Who taught you to say that black girls stink?

CityPress - - Voices - Mil­isuthando Bon­gela voices@ city­press. co. za

Iam in pos­ses­sion of four short but dis­turb­ing What­sApp voice record­ings sent to me by two con­cerned black girls who want to do some­thing about the way they and those like them are per­ceived and treated by their peers in South Africa’s pri­vate schools. In the voice notes, three black boys who at­tend a pres­ti­gious pri­vate high school in the KwaZulu-Na­tal Mid­lands dis­cuss how much they dis­like black girls, how much black girls stink and how they pre­fer hook­ing up with white girls.

“I’d rather be with a white girl who picks her nose than a black girl who eats pap with her hands at a restau­rant. That’s dis­gust­ing man; who does that?” one boy asks.

A friend who lis­tened to the record­ings with me asked: “But how did we ex­pect th­ese kids to turn out af­ter send­ing them to the sausage fac­tory of white supremacy?”

While the cracks in South Africa’s rain­bow na­tion pro­ject deepen, it would be wise for black peo­ple to clean house, to re­flect on the choices our lead­ers, and inevitably we, made against our­selves dur­ing the aborted rev­o­lu­tion of 1994.

What type of education are our chil­dren get­ting and who is ben­e­fit­ing from it if a black child can emerge not only ig­no­rant of his own value, his­tory and self, but hat­ing his sis­ter and his mother?

So ea­ger were we to have right­ful ac­cess to de­vel­oped white schools that we failed to de­velop our own schools.

Rhodes Univer­sity lec­turer Dr No­ma­langa Mkhize ques­tioned this sit­u­a­tion in a re­cent Busi­ness Day col­umn, in which she re­called the para­dox that a lot of black par­ents faced when send­ing their chil­dren to elite white schools be­cause “the school was os­ten­si­bly of­fer­ing the best avail­able education un­der the sun, but it also seemed that it was teach­ing me noth­ing at all of what was go­ing on around me”.

Whose re­spon­si­bil­ity is it to en­sure that black chil­dren are ed­u­cated to their ben­e­fit? Is it govern­ment’s? Is it up to the colo­nially in­flu­enced schools to trans­form? Or should I, the fu­ture par­ent, be pre­pared to build the school I want my child to at­tend one day? For­tu­nately, it’s not a mat­ter of choos­ing one or the other – all three op­tions are vi­able and there are a few good ex­am­ples of pub­lic and in­de­pen­dent schools that are un­do­ing the legacy of our his­tory. But ‘few’ is the op­er­a­tive word.

Black peo­ple with money can no longer rest on colo­nial lau­rels. What lit­tle black cap­i­tal there is should not con­tinue to flow so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally into the cof­fers of es­tab­lished pri­vate schools that are the breed­ing ground for the mise­d­u­ca­tion of not only the black child, but of all the chil­dren where anti-black ideas and per­spec­tives ripen in­side them.

It is not enough to ob­serve what the an­gry univer­sity stu­dents are do­ing with­out the will­ing­ness to change what we – the black elite, the com­fort­able classes – have be­come used to in the past 22 years.

We need to or­gan­ise around causes that are be­yond the cel­e­bra­tory, be­yond self-en­rich­ment and be­yond the con­temptible idea of char­ity that funds and main­tains the sta­tus quo.

It also does not serve our progress to con­gre­gate around things that make us an­gry if we do not turn that anger into or­gan­i­sa­tion and that or­gan­i­sa­tion into ce­mented ini­tia­tives. How do we do it?

Do we learn from Jews and Mus­lims, who take their chil­dren to He­brew school, Yeshiva Col­lege or madrasah, in ad­di­tion to or as an al­ter­na­tive to “nor­mal” schools, so that they can be taught the value of their com­mu­nal his­tory? If a black child is taught about his or her his­tory, lan­guage and ex­cep­tional in­tel­li­gence, what are the chances that he or she won’t value that his­tory, lan­guage and in­tel­li­gence enough to want to pre­serve it? What are the chances that such young peo­ple won’t want to build wealth around it?

We have the ben­e­fit of know­ing the value of com­mu­nity, yet we do not cap­i­talise on the inherent mon­e­tary value of ag­gres­sively build­ing wealth from within and for the ben­e­fit of black com­mu­ni­ties. Imag­ine if all the money black peo­ple gave away to cen­turies-old, slave-built wine es­tates that host wed­dings in the Western Cape was fun­nelled, in­stead, to em­pow­er­ing a black­owned busi­ness?

Know­ing that black chil­dren de­serve bet­ter is not enough any more. Such knowl­edge is use­less with­out mo­bil­i­sa­tion and or­gan­i­sa­tion. There is a long tra­di­tion of education in black South Africa. Both my par­ents built mul­ti­ple schools from scratch, through fundrais­ers, do­na­tions and other means.

Many of our par­ents did, so this is not a new or im­pos­si­ble task, es­pe­cially be­cause the con­di­tions have not changed – our re­la­tion­ship to them has.

For those of us who have ben­e­fited from th­ese schools, we can­not be so naive as to think it is still good for­tune to be able to send our chil­dren into th­ese sea­soned lions’ dens with­out a backup plan. The treat­ment and per­cep­tion of black teenage girls

by their pri­vate school peers is the sub­ject of a doc­u­men­tary that is cur­rently in de­vel­op­ment

by a young South African film maker

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