Everytime someone says something racist, people keep asking if black people can be racist. This is giving me sleepless nights and is making my head spin so this entry is a challenge to myself to think this through so I don’t collapse from dementia and also convince myself that I’m not cray cray.
As a country, we are not that great at talking about race and this is not our fault. Mandela’s Rainbow is a concept that has continuously been forced down our throats and now that we are vomitting it all out because life for black people is still shit and the Rainbow doesn’t feed us, people want to act shocked and surprised and blame third forces like they’d thought this Rainbow concept through in the first damn place.
I want to take a step back.
I think people were clear on what racism was when everybody was fighting to end apartheid in the 60s, 70s, 80s. It was the system, apartheid: It was visible and had been oppressing everybody who wasn’t white, it was legal because there were laws put it place that made apartheid okay and it was institutionalised because it permeated and dictated every part of life. From toilets to beaches, every institution was separate, unequal, maintained for the clear purpose of subordinating non-whites and benefiting all non-blacks.
The anti-apartheid movement was huge and was inspired by many others that were taking place all over the world at the time. The movement also included white people which then put a spanner in the works in terms of identification of the real enemy, how to act in fighting this enemy, how black and white people were going to work together and more importantly, conceptualising what life was going to be like after the end of apartheid. Nevertheless, the struggle gains momentum, becomes stronger and more influential and people start realising and recognising their own power for what it is.
But then of course, this upsets the apartheid government and they go into a huge frenzy of arresting movement leaders, banning political parties and sending people into exile because of course the truth is one tough pill to swallow and power is one helluva drug. So the movement is in disarray but then Steve Biko emerges with black power and 1976 happens to again shake things up but then they kill him. They also kill Robert Sobukwe MK and POQO are also busy at this time but the whites remain unshaken and resolute.
What happens next is just my reading of events.
The ANC was big on non-racialism from the word go – that all South Africans get into kumbaya formation, love one another like the 1913 Land Act and colonialism never happened and stop seeing racial lines that we never created in the first place. Things are awkward now because Mandela, Tambo, Sobukwe, etc are in jail and the whites have to try negotiate with them because the other bigger bosses in London and Washington are threatening to not give South Africa some Rugby World Cup glory and of course of this is too much to bear for Botha and team.
So as the dominant political party at the time, the whites negotiate and who knows what happened to the question of land being returned to their rightful owners but the point here is that this obscure concept of non-racialism wins because whites needed reassurance that the natives were not going to kill them and they wouldn’t be forced to swim across the seas back to Europe. Then people vote in 1994 and while some people are unhappy (another story for another day), the euphoria takes over, we end up winning the Rugby World Cup, the TRC established for some of us to cry about our oppression, RDP gives some blacks houses to shut them up and the Rainbow Nation Project is in full swing.
Fast forward 20 years later and the Rainbow loses its chill.
Everybody is a racist and nobody can really tell us why and nobody is punished for a thing we feel and cannot name and condemn. Again, this is just my reading of how things are fucked up and stuff. I am saying that nobody really set the rules of engagement when it was decided that it was now okay to play play together – this is why this racism remains a thing. Back then racism was apartheid, it was all the people like Verwoed and his gang but is it that when apartheid ended, racism also ended? I think not. The Rainbow’s primary purpose was to make believe whites weren’t going to be racist anymore. But they have and for everyday, we have a new racist and everybody can fall into this category because the language for us to communicate effectively about racism was never saw light of day, a conscious decision was never made about whether or not we were keeping this black and white thing, we never really talked about how we were going to deal with racism and the fundamental circumstances created by racism that keep black people from flourishing in life, remain.
Blacks were sold out and sold dreams that have never materialised and people want to say black people are racist? The bus needs to there because black people do not have the capacity to practice a deliberate structural and institutionalised hatred and oppression that seeks to keep others inferior on the basis of their skin colour. We are not capable of this evil, there is something fundamentally wrong and twisted in imagining things this way and those on the “Ntokozo Qwabe is a racist for asking about the land” need to check their reading on the privilege barometer is and go meditate by the Rainbow.
The colour of our skins condemns us and the very systems created that seem to only benefit white people remain.