Opinionista Mlilo Mpondo 30 January 2014

The white mind: the question is still unanswered

South Africa’s democracy is, by and large, an imposed democracy that the continuously disadvantaged did not consent to. It is a democracy which allowed for political rather than economic emancipation. Therefore I am correct in saying that a lot of people are pissed off, and it would be premature to assume otherwise. Now my question remains, what is the position of white people on this matter? You are correct in stating that much of the country’s woes can be attributed to the government and its disregard for its constituency. However, the government functions within the parameters of a straitjacket imposed by the policies of First World economies, policies which, in truth, do nothing for Africa’s development. Also important to note is that the worlds’ economy is controlled by conglomerates which are owned predominantly by white people.

It is true that the average white person has no control over these realities. However, as a result of your previous advantage to access, an entitlement afforded to you by the National Party government, a majority of white folk continue to benefit more from these systems. And this too is a fact. Yet it is white people who define affirmative action as reverse-racism. It is white people who complain when electricity prices reach sky high, in order for electricity to be made available to township and slum residencies. You cannot, on the one hand, canvass for racial reconciliation, while the majority is yet to know economic freedom.

Many of the comments to my previous column had a ‘get over it’ attitude. There was the assumption that I am a black woman with a chip on both shoulders. This further conveys the condescending nature which I addressed in the column. It is abnormal that in two decades an entire continent should just ‘get over’ the psychological, economic and cultural slaugher of its resources and people. It is even more arrogant to suggest that because colonialism and slavery were practised the world over, and not limited to Africa, and that the natives of those countries ‘just got over it’, that South Africans, and Africans at large, should too.

Is it unfathomable that South Africans should want more than the superficial liberties that have been handed to them, more especially in a context where the previously advantaged continue, by large, to hold this status. A commentator asked that I provide figures to substantiate this point. Well, if figures are necessary to prove that the white minority has a better chance at self-actualising than the black majority, then you must surely exist in a South Africa distant to my own. A case in point was on the same news bulletin covering service delivery protests in Brits; an item about white South African residents of a Johannesburg suburb complaining that Zindzi Mandela had not been mowing her lawn. This is the most blatant portrayal of the dichotomies which persist in South Africa. This refers to the category which condescends with ease. If it does not apply to you, do not assume that it does not apply to many others.

It is not a sixteen-year-old’s fault that his great-grandfather appropriated land and wealth. In the same breath, it is not a sixteen-year-old’s fault that the land and wealth of his great-grandfather were appropriated, but the latter has to deal with the consequence daily. A consequence that white people conveniently ignore. That’s the “it wasn’t my fault, what should I do about it” category. If this does not apply to you, do not assume that it does not apply to others.

To those who have dedicated their lives to giving to charity, once you assume that you are saving “them” from themselves, your efforts are rendered inconsequential. Once you assume that the black masses are in need of redemption, you have already assumed the ego of the white messiah. Yes, many black girls throw their infants away, many women don’t feed their children and choose to drink instead. Trust me, I know we have more than a bucket load of problems. But once you assume that these people are helpless and would amount to nothing if it were not for your kind nature, then you have fallen within the category of those with a superiority complex. If you think that you are doing blacks favours, charities which are self gratifying and make for good tea time conversations, you are no different to the missionary schools that converted heathens. Do not assume that because you contribute to charities that you are exempt from the “white psyche” I refer to. However, should this description not reflect you, do not assume that it does not apply to many others.

It was argued that conquest and dominance are not simply a white condition, but rather a condition of human nature. Many examples were given to validate this; references were made to the Mfecane in efforts to demonstrate that the need to dominate is not exclusively white. Well, I have issue with this example because the impetus for Mfecane and colonialism were hardly similar, but for argument’s sake I will allow the assertion that dominance is not an all-white syndrome. But do keep in mind that when speaking of dominance I refer not only to land but also to the dominance of people and culture.

Therefore, if Apartheid and all of its insundry is really a thing of the past and dominance an affliction of human nature, how then can instances such as the Waterkloof four and the Skierlik shooting (2008) be explained?

What are these children being taught by their parents and communities? There is a serious and very evident psychological undermining of black people, from the most blatant cruelty to more subtle dismissals, in the same fashion that my views, and those of many others across the continent, were dismissed as ill-informed and racist.

Of course not all men are abusive, but there is a serious problem with gender discriminatory violence in this country, especially in disadvantaged communities. And should an article be written addressing this problem, it would be stifling for progress and redundant to point fingers at women who abuse, rich men who abuse, or to speak of its writer as a generalising feminist with a chip on both shoulders. Unfortunately the truth exists, even in generalisations, and these truths need to be interrogated.

I have been likened to a donkey, told I was ignorant and uninformed. These descriptions sound awfully familiar to the views expressed about black people under Apartheid, wouldn’t one say? I suppose pre- and post- 1994 the massacre of any ideas which interrogate white entitlement is still a feature in the South African story. You say I am racist, the NP government would’ve labelled me a radical communist. And if that puts me in the same league as women like uMama Winifred Madikizela- Mandela, then I welcome it cordially.

Was the High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone, racist when she belted Mississippi Goddamn, or was the Godfather of Afro-beat, Fela Kuti, a bigot when he chanted Vagabonds in Power?

I have made no assumptions about my white counterparts. If I mention four categories, it is because these categories have been observed, and if you are oblivious to this, then introspection is required. However, should you not fit into these categories, it would be short-sighted to assume that they do not exist.

Nonetheless, I thank you sincerely for taking the time to engage; however, I do wish that more time was taken to reflect and to ask “why might she say such things?” The greater misfortune here is that you have assumed that this is an individual opinion. Well, it is not. Many black people share these sentiments. However, if a black woman cannot speak to issues of concern without being condemned like Jezebel would be, then reconciliation continues to be a pipe dream.

On speaking of NUSAS, Clive Nettleton said, “The major problem with NUSAS as a non-racial organisation existing in a society based on racism, the members of the organisation are unable to live out their ideal. While it is possible for white and black students to hold joint congress and seminars, and to meet occasionally at social events, they live in different worlds.”

If you cannot agree that this statement holds true the broader democratic and presumably free society, then I was correct in posing the question, and even in my assertion that you are crazy.

A society where boxes do not exist is one which I will readily accept and welcome, however, these boxes will only be removed once they are interrogated and understood as false social constructs. Their prevalence will persist, if the voices that query them are repeatedly silenced. Yes, I am black, and like many blacks I am still dealing, and I continue to deal because the effects of slavery, colonialism and Apartheid continuously dictate my self-actualisation and everyday reality as a human being.

I do apologise if my black racist views offend the delicacy of your nature, however, I am not at a point in my evolution where my blackness has become so meaningless so as to discard it in favour of popular discourse. Steve Bantu Biko said, “Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation.” Therefore, do not take my identity from me so as to appease your own; however you may choose to identify yourself.

Unfortunately this has been turned into an ‘us versus them’ situation. I merely invited black people into the text so as to serve as reference for what seems to be a prevailing complex of white dominance.

Is it so cumbersome to deconstruct what has come to be perceived as your nature? Do you ever question your status in the South African milieu, a status of advantage at the expense of others? How does this reality contribute to your relationship with yourself and your race? Where would you be if you did not have the privilege of being white? Does it cause you discomfort that your livelihood is not entirely of your own efforts, but could also be attributed to systems of exploit which persist? Would we all appreciate the virtues of an abundant life if Europe never happened to Africa or white people to black? What are the psychological and sociological impacts of your history on you and your children? Or do you never sit and wonder?

If none of what I have said is true and all ‘bull crap’, I may indeed be the ignorant illiterate mule that you liken me to, these judgements are your prerogative. But I wonder what these judgments say of you? DM



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"Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old' when I would never call him 'short and fat?' Oh well I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!" ~ Donald J Trump