Articles looking at the issue of race and identity in South Africa and Globally.

AmaCDE’s song, Umhlaba Uzobuya – Anti-Indianism or a cry for help?

I think it was 20th Century Catholic Archbishop who said when I feed the poor they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.

Hold that thought

AmaCDE’s song, Umhlaba Uzobuya, has caused widespread controversy, sparking a national dialogue on the notion of what some view as “Anti-Indianism”.

The ruling party has come out strongly condemning the song and calling for its banning. In an opinion piece yesterday, Senzo Mchunu says “in a democratic country such as ours, we must work towards the creation of a society of people who live peacefully, and whose thoughts are of positive sentiments of love and concern for other people, thinking about how to help the next person. We need to work together to build the spirituality of all our people so that anyone who comes to Kwazulu-Natal will remember the smiles of the people of this province”

I met with the lyricist of the song yesterday.  This is good. Before we opine. Before we pronounce. Let us think. So a good place to start is with the lyrics. Do they condemn Indians? No.

The narrator of the song speaks of his abuse at the hands of an Indian Employer. In my work in alternative dispute resolution, access to justice and restorative justice peacemaking, this narrative is replicated in South Africa, across the board and across the races. But in Kwazulu-Natal, the demographics are such that in the main, in Industry, the Employers are Indian, and the workforce is Afrikan. And there is abuse. There is exploitation. There is widespread brutality. Let’s just be honest. Not in every workplace. But it is widespread.

If I were speaking of Industry in other provinces, the demographics may be different, but narratives of the workforce remain hauntingly similar: widespread abuse, exploitation and brutality. Sadly I’m not surmizing, I’m not guessing….I do this work. I get these calls. I get the first-hand cries for help.

I respect Senzo Mchunu’s sentiments. I really do. Much like the love and light brigade that would have us think only happy thoughts, that is the ideal and we all need to work towards a nation where is possible that beautiful South African smiles don’t mask the pain of widespread continued economic exploitation and exclusion. And the brutality that comes with it.

I am in the process of running an ADR Dialogue in this area of Kwazulu-Natal. A court recently acknowledged that public violence charges against a group of protesting employees were complex and acceded to submissions made, ordering an attempt at ADR Diversion. This is a managed dialogue process where all interested parties are invited to unpack, look at and dialogue around the originating source of protests that lead to the arrests of 46. An interim mediation summary is available. It is before the court already and you can get a copy from me at sheena@adr-networksa.co.za. The dialogue reveals that workers are subject to ongoing human rights violations in the workplace. Again, this is in Kwazulu-Natal, but if we are conscious in South Africa, we know that workers have similar narratives all over South Africa and at the hands of Employers across the racial divide.

But this is Kwazulu-Natal. For convenience I repeat: in industry, Employers are largely Indian. The workforce is largely Afrikan.

Cries for help are being and have been ignored. For over twenty years. And for about three centuries before that. So getting back to the AmaCDE song. This is a personal narrative. Someone is being abused. A story is being told. But it mirrors the narrative of many. It gives a voice to multitudes.  Are we then to say that it’s okay that the plight of millions of South Africans is being ignored. Cries for help amount to little. But then we say that we must not talk about what is happening to us because it might incite hatred against our abuser? Is this what we are saying.

I don’t think this song has sparked racial tensions. Racial tensions are there. We need to be honest. This song has the potential to spark action. Mobilize hope in our land. I notice we are spending millions to beef up police services. Police are not going to keep us safe. Let’s not kid ourselves. The only thing that has any hope of keeping us safe is that South Africans everywhere decide to get serious about dismantling systems that perpetuate economic exploitation and exclusion

The lyricist acknowledges the contribution of Indians to the struggle. He and the group he is associated with work with many Indians to dismantle exploitation and human rights violations. But there is an honesty that is needed. The world over Hip Hop artists say what others are thinking. Rise above the political correctness of “let’s think happy thoughts and say only positive things.” They confront real issues.

If we edge towards the shutting down of the creatives, I fear for all of us. That will spark the kind of anger that leads to war. Let’s not do that. As Steve Hofmeyr merrily leads his adoring fans in Die Stem all over and in the face of those brutalized by Apartheid, with abandon,  let’s have the conversation. Let’s use this opportunity to say what needs to be said and confront what needs to be confronted.

But let’s not tell the abused and the exploited that they may not speak of what is happening to them.

This is an opportunity for us to become concerned. We never change what we are not concerned about. And we can never be concerned about what we do not know of. The AmaCDE song tells us many are still in pain. It lets us know. We advocate for CARE over CURE. We need to become a deeply caring society. Care will leave us with less necessity for cure.

The cure strategy in this is banning the song. It will get us nowhere. The care strategy is let’s be honest. South Africans are suffering. This is an opportunity to start doing something.  1994 was about peacekeeping. But that is durable for only so long. We need to make peace now. And peace can only really exist where there is justice. And in our land justice will only be accomplished through the displacing of systems that allow for continued exploitation and exclusion.

So let’s not ban the song and think happy thoughts. Let’s really ask why this song was written and then do something.

Sheena St Clair Jonker is Founder: ADR Network South Africa and The Access Justice Association of Southern Africa
email:  sheena@accesstojustice.co.za
www.justicenews.co

Lyrics.

AmaCde ft Mandy – Umhlaba Uzobuya Lyrics:

Verse 1: Sang by Keke

For sure lapho ukhona, uyaz’buza singenzani ngama Ndiya, abheke iAfrika
emehlweni, abhixa usawoti ngesihluku esilondeni, kwelami noma elakho ilunga
lomndeni, engalitholanga ngisho nethuba lokuya esikoleni, elisebenz’
ekhishini, elima ngonyawo kusukela ngo7 ekseni, belinike usamoosa melikhala
ngelizokubeka ebhodweni, mAfrika senzeni, weNdiya wawufunani ezweni, weSizwe
esimnyama masibabheke emehlweni, sibatshele to go back and cross the ocean,
if bayanqaba it is time for action, mAfrika asihambe in one direction.

Chorus: Sang by Mandy
Wesizwe esimnyama x2
Umhlaba uzobuya x2
Uyelele

Verse 2: Sang by Anele

Ever since esemncane ingalo igcwele iyiphandla, siququzela abaphansi
basibusise ngokhanya

Gogo vuka uyithathe nangu uMzukulu uyakhala, uthi uzama ukuphanta kodwa
uvinjwe uNaicker.

Lento ngeke asayimela, ingakho umbona ekutshela, ucela ukuthi umlalele
njengoGogo umzwele

Angaze adontse umbese eqhaqhazela udhebe, uthukuthele uyaveva, ucabanga
imali kuphela

Asuke ahliphize aphihlize akhihlize ngempela isililo, umbone ekhahlela
ekhahlaza ebhodloza nanoma yini

Gogo please ngiyakucela, uMzukulu wakho uyaphela, uqilazeke ngempela,

Ngelinye ilanga wamtshela, uNaicker ukuthi akabheke, uma eqhubeka
nokuchwensa, akabe elal’ejeqeza.

Umbone dansa edlala iblukwe lixega ebumpa, uthembe ngey’khali zeyi’Nkedama
eNanda

Ubuye amjulele uNaicker, ecabanga ukumdala, avinjwe uthando lweyingane,
kodwa afunge uzombamba

Umbone eqhakaza eshalaza ehamba nanesphalaphala, uNaicker ufisa  nokuphalaza
uma esembona ephila kahle,

Chorus

Verse 3: Sang by Vumani

Perhaps the time has come for us as blacks to stand, and make it known to
all we want to own our rands, we sinking in debt, our lives standing still
in this land, where’s the Messiah, lomuntu wasidayisa eCodesa, look at this
mess, kwakwenze njani sithemba leyandoda, ayi shube ngempela, ngishintshe
indlela ngivuse uMageba, vula neyindlebe, ngoba uzogcina ususala ngempela,
ngeke bam’qede, uZulu omnyama soze bam’mela, amandiya awahlehle, ngoba
lomnotho owakithi kavele, ayiqhume lempempe, sikhiphe amageja ngaphansi
kombhede, sihlakula kphela, bagcwale ngokuthi lelizwe solifela, impi
ngempela, ezakithi zidinwe ngempela, the struggle is on, sesikhathele
ukugibela u4 4, sifuna amaPorsche, sifuna amadladla, sifuna nokuhola, imali
ethe xaxa, ukuze siphile kangcono, makuphela inyanga ngimamatheke sengiyo
layisha umghodla.

Chorus

Verse 4: Sang by Mnqobi

Aphi lama leader, athath’izwe alidayisa, izizwe ziyashleka sixhashazwa
Amandiya, koze kube nini ngibuza nina abakhulu, ngiphila njenges’qila kwizwe
lobab’mkhulu, okub’hlungu, bamukelwa ngomusa baphenduka ekugcineni basenzela
ukusa, kunini suhuzuka, kunini besithuka, besincela igazi, abantu bakithi
bentula, akuphele konke lokho manje kleva kwanele, asivuke sime ngeyi’nyawo
kubacacele, uvukile uZulu omnyama sonke asihlome sihlasele, lelizwe elobaba
laba ngeke basitshele,

Chorus

Verse 5: Sang by uNyazi

Nina abangumntsintsi wokuzimilela la KwaZulu, nina enafunza zonke izizwe
ngokhezo olukhulu, nina omhlaba ungowenu, nina enagila amangisi igoda empini
eSandlwana, nina enafela izinkulungwane zezukulwane ezintabeni, nasemfuleni
wase Ncome, nina enafunga ngegazi ukuthi uZulu ngeke bam’nyomfe, nina
enaqala umbutho olwela ifa labaNtsundu, nina enakhala khakhulu uMkhomazi
wagcwala ngomoya, nina nathi anesabi lutho zonke izimpi ayihlome, nina
enahlakaza inhlamfu nenhlasi yamangisi ngomlomo, nina enaqonda nqo
kwakhophozela inganono, laqhaqhazela uqhaqhaveyana eliwuGhandi, ngoba wayazi
umZulu nendiya abazwani,

Nina enibenza bakholwe ngokubona ngamehlo, kaze iphi imbumbulu edume ngoku
kama ngehleza, kaze uphi uMashu owawenza uBotha aphathwe inkwantshu, kaze
uphi uMlazi owawuhlonishwa iSpecial Branch, kaze uphi uMkhumbane izwe lama
dela kufa, kaze iphi iLamonti ikasi elisebenza ngoMankasi, ulwandle luhlehla
mbinjane ebese libuya ngenkani, kaze aphi amahostela ngibuza imizi
yezintsizwa, Awuvuke uZulu uvuse nezizwe eysalele, ngoba kusenja singathini
umakuvuka iLembe

Chorus

We don’t have an english version of lyrics because that will no longer be
the song kanti nesintu sithi isiZulu asitolikwa

Racism and the Whiteness Default.

I was invited to debate Pretoria University political philosophy lecturer, Dr Louise Mabille, at the Café Riche in Pretoria on Friday. I initially agreed, always open to sharing views on the topic of whiteness and public participation in a current South Africa. Mabille, who lectures at the University of Pretoria, had suggested the topic: ‘Do white people have an obligation to withdraw from the public sphere?’

I have never argued that whites have an obligation to withdraw from the public sphere. Rather I have argued that as whites we need to find it in ourselves to listen to and hear other discourses, as well as to reflect on white privilege. I have also said that not every public utterance is central to whiteness and sometimes white folk should butt out. There is a tendency in the larger white population to make every public exclamation about them, and sometimes, reasonable critique is viewed as a racist attack on whites, which is apparently always outrageous. This is the narcissism of whiteness.

As white people we are raised to think that we are central to everything – especially in relation to other races. I call this the “Whiteness Default,”which I view as a phenomenon that works against other views and indeed attempts to thwart real transformation, often willfully.

Whiteness has, for the past 350 years or so, been the spoken and visible default setting of South African life – as a result of invasion, colonisation and the systemic oppression of aparthed. Over the past two decades of democracy, however, and with the dwindling public space for open right wing discourse, the entrenchment of liberalism as the dominant discourse has resulted in whiteness becoming the invisible, unspoken default.

White liberals may be more open to other races, but this does not mean that they do not enjoy the privileges bestowed upon white folk in a system of white supremacy. White supremacy, in this case, is simply a system that favours whiteness at the expense of other races – so while we associate this term with the Klu Klux clan and the Boeremag –which is right wing white supremacy –  even middle class, liberal and politically radical whites are part of the system of white domination. We cannot escape that point and we cannot escape the unearned privileges afforded to whiteness in the global sphere. We can, however, help dismantle this system of supremacy and navigate the world of diverse humanity with consciousness.

Most white liberals do not generally make overt racist public commentary, but they are loathe to discuss the issue of white privilege openly and are often unaware that unacknowledged privilege plays itself out as ‘invisible’ racism. This racism is not invisible to people of colour because it is only they who are the recipients of it. It is invisible to white people themselves, and this creates a major problem in public discourse. Often discussions that involve white people in the public, even when the participants are diverse, are framed within what white people see and what they think. Indeed, many white gatekeepers are quick to openly pooh pooh other views and dominate the discussions with a great deal of confidence in their views – which they view as correct whilst all else is seen as lacking in substance.

But what does this belief of “white as right” actually mean?

A deeply held conviction that is entrenched into whiteness from the moment we pass into the realm of language – is that to be human is to be white. This is where unconscious racism stems from – growing up in a world that has pushed a narrative of colonialism and white supremacy which excludes the humanity of people of colour. From the moment white children of my generation could comprehend their surroundings, we were exposed to a system in which whiteness was central to privilege and blackness was marginalised. We have to ask how this conditioning still plays out in the contemporary collective mind of whiteness. Even if we had parents who were more conscious, the system that we grew up in, that pushed blackness into the shadows, onto the outskirts, into prisons and poverty stricken homelands, played out in our unconscious as black people being less valuable than white people. It is pure neurolinguistic programming brought about by witnessing the same racial mantra over and over.

It takes years of deep self-reflection and understanding to fully overcome the message that was etched into our consciousness from the very beginning of our childhoods. I would go as far as to say that any white person who claims to be untouched by this supremacist programming is not being honest with themselves. I do, however, believe that it is possible for white people to deconstruct and reject this archaic binary thinking. In order to do so, though, we need to be brutally honest about our conditioning. Only when the monster has been fully acknowledged can it be transcended.

It is a painful thing to come to terms with our role in the subjugation of other races – so painful that many prefer to not look inward and grapple with their personal reality of growing up in a racist world. If this work is not done though – then the residue of racist programming is always there, lurking just beneath the surface and it will rear its ugly head when least expected.  How can it not? It is the dark shadow of shame about the oppression of fellow humans.  It is a psychological and emotional cancer. It must be thoroughly examined, dissected and then discarded as the barbarous madness that it is.

Unfortunately some do not see this conditioning as hate-based and irrational and this plays out in the public sphere in a pathological, repetitive, racist pattern. For these people whiteness is the default and that is final. They are not interested in how this impacts non-white people at all. When black people, for example, complain about the insults hurled at them via white satire or are openly insulted by media put downs, or called the K-word in Virgin Active gyms by fellow gym goers or patronised at places of work – they are often told by whites to stop being so sensitive or to take the context of politics or history or humour into account.

That capacity, to dismiss and belittle people of colour for being oversensitive, is itself one of the unacknowledged privileges that whiteness confers.

It is the broader arrogance of whiteness that has occupied the self-proclaimed omniscient position in the system – including the media, academia and other public spheres – that has to be named, exposed and then finally deconstructed and destroyed, because this is where the mass damage occurs to those who are subjected to this one-sided omniscience.

For example, when a white academic, who holds a PhD, publishes an article that displays the utmost backward racist thought as though it is customary – what does this say about the system except that it upholds these views? If this is acceptable to her superiors at university, what does this say about the university’s relationship to their students? How can they possibly teach black students in an accessible way when they openly despise and denigrate blackness in public discourse?

This is exactly what was revealed in Mabille’s recently published article on Die Praag – and were it not for a group of Afrikaans activists and individuals who took action and reported this racist diatribe to the university, it may well have been overlooked entirely by her superiors.  After four days of occupying the public realm the article was removed as a result of a complaint lodged by Dr Piet Croucamp, political analyst and lecturer at the University of Johannesburg (UJ ), who wrote a letter to the UP. In it he said her remarks were blatant racism and hate speech and called for her suspension.

In her article, ostensibly dismissing contemporary feminism, Mabille writes: “One of the strangest [most curious] phenomena of our times is the widespread notion of feminists to associate themselves with the non-West – Africa and the non-white world generally and then also the Muslim world [of all things!]. Gay activists also sometimes associate themselves with this.”

In relation to this comment she writes:

“Of course it is much easier to moan endlessly about ‘Calvinism’ than to ask the question of why raping babies is a cultural phenomenon among black population groups”

This is a direct assault on the humanity of the complete black population. How is this unscientific conjecture and abysmal racism acceptable in her academic circles?  This is hate-speech in its most blatant form.

She later bestows inherent criminality onto the entire African population when she writes (about feminism):

“What is especially appalling about contemporary feminism is the forced association with the Third World, socialism and even criminality.  If feminism is to have a future, supporters ought to rather position themselves to the right and address real problems.  The first step will be to acknowledge the Western civilisation that gave birth to feminism, as well as the white men that acknowledge and protect the value of women.”

And then of course, she does not miss out on the usual attack of Zuma – not as a president but as a catch-all that represents the worst aspects of blackness in her imagination.

“What leftist feminists conveniently avoid are the real threats to women. We find that, for example, proper feminist critiques of Jacob Zuma and his crude patriarchal practices shine in their absence. Personally I think that it will be a priority to make mincemeat of a polygamist that was accused of violent rape and in whose language a word for this crime did not exist prior to the arrival of whites.  Not to mention his charming habit of making children with every woman that crosses his path.”

If this ludicrous thinking is part of the white scholarly bastion we have to ask how white supremacy will be undone?

Mainstream post-race liberals who want to comfortably transcend the issue of racism and largely ignore white privilege cannot, in the end, facilitate this change.  Nor can lone voices that shout out into the dark or speak clandestinely to friends about issues of racism.

In the end it is up to those whites who are consciously anti-racist and at least aware of issues of white privilege to gather together and collectively tackle this issue with real intent.  It is up to us whites to fully acknowledge our historical privilege and the impact that the whiteness construct has on those who are recipients of its failings. It is up to us as white people who are anti-racist to work to challenge and change this minority group that still insists on dominating the public sphere.  It is up to us to apply the type of pressure that sees consequences for those who spout hate speech and racism in the public sphere.

It is us who must also be vigilant, vocal advocates for fair treatment, decency, openness and representation in public life. If South Africa is to transcend its long conflation of whiteness with humanity it must fall on white people to let go of white privilege in the end.

There are small dissident groups of alternative Afrikaners taking apart white supremacist thinking. There are many individuals who are consistently vigilante about calling out racism. This is all good. But there could be so many more white people working towards this cause – to ultimately change the dominant white narrative into something flexible, respectful and transformative.  Something that is tolerable to others – not arrogant, bullying, disrespectful and dehumanising,

In conclusion then I am obviously not going to validate Louise Mabille’s hate-speech by actually debating with her. Rather I will end by saying that she has presented a shining example of how whites should not participate in the public arena.  It is a good thing that Louise Mabille has handed in her resignation and that the University of Pretoria has accepted it.  We can only hope that is a wake-up call to those hate-speech peddlers who think it ok to pollute the public sphere with toxic racist discourse.

This article first appeared on the Mail & Guardian Online Site: