The African psyche has been influenced by western Norms since the advent of modern civilisations. Africans throughout the continent are still suffering, paraphrasing Dr Chika Onyeani, from the three “victim-mentality body armoury of slavery, colonialism, and racism”
These are the same effects seen across the globe on African children. Most commentators try to make the race issue into class phenomenon, reducing the struggle of Black people into mere satirical humour, with a get-over-it attitude. This is exactly what drives and feeds into racist discourse, making race a by-the-way.
Steve Biko writer of I write what I like, constitutes that “their opinion is irrelevant and meaningless”. Biko continues, “there’s no doubt that the colour question in South African politics was originally introduced for economic reasons‟. Africans need to strive for the criminalisation of racism, outlawing discrimination and aim for the economic emancipation of African children, to see that the “dark continent” not only illuminates Africa but offers the world an alternative to global challenges.
In this piece I aim to argue C L R James‟s sentiments “To neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental”.
In a month celebrating Africa, this piece aims to give umRhabulo, to the virgin minds on African challenges.
We can never neglect the race factor:
The western world’s only quest is authority, security, wealth and comfort, says the father of Black consciousness Biko. André Odendaal in his book Vukani Bantu says “the small missionary-educated class of Africans which had emerged in 1870’s was by now thoroughly convinced of the futility of continuing to oppose the white expansion through war. It led the way in seeking new means of protecting African interests” says Odendaal.
Asserting Credo Mutwa’s view that “a black man can find pleasure in degradation, he can thrive in suffering.” Race is an economic weapon, so deadly it destroys families, nations, and prospects of ever having a peaceful world.
Black history is real. The pain felt today is of lashes that were inflicted on African children a hundred years prior. Land disposition, lack of education, dwindled self-confidence, dilapidated infrastructure and racism being the most painful. To make this a mere nightmarish, fleeting experience is not only rubbing salt on the wounds but it denies ointment for the wound care.
Blacks can’t and will not win the challenges facing the African child while still feeding from the same ideology, narrative, philosophy ascribed to the creators of African problems.
Sangoma and renowned author of Indaba, My Children Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa alludes “The African conducts research on a very different plane from that of the white man, and for this reason he has made discoveries that the white man has overlooked in his headlong rush to outer space. The black man possesses tremendous knowledge that could make a great impact, even on the modern world, and he has hidden this knowledge now for hundreds of years under the cloak of „voodoo‟ and black magic”.
With over 50 years of experience in running independent states, whether as failed or as postcolony elite holding the fort for masters in the west, is neither here nor there. What is important is we have to adapt to the circumstances, groom new leaders, grow the pool of influencers, to forget about the past and change the future of the African child. A child with no fear, with dreams beyond having food at the end of the day, visionaries that will stand tall and proud being called Africans, without an ounce of inferiority to any nation or grouping. Citizens that is aware of their history and languages. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o terms it “the association of the child‟s sensibility is with the language of his experience of life”.
Yet, we find a majority of the white commentators, whom still enjoy the spoils of their forefather’s ill gained lovely fruits, comfortable in their skins, believing that what they have is due to their hard work, feeling that they alone deserve the lifestyles.
When black people start demanding the same then terms like “entitlement” emerge, this is evident in the recent report by the Commission for Employment Equity. The report reveals close to 70% of top management in the private sector are still held by white men. White people believe in the lie they perpetuated of a black man being lazy, now the narrative has shifted to skills shortage.
In a country where black graduates are unemployed, this shows lack of will to transform. The more we sweep the race issue under the carpet, a lot of African children are denied the opportunity to prove themselves equal to any race, this denial feeds into the jobs reservation for whites, black employees not adequately trained to enable them to vertically climb the corporate world.
Why are blacks still begging for scraps from the master? Why is the government still feeding the giant unpatriotic white capitalist monster? Recently the minister of Public enterprise revealed in parliament that four white owned companies are getting in tune of R23 billion a year from Eskom, making their share of coal supply above 51%. This has been like that for 40 years. Coal prices that keep rising above inflation rates, making the majority of South Africans suffer under the high cost of electricity.
Why shouldn’t we make race fundamental?
Africans can’t be racist. Africans didn’t create racism. What destroyed the black people is their sense of Ubuntu. Scriber of Capitalist Niggar Onyeani says “The black race is the most hospitable race of people I have ever seen”. Black people are accommodative to their own detriment and destruction.
Africa needs to change. Africans need to learn from those that have laid the foundation. There’s an on-going debate about journalist and editors being involved in party politics. In a country and continent with so much injustice, why shouldn‟t Journalist be political activists? Raising societal challenges to create debate and bring about change to their communities. The current trope of black hatred is perpetuated in the newsrooms by the very same people enjoying media and freedom of expression. Freedoms fought for by those whose blood nourish the democracy and its constitution that is only used selectively by the white people. Only praising it when it’s on their side, and fighting it when it’s implemented for the benefit of the majority.
My point is on Journalist being activists for change. Before apartheid, men of stature used media for the benefit of societies. That was before the 1913 land act, a policy that dispossessed BLacks of their land, before the birth of the governing African National Congress.
A number of Newspapers controlled by Africans, for Africans were mouthpieces of African societies, political views were ventilated on those platforms. Imvo Zabantsundu edited by John Tengu Jabavu, whom eventually became Cecil John Rhodes’ nemesis, because he would not support Rhodes in his 1898 elections. Jabavu “believed that by working hand in hand with whites, Africans would come to hold the balance of parliamentary power and influence the evolution of constitutional government” but most of all he “led African protest against Parliamentary Voters Registration Act which curtailed the African Vote”. (Odendaal) yes, black voted before 1994.
There are no binary positions, being African, learning in African languages, studying African literature, and belonging to the technological global universe. Young Africans need to reject the notion of Eurocentric studies as supreme, accepting it uncritically while denouncing African ways. This will not elevate African scientist, African culture and in turn advancing the black race. This is evident in the art world; where successful African musicians, artists have to produce their own sounds and rhythms, visual pieces and sculptures for them to make it to the international stages, because they offer the world something unique.
Africa cannot afford to repackage western scientific research and ideas in hope to sell it back to them.
Only when Africans produce their own intellectual work, and gets to be credited with significant discoveries, introduce life altering circumstances, will we end racism.
“Our situation is critical and we need drastic action if we are to begin to discover and cure the seemingly insurmountable virus devouring our organs of life, we have to accept the fact that the black race basically is a consumer race, depending on other communities for our culture, our language, our feeding, and clothing” says Chika Onyeani, author of Roar of the African Lion.
The militant Black Power writer C L R James goes further in saying that “colonialism and slavery was a positive and creative contribution to the global civilisation.
I guess Dr Mutwa’s allegation that “in the mind of an African there can only be one ruler, to whom loyalty and love is given, and not two.” He carries on “the African has been conditioned for generations to appreciate the value of adaptability. As a result of his chronic fear of being humiliated by others, he chooses to humiliate himself”.
We as Africans need to change the world perception about us, stop feeding into the Western notion of what Africa is about, described best by Achille Mbembe Author of On the postcolony as “a bottomless abyss where everything is noise, yawning gap and primordial chaos”.
James claims that the “race question is subsidiary to the class question”. Then why are we not seeing whites fighting along their black counterparts for economic emancipation, visible on the war on discrimination, why are we not aware of the proletarian solidarity across racial lines?
The author of “there aren’t no black in the union Jack” Paul Gilroy responds to C L R James, fiction writer of “The Black Jacobins: a class Analysis of Revolution. Gilroy says “race in fact is a fundamental factor of colonial oppression”. He continues to say, “Britain needs to take race seriously”.
Dr Mutwa says European scholars have failed to understand how Africans do things. He says it’s because they base analysis of Africans on their understanding of right and wrong and on their standards of civilisation.
This has led to seeing African customs as barbaric and backwater.
African history needs to be told from African perspective. Imagine the Israelites story of being captured and enslaved told from an Egyptian perspective. Pharaoh’s version of what conspired between him and Moses.
Race is a fundamental factor of an African. Black skin white skin Frantz Fanon quotes Sir Alan Burns of ‘colour prejudice’ “as colour is the most obvious outward manifestation of ra it has been made the criterion by which men are judged, irrespective of their social or educational attainments. The light skinned races have come to despise all those of a darker colour, and the dark-skinned peoples will no longer accept without protest the inferior to which they hav been relegated”.
Whites can choose to leave their glamorous privileged lives and decide to live in a shack in a township. Blacks can’t wake up one morning and see himself being driven, going into his air-conditioned boardroom.
The more we debate cosmetic transformation, leaving structural challenges that are there, suffocating and drowning the African child.
Hatred is growing, racism is growing, discrimination is growing, economic disparity is growing, poverty is growing, and all the growth can be curtailed by facing the reality that race matters and find solutions.
Fundamental changes are needed if African pride (oh please not the ones strutted in pink on the streets), and status is expected to be equal to that of European decent and end racism.
It is not about money. Even Multibillionaire, Businesswoman Oprah Winfrey has seen what’s it’s like for people to only see your skin colour. Discrimination is ingrained in the psyche of white supremacy and privilege. On top of being seen as lazy, incompetent and a continent with failed states, it’s compounded by what political analyst and author of We have now begun our descent, Justice Malala, sees as “Leaders feed at the trough while thousands go to bed hungry and cold”.