Brace up, brothers – black peo­ple can be racist too

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THE great­est racial in­ter­ac­tion hap­pens at the work place, schools, univer­sity, mu­sic con­certs and on so­cial me­dia, where the mid­dle class meet and where we de­cide what we will be. It is on these plat­forms that non-racial­ism has come to die, if we let it. That is me para­phras­ing Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee.

It is at these places where to a mil­len­nial, the def­i­ni­tion of racism should go deeper than “racism was his­tor­i­cally al­ways as­so­ci­ated with power; black peo­ple, who never had po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic power, nat­u­rally could not be racist”.

That ar­gu­ment is flawed. It is too struc­tural, it is lim­it­ing, it is more favourable to black peo­ple like me. Be­cause the man­i­fes­ta­tion of racism goes be­yond who has po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic power.

Racism is also rooted in how we think, our ideas, at­ti­tudes, con­duct, man­ner­isms and be­hav­iour. This is not ex­clu­sive to a cer­tain race, it is some­thing ev­ery per­son, ir­re­spec­tive of colour can do. Hence I say, black peo­ple are and can be racist too.

We are, how­ever, struc­turally pro­tected from being racists. So­ci­ety says to us, be­cause poverty and lack are syn­ony­mous with being black, we can­not be racist.

This is to­tally un­true. We have ig­nored the gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences and changes. We are so ob­sessed with white­ness and white priv­i­lege that we of­ten over­look or dis­re­gard the priv­i­leges and op­por­tu­ni­ties that come with our free­dom and the ad­van­tages of hav­ing a black-led gov­ern­ment. To a large ex­tent, we have mod­elled our own apartheid.

I, Ka­belo, as a black writer, I can openly say blacks can be racist too. But a white writer can­not put pen to paper to ex­press the same view I am giv­ing here. This be­cause we are find­ing more ways to si­lence white peo­ple in our coun­try. What­ever a black per­son says or does to a white per­son that is dis­taste­ful, it is any­thing but being racist.

I of­ten hear the grand­par­ents and grand­moth­ers in my vil­lage say “life was so much bet­ter un­der the apartheid gov­ern­ment. We knew what to ex­pect and we were never dis­ap­pointed. It is sad that we are led by black peo­ple who steal our money, who do not ful­fil their prom­ises, and who ev­ery five years prom­ise us a bet­ter life for all but de­liver noth­ing. Dur­ing apartheid, we were given what we were promised; even if it was not enough, they de­liv­ered.”

These are black old peo­ple ex­press­ing their views on the ap­palling lead­er­ship of the ANC and its al­liances. But the same view will not see the end of 140 char­ac­ters on Twit­ter if ex­pressed by a white per­son. This will be with­out even qual­i­fy­ing the con­text of what is being said.

Count­less black work­ers are abused and mistreated by fel­low black mid­dle-class em­ploy­ees. They pay them too lit­tle. They over­work them, they give lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion to their lives: to them, they are just the in­fe­rior blacks who amount to noth­ing but ser­vants.

It goes even fur­ther. When­ever I am in a taxi-ride to town, full of black peo­ple from my vil­lage and we pass a white per­son beg­ging for food, the com­ments go like: “Yah, suf­fer, you de­serve it. We have suf­fered a lot from you white peo­ple. Even if I find you dy­ing of hunger, I won’t give you a cent or food.”

That is racist. Hunger knows no race or colour. South Africa has a black-led gov­ern­ment. There is so much it could have done to ad­dress the im­bal­ance of the past.

To­day black, coloured, In­dian and white kids go to the same schools, live in the same suburbs, eat at the same restau­rants. They date each other. They love each other. To them, white supremacy, white priv­i­lege and white­ness are far­fetched con­cepts.

When­ever blacks think badly about whites, have neg­a­tive or deroga­tory ideas, at­ti­tudes, con­duct, man­ner­isms and be­hav­iour to­wards white peo­ple, that is racist too. Peo­ple from all races, can be racist.

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