The F-word: Sindane knew what it was to be white

2013-04-07 10:01

And so the young man with the most ironic of names died on April Fool’s Day.

What we know of Happy Sindane’s life was anything but joyful.

The public’s fascination with Sindane was not just that he had been fathered by a white man and mothered by a black woman at a time when their act of intimacy was a crime.

There are many such people in South Africa, some of whom were products of love between the two parents while others were a consequence of racial and patriarchal oppression.

Sindane was said to have suffered an acute identity crisis. But it was a bit more than that.

Just a few days before Sindane’s gruesome death, the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) had shown that white men, particularly in Gauteng, were still at the top of the food chain in South Africa.

Sindane, despite being certified to have the learning ability of a nine-year-old, still understood that being white and male was not just a matter of skin colour or testosterone.

Whiteness and maleness were a predictor of privilege.

On the other hand, being a young black male increases one’s chances of ending up dead, murdered on some dark street corner by another black male.

Sindane was tragically right on both counts.

It is not the intention of this column to harp on the fairness of the position of white males in the economy.

It is not useful to begrudge white males their status. Nobody benefits from pulling down those at the top in the name of creating an equal society, even if you’re convinced that they are beneficiaries of an unjust order.

It’s much better to uplift those at the bottom.

Sindane was not exactly an Einstein, yet he understood that race and gender are very important determinants.

It’s baffling as to why, then, that smart men and women who lead formations like Freedom Front Plus or Solidarity don’t get it.

Sindane’s sad end must also demand we revisit the fixation with improving the lot of the girl child as if one’s sex alone – and not it along with race, class and urbanity – is the only factor that has full bearing on being able to take advantage of opportunities.

This is not to downplay the hard life women in this country lead.

The SAIRR study revealed that black African women in Limpopo were at the bottom of the chain.

South Africa is one of the most dangerous places to be in if you’re a woman.

Women are victims of the same men some choose to pretend do not matter.

Young black males (even if they look like Sindane) live precarious lives in South Africa, and they need all the support they can get.

If they don’t get it at the right time in their lives, their chances of ending up like Sindane or his killer increase.

Why is it your business?

According to Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, the state spends R8 000 a month on each of the approximately 160 000 inmates.

Of these, less than 4 000 are women.

This translates to about R15 billion a year.

Just to contextualise these numbers, the institute’s study further showed that in 2011, the median monthly wage for black Africans was R2 380, as compared to R3 030 for coloureds, R6 800 for Indians, and R10 000 for whites.

So it is more expensive keeping a prisoner than giving him a job.

And it is your money taking care of those the system could have chosen to invest in before they became social burdens.

Not that sending them to jail has helped curb the level of crime anyway.

Ndebele says they release 23 000 prisoners a month and 25 000 new ones replace them.

So we must dare to rethink the possibilities of arresting the hopelessness of our young men without them having to think they need to be either criminals or white to access a better life.

After all, unlike Happy Sindane, very few even have the option of even thinking of escaping their blackness and all its attendant challenges.

» Follow me on Twitter @fikelelo

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