Your Highness I know you may be wondering why a mere peasant dares to write you a letter—and an open one at that. I imagine you’re having one of your aides read this out loud to you while you stare out of the window in absolute repulsion at my gall. I apologise in advance for upsetting your day. Please bear with me. It is officially 2014 now, and I’m sure you welcomed the New Year in a most majestic way—clinking glasses with your fellow oligarchs and marvelling at the sheer magnitude of wealth you all will be amassing in the … Continue reading Open Letter to the African President
Last night the president of South Africa told a roomful of students, academics and businesspeople at Wits University in Johannesburg, in a ANC manifesto forum, to “not think like Africans.” Discussing the need for Gauteng residents to pay e-tolls, Zuma remarked: “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally, we’re in Johannesburg.” Now, when I first got wind of this my first reaction was of course, anger. As a full-time African (except when there’s a World Cup Final and it pays to be Brazilian); I found myself wondering why he believed that my manner of thinking would destroy his beloved … Continue reading The Dangers of Thinking Like An African
It was recently brought to my attention that a certain journalist in South Africa, that is known to behave like one who is twenty-minutes away from applying for a trademark on Black Consciousness, dates nothing but women of European Descent (or White women, as I may continue to refer to them for the rest of this article).
Upon seeing that my response was a sarcastic “surprise, surprise” my friend quickly wanted to know why I was so unimpressed by this piece of information, that I went on to say something along the lines of: “these Black Consciousness brothers couldn’t care less about Black Women.”
But there’s a lot more to it than that and I’m going to show you why I think many subscribers to Biko, Fanon, Garvey and Co.’s principles end up with romantic histories that predominantly feature non-Black lovers.
Before we begin, let me confess something: At the age of fifteen I nearly got arrested for shoplifting Steve Biko’s ‘I write what I like’ from CNA.
That began my path into the wonderful world of Black Consciousness (BC). I ran into the aforementioned contributors to the movement and have since grown to understand a lot about my identity as an African woman and what exactly that means to me.
But I am beginning to suspect that I have outgrown staunch Bikoism and can therefore look at this topic with a detached wisdom on the issue.
Why subscribers some Black Consciousness date White people:
THEORY #1: Deification of Black People leading to disappointment
Soon after writing my last piece the topic of classism began to occupy my mind almost full-time. I became very quickly aware that in a country like mine (almost completely homogenously “black”) there were still factors that divided us as a people. My notion that all African people are the same and should be able to relate and connect based almost solely on their African-ness was challenged and almost completely discredited for the uninformed self-righteousness it revealed within me.
Along with the realisation that the words of Biko and Muendane, as well as the musings of a teenage girl on what I term ‘theoretical politics’, had almost no weight in the minds of the “common man.” The average African living very close to the poverty-line, had very little interest in what I believed was all it took for the world to change: an understanding of one’s identity as an African as well as the prioritization of this factor.
I began to see that if such things would have an effect on people, then the state in which these people lived would have to change immediately. Before I was to step onto my soap-box (which you will find is carved from the self-righteous wood of my middle-class upbringing) it would be imperative that I begin to focus on the factors that would allow these Africans to have any dams to give about the musings of contemporary ‘pan-Africanists’ like myself.
I see now that on this continent, at this juncture, it is economics that has more of an effect on people than matters of race. That is what has more power to connect people across nations. I can no longer stand by my previous emphasis on the difference between Sudanese and Ghanaian people or Moroccan people and “Cape Coloureds”, which was based on my perceptions about the differences in their heritage.
1. When in the presence of people of European descent in a casual setting, and a joke with a blatantly racially-insensitive tone is made how do you react?
a) By being silent. Its awkward, but I don’t see why I have to ruin the mood by being that guy.
b) By laughing. Haha, it’s true. Blacks be crazy
c) By calmly telling the joke-maker that he is an insensitive prick and go on to educate them about the virtues of being progressive in modern-SA
d) By telling the whole lot of them to go and [expletive] themselves
e) By finding out which one of them owns a company looking for a BEE partner
2. If you have a Twitter account, what is its primary use to you?
The most dangerous thing is many Africans’ inability to separate African culture from systems that oppress the freedoms of African women. It is this inability to see a future where African culture isn’t tinged with patriarchal undertones that is the biggest threat to the Black Consciousness Movement. It is necessary that we disassemble what it means to be African and take a closer look at what customs are merely window dressing and which things define our culture. My hope is to bring an understanding of patriarchy, African culture and the need to separate the two.
Patriarchy has been defined as a gendered power system. It is a network of social, political and economic relationships through which men dominate and control female labour, reproduction and sexuality as well as define women’s status, privileges and rights in a society. It is a successful system because those that gain this privilege are often unaware of it and therefore inadvertently perpetuate the ill treatment of the people in this society whose suffering is the fulcrum upon which this society turns. It is also believed that this social system has managed to survive for so long because its chief psychological weapon is its universality as well as its longevity.
It is difficult for many people to imagine a time when this system did not exist. It is even more difficult for people to imagine a future minus patriarchy. But that has to change. A complete overhaul of our mentalities when it comes to African culture must take place if there is any hope for the Black Consciousness Movement in this century.
But what is African Culture and how is it in danger?