Another View: What a foolish thing to do, Slikour

2012-04-21 09:16

I must state at the outset that I share some of your thoughts and frustrations about what is not right for black people in Africa.

In addition, I admire your ability to reinvent yourself to remain relevant in the South African entertainment industry.

But I find your choice of title for the song Blacks Are Fools extremely offensive, reckless and hurtful.

At the end of the music video you invite us to have a dialogue, so I thought writing this letter to you was the best form of contribution. Please accept my apologies should you find it foolish.

In his book Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon writes: “To speak means to be in a position to use a certain syntax, to grasp the morphology of this and that language, but it means above all to assume a culture.”

As I watched the video for the song on Live last week and read your article, “Why blacks are fools”, in the April 8 edition of City Press, I wondered whose and which culture you assumed when you decided on such a title for your song.

Fanon warns us that we cannot “be deaf to the voice rolling down the stages of history”, which dictates “what matters is not to know the world but to change it”.

I could not help but wonder what you wanted to achieve by such an inappropriate title and how it would practically improve the lives of marginalised black South Africans?

As black people we need high levels of self-consciousness and group respect, and this can be sustained only when there is willingness to give one’s life for the achievement of justice.

Even with the painful realisation that we still don’t have collective economic justice for black South Africans, there are many doing amazing work and improving the lives of marginalised communities. For example, Lupi Ngcayisa mobilised the country to buy school shoes for poor learners – it obliged and thousands of pairs were bought.

Khanyi Magubane and her team helped produce one of the most relevant documentaries we are likely to see on our TV screens, Why Are We So Angry, in which the pain, anger and frustrations of South Africans (mostly black) clearly demonstrates that collectively we were fooled into thinking that this democracy was going to take ordinary citizens into the land of milk and honey.

Pointedly, the documentary shows some inept and foolish black leadership doing the opposite of what is expected of them by betraying the mandate and trust with which they were bestowed.

That notwithstanding, we cannot accept a title asserting that blacks are fools.

I know a group of ordinary young black South Africans who fund, from their own pockets and through Isibane Education Trust Fund, the education of young black learners from poor backgrounds.

You might also want to know that in Tjakastad, Mpumalanga, poor black community members built a house for one of the poorest families in their community while Xolelwa Majeke does amazing work regularly and quietly with black men in correctional facilities.

To me, these are patriots who know that, like American psychiatrist Dr Frances Cress Welsing argues in her book The Isis Papers, as black people “we have to stop thinking that rhyme and rhetoric will solve problems”.

Considering the issues you raise in your song and article, I can imagine that you will plead that people must listen to the entire song and hear what you say before they judge you. When young, gullible fans request your song on radio stations they will just mention the title of your song and, whichever way you look at it, there’s nothing affirming in saying “blacks are fools”.

Instead, it’s insulting, just like when Helen Zille called us refugees and Gareth Cliff called Zuma’s children bastards. Like Cliff, I imagine you will be rewarded for a job well done and be invited to lunch by some unthinking, foolish politician or government official.

Your privileged position and influence in society demands that you have the responsibility to choose a title for your song without collectively insulting us.

You chose unwisely, Slikour, and I suppose the commercial and marketing considerations were too tempting to ignore. How foolish of you.

» Tshemese is a clinical psychologist, Clinton Democracy Fellow and social entrepreneur who mentors young black men, including the hip-hop group Driemanskap 

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