Spur video: ‘Angry black woman’, damn right!

2017-03-22 14:42

Since the Spur Video went viral many people either online or on radio talk shows have been trying to dissect what transpired and what this means for Human Rights Day. This article seeks to engage with the two dominate positivist views.

White liberals:

Many liberal whites seem to argue that it is symbolic of, firstly, two different gendered parents with two different parenting skills; this argument is fixated on a post structuralist and postmodernism analysis of race and colonialism that argues we are post metanarratives of race, history and culture. Therefore, we must abandon immediate assumptions of racism in the ‘New’ South Africa. To conclude their argument they point out how the White man in the 2 minute and plus video does not utter any racial slurs to the woman.

To recognize that these parents (and children) are of different races is disruptive to the White image. As such, White liberals forge unity in South Africa through gender differences since whether you are Black or White you face gender differences daily. Therefore, gender differences are understood as not inherently a White shortcoming or social construction.

Secondly, they contend that the argument was heightened further by the ‘rage culture’ in South Africa. Narrowing down South Africa to a ‘rage country’. In an attempt to solidify their argument they use examples of the prevalence of ‘road rage’, ‘service delivery protests’ and the student protests (from RMF to FMF) in South Africa. This inherent rage in South Africa is said to be symptomatic of frustration of a corrupt government.

Ironically, in their attempt to conceal race the examples they use illuminate race. From the prescribed three examples of SA’s ‘rage culture’ the imagery that appeals to sight is that of (1) swart gevaar taxi drivers, ‘rubbernecking’ on the highway with one had away from the steering with music blasting, while senselessly hooting at innocent road users to make way for them to skip the long queue; (2) violent demonstrations by an angry, swart gevaar crowd carrying pangas, jumping over blazing tyres with chips over their shoulders, who ‘criminally’ torch public buildings, barricade highways with rocks, bricks, tree branches and burning tyres, while sporadically throwing stones to road users (damaging their cars) and policemen (who try to dispersed them into townships); (3) arsonists, racist students throwing poo at statues, burning university buildings, shuttles and vehicles, and using disruptive tactics (like sit-ins, occupying of buildings) to disrupt learning in order to shut down their campuses until their demands for ‘free decolonized education’ are met.

All these examples depict Black people immersed in anger- acting immorally, costly and not entitled to feeling angry. There is an unconscious or conscious immediate association of rage with Black people. As such, when using these examples to explain the so-called ‘rage culture’ in South Africa, what results is an imagery of an angry Black woman- an inherently angry woman- easily triggered and difficult to control. Thus, the argument would not have escalated to the extent it did if he was not dealing with an angry Black woman.

What accompanies the angry Black woman label is the question, “what is she teaching her kids, though?”. The major demand to which Black women must accede in contemporary society is that they play their required role in the economy of being mothers of the Black nation. Often, the angry Black woman label is romanticized into an inherently strong Black woman who is basically responsible for the survival and maintenance of her family and largely the socialization of the youth. Thus, the angry Black woman must use her assertiveness in mothering. Therefore, the romanization of the angry Black woman is merely a subliminal indoctrination of gender role ascribed to Black women.

Overall, the angry Black woman in the video is coerced to apologize, or at least, defend calling the White man racist (since he did not utter any racist slur), and she is made to deny her anger, hurt, pain and confusion she was experiencing. Problematically, she is made to deny her experienced physical (threat of violence) and emotional reality, since she is burdened by dehumanizing stereotypes, social judgements and familial expectations. Most importantly, she is, thus, made to label her personal experience with realities (rage culture and different parenting skills) given to her not her own.

White feminists:

White feminists falling to the trap of White liberals have argued for the fight against hegemonic patriarchy marginalizing South African women.

However, what is ‘hegemonic patriarchy’? Does patriarchy affect all women the same? Is it possible to speak about a black woman’s struggle against a globally defined ‘patriarchy’? Are the complexities of power relations between Black women and White men the same between White women and White men? Are White women’s own experiences with White men enough to forge solidarity with Black women? What is a ‘South African women’? Does she exist? Don’t class, racial and ethnic identities affect the conceptualizations of gender? Don’t historical, national and political considerations conceptualize gender and a woman’s being and philosophy? Aren’t these then enough to discredit the category ‘South African women’?

This imagined community of ‘South African women” is highly problematic and marginalizing. It feeds to poststructuralism and postmodernism- which are nothing more than knee jack reactions of decolonization calls- escape hatches to exonerate White people of being accountable to the injustices they have caused to Black people.

When White feminists call for biological rather than political or cultural grounds for mobilization they universalize gender- universalize experience and homogenize privilege. While Helen Zille can praise colonialism for ‘transitioning US into specialized health care and medication, piped water, transport, infrastructure and independent judiciary’; many Black women make up the 17 million South Africans dependent on social grants who may not receive it come 1st April (less than 2 weeks from now). Many Black women live with HIV, diabetes, high blood pressure and have no access to “specialized health care and medication”. Many Black women are discriminated against when applying for jobs in fear of them being constantly late for work because they live far in Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Soweto etc. Many Black women have lost a source of income as breadwinners of the family not because of their incompetence but by depending on trains that forever delay UP to 2 hours! How many times have there been protests at the Cape Town train station?

Gender cannot exist independently of racial, class, ethnic, regional and other affiliations. A. Gendered social subject is never simply a ‘woman’- but a gendered subject with intersectionalities (overlapping identities). These multiple identities highlight the different experiences of Black women and the power relations that are neutralized by White feminists.

Overall, White feminists are able to praise colonialism, because they have White privilege! There is no South African sisterhood against ‘patriarchy’! Dadewethu, there is no ‘united struggle against’ patriarchy!

The Black women experience in Black woman- White man relationships

In South Africa, men’s relationship with women cannot help but be shaped and patterned by white hetero-patriarchal norms. One of those patriarchal norms is for Black women to play their prescribed role of doing the things that make White men feel masculine- validating their masculinity- through being submissive and controllable. As such, if the Black women fails to play this role she is coerced through violence into it- hence, the White man in the video threatens her with violence. Understand, physical strength, violence and controlling women are bases of masculinity.

Furthermore, violence and the controlling of Black people, as a race, dates back to over 300 years (to the slave trade and discovery of Africa by settlers). The Black community has always been perceived by colonialists and racists as an unstable and primitive community. Hence they attributed themselves with the civilizing mission- the White man’s burden of introducing sanity, civilization and control in the Black race. Violence has always been part of the vicious cycle of controlling the Black race, making it more challenging for young Black women to escape the superiority of White men.

Secondly, the incident happened at Spur (a middle class restaurant) situated in a suburban area in Johannesburg- spaces previously [legally] exclusive to White people. In a White hetero-patriarchal society like South Africa Black women validate White men’s masculinity by being an ‘underclass’ since White hetero-masculinity is based on dominating Black women (and men) economically. Competition amongst white men is intense, however, its intensity is mitigated by the fact that there is a lowest possible level which White men cannot fall- being a power Black women.

Black women’s economic oppression stems from a deliberate hetero-patriarchal history of colonialism, labour and apartheid. The colonialists’ discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa required ownership of land and labour to work the mines. Black women were excluded in working in mines and in farms- left in rural areas to raise their families. Black women still carry this historical burden as systemic damage [is] so deeply etched into the fabric of society that little has changed for them. Many poor and Black South African [women] largely live and function outside of the formal economy. Many [women] remain jobless for the duration of their lives. Likewise, the job market offers few [jobs for black women] and offer slave wages.

The upward social mobility of black women is obstructed by an imperialized white hetero-patriarchal ideology which “links work with masculinity”. The linking of the breadwinner role to masculinity compels men to accept unemployment as their personal failing as males and reinforces that Black women must not be allowed to hold paid work. This “false consciousness” results in black women being chauvinistically perceived as being lazy, lacking in some personal trait, or simply not interested in working.

Nonetheless, the ability of the Black woman in the video to eat and pay for her own food is challenging the White men’s White hetero-masculinity- to provide for the family, breadwinner role.

Furthermore, the failure of the Spur team, Black men and White men to defend the Black woman illuminates how White men in this White hetero-patriarchal society are still Baases- occupying the peak of the socio-economic pyramid.

Moreover, this video (experience) although traumatic for the so-called angry Black woman in it, it is important in unmasking the power relations among ‘South African women’, White men and Black women, White men and white women, and White men and society.

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