Black pain is still black pain

2016-09-25 06:07
Itumeleng Mosala

Itumeleng Mosala

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Professor Njabulo Ndebele’s unpardonable reification of the black pain of the #FeesMustFall movement cries out for a response.

I wish for a frank and intellectually honest conversation with a colleague I have known and respected for
many years.

We were vice-chancellors in the same historical conjuncture when the mandate and expectation from our people – black people – was that we would transform both our institutions and the higher education system in which our people were and still are embedded, maybe trapped.

Professor Ndebele’s black pain – our pain – of 40 years ago was a function of human subjects who were politically and existentially immersed in the revolt of black pain.

Now you, Professor Ndebele, or let me say, we, occupy the position of “failed-at-transformation” armchair-philosopher former vice-chancellors.

Self-righteous as it may sound – you know me well enough to understand it is not intended to be – you were at a white-dominated, English-speaking South African university, unlike me, working at a “black” former homeland technikon.

The palpable judgement emerging out of the struggles of a new generation of the bearers of black pain is that our failure to transform the universities when we were in their leadership has catapulted the new generation into a recrucifixion experience of a reincarnated black pain.

Had we liberated our universities successfully and conceived our task in doing so as a continuation of the struggle for the total liberation of our people as a whole, rather than as a moment of self-congratulation and celebration of our achievements in roles that were historically reserved for white people, we would have identified the pervasive coloniality that inhered stubbornly and arrogantly in the basic architecture of the being of these universities.

The universities we failed to transform are simply ontologically colonial and the genealogy of their educational curriculums irreversibly white and Western.

Why is it so difficult for you and others to understand the pain of black students in the institutions in which we saw and experienced the basis of that pain?

I remember students who came to my office to ask for money for food, never mind money for fees. I know you must do too.

When I listen to the #FeesMustFall students describe their black pain, and I listen to your response to it, and how you describe your and my black pain of 40 years ago, I recall the questions of Sister Souljah reflecting painfully:

“Afterwards, I thought about the black men who turned their heads during slavery as if they did not know the white master was raping their wife, daughter, sister and even mother.

"I tried to understand what it was that gives black men the capacity to say and do nothing while they are being so obviously violated. I tried to understand if pride was dead or if this was some new definition of strength that I didn’t know about.

"Or was it that the men who spoke up and did something were all killed by white people, and I was left here on earth with only cowards. Were they cowards or just survivors? (No Disrespect, 1994: 48)”

Your speech at the Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture, published in City Press last week, gives the impression of one who does not understand why the black pain of a post-apartheid betrayal of black people is infinitely more painful and dangerous than that of an age when no one had promised any freedom to anyone.

For this reason, you seem to be epistemologically and ideologically poised to fail to feel the pain of the current generation of black students and the discourse of coloniality that frames it.

As the Yanks would say, “It is coloniality, stupid!” No need for a doctorate to grasp this. Blackness should be enough.

My pain does not come from the “burning of memory”.

It oozes out of the replay of Marikana at the University of the Witwatersrand when private security guards attack young people, students, with bricks and stones, for wanting to meet at a university hall for which they have been legally registered as students.

Black blood is cheap! Black lives do not matter! Black security police attack black students mindlessly in order to protect the walls of a colonial establishment!

I was certain that I was going to see the military veterans of Umkhonto WeSizwe rushing to the defence and protection of students against the private security hooligans in the same way they hastened to defend Luthuli House recently.

Of course, there were not even the Azanian National Liberation Army veterans nor the Azanian People’s Liberation Army veterans in sight. So, black person, you are on your own!

The attack on students at Wits on Tuesday was no more violent than Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s 8% ceiling
on fee increases.

So, the coloniality of university education is dressed in full uniform: financial and economic assault, especially, but not exclusively, on black students; cultural and intellectual rape, exclusively and painfully experienced by black students who are foreigners at these untransformed and unliberated institutions; and the brute force and physical violence meted out at the slightest provocation.

The holy trinity of Western imperialism!

Sorry, professor. No chance for a new society. Nothing to lose but the chains of colonial education.

Professor Mosala is the president of the Azanian People’s Organisation

Read more on:    #feesmustfall

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