Enough with the colonial kool-aid

2010-09-25 13:17

As black people, we must represent ourselves in a manner that reflects who we truly are.

A recent chat among successful women about excellence and race blew up into a heated discussion on “why transformation in the world of ­business hasn’t worked”.

We lamented the tendencies of ­other racial groups and how they ­always look out for each other. And how, in contrast, black people look down upon each other.

This led to a question: If black ­people have low expectations of one another, why should other racial groups look to us for inspiration?
If we have internalised the falsehood of being “less than’’, how can we blame others for not recognising our excellence?

If government, the greatest ­spender of public funds, is comfortable hiring black talent for “peripheral services” such as catering and fleet management, yet when it comes to legal, tax and financial matters, black-owned firms lose out to their white counterparts?

Do I avoid going to a black doctor for fear of seeing the same doctor in my social circle and having him “tell my tales” to all and sundry?
Or am I avoiding black doctors ­because of an underlying doubt about their ability to be “as professional” as their white counterparts?

Why can I forgive my white PA’s error in booking me a flight to Cape Town, but arranging a rental car at Durban airport?

Instead, I dismiss my black PA for being late three mornings in a row.

Why are we harsh in our judgment of one another, yet accommodating to all others. Is this a case of New Age black-on-black violence?

Have internalised hypocrisy and social conditioning led us to willingly expect nothing of each other and ­only the best from the rest?

Is it possible that we have so drunk from the fountain of colonial kool-aid that we believe we are indeed “the others” who exist in relation to the white person, and that our destiny is to gain acceptance into the world of whiteness or die trying?

Has inferiority become our guiding principle so that when we work for a black boss, we treat them with ­disdain?

Is it possible that as a black boss, you refuse to call your black team members to task for fear that they will label you a coconut, and God ­forbid, accuse you of having adopted white standards and therefore losing your Ubuntuness?

In lowering the pass mark for ­matriculants, we are silently telling our kids that they are not smart enough?
In lowering the entry grade into medical schoolat the University of Cape Town, are we telling black kids that they can’t jump high enough, so we will lower the rope?
How then will we deal with the ­“insecure professionals” they will ­become; forever wondering whether they got into medical school on ­account of their grades or their skin colour?

Even during the very successful Soccer World Cup, Johannesburg, as a host city, felt the need to reassure the world that we are “a world-class African city”.

What is it that makes us shameful and eternally apologetic?

Once started, this becomes not ­only a self-fulfilling prophecy, it also reinforces a black identity crisis and a nation of citizens with low self-esteem.

The reversal of this tide starts with you and me. Next time we have an ­opportunity to try out a new supplier, why not seek out an excellent ­member of our race?

Engage them with credibility and allow that interaction to help us ­overcome “our limiting and limited selves”.

Race is a fact of life. Incompetence is not genetic.

The task of decolonisation is not yet done. Prejudice may have ended with the dawning of democracy, but its tenets remain firmly rooted.

Black still means all that is negative and repulsive, and white is synonymous with all that is good, desirable and worthy.

This schizophrenia must stop. As black people, we must represent ­ourselves in a manner that truly ­reflects who we are: astute, dignified, disciplined, learned and loyal – as ­opposed to adopting behaviour which only deepens stereotypes of us as destructive, disorganised, infantile and reckless.

To quote Mahatma Gandhi: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Let’s challenge our prejudices, seek out black excellence and spread the word each time we are served well.

This is the only way to create a ­portfolio of evidence to displace prevalent stereotypes.

What’s needed is black ‘innervation’ – the renewal of our black selves from the inside out.

» Marutlulle is chief executive and founder of Moonchild, a brand strategy and ­solutions agency

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