Brace up, brothers – black people can be racist too
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.