets of­fered far less than her num­ber two. But most of the time, she gets no calls at all, even though Wil­liams has now beat Shara­pova 17 times in a row.

Who is to blame for all this in­jus­tice? Ac­tu­ally, it’s our fault. Yes, it is black peo­ple’s fault all over the world. We have not built any brands or busi­nesses we could tag on her fame. We are so ob­sessed with be­ing ac­cepted and loved by white peo­ple that we have stopped think­ing. We have ab­di­cated the re­spon­si­bil­ity for our lives, be­liev­ing the white world owes us some­thing for their past and present cru­elty to­wards us, and we have ac­cepted the ex­cuses they give us for our in­ep­ti­tude.

“Men are shaped by their world,” Lyn­don John­son said. “When it is a world of de­cay, ringed by an in­vis­i­ble wall, when es­cape is ar­du­ous and un­cer­tain, and the sav­ing pres­sures of a more hope­ful so­ci­ety are un­known, it can crip­ple the youth and it can des­o­late the men.”

It all sounds true at face value, but only be­cause it is lyri­cal and dem­a­gogic, so it tick­les the ear. But it falls apart un­der scru­tiny. If it were true that peo­ple were shaped by their en­vi­ron­ment, then the black com­mu­nity would by now have been to­tally de­stroyed, be­cause the white world’s aim was to de­stroy us and turn us into per­ma­nent and end­less cheap labour.

In­stead, “we over­came”, to bor­row from Martin Luther King Jr. Sadly, in the process, we suc­cumbed to mam­malian vices like greed, jeal­ousy and in­fight­ing. We can­not blame the white man for that. Think of the il­licit wealth African lead­ers have hid­den in Swiss ac­counts. Think of the ser­vice-de­liv­ery funds that are wrongly di­verted to in­di­vid­u­als’ pock­ets through cor­rup­tion. What is all that in aid of? For ex­ec­u­tives to buy another Range Rover?

White sym­pa­thy has be­come the com­fort­able cor­ner we hide in when we have to face our fail­ures. As a re­sult, we have em­braced in­sult­ing la­bels so we can qual­ify get­ting the crumbs.

We call our chil­dren “his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged in­di­vid­u­als”. How do you ex­pect them to suc­ceed when they are re­minded ev­ery day that they come from a lower, dis­ad­van­taged caste that is de­void of love? Such la­bels put men­tal chains on our chil­dren for­ever, and what do we gain? A few points on the BEE score­card.

Granted, we do not know what is on Ser­ena’s mind. Maybe she has a loftier goal, such as be­ing the best ten­nis player who ever lived, and is un­con­cerned about the money. In­deed, noth­ing stops her from launch­ing her own brand to com­pete with those who re­ject her for who she is.

Know this: Even though you are beau­ti­ful and good at what you do, there will al­ways be peo­ple who will never do busi­ness with you or hire you. There will be peo­ple of your own race who think of you as low class.

There will be fam­ily mem­bers who are em­bar­rassed by you, and there will be white peo­ple who dis­crim­i­nate against you. Don’t let such peo­ple de­ter­mine your stay on earth. Live your life and make the best of it be­cause, as I was told when I was a young­ster: “The world is won­der­ful. Life is un­fair, and black is beau­ti­ful.”

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive, an advertisin­g agency

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