Khaya Dlanga

Why black folk don’t vote DA

2011-05-24 10:34

It’s not that black people are racist. And I won’t get into the “can black people be racist debate” so let’s leave that outside (yes, I’m talking to you person who was about to write that comment before you’ve even read the whole column).

In case we forget, the ANC also gets a very small percentage of the white vote. One could also easily argue that white people are racist and that’s why they don’t vote for the ANC so let’s not even go the racist argument route. There will be no winners. It’s an easy and thoughtless argument to make. Let’s park it.

Of course there are many black people who vote DA, a whole six percent of them according to the DA’s own admission.

The reason black people don’t vote DA has little to do with the ANC racialising the vote. Some may to deny that the ANC has done that but it has. As we know, the ANC would stand to benefit more from a racialised election. There are naturally more black people in South Africa, therefore black people would then be voting ANC if the vote is based on the race card. That’s just how it is. If the ANC is racialising politics, the reason people are not voting for the DA is not because of racialisation at all.

One would also assume that it is because people don’t trust white people 17 years after the end of apartheid. Of course there is still suspicion. The scars are still too raw. Still too painful. But this is also not the reason.

Fixing problems

We still have white bosses in our places of employment. Some are better than others. Others are caring and genuinely want to see black progress. Some are resistant to change. Resisting what is new and what one does not know is not new, it is human nature. Just like some are trying to resist Twitter.

The real reason most black people won’t vote for the DA is because they want to fix their problems for themselves. They don’t want to feel like they need a white person to solve their problems for them. If they allow the DA to take over, this is what it will feel like, “We can’t do it for ourselves, let’s let the white people fix this for us.”

I know this may seem like a contradiction when I said it has nothing to do with race. It seems like race, but it really doesn’t have to do with race even though everything seems black and white. It’s about pride. It is about proving to ourselves that we can do it on our own. Once we are satisfied with this, once we have proved to everyone that we can, we can think about it.

This won’t make any sense to someone who has never experienced oppression, to someone who has never been told that they are subhuman and incapable of making complex decisions. Some may say we just want to fix the problems regardless of race. This is a bit like a woman complaining about a problem, then the guy tries to fix it and then she says, “I don’t want you to fix this for me, I want to fix it for myself, I just wanted you to listen and understand!”

Suspicion

The basic premise of apartheid was that black people are inferior and therefore are incapable of governing; they deserve white supervision. It is simple. Black people want to do it for themselves. Yes, with white help because we are all South Africans. It is a matter of not being told what to do by a white person. That is the perception one gets when one votes for the DA.

What will happen if Lindiwe Mazibuko leads the DA? Black people will still be suspicious. There will be a perception that she is being told what to do by the “madam” and white folks in the background even if that is not the case. It will take years before the DA washes that off.

There is nothing new about a particular racial grouping voting for a particular party. Let me take us to the United States. The US has two major parties, the Republican and Democratic parties. What is peculiar about the US is that even though the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, is the one that freed the slaves; it only gets about 12% of the black vote. When John Kerry ran for the presidency in 2004, he got 88% of the black vote. When Obama ran in 2008, he got 91% of the black vote.

What is even more peculiar is the fact that black people in the US hold similar conservative views as the Republicans but they will still not vote for the party because of some perceived racial biases the party holds. This is the problem the DA has in its hands - perceived racial biases. The party will have to get over that hurdle.

'Give us a chance'

The reason the black people in the US vote Democrat is thanks to presidents Franklin Roosevelt, JFK and Lyndon Johnson (Johnson who passed the civil rights act into law). When Johnson signed the law he knew that he was sacrificing the Democratic vote in the Southern states for generations in order to give black people equal rights to honour the constitution which says, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”

But in doing so, he was losing a large white vote. Black people saw something tangible being done for them by a party and then stayed loyal to it. What can the DA do to prove that it is not just interested in getting the black vote but only after white interest? These are the questions the party has to ask of itself.

Sorry DA, black people aren’t being racist. It is a matter of saying, “Give us a chance to show that we are competent too.” In this regard, black people don’t mind working with white people, they just don’t want to be told what to do by white people. White people have been telling us what to do for years; can we just do it for ourselves now? Work with us but don’t tell us what to do. I know it’s tough to understand but that’s just how it is.

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