The Sunday Independent

A dis­mal re­sponse to black racism

- DAVID ROBERT LEWIS Lewis is an anti-apartheid ac­tivist and grad­u­ate of the Cen­tre for African Stud­ies, UCT South Africa News · Racism · Discrimination · Politics · Human Rights · Society · Rhodes University · Cape Town · South Africa · Africa · Booker T. Washington · South African Party · Booker Huffman · Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe

THERE is a spe­cial place in hell re­served for those who wish to forge and re­vise his­tory. A bizarre fab­ri­ca­tion of the facts sur­round­ing the ori­gin of non-racial­ism was pub­lished in the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent, writ­ten no less by a “se­nior lec­turer in the Depart­ment of Po­lit­i­cal and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies at Rhodes Univer­sity”.

Dr Man­disa Ma­javu’s fraud­u­lent pro­pa­ganda piece ap­par­ently for a stream of po­lit­i­cal thought ad­ja­cent to or as­so­ci­ated with the “black con­scious­ness” move­ment, ar­gues that the black in­tel­li­gentsia “have con­sis­tently mis­read, mis­un­der­stood, and mis­took white racism for some­thing it was not – a white bene­fac­tor”.

He then de­scends into an un­sup­ported and coun­ter­feit con­spir­acy claim that “non­ra­cial­ism was in­tro­duced by whites in the ANC” in the 1950s lead­ing to a fur­ther blunt­ing of “the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s race anal­y­sis tool­box”.

In this asi­nine and acer­bic view, per­sons such as JT Jabavu, pub­lisher of the first black news­pa­per Imvo ZabaNt­sundu, and even critic

Sol Plaatjie, were sim­ply “racial ac­com­mo­da­tion­ists”.

In the process, both Jabavu and Plaatjie are stripped of hu­man agency, mere foils for the colo­nial au­thor­i­ties.

Ma­javu pos­tu­lates “Jabavu’s po­lit­i­cal project was aligned to the agenda of his po­lit­i­cal ‘masters’

– the South African Party” be­fore up­braid­ing his chief critic, Sol Plaatjie, writ­ten off as unashamedl­y con­tam­i­nated by the “white lib­eral spell of Cape lib­er­al­ism”, which Plaatjie him­self de­scribed as rep­re­sent­ing “Bri­tish ideas of fair play and justice”.

“Not only was Plaatjie short­sighted,” al­leges Ma­javu, “when it came to the his­tory of white racism in South Africa, he failed to ap­pre­ci­ate what was com­ing next.”

Well, hang me high for sug­gest­ing that hind­sight is 20/20 vi­sion and this type of phoney syn­cretism begs the ques­tion: What would Plaatjie or Biko say for that mat­ter, if they were alive to­day?

Ma­javu who then goes on to pro­pose: “John Dube, first pres­i­dent of the ANC, sub­scribed to Booker T Wash­ing­ton’s racial ac­com­mo­da­tion­ist and black self-help pol­i­tics”. In the process un­fairly writ­ing off both Pix­ley Seme and Al­fred B Xuma, “part of the black in­tel­li­gentsia who though fight­ing valiantly against the Na­tive Land Act” nev­er­the­less elicited a “dis­ap­point­ing re­sponse to race seg­re­ga­tion”.

This sets the stage for the un­founded as­ser­tion that whites were solely “re­spon­si­ble for the in­tro­duc­tion of non-racial­ism”, and that per­sons of colour, all sub­ju­gated ser­vants to a tee, timidly took up the ba­ton, bear­ing the cud­gels of uni­ver­sal­ism and mono­gen­e­sis (the the­ory of hu­man ori­gins which posits a com­mon de­scent for all hu­man races).

This un­der the egre­gious whip of the Church, in­flu­enced or brain­washed by mis­sion­ar­ies; and it was the ANC which in­vari­ably be­came non-racial­ism’s fore­most cham­pion and pro­po­nent from the very start.

Ma­javu's piece painfully ig­nores the his­tor­i­cal tragedy of the sin­gu­lar fact of the Strug­gle that it was Robert Sobukwe, founder of the PAC, who first ar­tic­u­lated race ag­nos­ti­cism in any co­her­ent fash­ion.

I find Ma­javu's fraud­u­lent at­tempt to ma­lign non-racial­ism as an “all-white af­fair” morally rep­re­hen­si­ble and be­neath con­tempt, since the facts cer­tainly do not sup­port the above con­jec­ture.

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