Most of my friends are white ZIPHO MAKHOBA

2017-02-15 06:01

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ONE of the topics I hold ardently within my scholarly interest is that of racial dynamics within the African context.

The more I read academic pieces written on the subject and observing my surroundings the clearer it becomes that very little has been done in terms of introducing both blacks and whites to humanity.

Any attempt at this is imprudently misinterpreted as an attack or hate speech of some sort. Post-1994, immediately after the elections, one observed an interesting phenomenon where all racial groups diverged from their own little cocoons under the pretext that they might be able to build their own fortresses.

Nevertheless, this phenomenon did not last long as the country’s shared recreational spaces, schooling system, workplace environment, etc., obliged us (racial groups) to converge again. It is this convergence that is interesting, that is testing our deepest understanding of humanity.

Our African continent may not have had an auspicious beginning, but still remains fertile ground for ploughing seeds of liberation.

At this point, I would like to borrow from the services of Paulo Freire who asserts in one of his erudite and profound writings “recognition of humanity is and ought to be a central focus of human existence”.

Put differently, our ontological vocation as human beings is to recognise and acknowledge humanity, irrespective of color, race and creed. However, this duty bequeathed upon mankind begets a very dichotomous process of humanisation and dehumanisation.

This means that within a historical context we are bound to either talk about or attempt to humanise or dehumanise. Moreover, humanisation and dehumanisation are possibilities within a historical timeline.

Dehumanisation happens when the oppressor wittingly denies the oppressed person elements of humanity and only reserve those for him or his group.

The former assertion, if studied carefully, one can pick that actually dehumanisation does not only happen to the oppressed group (e.g. blacks) but simultaneously dehumanises the oppressor (e.g. whites). Failure to recognise and acknowledge humanity by any person, dehumanises that person as well. At this stage I feel tempted to evoke and refer to a groups of black psychiatrists in the United States that once endeavoured to label racism, dehumanisation propensities as a mental condition that needs attention. I say this because we seem to have exhausted a vast number of social, political and economic theories to try and make sense of the dwindling significance of humanity among black and white.

In my other published works I have coined the current epoch “the era of alternativism”, meaning we have to try alternative techniques, approaches, tools and even attitudes to better our socio-politico and economic conditions, thus restore humanity.

• Zipho Makhoba — author, research consultant, social commentator, political philosopher at Makhoba Consultants Group (Pty) Ltd.

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