Professional black and proud of it

2012-02-11 08:52

You don’t have to live in Cape Town to feel the weight of white exclusionism.

Imagine anyone calling Naomi Wolf or Nomboniso Gasa “professional women” because they articulate the experience of being women in a patriarchal world, or David Saks a “professional Jew” because he speaks out against anti-Semitism.

Most progressive people know why the feminist movement exists and why the likes of Wolf, Gasa or Gloria Steinem cannot and should not be wished away.

They may contest the methods of the global Jewish movement, but only the blind would fail to appreciate why Jews are passionate about matters relating to their people.
Yet self-styled liberals such as the premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, think themselves entitled to belittle the experience of black people under white racism by calling those who speak out against this form of bigotry “professional blacks”.

The contempt is astounding.

The thing about being black – whether professional or unprofessional – is that the range and weight of white exclusionism never allows you to forget it.

It is the equivalent of that Jewish adage “if you forget that you are Jewish, a Gentile will remind you”.

Unlike some whose blackness becomes convenient only when they seek election to high office, the majority of black people cannot shrug away their blackness and “move on”.

When they try to, they are reminded of it.

Blacks are reminded of it when they seek rental accommodation; they feel it from colleagues who always second-guess them; they see it from the driver of the car next to them who locks the doors, even when you are driving the better car.

It smacks you in the face when you learn that the indisputably corrupt government leasing business is overwhelmingly white, yet the only faces of this rot are black.

You do not have to live in Cape Town to know this. In fact, you do not even have to live in South Africa.

A glance at the numbers that matter – employment equity, shareholding in the JSE, the poor and unemployed – shows that 98% of people in the lowest living standards measure (LSM1) in 2010 were black (Institute for Race Relations).

If anything, we need more “professional blacks”. Only then can we “move on”.

Until those numbers correct themselves, the inarticulate voices and grunts of black people who see the new South Africa as having liberated the former oppressors and left everyone and everything else materially where it was, make “professional blacks” inevitable.

One good thing about the post-1994 era is that the good old liberals need no longer think or make decisions on our behalf.

They can name us, but that is as far as they can go.

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