By Moretsi Mabusela
The year 2016, South Africa, through social media, saw a rise in the plague of the so-called ‘racist outlaws’, your Penny Sparrows and Chris Harts of today, who have been very generous at giving Black people the ‘monkey’ labels even your Mabotja Thabos on the side of Black people have been caught wishing for the slaughtering of White people. The government then saw it fit to curb such actions with The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill which was up for public consultation until 1st December, 2016. Now, is this piece of legislation going to fight the Racism that has precipitated in South Africa? For us to understand Racism and what it represents today, we need to trace it back to its history and etymology especially within the African and South African context; as it is the oppression of a special kind. Where oppressors and the oppressed live in the same place. When the invading force came into the African soil, they came with sophisticated weapons and military they had developed over centuries of fighting and invasions regionally in Europe then they went on a conquest to Africa to ‘discover’ the wonders of the world, the rhetoric itself implies that Black people are specimen to be discovered. The contraction of Africa, as we have grown to know it, and African people is that they live in an undeniably rich continent with many natural resources that benefit nations that conquered them – a continent whose resources had truly been for the benefit of Africa and its
people, Africa could be one of the most modernised continent in the world . As I try to explore the discourse of Racism, I will try to be as impartial, difficult as it may be, as I can and discharge my argument from what has been given to us to consume without a robust debate.
Racism cannot be confined to a single-sided and sanitised Google Search definition which defines it as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior . This definition, especially to its latter says ‘belief’ as if racism is a fictional idea that a particular race is superior over the other, that only exists within the thought patterns of the individual. Perhaps we must explore what superiority is. Can anyone, because they belong to a certain group of people, be inherently superior over the other? The answer is a resounding no. Superiority is associated with power – they are insuperable. Power or to have ‘power over people’ is associated with the influence of the behaviour of someone not according to their own free will . Some African scholars like Dr Umar Johnson define power as the ability to define reality and the conquered people to accept it as their own belief system.
I have to concede racism cannot be approached from a neutral, objective and scholarly perspective. Everyone who has attempted to engage in the discourse of racism has done so according to the position they hold, socio-economic status, their understanding of the term and to which group do they belong to ‘defend their race’ from scrutiny because when you excavate the manner in which the privilege was acquired, it will mean reparations to the oppressed and previously disadvantaged; no one wants reparations that is why the general notion is to ignore everything as ‘it is all in the past. Let’s move on’. Thus brings us to white privilege – white privilege is unearned assets that White people do not mind banking but whose origin they choose to be oblivious . It is very difficult to understand racism when you have benefited from a racist system as opposed to those to whom privilege was not given,
Everyone can, of course, be racist if they possessed the sufficient power to affect everyone to which they want to indict their prejudice, the question now arises; can everyone be racist? It is quite silly to suggest that Black people cannot hate White people, with all the history we have at our disposal, we would be deceiving ourselves if we think that all Black people have adopted the idea of Ubuntu and ‘The Rainbow Nation’ by the former African National Congress (ANC) and the Republic of South African President, Nelson Mandela. African-Americans are still grieving over Slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow-era, South Africans over Apartheid-era regime and Africans over colonialism just as the Jews are with the Holocaust that wiped over 5 million Jews by the Nazi-led government, thus traces of traumatic stress still exists hence the hate. It is important to note that the Holocaust tallied to 11 million people but the other 6 million people is rarely spoken about.
I concur with the sentiments of Tata Mandela that no one is ever born racist, it is an idea, like any other, and like any other idea, and it can be taught and learned. Just as when black people were humiliated, hanged, burnt and disenfranchised they would have events such as ‘Pick a Nigger’, or ‘Hit a Nigger Child’ where young white girls and boys would converge in laughter and enjoy what was before their eyes. Now that we have established the power dynamics associated with Racism. Do Black people wield enough power structure to adversely impact the lives of White people as a collective? We first have to ask which institutions Black people own that will inflict harm on the collective group of White people. When you are born in a society that is in your favour, you inherit the arrogance and superiority complex that people who are not in the same elite league as you are lazy and they deserve to be there, in the low hierarchal order.
Dr Joy de Gruy Leary in her Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome lecture teaches us of Carl V. Linnaeus and Johann F. Blumenbach who were instrumental in the coinage of the word Caucasian and classified man with the colour of their skin. Linnaeus said that Homo Afers (Black People) were lazy, lustful, phlegmatic and governed by caprice. This is of course ‘science’ of the 1700s that sponsored such thinking; moreover, it has even made its way in the Black community. When people in prominent positions like Thomas Jefferson, the second Vice-President and third President of the United States of America who has more statues erected in his name and some regard him as one of the greatest president of the U.S., held a strong belief that slaves smelled bad, physically unattractive and required less sleep, how did that resonate with regular white people? This rhetoric normalised the atrocities they did to slaves. He had slave plantations and owned slaves whilst he was on the position of presidency. It is said that slaves were worked from sunset to sunrise, and he fathered slaves and sold them to the highest bidder. You then ask yourself how can someone work such incredible hours breaking too much sweat and tears without proper sanitation have no odour, how can you rape someone who imposes no physical attraction. This all boils down to the cognitive dissonance that has precipitated in Black people’s conquerors.
I do not think that anything that can be erected in the name of the late Adolf Hitler, former Chancellor of Germany, or anything that is the embodiment of his regime can be accepted in Germany, let alone his last name be passed on to another generation. What people do not understand about Apartheid regime and slavery is the wealth amassed during the time and the generational impact it had on the grandsons and granddaughters of the brutes of White Afrikaners. There is a reason why Black South Africans were dispossessed off their land by the passing of the Native Land Act, 1913 which later became Bantu Land Act, 1913; they were given sub-quality education through the passing of Bantu Education Act, 1953; they were not allowed to participate in the economy, own property, anything of fundamental value, elect their preferred government and all other repressive laws. It all boils down to White Supremacy, which is a political, economic and social system that has no name and has institutionalised Racism.
White Racism is in no contemporary or advanced academic political textbooks but has shaped the world as it is. They wanted to write our history, define our reality, own big corporations and then refer to their ‘expert’ opinions on why we are failing as a people Dr Khalid. A. Muhammad best articulated it on his The Bullet or The Bullet lecture went on to say “Whoever controls the diameter of your learning experience; whoever prescribes the parameter of the plane of consciousness to you – controls the circumference of your actions and activities” lamenting that Black people were conquered not only in physicality, but mentally for generations. Racism, therefore, can be defined as a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of oppression, subjugation and discrimination of people of colour, Black people in general by White people to preserve and maintain their privilege and dominance which I use interchangeably with White Supremacy. You can even go to an extent of asking; how do we begin to fight Racism? There has been ways in which the Black community has tried to be independent in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Africa but failed, not because of incompetency, it was because the White Power Structures could not allow it. In Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Durham, North Carolina in the United States are examples of independence in the name of ‘Black Wall Street’ that saw the rise of racial tensions that destroyed them, even today we cannot be taught such wealthy history within the premise of our school syllabus.
I, for one, am convinced that to fight Racism we have to dismantle the monetary system that breathes the life in it, the Bill only serves to deal with the symptoms of Racism – not the root causes. Black people still have to ask the minority for jobs, blacks still do not own land, they contribute a fraction of the economy, their business are collapsing, they are subjected to abject poverty and debts they have incurred from their mortgage, car and higher education loans, but business loans? That will be giving them systematic access to wealth and independence. It is depriving to look Racism the way in which it has been defined, it has to be rejected with the contempt it deserves. It is a debate that ought to take place in the public discourse and be implemented in action, and break the stereotypes that one race cannot live without the other. It cannot be eradicated by simply moving on from the past and forgetting everything that happened because Black people are without still power and resources as a result of the Apartheid regime. White people have to start acknowledging how they have benefited instead of hiding behind the mistakes of the ANC-led government as if it is the sole source to the abject poverty, gaping unemployment and chronic inequality that we find ourselves today.
1. Government Gazette, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development Notice 698, 2016,
available at: http://www.gov.za/documents/prevention-and-combating-hate-crimes-and-hate-speechbill-draft-comments-invited-24-oct
Date retrieved (9 February 2016)
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Date retrieved (28 January 2016)
4. A. Heywood, (2007), Politics, 3rd Ed., Palgrave Macmillian Ltd., NY, United Sates: page 7
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