A genuine Blacks only conversation hasn’t begun yet

2015-03-18 20:12

I thought I should be opportunistic, since we’ve relaxed our sensitivities on the race topic, to say what I’ve been reluctant to say all along.

Black consciousness is not only about erecting an impenetrable wall of solidarity and counter-attack against the self-righteous generalisations often made by our counterparts in other races. It features a critical inward-looking process that seeks to evaluate the self. However, because of the onslaught on the black skin in our past, legitimised by racist laws, blacks as a people have become used to the idea of a systemically white enemy in the form of institutions and privileges.

During apartheid, it was convenient (and indeed necessary) to forget about everything else and launch an offensive on the apartheid regime. Although activists like Steve Biko raised the question of lifestyle, i.e. defeatist alcoholism, generally the message was clear: defeat ye first the apartheid monster and you’ll figure out how to manoeuvre in the jungle afterwards.

Currently, there is general consensus that the legacy of apartheid continues to haunt us to this day, despite the political victory of 1994. The economy is in white hands, a few hands for that matter. Transformation is slow-paced and tertiary education is unaffordable. These are demons every black person has to confront and vanquish on a daily basis.

I’m citing these established realities to make the point that Black anger can’t be dismissed as reverse racist or destructive to nation building. If anything, addressing this anger in real terms is the foundation of whatever cohesive society we may dream of.


I think in many of our defences as the black community, we’re dishonest to ourselves or we’ve become spin-doctors of our very own black conditions (we know crime is high in the townships, but who the hell are you to tell us?)

We continue reacting to bigotry as a collective without dealing with the evil forces terrorising us in our own spaces where there are no white people. Business Day ran an editorial on the tragic death of Collins Chabane, defying ‘middle-class respectability’ and political correctness by urging us to draw (suspected) speeding lessons from Chabane’s death rather than only singing holy praises.

This is what we haven’t yet done as blacks – we haven’t deeply engaged ourselves into our weaknesses, correct them and march forward stronger than ever. We fear one another in the townships. We rape one another. We burn each other to death on witchcraft suspicions that lack concrete evident expression. Our taxi industry suffers from a disease of violence, poor customer focus and greed. Some of our young people seem to have decided that they will surrender their lives to drugs and alcohol.

As we speak, the black child worries himself with many things before he can put his mind to his education. He battles to maintain his balance in the midst of hunger. There’s a tug of war for his concentration between his school books and the noise caused by drunk and fighting parents at home. This child prays to his Father who art in heaven to save him from his father who art in taverns.

The black family, which was crushed to a hopeless condition by, among others, the migrant labour system, political killings, exile and imprisonment, still remains broken. With all passing day we bemoan the lack of involved father figures to a point that we make heroes out of those men who show love and leadership in their families.

Our relationships with each other are built on lack of trust and insecurity because of high incidences of violent crime. Teenage girls give birth to fatherless babies, increasing the already high number of children in one family that depends on the grandmother’s grant.

But we hardly hear black voices dominating the courts of public opinion and shared conscience to call for an inward-looking process that will see us cleaning our homes before engaging other home owners. Don’t get me wrong. We must disrupt the arrogance of those blocking the way to a transformed SA. The same energy with which we always act together in defence of our race whenever it’s denigrated by bigots and media arrogance is badly needed in addressing the ills of our people.

When Rhodes has fallen, leadership should also be provided in other critical areas affecting blacks in their own spaces, relatively independent of their white counterparts.

How do we encourage young men to be family-oriented, instead of wasting their money on entertainment and alcohol?

The violence our kids exert in their gang wars needs to be countered. But how!

How do we respond to lifestyle diseases and reckless attitudes?

How do we reach a situation where one can walk freely at night without being killed for his belongings?

How do we, young black professionals, avoid reckless spending on depreciating items?

Why are our students dropping out of school and citing Bill Gates as the prime example of what dropouts can achieve, forgetting that material conditions aren’t the same?

Our counterparts thrive on strong families with a lesser number of kids. How do we reinforce the black family to serve as a feeding unit to the large scale social transformation we correctly need?

These questions and others need urgent attention from us. We need our own solutions for our own problems. And for such solutions to be generated, we must begin a genuine, diagnostic and prescriptive engagement. Indeed, I look forward to the day we’ll have an honest conversation that transcends open letters, weaves and accents.

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2010-11-21 18:15

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