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Consistency? What for?

In my column in the Mail & Guardian I wrote that I was tired of blackness being an albatross around my neck (I suppose on the necks of other blacks too).

The point I was making was that constant disappointments by those who expect black journalists “to know better” would be avoided if they just thought of us as professionals and measured us against that yardstick.

But because I had written a column a year or so ago arguing that I wanted my son never to forget that he is black, some concluded that I had either had an epiphany or was simply inconsistent.

For starters, I am not married to an idea. If on any day I think differently to a previous occasion, based on new knowledge, I will abandon the previous thought.

Consistency is overrated. And as Oscar Wilde once said: “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

There should never be a reason for in the event of made a mistake once, you think you have to make another just so that you can be consistent in your actions.

Ralph Waldo Emerson could have crafted his wise words for my counsel when he said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

Emerson was the leader among those who will not chained to their previous thoughts, take this: “Speak what you think today in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.”

As with the previous quote, it is from the essay Self-Reliance published in 1841.

But much as I am in awe of Emerson, I think I am digressing.

Yes, I want my children to know that they are black and be proud of who they are. But I also want them to live in a non-racial country where their blackness will be as irrelevant as the shape of their ears.

So, much as I am moved by Emerson’s prose, I think there is nothing inconsistent with the two positions.

Awareness of who one is does not necessarily follow that one makes such self-awareness an essentialist position.

I will argue that Biko and Sobukwe (and many others who fought against racism and racialism by preaching positive self-awareness) were not intent to struggle forever. They must have wanted a closure of this unhappy condition.

It is like those who acquire a class-consciousness and make an effort to live in a classless society. Surely we cannot condemn them of inconsistency. The dialectics should apply to race politics as they do to materialist conception of history. The thesis and antithesis must produce some synthesis.

In my book, racism is the thesis, anti-racism struggles are the antithesis and a non-racist society is the synthesis.

It is the basis of a new (racially egalitarian) society.

And if I am mistaken, I will gladly take counsel and abandon this train of thought.