The F-word: Black people can be liberals too

2011-06-11 12:29

I guess it is my fault.

I wrote on these pages that my vote in the ­local government elections would be for more than just potholes and street lights, and that if I went to the polls it would be for what I ­remember about the political struggles that brought us to where we are.

As a result, I seem to have attracted those who are convinced that I believe that there is something wrong with black people who vote for their immediate concerns and don’t give a toss about history.

I seem to have created an impression that I think there is something wrong with black people who vote for or associate themselves with historically white parties.

For the record, I think black people owe nobody an explanation as to why they vote the way they do.

They are free to vote for the ultraright Herstigte Nasionale Party or mourn the death of Eugene Terre’Blanche if they so wish.

That is what April 27 1994 meant. In any event, nobody made us the arbiters of the quality of people’s choices.

In fact, it is racist of anyone to say that by merely being black, one is unable to see the virtues of liberal democracy ­whatever they might be or whether one believes in the vision espoused by the Freedom Front.

For even if it is foolish to believe in these theories, what makes blacks so immune to the foolishness that afflicts people of other hues?

Saying that blacks cannot be ­democratic liberals or hold a view that is championed by a historically white party is to me the same as saying blacks ­cannot be racist.

It diminishes black ­people’s ­humanness.

It is worth recalling that by this logic of blacks needing to avoid political thoughts previously held predominantly by whites, blacks should not be so excited about the Communist Party because it started its life as the Communist Party of SA fighting for the rights of white workers – like the right-wing trade union Solidarity.

Those who believe that blacks are not ready to make their own political choices must say when, in their opinion, black people will ever be ready to make such decisions without the tutelage of white people.

Very soon we will be hearing an ­argument like the one we heard during apartheid that it is the television cameras that make an otherwise restive community rise up and say they are unhappy with the councillors imposed on them.

It is clear that there are some people who just don’t believe blacks have it in them to make their own choices. Unfortunately, this bunch includes people who like and dislike the ANC.

There are those who believe that blacks who vote for the ANC in such big ­numbers are either foolish or sentimental. Others believe that those who don’t vote for the ANC are misguided, ahistoric and duped by whites.

Each side of this debate fuels a racist belief that black people cannot think for themselves.

It is a glossed-up version of the apartheid-era propaganda that all ills could be blamed on communist agitators who ­poisoned a content people into believing that they were oppressed and exploited.

According to this theory, blacks would never had known they are getting the short end of the stick had it not been for the likes of Joe Slovo and Bram Fischer.

We know of course that black people did not need anyone to make them see the inequalities based on class, race and gender to sharpen their political views.

Today, they do not need a Helen Zille to tell them what they should believe about government or what they should believe about the quality of their lives.

At best, we can try to tell those whose political views we think are wrong why we think so.

To merely say that they shouldn’t hold those views because they are black and that their thoughts are associated with ­historically white parties is not any better an argument than calling Trevor ­Huddleston a “kaffir boetie” for taking a side in a political discourse.

Black people are not a monolithic group who all love pap and football, and have rhythm. Why expect them to have the same political taste?

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