Adam Habib is not me. Sipho Singiswa questions Adam Habib’s appointment as Director of SOAS by University of London.

By Sipho Singiswa

As an indigenous Black South African I write to express my dismay and disgust at the recent appointment of outgoing WITS Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib, as Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) by the University of London. Board Member Marie Staunton, the Chair of the SOAS Board of Trustees has this to say in her pleasure at his appointment:

“I am delighted that we are able to make this appointment of Prof Adam Habib as the next Director of SOAS. From an impressive field, he was the outstanding candidate to succeed Baroness Valerie Amos, our current Director.

His record of leadership in South Africa, his academic pedigree, his outspoken commitment to diversity and equality, his willingness to challenge received wisdom across society, his commitment to engagement with the student community and his vision on key issues such as decolonisation, make him a superb fit for SOAS and the values we share.”

I ask Staunton and those responsible for this rewarding of Habib, if they are aware of the disdain and anger that many indigenous South Africans have for him after his role in the utter brutalisation of Black students rising up in the Fees Must Fall movement and protest for the free education that was promised to them in the Freedom Charter? Are they aware that our Black majority views Habib as a hypocrite and a conduit for the racism that continuously plagues us?

The mention of ‘his commitment to engagement with the student community and his vision on key issues such as decolonisation’, begs some unpacking.

Let us take you back to Fees Must Fall over the period of 2015 to 2017.

It was during the Fees Must Fall uprising that Habib’s hypocritical and racist attitude was exposed through his consent to the politically-motivated brutalisation of indigenous African students in protest, which resulted in scores of students being maimed and many hospitalised through the attack on them – firstly through the deployment of private security and then through the apparatus of the state security cluster, both being let loose on students under Habib’s stewardship. Why does none of this seems to matter to the London University, which  seemingly rewards him for his brutality. He gets to go abroad and leave the matter of reparations for the traumatised students untended to.  He is not even asked to account for his role in the multiple atrocities against the student community. Afterall, he came across as ‘reasonable and on the side of the students’ in Rehad Desai’s film on the uprising titled Everything Must Fall, as one Fallist told me. 

The question this throws up for me is why the global system continuously rewards those who willingly campaign against reasonable demands from the Black collective?  I am further forced to ask if some minority group members view their claim to Blackness as just another stepping stone in their career. Where is this visceral connection to what it means to be Black and indigenous in South Africa and Habib’s part time Black status?  How does Habib’s claim to Blackness resonate with the masses whom he so easily throws under the bus when it comes to protecting the neoliberal system? Is he in anyway, qualified to speak on behalf of, or even represent Africans? In my view he does not represent my experience of being African or Black in any shape or form.

His political expedience and selective ideological amnesia is a case in point. As a Xhosa adage summarises, he speaks from both sides of the mouth. He is notably Machiavellian in his ability to slither to any side of the ideological scale and pretend to be sympathetic toward the black economic and decolonial struggle, while simultaneously assisting the state, in partnership with white capital, to smash a youth struggle that threatens their status quo.

I am  reminded of the ideological hypocrisy that forms the basis for  the charlatan relations that currently exists between the racist Israeli government and the ANC government. On the one hand the ANC officially professes, on public platforms, to support the Palestinian people’s struggle for justice, while, on the other hand, some of its leaders are  simultaneously doing business with Israeli entities in trading,  allegedly including military components.  It is also rumoured that the ruling party receives election funding from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, a staunch supporter of the Israel policy of illegal occupation of Palestinian ancestral land. This ideological fraud is no different to Habib’s fraudulent claim to Blackness. As Biko denoted – Blackness is a state of mind.

This young woman told us that she answered a knock on her door – she says she opened thinking it was a friend and a group of three cops burst in. She relates how one of the men beat her and then one shot her while she was fending them off. She has had to undergo a number of surgeries since then and reports that she was barred from writing exams after this incident. David Webster Residence, WITS.
 #HabibsApartheid #FeesMustFal#BlackLivesMatter

And, just like FW de Klerk was rewarded with a Noble Peace for presiding over apartheid policies and protecting white monopoly capital while continuing to defend and paint the history of colonial and apartheid brutality with a veneer of respectability to the western world, Habib has been similarly rewarded with a Directorship position at SOAS at the University of London, for helping to defend and protect entrenched apartheid-based minority privileges and attitudes that trample on the basic rights of the indigenous majority. He too has painted the violence against Fallists in a veneer of respectability and this has obviously been swallowed hook line and sinker by his London colleagues.

This is the man who favoured the employment and deployment of militia from South Africa’s apartheid era as well as from war torn African countries, who are now employed in privately owned South African security companies.  (These mercenaries, studies show, have most likely committed human rights atrocities against innocent civilians, including women, children and vulnerable elderly people in the countries of their origins before fleeing to or being head-hunted to South Africa.)  It is obvious that, based on his conservative political considerations as well as being one of the pet gate-keepers favoured by white liberal South Africa, that Habib rubberstamped the employment of the former militia members precisely because they had no loyalty to, nor sympathy with, the struggles of oppressed ‘South African’ people.

What makes it worse is that these militia members are mostly in the employment and control of former apartheid security force officers who include members of apartheid  ‘Death Squads’ commandos. These same security companies are often used in controversial political destabilisation of communities engaged in social transformation protest and Fees Must Fall was no different. These security bosses are often the very same players who were instrumental in the violence during the height of the liberation struggle against the apartheid regime and its state/business sponsored ‘so-called’ Black-On-Black violence, something that FW de Klerk still defends while denying  ‘apartheid atrocities’ as a crime against humanity. Similarly Habib defends his heavy handed tactics against the black student collective and also denies the human rights atrocities enacted by the militia style war he facilitated against the students.  

Bullet cartridges at Webster House Wits after a night of terror in which Habib called a curfew which played out like Apartheid’s state of emergency .The collection (not complete)of rubber bullets in the David Webster res shot into the windows on the night of the sudden curfew, at students who were ducking for cover in the one space they thought was safe.
#HabibsApartheid #FeesMustFall #PoliceBrutality #BlackLivesMatter #BlackChild

When Habib’s employed militia-type thugs could not put an end to the  #FeesMustFall student protest, despite the well-orchestrated brutality towards the students, he requested and/or consented to  the assistance of the Task Force Police – which escalated the brutality towards the students, as well as the workers, who had joined the protest for the promised free education and the decolonisation of the education system in the white minority dominated universities in South Africa.  

Habib’s consent to the this militia style brutality on the WITS campus can be justifiably likened to the violent apartheid attack on the Black youth during the 1976 student uprising.  Habib’s reckless Trump-style attitude and consent to the use of state brutality resulted in countless human-rights abuses and hundreds of young African students being maimed, many with serious injury resulting in a number of surgeries. Many faced jail time. The psychological trauma has also never been factored into the aftermath of #FMF and many of the students were, and continue to be, emotionally and psychologically traumatised by this brutality.  

There is no doubt in my mind that the brutality was thus because it was a rising of majority Black students who were on the more radical side of the struggle.  The Biko, Fanon and Sankara (ists)  who were calling for a just, pro-black social order, received the worst of it. Habib, it seems, specifically targeted the EFF and PASMA students during his rule of terror over that period.

As a former leader of the 1976 student uprising in Cape Town, an ex Robben Island political prisoner and a filmmaker and social justice activist, I experienced and recorded this brutality directly and I state that the violence against the Black Child was no different to that engaged in by the apartheid state in 1976. Habib, in Voster-esque authority, was relentless in his will to smash the student uprising at any cost and he acted against the student community rather than with them.

What experience of indigenous African suffering and Black pain will Habib be speaking from when he arrogantly rubbishes Black Epistemology and Ontology in the current political and educational environment? In our indigenous African framework he is an upholder of the apartheid education system and just like many like-minded gate-keepers with ‘manufactured’ struggle credentials, he plays a key role in the sustaining of racist stereotyping of indigenous African people from his position as a beneficiary of the ongoing system of separate development that protects apartheid style minority privileges at the expense of the indigenous African majority.

It is also interesting to note that in certain inner-political circles in which the liberation struggle principles still exist, there are speculations about Habib’s struggle credentials, which, many have said, seem to have enjoyed a boost from the CIA allegedly placing him on the list of persona non-grata on US soil.  The White-owned media houses created so much hype about this possible political stunt without probing any deeper than the surface, and one can only wonder at what their end game was.  Habib’s name is nowhere to be found on the list of of the apartheid government’s formerly secret document listing the 7000 enemies of the apartheid state. Some say this stunt was a set-up to ratify his position as a gatekeeper using his ‘struggle credentials’, to give him some political legitimacy to infiltrate the African political environment for effective diversion. Who knows –  but unfortunately this speculation is not easily his ignored given his pompous and off-the-cuff political rhetoric, which exposes his deeply held negative attitude towards the African people’s struggle for equality.

And again we have to ask what criterion the London University used in their appointment of this self-serving, pompous gate-keeper who masquerades behind the ‘Black Identity’ when it suits his mostly neoliberal agenda, as a suitable representative of the African subject?

How do we Africans come to terms with this affront to our collective psyche, especially in the face of Habib’s brutal repression of indigenous African students and his well-documented racism towards the indigenous African people?  In his trope it is clear that Black Lives do not Matter. Why are the indigenous South African academics and intellectuals quiet about this hypocritical appointment of a known anti-black gatekeeper? What happened to the notion of authentic representation of the oppressed that was one of the mantras of the South African liberation struggle for justice , equality and democracy? 

Does this mean there are no indigenous African intellectuals and academics qualified enough to head a Department of African and Oriental studies in the whole of the African continent, to a point where the hypocrites in London chose to appoint a purveyor of anti-black sentiment, and a rubber stamper of violence toward my people, as a representative of the historical and current Black condition in a country that pushes white business at the expense of all.

Adam Habib does not represent my African Identity any more than a white oppressor does. He must be called to account for his role in the multiple brutal aggressions aimed at Black students over Fees Must Fall. We will not rest until justice has been served.

#AdamHabibIsNotMe

#BlackLivesMatter

#AfricanRestistance

Sipho Singiswa is a struggle veteran having been a student leader in Western Cape in the 1976 uprisings. He was arrested at the age of 15 by the apartheid police and spent 2 years in and out of solitary confinement in the apartheid prison system where he underwent months of torture. He was then sentenced to Robben Island for 5 years. His name is listed on the 7000 enemies of the apartheid state.

Click on these links to view the war against the Fallists on Wits Campus.

The Boy Child and Gender Based Violence

By Philile Langa

The Vulnerability of Black Boys With Regards To Violence

I’m writing this from the point of view of a queer black feminist who has done research on race and violence, and the ways that the two intersect with each other and other aspects of identity. I’m writing this from the position of a black woman who has been told by black men that gender issues should be an afterthought when it comes to black liberation. I’m also writing this from the point of view that if I am to be against violence as an oppression, then I have to be against violence no matter who it happens to. This includes victims of violence who may one day become perpetrators of violence against black women.

This article was first written up as a presentation at a seminar titled Philosophy Born of Struggle: A Philosophy Born of Massacres. My presentation was on Gender-based Violence against boys and men during armed conflict on the African continent, and the ways in which they are excluded from narratives of armed conflict gender-based violence victimology.

This is an unusual subject: that of gender base violence against a group that is not women. I say it like this intentionally: a group that is not women. This is because if you were to search gender based violence during armed conflict, you will have millions of hits where the overwhelming majority will be studies or policy around gender based violence against women, with men as victims being an extremely rare feature. 

In this article, I’ll be speaking on gender-based violence against black men and boys in general terms, focusing on three points: the definition of gender with regards to gender based violence, recognition and acceptance of the phenomenon of gender based violence against men and boys, and lastly, the impact of race on the recognition of black men and boys as victims of violence.

What is “Gender” based violence?

Within gender based violence research, gender has been made into a synonym for women. This has led to most of the public translating gender to meaning “women”. Girls are included on the rare occasion. Gender-based Violence, to many scholars and lawmakers, is not violence perpetrated against a person because of their gender. It is violence perpetrated against women for the reason that they are women. One of the arguments in those cases is that since women make up the majority of victims of gender based violence during armed conflict, then it is only logical to associate gender in “gender-based violence” with women. Another argument is that men are not really victims since any violence that is perpetrated against them is almost always by other men, within the patriarchal system that men themselves have created with the intention of oppressing and bringing harm to women, and with violence that is sometimes intended for women. Children are hardly mentioned. Girls are added on occasion to the titles of studies, but hardly focused on, whether on their own or with women whom they are generally attached to. Boys are treated in almost the same way as men in that they are usually mentioned in the context of being perpetrators of violence, such as in the case of boy soldiers, but with the need to be saved due to being children. There has been a remedy to the situation of girls not being focused on with the creation of Girl’s Studies. While there has been a concerted effort to develop a field of study concerning men, little attention has been paid to boys. And most of these developments are happening outside of South Africa.

Boys straddle between the identities of violent patriarchal oppressors and innocent children. It is due to the latter that there has been any attention to boys within the framework of victims of violence. Even then, the attention to boys is too little, especially when we know how violence affects the development of children. 

Recognition and acceptance of the phenomenon

Generally, with male victims of gender based violence, there is a lack of recognition of their victimhood. Even with fieldworkers, there is not just a lack of training in recognizing the different kinds of violence that can be perpetrated against men and boys, but there is also a general lack of awareness that violence against men and boys can be gender-based. It is as if patriarchy does not feature in the violence that men and boys experience.

The nuance that “boyhood” provides is that boys are considered children in peaceful circumstances. But in those “peaceful” circumstances, they are also seen through a patriarchal gaze of being the inheritors of the strength and violence of their male elders. This contradicts the innocence that is sometimes afforded to children. Boy children have to be recognized as children and therefore the violence that is perpetrated against children needs to be recognized. When boys are raised within a patriarchal paradigm, the result is that they grow up to be violent men. It is understandable that innocence no longer applies to them at this stage as more often than not, they are willing participants in the violence that is patriarchy, no matter who it is targeted against.

The fact that most men are willing participants in the violence that is patriarchy does not negate the fact that when other men are the targets of this violence due to their gender, they are victims of gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is gender-based violence no matter the gender of the perpetrator or their victim. Just because most men are willing participants in patriarchy does not negate that vulnerability.

There are many feminist researchers who think that men deserve it/they have it coming with regards to being victims of gender-based violence. Their argument is that gender-based violence occurs within a patriarchal framework. Gender-based violence against men is therefore an attack on men in a system that was initially designed to attack women and all that is feminine. Men are then victims of their own violent oppressive system. This is then deserved retribution.

We have to be careful with the way that we construct the victimology of victims of gender-based violence. If we lean into the understanding presented above, that men who are victims are victims of their own system, then we are actively legitimizing the patriarchal understanding of what a victim is, that “real men” are always perpetrators and never victims. We legitimize the patriarchal thought that weakness or victimhood is to be equated with femininity or womanhood. We legitimize the patriarchal though that femininity or womanhood should be on the receiving end of the violence of patriarchy. That means that even when women are the perpetrators of violence, what they are attacking in their victim regardless of gender, is femininity. We strengthen patriarchy with this logic.

There is a fear that if men are accepted as victims of gender-based violence, then the female victim/male perpetrator paradigm will be under attack. So what if this paradigm is weakened or torn apart? I am of the belief that we should be attending to the victims of gender-based violence, not attending to our own assumptions and patriarchal stereotypes.

Race

We cannot talk about the dismissal of the fact that black boys and men can be victims of gender-based violence, without talking about the impact of race on this dismissal. It is important to take note of the racist stereotypes around black men and boys with regards to violence: black men are inherently violent. It dismisses the violence that this country has experienced that has influenced patriarchy and the way that boys grow into men and carry themselves around each other and around others. Violence has been an increasing part of the lives of black people in this country, especially with colonisation and apartheid. These violent oppressive systems have woven themselves into our society and made violence seem natural in our communities. Colonization and apartheid have contributed to the socialization of black boys and men into the kind of violence that we see today. This socialization disproves the racist stereotype of black men being inherently violent because if black boys grew into violent black men on their own, then socialization into violence would not need to happen.

Just as we have been socialized by white supremacy to believe that black men are inherently violent, through that, we have been socialized to believe that black boys, and especially black men, have no vulnerability. Through accepting that black boys and men are socialized to be violent, we then accept that black boys and men are vulnerable to gender-based violence. If we accept this, we also need to accept that the socialization of black boys and black men into violence is a violation of black boys and black men.

Why Race Justice?

Gillian Schutte writes about shining the light on whiteness and white privilege.

As a white person privy to a gamut of white attitudes, it is of great interest to me to explore how these divisive perspectives of white privilege proliferate in a way that contributes to an alienating of those who are not white.

As a long-term wife and mother in a Xhosa family, I am also often intimately engaged with expressions of the experiences of black society in relation to white society.

It is the combination of white attitudes and black responses that informs my writing about whiteness.

I do not seek to set myself up as “the only good white” in South Africa, as many of my opposers have told me. I simply mean to shine a light on the unresolved and deceptive premise of whiteness and white privilege, a destructive phenomenon that many whites are oblivious to.

Whiteness is a category that has been recognised to be false by scientists, as well as race and evolutionist theories. The racial category of “white” cannot exist unless in relation to, or in binary with, other classifications in the racial man-made hierarchy that has itself been fabricated and perpetuated by whiteness.

Only by defining the racialised “other” is whiteness able to define itself as a race elevated above other races.

Whiteness exists in a parasitic symbiosis with “the other”, upon which it builds the false global system of white privilege – a system that is dependent on the oppressed “other” for manpower, yet whose humanity it has discarded over centuries to justify its means.

Paul Kivel, author of Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work For Racial Justice, writes: “Racism is based on the concept of whiteness – a powerful fiction enforced by power and violence.

“Whiteness is a constantly shifting boundary separating those who are entitled to have certain privileges from those whose exploitation and vulnerability to violence is justified by their not being white.”

In the past 50 years or so, this system of whiteness has “granted the other” a chance to join the whitist global economy – but with restrictions and parameters and often as shareholders, junior partners or managers of white monopoly capital that has accrued wealth over centuries through the system of capitalism founded on slave labour.

The manufactured discourse that upholds this unequal system is one that pretends not to be racist while invariably indulging in racist practices. It is this narrative that I seek to unpack along with other contemporary race narratives that have proliferated since the advent of globalisation.

Its lexicon works to uphold and validate neo-liberalism by seeking to distance itself from racism in words, but not in practice.

I have chosen to deconstruct this fallacious model of whiteness in the South African context by drawing from the work of race theorists in other settler societies, such as the US.

This is my attempt to understand the unresolved space of race relations in our new democracy and to unpack the multifarious narratives the white society has constructed to protect its privilege in the new South Africa and globally.

I locate myself as someone who was born into the racist whiteness construct and as such am in a constant reflexive mode of working through this programming.

As an activist I try to work towards genuine race abolition in a context that is available to me. I have little tolerance for the reinscribing of white privilege through the disingenuousness of those who mark their latent white superiority by language of false “reasonableness”, which interprets progress only by their values and attitudes.

Hence you find some “reasonable” white liberals berating me for attacking the core of white selfhood and who hide behind demands for reasonableness when they perceive attack.

This is their last refuge in protecting the underground laager of their zeitgeist. The irony of defending the zeitgeist, built on the historical and contemporary theft of selfhood to achieve white autonomy and dignity and by guarding what was stolen by racial classification, is lost on them.

Surely it can only be a false sense of self that relies on the advancement of one’s dignity by hanging on to subsumed identity theft? How can one “race” own the privilege of selfhood by ripping the experience of self from another through a historically violent, abusive and racist system?

Apply gender theory to this phenomenon if it makes it easier – we all know that an abusive man does not stop his violence until he is forced to.

People cry white guilt when it comes to insulting race justice activists – but one would have to be a sociopath not to feel any guilt about the generational privilege accrued to whites, so gauchly visible alongside the generational oppression heaped upon the Black majority. It is the absolute disgust at the state of affairs brought about by the historical capitalist pursuit of wealth and privilege by a minority at the expense of larger humanity that drives me.

The human suffering, cruelty and psychopathy propagated by this system cannot be acceptable, especially in the guise of being “reasonable”.

I do not want to uphold and perpetuate an arrangement that benefits some and creates indefensible levels of suffering for others.

We should all have the privilege of living with dignity, of being able to engage in intellectual, artistic and spiritual pursuits and have our humanity acknowledged.

Buying into false race and class constructs destroys our common humanity, whether we are engaged in this consciously or unconsciously. I believe that until we are able to rid ourselves of our racist indoctrination and white privilege we will remain complicit in the perpetuation of a system that can only be described as anti-humanity.

Until we have overthrown a method that perpetuates these false divisions, that benefit the rich and elite at the expense of the poor and oppressed, we must put aside our individuality and fight for the rights and dignity of the collective.

In this way my treatment of the race issue is located in a framework of “socialist ubuntuism” or egalitarianism, and I treat class as a race phenomenon in the context of South Africa.

They came, they saw, and they took it all.

My interest and reach lies within the ambit of whiteness discourses in relation to blackness, power and class; and my focus is often on the binary between privilege and poverty.

Over the past two decades various whiteness narratives have popped up from different positions – with the bulk of the white population casting itself in the role of “victims of the black majority”.

These narratives have taken the form of calling high crime rates in farming areas the “genocide” of white farmers, and the diatribe about BEE and that “the blacks steal all the jobs”. Most subtle is the abuse of the “rule of law” narrative to feed unconscious resentment for loss of power and to shift blame by assuming false moral authority.

These narratives seldom take note of the issue of poverty and privilege, but remain rooted in the “us and them” continuum.

The narrative that often escapes scrutiny is the “new liberal double-speak” that pays lip service to non-racism in a vacuum of self-reflection and results in a covert racism that manifests as a subtle practice of resentment towards black excellence, or exaggerated outrage towards black failings, while denying this fact or remaining unconscious to this reality.

This is the language of institutional racism. In my framework I am aware that while most whites are taught to remain oblivious to the manner in which their privilege continues to oppress blackness, not all whites are unaware of their privilege and racism.

There are white progressives, who have what theorists have called “attitudinal activism”, and who do the work towards transforming racial attitudes.

Contrary to what many believe, I do not write on this topic because I hate white people or loathe my own white skin, or because I want all black people to love me, or because I am mean, nasty, aggressive and rude.

I write about whiteness because I cannot sit back and witness the utter destruction that a system of disproportionate white supremacy has caused in the world.

I am passionately against a capitalist, whitist order that has benefited, as well as schooled, white people into a mindset of fear and loathing of the monsterised other and rabid protectionism over their privilege. Compassion for collective humanity is not a whitist practice – instead compassion is reserved for those who look and think like them. It is the opposite of the sophisticated and regenerative life system known as uBuntu.

I continue to deconstruct racism in my writing because I believe that if a critical collective of white people join in the move to obliterate this deceptive consciousness premised on racial falsities and discourses that pay lip service to empty notions of non-racism, then we will stand a chance to regain our humanity.

This opens up an opportunity to reclaim a sense of self that is not premised on the defence of a system that seeks to oppress others – and which will make way for a future where we acknowledge and celebrate our humanity only because every person’s humanity is acknowledged and celebrated equally.

Until then this divisive system of whiteness will make us “whites” redundant to the paradigm shift driven by the very people who have been oppressed for centuries by a bigoted and chauvinistic organism that classifies some as more human than others.

There is another way.

* Schutte is a founding member of Media for Justice, a social justice and media activist as well as a documentary film-maker.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Whiteness is an Ancestral Trust Fund.

By Gillian Schutte

To be born white in South Africa is akin to being born with a trust fund left to the white collective courtesy of our ancestors.

White people can be guaranteed, even before they are conceived, that they will be born into a 500-year-old (colonial history) white-friendly, socioeconomic system created to advantage them.

When a white person is born they are automatically endowed with a set of benefits, securities and givens that not all black people can guarantee.

Of course there are wealthy black people and a black elite – but we are talking about white privilege in South Africa – and all whites benefited from colonialism and apartheid in one way or another.

Most white people continue to benefit from elitism and neoliberalism.

Most white people are reluctant to shift this status quo and lose their special privileges.

Enduring white resistance to transformation and the dearth of moves towards genuine equality says it all.

This is why 21 years into an independent African democracy around 70% of the top management positions are still held by white males, even though white males often complain the loudest about being pushed out of the economy under black rule.

White people are afraid of losing this set of privileges and thus create a lexicon of nonsensical terms such as ‘reverse racism’ and plentiful negative anti-blackness notions that continue to label black people as incompetent and less worthy.

This says more about white hegemony than it does about black potential or black excellence.

To point out the hegemonic nature of whiteness or write about white privilege does not mean that all white people are ‘black-hating monsters’ or that you want white folk to feel immense guilt.

What you want is for white people to notice how this hegemony thwarts transformation and equality and thus robs our future generations of a world that is equal, celebrates diversity and commonality and is pro-humanity not pro-white.

To point out majority black poverty and the enduring nature of systemic and institutional racism does not mean that you think all black people are victims, have no potential or are not fully fledged and successful vibrant people.

To write about this race and inequality means to write about what is wrong and what needs to transformed in our society – especially in a country with a Gini Coefficient of 0.77 and around 53% of our population living in extreme poverty. That means around 27 million (majority black) citizens are critically poor as a direct result of a white colonial history of oppression and continued blacksploitation.

Yes we know not all whites are rich and spoiled and that those white folk born into wealth and economic privilege have it all the more easier than those of us not born into ‘old’ or ‘new’ money – but this does not cancel out the systemic privileges afforded to the whiteness club.

These benefits, securities and givens are not only economic, because, again, we know that not all whites are actual ‘trust fund babies’ – but whiteness still bestows numerous privileges onto those born into it that are often at the expense of, or denied to, those not white.

This is not to suggest that the zygote or the new born baby is personally racist – but white racism is an inevitable fact for white skinned people, even those who perceive themselves to be not racist.

This is because white babies are not born into a race-neutral world. They are born into a world that has been systemically skewed by white colonial history to benefit whites and disadvantage people that are born ‘not white.’

Contemporary neocolonialism and neoliberalism has further entrenched white privilege – to the point that even Marxists would have to agree that in countries with a settler history, racism is the primary premise of white economic and social privilege.

Surely without the historical exploitation of the black collective body and the subjugation of indigenous people in colonies, white economic supremacy would not be entrenched.

The curse of white skin for race abolitionists is that no matter how non-racist or anti-racist they purport to be they cannot escape the systemic condition of whiteness.

Bringing it down to the basics

  • Besides that small percentage of whites that have slipped through the systemic cracks and are also critically poor, on average white new-borns can mostly be sure of the following:
  • They will not be born critically poor.
  • They will more than likely have access to nutrition, nappies, and a healthy mother.
  • They more than likely will never have to watch their mother, father, grandparents or siblings suffer the indignity of the bucket system or porta-potties and then experience the added indignity of having to find somewhere to dispose of their waste.
  • They will never see their mothers or relatives walking over 200 meters to a tap, or 2km’s to a river, to collect water for daily washing, cooking and family hygiene.
  • They will most likely have access to electricity, warmth, hot water, bathtubs, flushing loos and toilet paper.
  • They will more than likely have access to decent housing, education, service delivery and justice.
  • They will have access to an education system with highly qualified teachers, libraries and decent facilities.
  • They will not have parents who can be shot at with live ammunition and tear gassed or arrested for joining a protest around service delivery or better wages.
  • They will be less likely to know personally, or have a family member or friend who has been incarcerated, either for political or criminal reasons.
  • A white new-born’s parents are less likely to suffer the same types of stresses that the majority of black parents suffer from because the majority of white parents have more access to economic opportunities.
  • They live in areas that are closer to work opportunities.
  • Their neighborhoods are built around social spaces, such as parks, community halls, shopping spaces, libraries, schools, restaurants and cinemas.
  • They are more than likely able to afford to use these amenities.
  • Their homes will more than likely have adequate furnishings and domestic resources.
  • They will not have to spend 30% of their meagre earnings on transport and travel long distances to get to menial low paying jobs.
  • If they become struggling single mothers they will still, on average, earn a much higher salary than struggling, uneducated single black women.
  • They will be less likely to be victims of HIV or AIDS, TB, Malnutrition and related illnesses.
  • They will have access to health services and they will more than likely live a longer lifespan.
  • They will not have the burden of the history of systemic oppression to work through.

If compared to middle class black society…

  • White middle class youth will be less likely than black middle class youth to have to financially support family and relatives when they begin to earn money.
  • They will be less likely to have huge economic cleavages between them and members of their extended family if they make it up the economic ladder.
  • They will have less guilt about how they spend money on themselves whilst part of their family still uses the bucket system or has no access to proper nutrition.
  • They will probably not have a husband, brother, mother or neighbour who can testify to having been suspected of stealing, loitering, planning a heist or spoken to like a child by a white shop owner.
  • They will not consistently have to prove themselves by working doubly hard to underscore their intelligence in a white dominated corporate world.
  • They will not be accused of wanting to be ‘white’ for joining the economy and climbing up the economic ladder.
  • They will not be mocked for driving a smart car as if they bought the car at the expense of their children’s education.
  • They will not be forced to adhere to a skewed system that belittles them to gain acceptance in an economy historically built on the backs of their own people’s oppression.
  • They will not have to prove that they are not ‘whining victims’ when they complain or protest against delegitimizing white racist discourse – whether overt or covert.
  • They will also be assured that their views would be the default position and everyone around them would have to work hard to prove their counter views.
  • They will be assured of positive representations of their own likeness in advertising, films and news stories.
  • They will have the security of knowing that if you are white, male and rich could possibly get away with murder because the justice system is more geared towards white males than women or black people.
  • They will never be accused of reverse racism as a way to silence their dissent against unfair privileges bestowed onto people because of their skin colour in a world skewed to advantage some at the expense of the other.
  • They will, on a conscious and subconscious level, be given the message over and over that white humanity is more valuable than black humanity.
  • They will be less likely to be brutalized by the state and state mechanisms.
  • They will never experience racism.

They will be more likely to deny that all of the above is the truth about white privilege. In fact they will more than likely deny that there is such a thing as white privilege and hegemony and label those who shed light on this topic as a race traitor.

But no amount of denialism or aggressiveness to those who write about white privilege and its negative impact on fellow humans is ever going to change the fact that white people deny and threaten those who shake up their comfort zone or question the status quo precisely because they do not want to give up on their privileges and are more than willing to perpetuate the conditions that allow them to continue living with a set of givens, norms and benefits denied to other people.

(A shorter version of this piece was published in Sunday Independent on 02/02/2015)