Of forked tongues and coloniZille’s wrongs

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THE WORST thing about the ColoniZille af­fair is that it makes liars. The Stoep made that point back when the Gold Medal­list of Fa­mous Tweets was new, and I had in mind white peo­ple with forked tongues dis­patch­ing in-group e-mails as­sert­ing “He­len’s right but don’t tell the na­tives I said so”.

Now I say it of a big­ger catch­ment. Those peo­ple are joined by equally forked-tongued black mouths, of­ten dis­tin­guished, even il­lus­tri­ous, who hap­pily tell ap­pro­pri­ate com­pany “this is phoney out­rage, but of course I can’t say that in pub­lic”.

Well do I re­call my first-ever hardtalk con­ver­sa­tion with black peo­ple – mo­men­tous event; I was 19 or so, used to hear­ing, read­ing, talk­ing about the African Ques­tion, now fi­nally, as­ton­ish­ingly, hav­ing two ac­tual Africans thump­ing fin­gers into my chest and fir­ing can­non­balls at my world view.

This was in the Mooi Street of­fices of the Rand Daily Mail. The two were journos, Ike Se­gola and James Ma­funa, later Bokwe Ma­funa, and the is­sue was colo­nial­ism. My case was stan­dard Ce­cil Rhodes: look at all the ben­e­fits you got.

Their re­ply was shock­ing: nope, boytjie, those ben­e­fits are but part of the story, what they came with was put-down and be­lit­tle­ment, op­pres­sion and scorn.

This was no small mind-blower. I knew about mal­treat­ment, that’s how I’d grav­i­tated to the Mail, but it was sup­posed to be a new aber­ra­tion, a thing to blame on nasty Afrikan­ers, not on the whole pale pres­ence of in­no­cent niceguys who voted Prog.

Bokwe and Ike never in­flu­enced any­body more than they in­flu­enced me that day (and if you’re think­ing I’d been un­duly naive, be­ware; my at­ti­tude and re­sponse were iden­ti­cal to Nel­son Man­dela’s, as de­scribed in Long Walk).

For years fol­low­ing, I’d use Ike and Bokwe to white guys who in­sisted that colo­nial­ism was purely ben­e­fi­cial. I’d say that if you can’t open the other eye there’s a hole in your head.

Funny, hey? Now we’re sup­posed to open only the other eye.

The is­sue makes hyp­ocrites, too. Liars aren’t nec­es­sar­ily hyp­ocrites; it’s when you present your­self as one thing to one au­di­ence and the op­po­site thing to an­other, and a ly­ing hyp­ocrite is worse than a plain liar.

It also makes racists. In this cat­e­gory fall the cho­rus singers of “it’s crim­i­nal to dam­age your party’s stand­ing among blacks”.

You can ac­cuse me of the sin called “ide­al­ism”, I hear that plenty. Ac­tu­ally, it’s not ide­al­ism, it’s not even that less el­e­vated thing “ethics”, it’s plain com­mon sense to say that to build your ap­proach, your com­mu­ni­ca­tions, your life, on play­ing sep­a­rate tunes to sep­a­rate gal­leries is racist. It’s also a fine for­mula for ul­ti­mate down­fall, but that’s an­other story. I’d bet that when He­len’s busy fin­gers tapped out her atom-bomb tweet she had zero thought in mind of of­fend­ing any­one; she was high on see­ing Sin­ga­pore work­ing like she wants to see us work. I’d bet also that not one brain cell was al­lo­cated to wor­ry­ing about the com­plex­ion of her read­ers.

The racists are the mob who dump on her for be­ing un­guarded about race. They’re racist for bring­ing it up and more racist for their im­plicit rea­son­ing, “it’s okay for whites, who can han­dle this dis­cus­sion, but the blacks must be pro­tected”.

I’ve just writ­ten the most race-laden Stoep in months, packed with th­ese back­ward terms “black” and “white”.

If we take se­ri­ously the idea of this south­ern tip of Africa be­ing a place of trust and af­fec­tion, peo­ple feel­ing at home in con­fi­dent and good about them­selves and their com­pa­tri­ots and their world, we don’t make witch-hunts over trivia. We dis­cuss openly, hon­estly, with­out taboos.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.