UNDERSTANDING RACISM

racism2

It is quite prophetic that as we wrapped up 2015, Mayihlome News published a feature article on racism, in many ways confirming the known fact that racism was rife in its subtle form in South Africa and worldwide. Little did we know that we would wake up in the first few weeks of 2016 to all forms of racists exposing themselves, hanging dry their racist opinions of Africans, and blacks in particular, for the entire social media sphere to witness. As typical of the #HashTag society, these racist utterances sparked an outrage. It is good that the black society is finally starting to grow intolerant of the racism which has gone on for a very long time in all facets of black life in South Africa. What is worrying, though, is the nature of our response to racism and our lack of understanding that racism is a systemic social construct. Our response to racism has highlighted our capacity, or lack thereof, to comprehend what racism is and what is required to fight and eradicate racism. Our response to racism does not take any practical measures to fight racism except for putting it on the spotlight, which is a futile exercise as it does nothing to dismantle the structure of racism in particular and white supremacy in general.

One shocking thing that has been highlighted is that there are black people out there who believe that there is something called black racism; namely, that a black person can be racist and discriminate against a white person or a person of any other race. This reflects our lack of understanding of what racism is and even more disturbing, is the fact that the ANC government lacks a scientific comprehension of what racism is. Otherwise how does one explain the act by the Gauteng provincial government to expel poor Velaphi Khumalo, a black employee for allegedly making racist remarks? It seems our understanding of racism is limited to mere contempt or disdain for another racial group. If racism was this simple, it would have many victims, but as seen from all over the world, racism has had victims and none of them are white. Why? This is simply because over and above contempt and disdain for another racial group, racism requires that a racist have power to adversely affect the entire racial group he loathes. Black people in the continent and the diaspora do not have power to affect any group adversely, even in countries like South Africa where black people are the face of government and the political power base. Whites are not affected or adversely impacted by the opinions and attitudes of black people towards them.

If you were to ask how black people have been adversely impacted by racism the answers would be endless. Black people in the continent and the diaspora have been robbed of their lands, dispossessed of their religions and belief systems, disconnected from their humanity and history, dehumanized, defrauded of their knowledge systems, alienated from their traditions and languages and last but not least, black people have been robed of their unity as a people. While most of these are highly conceptual, for a black man on the street racism has resulted in murders, collapse of family structures, poverty, unfair wages, rape, poor working conditions, unfair labour practices, exploitation and many unfavourable conditions that the majority of black people find themselves in today. The negative impact of racism on blacks is real and one would struggle to find any corresponding adverse effects, which are a result of the attitude of black people towards white people, within the white community. Even when black people could, they did not drag anyone to the International Criminal Court at the Hague….they did not imprison known racists like Botha and De Klerk; all they did was join in on the tune of reconciliation, something that would have never happened if it was white lives that were lost under apartheid and if it were white lands that were dispossessed through colonization.

In South Africa, blacks have had to swallow a constitution written by apartheid generals and co-opted ANC pseudo-nationalists, which for the benefit of white people, reinforces the status quo of black people as designed and desired by colonialism and apartheid. Thats why racists are still thriving in our society: black people have no power. If the ANC represented the true aspirations of black people, this country would have been brought down to its knee by white monopoly capital. There is no shortage of examples; when Zimbabwe decided to redress the land question after the Tony Blair government reneged on the Lancaster House agreement the response from the west and all white monopoly capital owned companies of this world was to mount a campaign of economic sabotage against Zimbabwe, thereby paralyzing the Zimbabwean economy and rendering the Zimbabwean Dollar worthless without anyone holding Tony Blair accountable for reneging on the Lancaster agreement. ANC leaders, led by Nelson Mandela, could not stand up to anti-black racist demands by morally bankrupt apartheid lieutenants who should have been at The Hague.

It is good that black people are becoming angry and vocal about racism but that doesn’t change the conditions that make racism prevalent nor does it change the inherent capacity of white people to be racist, even subtly so. Racism is a power struggle, the only way to negate it is through power. Let us not continue fooling ourselves – political power alone is not enough to change society. Most powerful people are neither politicians nor government leaders, but they are in charge of economies. In the case of South Africa for example, they control the levers of the privatized Reserve Bank and they run multi-nationals powerful enough to get government on its knees. If political power was omnipotent, Zuma would not have replaced Van Royen (merely a few days after appointing him), but those with real power made sure he did. So how and where can black people get power?

Black people cannot deal with the question of racism and white supremacy without reference to Marcus Garvey, simply because he had a clear understanding of racism and economic power long before many others. Over and above creating political organizations to fight for political power, he preached two fundamental requirements for the true liberation of black people world wide, namely unity and the economic independence of black people. Fragmented in our make believe tribes and colonial borders, we stand no chance against white monopoly capital, let alone racism. And without economic power, we shall remain servants of white people in general, and white monopoly capital in particular. Marcus Garvey called for blacks to own everything of their own and to build their own economy so that they could interact with white monopoly capital as equals, thus becoming masters of their own destiny. An example of this in South Africa would be what Steve Biko and his team achieved with the Zanempilo clinic for black people, Zimele Trust for families and dependents of black political prisoners, Njwaxa Leather-Works Project and the Ginsberg Education Fund.

The call for self reliance must not be confused with BEE and its variants that sought to create a black middle class, which would be subservient to whites and white monopoly capital in particular. The same goes for the so called Black Industrialists Programme. So the question that black people have to answer sincerely is how will they fight racism when they promote the queen’s language at the expense of their own indigenous languages and conduct themselves in a manner that perpetuate the false notion that white people are superior? Black people are guilty of pursuing whiteness and in the process rendering themselves perpetual slaves to white masters. Racism does not see us as different tribes. How can we fight racism when we buy white, eat white, live white, bank white, pray white and are mere servants of a white economy? Our power to fight racism lies in sincere answers to these questions.
By dzumbu

  • Khipheyakhe

    Great article. But a few challenges.
    (1) Fragmentation: I agree. Blacks are as noted in the article, fragmented not only in…”trib(al) and colonial borders” but also across political parties and within political parties. Take the PAC for example. They have a critical contribution to make in the building of the country…. but they can’t seem to agree among themselves in simple matters such as who will lead, who will follow. After 1990 I was ready to put my X next to the only Africanists organization that seemed to make sense at the time, but alas! they returned from exile in fragments. The continuing squabbles and formation of little splinter parties from a severely reduced parent body are a disgrace not only to us as Africans but also to the memory of Mangaliso Sobukwe.
    (2) Economic power: I agree. “Without economic power we shall remain servants etc …. monopoly capital.” Knowledge is power. How many blacks know who Marcus Garvey is? Let alone what he thought! or said. Our fore-fathers occupied the land for centuries without mining the wealth under their huts and kraals. It took foreign prospectors to discover it. Even today we can’t do much about our mineral wealth except call on people from across the seas (west or east, it doesn’t matter) to come and dig for a nominal fee. The PAC is comparable. It sits with us with a wealth of knowledge and solutions which remain unmined because it is preoccupied with mundane questions of who will be leader? Who will be secretary general? etc etc. The people are listening just now but no one is saying anything. Why not begin with a benign lecture somewhere in the country on Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr and his views on the economy… and invite a few journalists. We are listening…