Sandile Memela
Sandile Memela

Self-hating black writers — what gives?

There is a dangerous increase in books written by black authors and so-called intellectuals that give a negative portrayal of life under freedom and democracy.

One can even judge the content of these by their covers because they, inevitably, have vivid and memorable titles that assault the integrity of the first legitimate and elected black government and its democracy.

The promotion of so-called “courageous, independent and fearless black voices” in post-1994 is nothing new.

Some of the best-known names in South Africa today are men and women who would have remained nobodies except that they had the silly courage to rubbish Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, the ANC and the true meaning of freedom and democracy in a post-apartheid society.

It would seem that the prerequisite for anyone black to become an over-rated columnist or celebrated author is to assume an attack mode towards the government, the ruling party and everything that is pro black people.

This is, indeed, one of the most unexpected creative blind spots of so-called black writers and intellectuals — to focus on the positive and celebrate the achievements of the past 15 years, to be a praisesinger of the government or ruling party.

This tendency to rubbish the government, the ruling party or the elite is not necessarily a proactive way to raise the standard when it comes to affirming and encouraging excellence and merit among the previously disadvantaged.

Instead, it reflects the internalisation of racism, deep seated anti-black sentiment and an inferiority complex which says there is absolutely nothing good in the black experience under democracy.

These over-rated writers and intellectuals typically ignore the fact that black corruption is inextricably linked to and feeds off white injustice, corruption and greed.

Of course, there is no denying that there are far too many blacks, within a short period of time, in both government and corporations who have bought into the corrupt lifestyle that was previously the preserve of white privilege.

But the guilty party is not the blacks themselves, it’s the unchanged economic structure that causes and perpetuates injustice, corruption and greed.

One has to look at Xolela Mangcu’s To the Brink, Zakes Mda’s Black Diamonds, William Gumede and Leslie Dikeni’s Poverty of Ideas and Jacob Dlamini’s Native Nostalgia, for example, to understand how some black writers rubbish the achievement of freedom and democracy.

They are witty and acerbic but their reactionary quality negates anything positive in post-apartheid South Africa.

One cannot overlook their bravery and courage, if you like, but their strength lies more in rubbishing the gains of democracy and undermining black integrity than consolidating it.

Mangcu generated much attention by writing a book that said democracy was on the brink of collapse; Mbeki said the ANC was to blame for apartheid sins; Mda said the black elite were corrupt sell-outs; Gumede and Dikeni said freedom of expression was under great threat while Dlamini said blacks had normal lives under apartheid.

This perspective is far too reactionary, simple and predictable, especially from blacks with PhDs, who should come out with a much more complex analysis and interpretation of the transition.

This black, conservative assault on black identity, integrity and democratic gains is nothing but a silly attempt to please white audiences and live up to false liberal notions of so-called courage, independence and fearlessness.

Actually it marks a crisis of black thought and creative leadership.

In light of this tragic development, the writings of a Steve Biko warrant attention in that he provided the inspiration and guidelines for black self-perception and definition.

One cannot be convinced that today’s published black writers are doing justice when it comes to redefining the existential meaning of black lives, experience, history and hopes.

We expect inspired writings that can give a human face to the black experience from our PhDs!

Tags: , , , , ,

  • Franschhoek Literary Festival: Breaking the silence
  • Waiting for the crap attack on Zuma’s statue
  • Mangcu’s attack on Zuma petty
  • Beware the boy who cries ‘Zulufication’