THE MENACE OF WHITE RACISM
RECLAIMING THE VALUE OF
BY VELI MBELE
1 June 2012
In Portraits of White Racism, David Wellman defines racism as:
‘culturally sanctioned beliefs, which, regardless of intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities’.
Whereas the Sociologists Noël A. Cazenave and Darlene Alvarez Maddern define racism as:
‘a highly organized system of 'race'-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/'race' supremacy’.
Then in the preface to his classic, The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.D. Du Bois observes:
‘ Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line’.
Du Bois’s observation is apt today as it was over 100 years ago because racism (and in particular white racism) continues to be one of the single most potent factors that define human relations in the 21st century. And this is why it continues to be such a highly complex and vexing question for debate.
between Judge Neels Claassen and Advocate Gcina Malindi.
Like many blacks.
And even though.when he. the exclusive right to determine what society must think. how it should articulate all this. firstly. according to those who know him.
.when the latter sought to demonstrate the inherent racist stereotyping in Brett Murray’s painting. once again.
Nowhere was the potency of white racism best demonstrated than in the recent exchange.In addition to defining the nature and content of human relations-racism also arrogates.
This was his reaction not because he is a weak man. Malindi is a seasoned political activist and very intelligent lawyer. in the South Gauteng High Court. to its architects and beneficiaries. The Spear. racist humiliation is not something that Malindi reads about in newspaper articles-it has been a defining feature of his existence for as long as he can remember. Like many of his generation-racist humiliation is deeply etched into every aspect of his memory. who like schools boys. how it must feel and most importantly. but because. his exchange with the Judge unleashed an avalanche of memories of his own racist humiliation and that of his comrades. found himself in direct confrontation with the paternalistic arrogance of the white power structure-all he could do was breakdown and sob. had to periodically present themselves in front of Apartheid Judges-to explain why they were involved in the struggle to restore the dignity of their own people.
This systematic insemination of the value system of European imperialists into the social fabric of the colonies( through client states) is what the black consciousness theoretician. who cried with him in court).
Slavery and colonialism do not just account for how the world views blacks today-but it also explains why blacks are spread all over the world like grains of sand. capitalism and imperialism. colonialism.
Malindi and the ANC’s quagmire in court is a microcosm of the global. Stokely Carmichael ( also known as Kwame Toure). complex and interconnected problems of slavery. saw with their very own eyes. by western nations (from the 15th century onwards). Malindi (and those senior leaders of the ANC leaders. and have over time. like many blacks have come to realise. how powerful the white power structure continues to be and how powerless blacks remain-despite being in control of the state.but it has also defined the very socio-economic structure (and value system) within which the indigenous people live within these colonies. also known as structural or systemic racism to some scholars.Secondly.
South Africa is a former Dutch and British colony and the contemporary forms of racism that blacks experience should be viewed within the context of the global quest for dominance. defined not just the relationship between the coloniser (Europe) and the colonised (Africa) .which was executed through the bloody and interconnected projects of slavery and colonialism. later referred to as ‘institutionalised racism’.
rituals. A form of domination that is sometimes referred to as cultural colonisation. ‘intelligence’. the colonial project. A relationship that some scholars refer to as NeoColonialism. ‘civilisation’. aimed at resolving the ‘The white man’s burden’. they meant the ravenous scramble for raw materials (mainly precious minerals and slave labour) that had to be captured to satisfy the insatiable greed of the political aristocracy of the ‘mother countries’ of Europe. customs.
As part of the process of cultural colonialisation.the colonialists also redefined (in accordance with their value system) how blacks understood the concepts of ‘beauty’. ‘art’ or ‘science’. was. In the 20th century.This institutionalisation of white racism in Africa was also aimed at sustaining the colonial project by among others distorting the black personality and emptying it of its essence.
. By this. cultural and learning centres and value systems of blacks-all of which were dismissed as superstition and backward. epistemologies. ‘morality’.
This explains why even though all of Africa’s former colonies(South Africa included) have formally declared their independence from European imperialism-there however continues to be a lot things ( in their present structure and function) which suggests that their independence is more a matter form than content. according to white imperialists. This included the systematic mutilation of the memory.
This essentially means that if you want something done right ask a white person to do it. especially in the 60s and 70s.
The long term objective of all this was to ensure that blacks didn’t just internalise the myth of their inherent inferiority-but that they had to pass it from one generation to the other. This explains the bizarre behaviour among blacks.rejection. where they would engage in various acts of self. some of which included bleaching their skins with toxic chemicals-with the hope that they would be lighter.
In fact.thereby making whiteness the standard against which all human beings had to be validated.because they grew up in a society that made them believe these academic disciplines are not meant for blacks-they now also wanted their students to believe this myth.
. the colonialists didn’t just decree who had the right to define and interpret the world-but they essentially provided the cultural and ideological lenses through which blacks had to view themselves.
It also explains why black teachers would sometimes would discourage their students from pursuing careers as scientists. blacks internalised the myth of their inferiority so much that (without the help of whites) they voluntarily developed defeatist aphorisms like ‘sethlare sa motho o motsho ke le kgowa/iyeza lomntu omnyama ngumlungu’.In this context. engineers or inventors.
the United States can be characterized as a total racist society’. empower the immigration police to randomly stop and search anybody who they believe to be illegally in France. one of the glamour capitals of the world. has some of the most brutal immigration laws. outside his father’s house. Under these laws. by George Zimmerman.
As stated earlier. in February this year.in Florida. This is particularly true in those western countries (which have black populations) and are regarded as the beacons of human civilisation.
Even though the United States of America has a president who is of African descent. which through racial profiling.
Young Trayvon was unarmed and was walking home from a candy store. white racism in South Africa. an armed member of the local neighborhoodtestifies to the persistence of racist brutality against black people in the USA.. is a particularly expression of the global forms of racism. It is this kind of racist brutality that led the Sociologist and former American Sociological Association president.It was during this period that the Black Consciousness Movement directly countered this self-loath by developing slogans like ‘Black and Proud’ and ’Black is Beautiful’. black young people in America are more likely to be shot and killed by police for merely being on the street. Joe Feagin to argue that:
‘. these police mainly target individuals of African and Arab descent. The shooting of the 17 year old black teenager. Trayvon Martin.
Spain. the Security Council. England and Germany.It is also common to hear of reports of football fans in major European countries like Italy. Samuel E’eto.
Agencies like the World Bank. economic.
One of the less obvious but most powerful manifestations of white racism is how it sustains itself by framing the various forms of societal discourse (whether its political.
. Despite what their founding documents and mission statements say. Some of the victims of this racist abuse include such illustrious athletes as Didier Drogba. A recent example is NATO’s intervention in Lybia. scientific.hurling racist insults at black football stars.
White racism even shapes the behaviour of those multilateral institutions that project themselves as neutral peace brokers in international affairs. Roberto Carlos and Thierry Henry. International Monetary Fund (IMF). The International Court of Justice and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-operate along the same imperialistic logic of the slave masters and colonialists of old. philosophic or artistic). Irrespective of the money they earn or the records they breakin the eyes of the racist European football fan-these superstars are simply just African monkeys.bodies like the United Nations and its various instruments are inherently racist and capitalist.
Just as in the case of the Spear.
Then not so long ago the ANC found itself in court having to explain to a Judge why it was still necessary for them to continue singing a song that fuelled our people’s liberatory efforts.The framing of discourse doesn’t just determine how we perceive ourselves and the world we live in-it also determines how we view our problems and determines which ones we regard as important and what methods we chose to resolve them.
. and their property. This is also another manifestation of the self-hate that blacks have towards themselves (or anything associated with them). This difficulty partly explains the march to the Goodman Gallery and the call to boycott the City Press.
For instance. blacks from the continent are not the only people who own and operate small businesses in South Africa-there are various other groups. The act of discourse framing essentially reflects a people’s attitude towards themselves and others. they found it very difficult to defend their view.yet it was fellow Africans who were being targeted by their own kind. when black South African’s unleashed their economic frustration on fellow Africans.
This was not Xenophobia but actually Negrophobia because the violence was not just being carried out by blacks against blacks-but also because. from other parts of the continent.the mainstream media characterised this as acts Xenophobia-instead of Negrophobia.
This becomes even more frustrating (for the ANC) if one considers the fact that the liberal establishment has now developed a new scare tactic called the ‘race card’.
In the knowledge domain. it was also interesting to note how the ANC (and its allies) chose to react to the Spear and how they reacted to the well publicised story of 165 black children in Slivermine.
This perhaps also explains why the ANC has found it increasingly difficult to effectively challenge the hegemonic and paternalistic hold of the white liberal establishment ever the meaning of such concepts as ’hate speech’ or ‘freedom of speech’ ( something that the current Secretaries General of the ANC and SACP periodically complain about). Limpopo who are receiving their education under trees. which essentially seeks to transform economic relations in South Africa. without frankly confronting the questions of white racism and black inequality. white scholars and thinkers have. used racist epistemologies to justify their perceptions of inherent black inferiority. as a movement. the reaction of the ANC could also be attributed to the fact that.At an ideological level however. This gave birth to such notions as scientific or academic racism.
On a broader level. for centuries.
. the ANC has embraced a non racial thesis (bequeathed to them by the white liberal establishment). An approach which the ANC admits in its discussion paper titled ‘The Second Transition’ has not been very effective.
undifferentiated mass of the African continent’
Then David Hume.
The German philosopher. a people absent from scientific discovery. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. observed:
‘Historically Africans are made to sway like leaves on the wind. No ingenious manufacture among them. no arts.This is essentially the use of science to justify and support racist beliefs and has been particularly evident in such disciplines as Social Anthropology. remains sunk in itself.
For example. nor even any individual. eminent either in action or in speculation. said:
‘I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion. philosophy or the higher arts. and thus parallels the compact. their spirit sleeps. impervious and indifferent to any form of civilization.Nott and George Gliddon’s developed a drawing titled ‘Indigenous Races of The Earth’ in which they suggested that:
‘black people ranked somewhere between white people and chimpanzees in terms of intelligence’. no sciences’. a Scottish philosopher and economist. makes no advance. in 1857.
In debunking the myths inherent in scientific racism. other than raw material’
. And that blacks have no sense of personality. Josiah C. writer and cultural activist. We are left to believe that almost nothing can come out of Africa. declared that:
‘Africa is no historical part of the world. the renowned African scholar. Owen ’Alik Shahadah.
Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life. according to the sphere in which they live’. Dr Hendrik Verwoerd. And sustains itself by among others co-opting some gullible blacks. What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd..but historically white universities continue to dominate South Africa’s research and development output. All these are systems of oppression that complement one another and continue to define not just how the modern world functions-but also how human beings and states relate with one another.
Thanks to the policy of Apartheid not only are blacks in South Africa severely under represented in the disciplines of accounting and science(particularly at post graduate level). the white power structure continues its dominance over blacks in the South Africa.
. whose intentions were explained by the Apartheid regime’s Minister of Native Affairs..
Racism in South Africa can never be properly understood (and combated) outside the experience of blacks under slavery.
Therefore. who act as its sales agents and spokespersons. colonialism (and now capitalism and imperialism). even though it no longer directs the South African state.It is this racist philosophy of knowledge that informed South Africa’s repugnant Bantu Education policy. when he stated that:
‘There is no place for the Bantu in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour .
The Spear.but they must first be agreed on what the actual problem is in South Africa today. Neither do blacks need to have PhDs in Art to know that Brett Murray’s painting. The Kenyan revolutionary intellectual. who will challenge the tendency to outsource the interpretation and articulation of the black condition to white people. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. when he argues:
. in his recent Africa Day Memorial lecture titled ‘The Blackness of Black: Africa in the World Today ‘.Blacks don’t need a court of law or research to determine whether or not South Africa is indeed a racist and anti-black country. white racism continues to define the meaning and value of blackness. essayist and writer. intellectual and political) to be able to effectively combat white racism and ultimately extricate themselves from this slavish existence. that:
‘you can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools”.
Blacks South Africans must therefore develop their own tools (ideological.
18 years after democracy. Audrey Lorde once said.
The solution must come from blacks themselves. They know this through their daily suffering. they will continue be a group of perpetually complaining victims (even though they are in charge of the state). If blacks fail to do this. is in fact a subliminal form of white racismcleverly disguised as ‘political satire’. aptly describes our problem today.
Blacks in South Africa must remember what the black feminist. A new generation of radical black thinkers and activists must emerge.
may have a negative view of blackness embedded in their psyche. We simply need to reclaim the value blackness.
.‘The biggest sin. the real sin is that the black bourgeoisie in Africa and the world should contribute to that negativity and even embrace it by becoming participants or shareholders in a multibillion industry built on black negativity’. is not that certain groups of white people. and even the West as a whole. then.
This is the fundamental challenge facing blacks today and we must address it honestly and sincerely.