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Dear coconuts, there are no black racists

Over the past 25 years, there have been a number of coconuts, non-whites and whites who have, overtly or covertly, accused authentic blacks of being racists.

This is uncalled for and untrue.

When blacks are self-aware, love and embrace blackness in their own terms, it does not mean that blacks are anti-white. As the chief prophet of “blackness”, Steve Bantubonke Biko has said: “Black is not what is not white. Black is black.” The peace-loving blacks who promote brotherhood have, despite the false allegations of racism, not reproached those who accuse them of racism.

Unfortunately, repeated enough, this lie may likely turn out to be perceived as the truth.

It could do great damage to the integrity of blackness.

It is always disheartening and painful to witness or observe fellow South Africans who, in their over-zealousness to be non-racist, now want to be colour-blind, too.

Ironically, it is those who claim to be non-racists who play the race card against blacks.

This they tend to do by making subtle but poor attempts to call and condemn blacks as racist. They insist that blacks are obsessed with racism, not wanting to move with the times.

But self-aware and self-loving blacks are not necessarily racist. In fact, blacks are not racist.

If they wanted to make an issue of racism, blacks who are accused of racism would demand an apology.

If their accusers refused to apologise, then the accused would, at least, have a right to demand for a substantiation of the allegation. There are many coconuts or non-whites — that is, blacks who aspire to be whites — who confuse skin colour with blackness. These coconuts always complain that they are being made to carry the burden of “blackness”.

In their self-defence, the coconuts are quick to accuse the true blacks of an inherent inability or reluctance to leave what they consider alleged black racism to be the past.

Look, if coconuts do not realise that skin colour does not make you black, or cannot unburden themselves of their wrong “blackness” or demons, that has got absolutely nothing to do with authentic blacks.

It is a personal and private internal battle of the soul that some unlucky coconuts and non-whites — just like the true blacks — have to deal with.
But all that should be said is that coconuts and non-whites dare not take the integrity of blackness for granted.

Why should blacks be condemned as “black racists” when they have done or said nothing to suggest that?

Perhaps coconuts are afraid and guilty because their self-delusional non-racial ideal is always convicted by the practical realities of life, observation and experience in South Africa.

Of course, coconuts are not in any way obliged to agree with the black “take” on what happens in South Africa’s allegedly non-racial society.
Coconuts, who are the frontline beneficiaries of the black struggle have rights too.

They, too — just like the blacks — are free to rely on your own “truths”, which will, inevitably differ from the latter. Perhaps without degenerating into a debate on racism, we should exchange views on the “authentic black experience” in this country.

Maybe the Steve Biko Foundation should set the ball rolling and extend an invite for a seminar or conference.

But what is inevitable is that the viewpoints of coconuts and blacks are not going to be the same. The former may see a half-full glass, while the latter sees a white glass.

As we will all know, some coconuts have, in the last 15 years, reached the mountain top of freedom and democracy.

Of course, their view and experience of the much lauded “transformation” is not going to be the same as that of authentic blacks. Different people differ.

The coconuts have a shade of what they mistake for “blackness” which makes them what they are. But the “authentic blacks” also are what they are.

To paraphrase Biko: “Coconut is non-white. And black is black.”

It would be right for coconuts not to lump everyone with a so-called black skin into the black basket.

Not that there is anything wrong with how coconuts misunderstand what they stand for, if anything that is not anti-black. What blacks will disagree with is the subtle effort to undermine authentic black voices by suggesting that they are black racists, or people who are obsessed with race.

Blacks believe and uphold the principles of the Constitution and the notion of a “human race”.

But blacks have to speak for themselves, here, to be heard.

Give credit where it is due. Coconuts are self-disciplined characters that will always play a pivotal role in the efforts to deliver the African dream of non-racialism.

So, where are the accusations of black racism coming from?

It is sad that self-appointed spokespeople for blackness in this country, especially coconuts, can take it upon themselves to be bold and feisty by pulling down authentic black people.

In fact, this inclination has become a way of life.

The authentic blacks will always find it sickening.

For instance, the coconuts may not be agreeable to the view that people are still divided according to race in this country. Whites still fall in love with whites to marry and live happily ever after in white neighbourhoods, for instance. And non-whites are forever looking for white partners and migrating to white neighbourhoods.

The reality is, despite the last 15 years, the socio-economic realities continue to make it almost impossible to not look at things in terms of black and white.

This is the legacy of apartheid and anti-blackness, of course.

Thank God and the African ancestors that blacks are overcoming it every moment of their lives.

The blacks will, always, lament the fact that coconuts want to deny those who assert, defend and uphold the “black viewpoint”, their legitimacy.
Or want to belittle them as ridiculous people trapped in the past.

When a person points out the continued injustice to people because they are black, it does not mean that person is a racist or anti-white. This remains the reality of our country.

The blacks will point out that the land does not yet, as the Freedom Charter champions “belong to all people who live in it, black and white”. Also, the economy is not equally shared among the inhabitants, especially black and white.

When truthful blacks points out such facts, they are not black racist or against whites. They are simply telling it like it is. But when blacks tell their truth, they do not “expect” coconuts and non-whites and whites to buy into this worldview.

It is a black viewpoint they espouse out of personal choice.

Everyone is free to choose what to see: half-full glass or white glass.

That much should be respected.

The authentic blacks have always wanted to take this issue up with coconuts for the sake of avoiding or putting a stop to the danger of non-whites in the pedestal abusing their black-created opportunity, power and authority.

The thing is, when you look at the upbringing of coconuts, they are forever confronted by blood relatives, friends or neighbours who may burden them with the complexity of black identity.

In fact, the coconuts are, partly, products of the black world. Thus they will always find, through blood ties, relatives who look at the world and life in black and white terms of experience and reality.

There are many reasons for this, including that blacks only know self-excluding whites through movies, television or the superficial social interaction of master and servant.

The blacks should not demand that coconuts or whites repent.

Neither do blacks want coconuts to feel bad about themselves and thus assume some self-defence posture. But if coconuts want to engage blacks on any debate, they should go ahead and extend the invitation.

The blacks, rightfully, must take exception to what amounts to an insult to their dignity, integrity and self-love in the name of your “right to freedom of expression” or spirit of non-racism.

The coconuts are, always, resorting to the race card and thus assassinate the character of blackness by suggesting or insinuating that it is racist.
This distorts the meaning of blackness which they deliberately misunderstand and misinterpret.

But should coconuts and some whites wish to continue to call blacks names or label them what they are not, it will be their own choice. The coconuts must be ready to defend and justify themselves before their own conscience before blacks can demand an apology.

It is not right for anyone, even self-important coconuts, to call blacks names or insinuate that they are things that they are not. The coconuts and whites must be responsible, fair, accurate, honest and truthful in what they say about blacks.

There are many ways to look at the evolution of the transition of the last 15 years.

It is like climbing Table Mountain. There you will, sometimes, find dominant white tourist groups that are accompanied by coconut guides or assistants, for instance. If you are a coconut in that group, do not think that your being okay there is the be-all-and-end-all of change and transformation.

A few coconuts do not make up black liberation.

Of course, it is still difficult for coconuts that have arrived at the “promised land” to see that there are still many at the gates. And, now, some self-loving blacks have been slow in settling down to the sumptuous meal at the mountain top, in the non-racial palace. When they are not too eager to eat crumbs from the white-decked table, nobody should accuse them of being a “police of blackness”.

Blacks who are true to themselves will, always, call attention to the majority at the gates, the “other” millions who do not have.

If that is a sin, blacks are willing to, just like Nelson Mandela, be condemned to death for that.

If anybody, especially coconuts, want to insinuate or suggest that blacks are racist or obsessed with race, they need to be reminded that blackness is, according to its profound prophet prophet Biko, about “bringing a human face” to the world.

Let us leave the blacks to be true to themselves by creating a new human race.


  • Sandile Memela

    Sandile Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, columnist and civil servant. He lives in Midrand.