On the other Spur issue and Systematic Racism

2017-03-24 06:02

Seeing an image, taken at Spur, of a little "white girl" and "black boy" giving one another hugs reminds us that racist atttitudes are indeed taught. Those two beautiful give us a glimpse of a possible world, a world with pure love. Children exhibit lack of knowledge of race, atleast in their eyes. I say atleast in their eyes and ours because many white children are already benefitting from white privilege. Take for instance the white little "girl" whose image is trending on facebook. It is highly probable that her parents hardly ever stressed over affording a healthy diet made up a variety of nutritious first grade vegetables and fresh fruits to blend for her when she began eating solids. I know that most black parents have limited affordability when it comes to feeding their babies. Usually the solids for infants are mashed potatoes, pumpkin and more mashed potatoes. And maybe a banana and it's often mashed with a teaspoon because God knows a blender is expensive for many blacks. After all, income disparities are for real, the fact that whites earn 6 times more than blacks signals the disparities existing due to racism and children born into those studied household are already experiencing the privilege or oppression of race. This is what racism is, it is not the same as racist attitudes.

Source: Image taken from facebook

Racism entails the structural oppression of people on the basis of the classification of skin colour. It is a system of privilege for others which affords them relatively better lifestyles, opportunities and experiences. It is rooted in racist ideology that is institutionalized to subdue those classified as inferior. Systematic racism is the culprit we need address in order to end the sporadic occurance of racist comments and behaviors as exhibited in the Spur-incident video.

That incident highlighted surface issues reflecting the nature of racism. It also revealed that racism is not only socio-economic, it infused with patriarchy. It was interesting to note that the black employees seemed dominated. Then there was a black man who tried to assist, which seemed to momentarily rescue the image of black men when it comes to the debate in black radical spaces about "defending black women" in the face of white violence. Such debates are ofcourse always problematic on the basis of patriarchy. Black women have historically proven the capacity to defend themselves. This however doesnt mean there is no need for helping each other. The help must not be an issue of exerting masculine dominance. Talking about masculinity, the spur incident also revealed racialized masculinities noted in the performances of those in the video. The physical strength of the macho man, the aggression and subordination of women, ie: the loud silence from the white woman who accompanied the aggressor, reflect signifiers of white hegemonic masculine identity.

The relatively small physique of the black man, who was earlier coached by his friend not to intervene, symbolically indicates the position and social location of black men vis a vis white systematic domination. Moreover, for a brief moment, his intervention challenged the notion of the synonimity of black masculinities with violence. History has proven time and again that the greatest aggressors are white men (see Michael bradley). Probably in the eyes on the white man in the video, the greatest sin was being challenged by a black woman, a non-being belonging to the lowest level of the human and non-human hierarchy.

Now going back to the gorgeous innocent babies and their parents who condemn racist attitudes and wish for a non-racial world as many of us do. (I say their parents exhibit condemnation of racist attitudes because of a decision to arrange a play date for their sweet angels and the emphasis on how the children saw one another as human/friends and not as black or white.

Sadly the human being/friends will at some point learn race for themselves as long as we have class inequalities where the majority of those who are at the bottom of the income scales are blacks. These babies who are thought to be non-racialized, will certainly experience race as their grow up. They will grow to learn that despite being human beings, their spirits occupy racialized bodies where one body is racially priviledged and the other is racially oppressed.

This will happen when one realizes that upon walking down the street with all sorts of infrastructure developments, those doing the hardest labour and toiling under the torturous sun are blacks. They will notice that the majority of those who are cashiers at underpaying retail stores are blacks, those who are domestic workers and gardeners are black, and NOT white. The only whites in those contexts are often the ones that lord over, supervise, manage and/or order the blacks around except in contexts where the contractor is black. As for the white car park attendants and other poor whites, they must ask why aren't those poor whites living in Evaton, Alexander, khayelitcha, Nkaneng, Serope sea benya where many blacks use pit toilets in a country where others have bathrooms with jacuzzis and bath tubs that play music.

The beautiful racially blind children pictured will grow up to enter the university and realize that, despite all of them being students, the majority of white students drive cars and are most likely to get employment before their graduation ceremonies unlike the unemployed blacks with masters degress sitting at home as we read this. Statistics reveal that youth unemployed is racialized and gendered. So it is these kind of experiences that will reveal to these race-blind babies that they are also racialized, that we are all racialized.

It will be even worse for the racialized "boy" because the racialized boys tend to be profiled as rapists, criminals and the likes. The little "boy" will likely escape this if he becomes one of those blacks who reap the fruits of class privilege making their lives a bit better than other racialized blacks. Even if he were not relatively privileged by class, exhibiting behaviors that indicate one has transcended blackness which is rendered synonymous to backwardness, he will survive. Transcending blackness entails exhibiting capacity to not talk about race and say things like "apartheid ended, move on" because this always pleases under cover racists who seek not change and equality in the authentic sense.

As much as "apartheid has legally ended", the little "girl" will grow up with privilege while the little "boy" will become racially under-privileged/oppressed due to institutional limits. The "girl" will witness for herself that the majority of blacks function as servants, are the exploited and blacks are the mine workers whose deaths are normalized. "She" will notice that overwhelming majority of blacks stay in shacks, live in concerntration camps called the township and majority of people who stand on long lines waiting for taxis to get to work in the working or battle to breathe inside shosholoza trains are black people. Well, chances are she wont see blacks at taxi ranks or the struggles inside the trains.

Whatever "she" will witness, be it the fact that most people occupying high positions in the private sector are whites or that majority of whites live in relatively better communities thanks to colonial geography, she will definitely wonder why blacks are in such conditions and maybe even ask others about this. Some may give her the historical context which will plague her with feelings of guilt. Others will probably say things like "blacks are just lazy hence why they suffer".

She might rationalize this by thinking about all the other blacks who live in Sandton and other similar surburbs, driving expensive cars, more expensive than ordinary white people's cars, throw parties like the sushi parties we once witnessed in the public space etc. She will probably debate this in her head and settle for an explanation known to her. Chances are "she" may conclude that perhaps those blacks who suffer are indeed lazy because other blacks have "made it".

The "boy" will most likely have this debate in his head too and if he is "lucky" to have parents who are materially located in the middle class group, they might also instill in him the idea that other blacks suffer out of choice especially if the parents are part of those who experienced hardship at varsity with some racist lecturers who made their lives difficult. Or maybe went to lecturers hungry and ran home thereafter to eat because they simply could not afford food sold on campus. Such blacks tend to feel justified because despite their trials, they feel they held on in order to get their degrees, in order to get better employment opportunities etc. So, out of their bitterness from all that violence including the abuse they probably get from their bosses, black or white, they are most likely to say that those who did not "make it" into the university system, got jobs or maybe even become tenderpreneurs have themselves to blame for ending up as cleaners, cashiers etc.

These sentiments will be passed onto their black children who will regurgitate the same saddening logic and when they have conversations about other blacks with whites, their children will reinforce the racist stereotypes about other blacks mainly due to ignorance. This will most likely happen because the university education we receive will not train them to critically debate the world we live in today especially South africa. These ideas will continue to be recycled if they do not fully grasp why the Fallists fight an intersectional struggle.

If their education does not entail explanation of the global economic system, of capitalist production and its influence on social relations, patriarchy, sexism, racism, Eurocentricism etc, they will likely not grasp what is happening in our world and continue to believe those who struggle do so out of choice or think it is the will of God. They will likely not learn that everything is designed and that the fight against racism is supposed to be systematic and as agents forming institutions, it is our collective responsibility to end racism but responsilibity lies more with the privileged and those with political and economic power.

Doing so will involve alot of chaos because everything will have to be dismantled. The change to end racism will affect everyone and those who will feel it the most are the super wealthy followed by those in the upper echelons of the racial hiearchy because the end of racism involves the end of class, gender, sexual, political, cultural and spiritual hierarchies among other systems of oppression that intersect. You cannot deal with one and avoid the other.

PS: Apologies for my hetero-normative classifications.

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