Grant Walliser
Grant Walliser

Black whingeing and the FBJ

The Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) malarkey has recently provided a counter to so–called “white whingeing”. That counter is the emergence and increasing prevalence of “black whinging” and the volume is creeping ever steadily upwards. How rainbow.

The recent BJF ruling has been a rallying point; a target in stocks on the village square for both sides to unleash their rotten fruit with increasing righteous indignation.

Just when you thought the whole silly incident with all of its ruffled feathers would simmer down and just plain go away at last, the ruling of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has brought out a plethora of black whingers to join their vocal pale cousins.

While the white whinger revels in the topics of crime, Eskom, interest rates and corruption, the black whinger revels in colonialism, transformation, reparation and racism. Neither is very attractive.

A fairly dramatic example highlighting this phenomenon is posted right here on the M&G site.

According to this article, some kind of powerful white media militia has somehow managed to influence the ruling and now black people have no say in the media at all. All is apparently lost. The white cabal managed this by winning a battle in which our non–racial constitution and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act proved ineffective, biased and effectively exposed themselves as bastions of white control and power. Our constitution was apparently shown to “hold fundamentally anti–black sentiments” and “the ruling forbids blacks from taking collective initiatives against white racism”. Reading the ruling, it seems to imply the very opposite.

The fact that the law was applied in an ordered and proper fashion, resulting in a ruling in keeping with the painfully and explicitly colour–blind laws of our country seems lost on the author. He prefers to go on with what can only be respectfully described as unsubstantiated emotive propaganda:

“Where is the national uproar when a farmer forces blacks to exhume their buried child and to live with a coffin for days in a scrap yard? Where is the outcry when more than 1 000 well–marked black graves are flattened to make way for cabbages and carrots?

We annually kill more than 70 000 black children before they reach the age of five. A million farm dwellers were evicted from land in the past 14 years. Silence and ritualistic responses calculated to get publicity are what we get.”

What possible unity could words such as these forge in our country? He has chosen to forget all of the other atrocities we live with on a daily basis where the colour is opposite from his skewed analysis. Frustration with the slow pace of change is one thing and quite understandable. Blind, emotional propaganda, lashing out unfairly at the robust non–racial, equitable laws we have in place, amplified by extreme whingeing is quite another.

Our constitution is not a document forced onto the populace by the old white regime or past colonial masters. It is the beacon of post 1994 hope holding together a tinderbox of a country. It was compiled by the representatives of all parties to uphold universal principles and it is in times like these that we should turn to it, as we just have.

The SAHRC finding is not the subjection of black journalists to white law as we are being led to believe by the article above. It is the subjection of black journalists simply to law; the law; the constitution; law that black people were instrumental in forging. The FBJ was found wanting. Case closed.

Why then is there all this whingeing when universally agreed principles are actually being upheld? Why are there inexplicable cries of foul play and racism? Like Zuma, the FBJ has had its day in court and the ruling has been made, yet we still hear the whingeing because the outcome does not meet emotional expectation; the annoyance of mere law is shoved aside to make way for an outpouring of true feeling. In using the law as a scapegoat, perhaps true agendas — unspoken agendas — are being revealed and just like the whingeing, they are not pretty.

Is it possible that many black South Africans do not in fact want the non–racial, transparent and democratic South Africa; the same South Africa that they appealed to the world to support them in attaining? It is starting to look that way if the aforementioned article and others like it are anything to go by. The flavour of 2008 seems to be far less about non–racial harmony and making our country work, and far more about taking colour–specific sides to get places. That’s not quite what we all subscribed to in 1994.

The bitter pill of the struggle that urgently needs swallowing is that by fighting for, and under the banner of, a non–racial democracy ,that is precisely what has been achieved. In such a structure, unfair discriminatory practises should be frowned upon, regardless of how necessary they may seem to certain eager factions to address perceived past wrongs and inequality quickly. You can’t simply engineer away history and bulldoze a society and hope it stays intact for your children.

On the application of history, frequently touted as the reason for all this boxing and silliness — it is littered with grey areas and minefields. Trying to calculate who owes whom what because of what from when is frankly impossible and counter–productive; there is always a counter example to argue. Raising historical claim leads to a culture of entitlement and angry indignation when in reality moving on from the past and enforcing universal, equitable laws would build a far stronger foundation for our country’s future albeit more slowly.

By way of analogy, can you imagine if Europe suddenly opened up its history for the last 350 years for moral corrections and reparations? Where on earth would you begin in attempting to ascertain who was owed what by whom? What structures would you put into place? What would the French owe the English and the English owe the French? Have the Germans paid enough for their indiscretions or should they allow affirmative action for Russians in their economy to make up for the bloody campaign they waged in Russia, or has Russia balanced the books by gobbling East Germany up for the cold war era?

Such a situation would almost certainly be heavily divisive and would probably unscramble the European Union egg. If you believe apartheid and South Africa’s colonial history to be a bloody complex affair, it pales into ghostly insignificance with greater Europe’s chequered warring past. We are but a tiny fraction of that history.

There is a lesson in the application of the analogy and the disunion it most certainly predicts. The EU is all about moving forward, forgetting its historical gripes and basing a future on a fair and equitable platform for all member states allowing for time to even out the inequalities.

Back in South Africa, there are plenty of opportunities, some almost criminally untapped, to address inequality within a fair and non–discriminatory structure, yet we choose to try and circumvent the higher path that the struggle called for and replace it with the road to cronyism, one–upmanship and over zealous expedience. Convenient and tempting no doubt when you happen to be the direct benefactors but ultimately feeding a caged monster that will roam free one day.

“Fair discrimination” is a fickle beast, perhaps bearable for a finite time at best by those who feel a fading guilt, but all too often the line between fair and unfair gets blurred and it seems to be happening with increasing regularity. Getting ahead by joining exclusive forums like the FBJ, the ANC business clubby clubs, sports quotas and a host of other structures seems to be condoned and promoted as well as being allowed by a law that is often skirted as was the case here. Such ways of conducting ourselves are becoming entrenched in our society.

All the while we forget that if there were nothing wrong with such shameless promotion, cronyism and elitism, especially along racial lines, there would have been no ethical reason to bring down the apartheid regime in the first place. For what more was the Nat government than the WPF or the White People’s Forum? It was an exclusive club for white people only, allowed to exist by law, and had all the trimmings of the structures now being upheld as necessary for the promotion of black people.

“Not so”, you might say indignantly, ”The difference is that the members of the FBJ were previously disadvantaged. They deserve a leg up and some racially privileged access to the next president of the country.”

The Afrikaners then, as black people now, had been oppressed for decades under British rule and sought to push their own ahead, feeling justified in doing so. Why should their feelings of oppression be any different to those of black people today? They had been subjugated after being killed in their thousands on battlefields, while their women and children were imprisoned and starved to death; many taken by horrible diseases due the appalling conditions they were kept in.

Afrikaners were driven from their land; many were exiled from their beloved country, defeated and ultimately cowed to surrender by the British. I dare say they felt the same sense of entitlement upon finally achieving power that black South Africans feel now; understandable perhaps but ultimately incompatible with a multicultural environment. Again, history will always cough up a counter argument.

In essence the problem is: Who decides when the “good” discrimination stops, when we have transformed or when we no longer need racial structures? How can we trust those who are benefiting more and more each day from these laws and structures to ultimately make an ethical decision to abort the practise? It seems unlikely to happen, especially when they seem unable even to limit blatant discrimination to the legally required and glaringly oxymoronic “fair discrimination” instead of “unfair discrimination” even now.

The post-oppression Nats were unable and unwilling to reign in the runaway horse and it seems that the tendency for the current ruling party to lose the will to do so is there as well, especially when it surfs along on a wave of concurrent black whinging to support its stance…