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The Bridge: Defining blackness for the 21st century

A couple of months ago I interviewed Nkosinathi Biko the CEO of the Steve Biko Foundation, for The Daily Maverick. In an unreported part of our conversation, we discussed black consciousness and its place in post-apartheid South Africa. Biko said, “If under the old dispensation being black meant being oppressed, what does it mean today?”

It has since occurred to me that I took this matter of blackness for granted — as something that needed no examining. To me, it was always an issue of skin colour, and nothing more. That is not true, obviously. As Biko indicated, the concept of blackness was predetermined for those it applied to, whether they wanted it or not. To be black meant to be subservient. The effect that this had on the black collective was profound and deeply tragic, and will continue to live with us for generations to come.

But this column is not about the past. As much as what came before is important, we are not completely prisoner to history. It is around that thought base that I pick at my thoughts, sorting and discarding as they come to me. I do not believe that history is the only determinant to how we think today. We can define for ourselves what blackness means. I believe that my generation — too young to have lived through much of apartheid, but not so far removed that those dark days are but a faded memory — is at a critical juncture. We are uniquely poised to determine and write a new narrative of blackness, our memories still fresh but unburdened by the emotional scars that our parents and past generations carry.

It is in this regard that I find the life of Barack Obama very illuminating (The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick is required reading for anyone who cares about the man). Obama is more than just a political miracle; he’s a self-made man in every sense of the word. Born in Hawaii in 1961, brought up by a white mother in the complete absence of his Kenyan father, he spent his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia, far removed from the turmoil of post-civil-rights America. Obama’s path to the White House was that of a black man, precisely because he had to “become” black. He had to learn what being a black man meant, adopt the cadence, frame of thought and place in the world. The isolation from the civil-rights movements and the bitter fights that came afterwards gave Obama the emotional distance he needed to approach the issue academically (much like our generation should today) and to thus be able to cast off the negative qualities that blackness had donned over the years.

For instance, young Obama read many black autobiographies. For black Americans under slavery and afterwards, writing was a journey of self-discovery: a way of asserting their identity and sense of worth. Obama carefully studied, among many other works, Dusk of Dawn by WEB Du Bois, The Big Sea by Langston Hughes and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. It is to the latter that he finds himself drawn, admiring the masculine strength of Malcolm X. But he is simultaneously repulsed by the brokenness that he sees in many of these black authors. “Obama’s reading of black memoirists when he was still living in Hawaii was the ‘homework’ of a young man trying to ‘reconcile the world as I’d found it with the terms of my birth’,” Remnick writes in The Bridge. “And yet, in all the books he reads, he keeps finding authors filled with depressing self-contempt; they flee or withdraw to varying corners of the world and to Obama they are all of them ‘all of them exhausted, bitter men, the devil at their heels’.”

Obama then sets out to write out a new narrative for himself, adopting the parts of black history that make him a better man, and discarding those that hold him back. Today, there is no doubt that he is a black man. We, the young blacks of South Africa, must in the same way reach into our past to help construct a new narrative, but must also be willing to shed the things that will hold us back.

We seem to struggle a great deal as black people to free the black individual to think and write as he or she pleases. The legacy of collective oppression lives on in our habit of criticising anyone who from “within the ranks” fails to affirm the accepted norms of blackness. We feel as if we must move and think as a bloc, we must all think in the same way, and have each other’s backs, as it were. This mode of thinking reflects in our constant harkening back to some pre-colonial Africa, where the group trumped the individual. We yearn back to “African culture”, an abstraction far removed from how pre-colonial societies organised themselves or worked. So profound is our sense of displacement.

However, we cannot save ourselves by going back. It is forward that we must look. This African group-think is going to cripple us. The individual must be freed. I want to be able to write whatever I like without being criticised by other blacks for “selling out”. I want to be able to critique black leaders without being told that I have adopted a white frame of thinking. I don’t want the seething rage that comes with having lived in oppression under apartheid. I don’t want to flinch every time someone throws a racial barb at me. Most importantly, I want to be able to construct a new meaning of blackness for myself without needing to lean against the “African culture” fetish.

I understand the fear of letting each other go that haunts so many blacks. But until the black individual is free, we cannot say that we have fully reaped the benefits of post-apartheid South Africa. I want to be able to think and write what I like.

This column was first published in JucyAfrica.


  • Sipho Hlongwane is a journalist and columnist for the Daily Maverick. He is an avid fan of jelly beans, Top Gear, Arsenal and thinks that South Africans tend to take themselves a little too seriously. [email protected]


  1. Robard Robard 8 February 2011

    It is better (and truer) to emphasize that individualism isn’t a white thing but part and parcel of our Christian heritage. There was a time in Europe also when the collective held absolute sway, before Christianity redeemed the individual.

  2. Jacques Jacques 8 February 2011

    I tip my hat to you. Write what you must, think what you will, this applies to all South Africans. none of us(youth) should feel bound to our past.

  3. Praise the Lord Praise the Lord 8 February 2011

    What is wrong with the African culture? Respect for elders, not moving in with someone you not married to, taking care of your parents etc. Plz tell me what is wrong with these African value

  4. Judith Judith 8 February 2011

    Good article Sipho and thought provoking. What are our seminal books in South Africa on the subject? I suspect there are many.

  5. fergie fergie 8 February 2011

    @Sipho, that was a very good article you wrote and I agree that society must move forward. However, one must keep in mind that the time black Americans wrote these books the conditions in the US were so brutal this was the only story to tell. I wonder if Obama has ever read “Native Son” by Richard Wright because nobody mention this book.

  6. La Quebecoise La Quebecoise 9 February 2011

    Bravo, bravo. Powerful stuff. Well written.

    My very best wishes for success for you. You are really a leader.

  7. Kaytee Kaytee 9 February 2011

    Thank you and well said Sipho.

    You have articulated what I thought I thought but could not express as eloquently as you have. I will definately be picking up The Brdge.

    Its time Africans allowed other Africans to think and write what they like. Otherwise the African himself becomes the oppressor. That is why I think the teachings of black conciuosness remain relevant today.

    Only in being unapologetic about who we are, in believing our thoughts and opinions have value, can we each, as an individual, go forth and defend them. The black man must learn that there is no one there, black or white, to protect them and tell tem what to think. That they and their children deserve the very best available, and that they need to strive for it.

    Each black person should learn to think what they like, write what they like and do what they have to do to live the best life possible. In this sense, I agree with Biko when he said, “black man, you are on your own”.

  8. ae ae 9 February 2011

    I have never seen blackness like saw it today through the eyes of a black man. Thanks Sipho a thought stimulating read.

  9. Roy Roy 9 February 2011


    Don’t you mean Protestantism?

  10. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 9 February 2011

    It should never be about colour.
    It should always be about standards and good standards and good behaviour have nothing to do with colour.
    If we wish to progress in the world we have to increase our goal of obtaining the very highest standards.
    If South Africa is going to keep on fighting (The Revolution) and not progress to a success revolution we will continue on the path of what was and what now is.
    Africa wide revolutionary movement have remained just that and have replaced one repressive regime with another.
    When we attain the standards that we all seek, colour will no longer be a defining issue.
    If do not seek we will not find. If we always look back and blame the past for not progressing then we won’t progress.
    Life owes us nothing, we are all born equal but that is where it ends, Some strive for success, others wallow in excuses.

  11. Sipho Hlongwane Sipho Hlongwane Post author | 9 February 2011

    @Praise the Lord,

    I know many non-Africans who would argue that these values you speak of are in fact universal, and not peculiar to Africa at all.

    Also, you falsely equivocate my call for self-determination with a rejection of all moral (as opposed to African) values.

    But to answer your question, there’s nothing “wrong” with them. That is not what is under discussion here.

  12. Kwame Kwame 9 February 2011

    I’m still not sure who exacly is restraining you from writing what you like and redefining your blackness, but with all due respect go ahead and write what you like. I hav only one request, pls do give us feedback on what the journey entails, who knows you may just find yourself in a fullcircle with the pre-historic narrative.

    Having said that, the concept of ‘self’ is a notion that has elluded many a person and philosophers. Even great soceities have come to a standing halt, due to there concepts of ‘self’ decieving them when it came to practicality and experience. The confusion always follows when people realize that they’ve invested in lofty ideas of ‘self’. Case in point religious belief systems, idealogy etc .. In this century, science is likey to tear up all known dogma and belief systems that have dominated this debate i.e cloning, synthetic cell etc ..

  13. Dave Harris Dave Harris 9 February 2011

    Its interesting that you speak of blackness with mentioning the word “racism” even once!

    The idea of blackness fades into nothingness in the absence of racism.
    Take away the cancer of racism and all you are left with is a human being – where “blackness” ceases to exist. We cannot overcome racism by ignoring color!
    Racism is rampant in our society and the previously privileged have coined terms “black racism” and in a twist of irony, now accuse blacks of “playing the race card”. LOL
    Is this why you’re afraid of uttering the word “racism” in this article?

    “I don’t want the seething rage that comes with having lived in oppression under apartheid.”
    Unfortunately, that “seething rage” from centuries of oppression cannot be overcome by simply wishing it away. The societal ills that accompany the festering racism and economic oppression in our highly polarized society required a concerted effort to overcome. But all we see these days is more denialism, feigned amnesia and a stubborn clinging to the ill-gotten gains of apartheid.

    “But until the black individual is free,…I want to be able to think and write what I like.”
    Is the fear of being ostracized possibly simply a lack of courage or clarity of purpose perhaps?
    Most of those writers that you admire, risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to write the truth!

  14. Hlabirwa Hlabirwa 9 February 2011

    You say you want to “…be able to write whatever I like … critique black leaders without being told that I have adopted a white frame of thinking…construct a new meaning of blackness for myself” And I ask who is stopping you from doing all these.
    A thread that runs through your post is all about “I”. Is it not “I” who is in your being able to the things you feel entitled to?
    In my view, it “I” who has come to make the world a misarable place we live in. “I” has wanted to do as “I” pleases and in the process deestroyed all claims to “We and Us”. The experience of apartheid was visited on “Us” in the same measure – banishment from arable land and dumped in homelands, group areas act, separate amenities act, preferential job reservation. “They” was the target of all that was not good in the days of Botha, Malan, Verwoerd, Voster and the Groot Krokodil.
    I guess you can liberate “I” from the “bleakness of being black” but let “Us” not perish in the process. “We” is still very important in the big scheme of things – like builiding a society!

  15. Praise the Lord Praise the Lord 9 February 2011

    @ Sipho thanks for responding but I disagree with you about Africans and non-Africans sharing the same value. How many Africans do you know that send their parents to old age home? Which African country have laws that forbid parents from spanking their kids when they misbehave? Im yet to meet a white family that will go across the street to ask a neighbour for an onion. The point am trying to make is we as Africans shouldnt just discard our own values and believes and adopt western one cuz we ‘think’ everything they do is the right thing.

  16. cleo cleo 9 February 2011

    Great article Sipho. You articulate the “burden” of blackness so well. Antjie Krog explores the concept of “blackness” in her book “Begging to be Black” which makes fascinating reading on the subject – albeit of course from a white perspective.

  17. Sipho Hlongwane Sipho Hlongwane Post author | 9 February 2011

    @Dave Harris,

    If I could even begin to understand what your point is (unless you’re trying to say that you’re not satisfied with a piece on identity in South Africa if it isn’t littered with the word “racism”), I might give you an answer.

    But to suggest that a fear of being ostracised drives my plea for the freedom to determine for an identity for myself is quite ludicrous.

  18. Sparks Sparks 9 February 2011

    You Rock

    “I want to be able to write whatever I like without being criticised by other blacks for “selling out”. I want to be able to critique black leaders without being told that I have adopted a white frame of thinking. I don’t want the seething rage that comes with having lived in oppression under apartheid. I don’t want to flinch every time someone throws a racial barb at me. Most importantly, I want to be able to construct a new meaning of blackness for myself without needing to lean against the “African culture” fetish. “”

  19. Spyti K Spyti K 9 February 2011

    Having read your post with a rather large amount of nodding my head, which made the reading kind of difficult, I suddently realized that it’s not only black people who have to redefine their blackness in the 21st century and in the new South Arica, but all of us, i.e. what does it mean to be South African in the 21st century.

    As for the ‘racism’ comments from Mr. Harris, take it from whence it came.

  20. John Patson John Patson 9 February 2011

    Well thought but being probably 20 years older than you, doubt if the US black experience can be applied to Africa. For various reasons the social and political climate in the US had changed considerably by the early 1980s, and continued to evolve under both Republican and Democrat administrations. This change complemented the changes in black consciousness. To my mind no such social change has evolved in Africa, even, or should I say especially, in the countries which have now been independent for 50 years and more. We can hope things will change.

  21. Chico Chico 9 February 2011

    @Dave Harris: “The idea of blackness fades into nothingness in the absence of racism.”

    I think you are on to something here, but I also think that you there is a dynamic that you are missing, and that Sipho is approaching. Let me try to articulate it:

    If you write your own script, think of yourself as firstly person and then co-incidentally Black, unhook from the barbs of racism thrown at you by society—if you do this, then the inverse to your statement happens:

    The idea of racism fades into nothingness in the absence of blackness.

    That, I believe, is the import of Sipho (and Obama’s) approach. They ignore the racism. They refuse to acknowledge the barbs of racism. They just bring out their common humanity (indeed often deeper humanity) than others around. And, in doing so, they gain the respect of all but the most rabid of racist.

    Though White, I find it very hard to be race-conscious in the presence of Tutu or Obama or Mandela or Martin Luther King (one of the greatest of the 20th century). But I am deeply aware of race, and incline towards racism every time a Black person wants me to be conscious principally of his/her Blackness, rather than his/her humanity.

  22. Frantz Fanon Frantz Fanon 9 February 2011

    Wise article. I think the ludicrous point above is that perpetually accusing others of racism should be the defining attribute of blackness. Your definition is stronger, prouder, wiser, less weaselly and more intelligent.

  23. Rory Short Rory Short 9 February 2011

    @Sipho the contents of this post were music to my ears. It is not that I am a black South African, I am not, I am a white South African. For a long while, however, I have felt that public discussion about the ways and means of correcting the damage that Apartheid and its predecessor regimes had wrought upon black people was too focussed on outward things with little or no attention to the undermining and negating of the black individuals’ sense of self-worth. This undermining and negating was,I reckon, one of the hallmarks of Apartheid and its predecessor regimes, and until it is addressed and healed, this internalised aspect of Apartheid will sadly live on in our country.

  24. MLH MLH 9 February 2011

    This made me think two things. One, your determination to tread an individual path is refreshing.
    Then, totally out of context, I realised that our black writers, or all their work that I tend to see, is inevitably about being black. Do none of you ever write about trivial things like beef pies, holidays, family fun, moving? To quote a few we’ve seen on TL recently: apples, bras, lanyards…(sorry Sarah, they just sprung to mind). Why do I always expect black people to write heavy stuff? Because it is.
    It never occurs to me to reinforce my whiteness when I write. It may be obvious to all, but I neither push it nor try to hide it. I’d go mad if I only thought in socio-political terms. Although I know myself better than anyone else does, I don’t think of myself as white, only as myself. Don’t you like to have a bit of fun on paper or screen?
    This led me to suppose it’s possible that most black writers feel the burden of history to such an extent that they don’t pause to write novels and essays in indigenous languages that their fellows want to read. Such a shame that is! You shouldn’t need to be a comedian to entertain people. What happened to the inbred art (so I was always told existed) of story telling?
    You are all free, you just don’t seem to be able to let go.

  25. Save Sa vote DA Save Sa vote DA 10 February 2011

    Great read Sipho, and thoroughly enjoyed. Thankyou! To offer my 2c worth; I think Mr Biko was a President that we should have had. His ideas about taking responsibility for ones own actions and attitudes first and formost are still very relevant today, and in my opinion still sadly lacking. Whilst black empowerment was the cause which inspired his thinking, the same logic that Mr Biko embraced would apply comfortably to all South Africans, black or otherwise. Having the confidence to be whoever you may be, regardless, is the greatest gift we can pass on to our children.

  26. Billy Billy 10 February 2011

    Well put Sipho,
    It’s great to read the writings of someone who doesn’t just go with the flow of the usual trend of thought, and actually thinks and puts things down that make sense and ring true.
    I love South Africa, and I find it exciting to see that we as South Africans are moving forward in redefining our identities. Appreciating our heritage and valuing our identity is very important, and should never be done at the expense of people from different backgrounds and cultures.
    I tihnk it becomes a balance, and we need to allow our heritage to sit-right in priority. If we don’t value it, we lose confidence, if we over-emphasise it, we step into xenophobia. I think a safe way is to love others as we love ourselves. This strikes a great balance of walking in a confidence and strength, yet without bullying those who are different.
    I face similar struggles to you, from a different angle. It’s amazing how different, yet how similar all South Africans are.
    Thanks again, great read.

  27. GC GC 10 February 2011

    “We are uniquely poised to determine and write a new narrative of blackness, our memories still fresh but unburdened by the emotional scars that our parents and past generations carry.”
    I really hope that a new black/white epistemology is born and that scientific thought is promoted

  28. Sipho Sipho 10 February 2011

    @ Sipho Hlongwane – It seems you’re aware of your blackness hence you’re using it as a platform to argue your position. How about “forgeting” that you’re black and just live? I cannot promise you that other people won’t remind that you’re black.Be realistic, being black or white has its attendant problems, just as being male or female has its problems.

  29. Baobab booi Baobab booi 11 February 2011

    A refreshing and uplifting piece.

    “I do not believe that history is the only determinant to how we think today. We can define for ourselves what blackness means”.

    You speak of true freedom, written in the spirit of Biko.

    I salute you, sir.

  30. Dave Harris Dave Harris 11 February 2011

    @Sipho Hlongwane
    You may want to re-read Steve Biko and other writers who used these colonial terms to unify the oppressed in a world dominated by white supremacy.
    I imagine during apartheid, Obama would be categorized as a Coloured. In the US however, Obama’s acceptance of his African-American characterization simply means that he identifies with the struggles of people of color and fully understands how affirmative-action help him achieve his successes i.e. he doesn’t shy away from grappling with the lingering racism that festers in America in spite of almost half a century of civil rights laws.

    Why do you have to buy in to the colonial, white supremacist mentality and establish your identity in terms of a shallow western concept of color???
    Do Indians call themselves “browns”?
    Do Chinese call themselves “yellows”?

    “The idea of racism fades into nothingness in the absence of blackness.”
    Unfortunately, you’ve concocted a converse of my original statement, that makes no sense.
    I repeat- we cannot overcome racism by ignoring color! Racial categorizations are necessary to redress past injustices. Apartheid created our huge socioeconomic disparity along racial lines, and not as our white supremacists claim that blacks are less intelligent, lazy or degenerate etc.

    The apartheid’s divide and rule tactics created artificial divisions between SA blacks (Africans, Coloureds & Indians). Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela etc. in their wisdom, clearly articulated the need for blacks to unite -this created the unstoppable momentum that eventually toppled apartheid!

  31. Domino Domino 11 February 2011

    @DaveH: You are not even ethnic African and yet you schlepp your blackness like an overfowing bag full of bitterness, spilling as you go. Mr Hlongwane is excercising his human right to choose how he wants to view his world and how refreshing , (thank you, sir!) Our shared world is about how we treat the NOW to create new history; no effort of any kind can change a nanosecond of the past and is thus moot; energy wasted.
    @MLH& Chico: Agreed! There MUST be stories to tell, and more to share than ‘The Black Experience’. Don’t humans generally think about themselves as just Themselves? Can’t we all , generally , lighten up , take hands & try to collectively do better for the future benefit of the planet and our fellow travellers, regardless of skin colour which is SUCH a narrow, outdated (& boring!) way of defining human beings?
    @Sipho Hlongwane: Thank you for a breath of fresh air; enjoyed!

  32. Chico Chico 11 February 2011

    @Dave Harris: I did indeed concot a converse of your statement. You dogmatically assert that it does not make sense. You then go on to make further emphatic assertions. But assertions do not amount to an argument. As the aphorism has it: That which is easily asserted is easily denied. We then up in a “yes-it-is”, “no-it-isn’t” verbal ping pong match.

    I give hard personal testimony that my own white racism fades when Black people relate to me without seeming to me to be conscious of their Blackness (in the absence of Blackness). I also testify that when you let your Blackness intrude on my attempt to reach out to you on a person to person level, you provoke my racialist dark side.

    You simply sweep that aside with a mere assertion that “we cannot overcome racism by ignoring colour.” Why not? I ask. I have just testified that this is indeed what happens to me. Do you think I am lying? Why should it not happen to others? It is my definite impression that it does.

  33. EMil Wentzel EMil Wentzel 11 February 2011

    @ Sipho – Excellent article.

    I agree with many of the statements applauding the article. Its well written and expresses a deep state of where we, as South Africans find ourselves. I have long believed that, though apartheid and all that oppression has scarred us, we are on a new path.

    If only we should replace blackness with South Africaness (if I can call it that.) As a coloured/mixed race/ethnically varied person, I think the article applies to us all, white, chinese indian and other. We should, as Obama and all the great forward thinkers have, take the best and use it to better ourselves.

    As a coloured man, I find it disparaging to think about what kind of person I’d need to be to fit in the ‘typical bushie” category. I’m not typical anything.

    I think Sipho’s words and thoughts encourage us, not only as ‘blacks’, but as South Africans to begin to redefine what it means to be an individual in the New South Africa.

    After all, the oppressor is just as oppressed.

  34. jack sparrow jack sparrow 12 February 2011

    A glimmer of hope Mr Hlongwane and picked up by many of the comments (except for the inevitable bitter racism of Dave Harris (is he TM in drag?)). I think that a person’s skin colour should be behind (as in secondary to) his humanity, ethics, behaviour, education and even culture; at the very least.

  35. Dave Harris Dave Harris 12 February 2011

    Firstly, you do realize that I write under a pseudonym don’t you? So don’t make assumptions on my race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion….for all you know I could be a blue alien eh? LOL
    Secondly, we all understand that we cannot change the past, but we need to take responsibility for the evil that apartheid unleashed on our society, especially the beneficiaries of apartheid and their descendants who continue to benefit from their ill-gotten gains.

    “You simply sweep that aside with a mere assertion that “we cannot overcome racism by ignoring colour.” Why not? I ask.”
    You cannot speak about overcoming racism without addressing our socioeconomic disparity that is glaringly split along racial lines. This mess created by apartheid REQUIRES the beneficiaries of apartheid to part with some of their ill-gotten gains. There is no way around this!!!
    Two pressing examples of this, almost two DECADES after our liberation:
    1. Affirmative Action – since over 90% of our CEOs are white.
    2. Land Reparations – since over 80% of prime land is sill owned by the beneficiaries of apartheid.

    Wishing the past never happened, and wanting us all to suddenly be colorblind society is a pipe dream destined to turn into a nightmare.

  36. Lennon Lennon 12 February 2011

    @Dave Harris:

    You say: “Why do you have to buy in to the colonial, white supremacist mentality and establish your identity in terms of a shallow western concept of color???”

    and then: “I repeat- we cannot overcome racism by ignoring color! Racial categorizations are necessary to redress past injustices.”

    What a HUUUUGE contradiction. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

  37. EMil Wentzel EMil Wentzel 13 February 2011

    @ Dave Harris – I think that the focus on using ‘race’ as a means to validate the reparations for the past, invalidates the very thing that so many Liberation movements oppose, and have opposed. I agree that there is a vast disparity between black and white, by stats; but that is the same anywhere in Africa.

    Race can not be ignored as a factor, mathematically at least. However, to ignore the very thing that drives an individual; white, black, yellow and yes blue aliens like yourself too… Is to defeat the purpose of being truly ‘free’.

    I have always, idealistic as it may sound, believed that the only way for us, as humanity to progress, is to further ourselves as individuals first, and then a group. When we look at past leaders who changed the world substantially, most, if not all, were driven not by an external process determined by a group’s factor (race, gender, having a sixth toe) but rather by some internal core process, unique to that individual.

    What Sipho is expressing in this article, as I understand it, is that we, ‘black’ PDIs, need to strive to find our individual, internal driving force, rather than rely on the external voice of society to determine our ability to progress.

    Can we ignore race, ethnicity or gender in that? I think so.

    The real question is, can you, as a Sefriken, get over the guilt of the past and using it to validate polarising strategies to build a greater future.

  38. Chico Chico 13 February 2011

    @Dave Harris: I hear what you are trying to say, but I think that you’re saying it badly.

    Yes—Apartheid caused many disparities.
    Yes—there are still many disparities remaining.
    Yes—We need to address these disparities.

    No—we do not need to show excessive race-consciousness in addressing these disparities. In fact, if you insist on raising the race-temperature in addressing these disparities, you tend to alienate the very people whom you are trying to co-opt onto your redress agenda. Let me explain.

    If you assume that because I am White, I have no sympathy for victims of apartheid, that I am determined to cling to so-called privileges, that my forefathers were wicked and evil and yours were pure and blameless, you will probably succeed in getting my back up—you achieve nothing positive. If you doubt this assertion, then take note of the anger that your posts cause. Clearly, people have stopped taking you seriously, because you overplayed the race card.

    However, if you engage me on a non-race basis, person to person, you will find many allies amongst all races. Some of us may honestly differ about the best way to redress imbalances, but many are keen and anxious to work constructively towards solutions. I see this all the time amongst my White friends. Perhaps you should try this…

  39. Dave Harris Dave Harris 14 February 2011

    No contradiction at all. What a HUUUUGE lack of intelligence…LOL
    Let me spell it out again.
    Apartheid’s racial classifications (skin color) are used to address past injustices but we don’t define our self/identity in terms of skin color. How difficult is that to grasp?

  40. Dave Harris Dave Harris 14 February 2011

    @EMil Wentzel
    “blah blah…but that is the same anywhere in Africa.”
    Really, but I don’t recall ANY other African country subjected to apartheid for half a century!

    Are you saying that we should simply forget about past racial classifications and magically turn into a colorblind society?

    Do you honestly think we have the time to continue ignoring the pressing issues of this huge socioeconomic disparity between black and white that persists almost TWO DECADES after liberation?

    “you will probably succeed in getting my back up—you achieve nothing positive”
    There are many other whites that understand that the gravity of our situation goes beyond your personal anger.

    ‘” ..people have stopped taking you seriously, because you overplayed the race card”
    If I cared about what people thought of me, I would not be commenting. Btw. before you accuse people of “playing the race card” maybe you can learn from Nikki Moore’s wrote a brilliant article that addresses this very issue and the shift in attitude thats required in our society to overcome our racist legacy:

  41. EMil Wentzel EMil Wentzel 14 February 2011

    @ Dave Harris – So, for any societal based gender, ethnic or whatever discrimination, you require it to be written in stone and brought down from the mount?

    There is black on black, white on white, rice on rice discrimination that is driven from deeper places than the ‘written law’ all over the world. Apartheid was LAW… In America they had Jim Crow (if I recall correctly)… America is still struggling with their racial disparity and has about 100 years since the emancipation of the slaves over us… 20 years is like the first snow flake of the last ice age.

    We are a young country, which has inherited an awful past, should we forget the past? No. Should we ignore race? No. But fundamentally, unless a shift in how we as individuals regard ourselves and thus others, nothing will change and we will repeat what those who oppressed before did.

    Frankly, David, I find your obsessive focus on race as the core to how we rectify and base our interactions with each other offensive, and still rather typical of most South Africans. I loved Sipho’s article because, though he has aimed it at black men, it is clearly applicable to all; men and women, black and white or zebra.

    We are at a crucial point in our development as a modern, progressive society; where the individual has become the focus, not the group. Race, religion, gender and sexual disposition are becoming secondary to “What do I think of myself?”

    Blah! Blah!

  42. Lennon Lennon 15 February 2011

    @Dave Harris: “Apartheid’s racial classifications (skin color) are used to address past injustices but we don’t define our self/identity in terms of skin color.”

    and yet you insist that nobody shoud “buy in to the colonial, white supremacist mentality and establish your identity in terms of a shallow western concept of color”

    By using racial classifications you ARE buying in to the “shallow western concept of color””

    So, don’t throw cheap insults at me. Explain yourself.

  43. emile emile 16 March 2011

    Good stuff! I hope many more people of uor generation can let the past go and build on the future. We can bitch and moan all we want about the current government, but we’re in next, let’s make the best of it. I’ll hazard that an article in a similar vein can be written from a white view: Letting go of the negative connotations of white and going forward in a positive fashion.

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