Photo by: Sydelle Willow Smith www.sydellewillowsmith.com
Greetings to the Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price, chairperson of UCTABA Western Cape Advocate Rod Solomons, Dr Iqbal Survé, Dr Shose Kessi and the audience at large. As I was thinking about what to say tonight, I came to a realisation that I need to focus on part of the cause of the black man’s plight and not the symptoms. And I want to have a frank discussion.
We find ourselves at a time at UCT where students are no longer complaining and sitting down on their buttocks talking of transformation. Students have risen up and taken the hefty burden of bringing about radical and progressive change to the institution. Martin Luther King Jr said that “the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
The students have decided to speak out. What about yourselves? Are you going to commence with your life’s quest to maximise utility as a consumer and economic profit as a producer? Are you willing to sacrifice your privilege and join the clarion call evoked by students, and stand with us in saying ‘no more, we cannot breathe in this space’?
Whites continue to use their positions of privilege to create a socio-political quagmire such that the blacks fight among themselves. The new generation has been bamboozled into believing that the government, led by African National Congress, is the problem. Undeniably, the ANC is liable for some of the challenges facing the black masses. But the black folk’s problem is still chiefly the potency of whiteness. In the new democratic dispensation, we have only been concerned with the ‘rainbow nation’ rhetoric and singing kumbaya while our economy still reflects the same socio-economic disparities of the apartheid era.
Democracy has granted a few blacks seats at the master’s table; the rest are still fighting over breadcrumbs falling off the table. And it is these few and mostly politically connected ‘privileged’ blacks who assist their white masters in maintaining the status quo.
Whites have not even begun to see blacks as equals and as being capable of thinking for themselves. They continually want to have a say in how we break the shackles of oppression administered and maintained by them. They cry foul as soon as blacks start organising and speaking for themselves. Deep down they understand that they stand to lose their privileges.
The white liberal has continued to play a rather peculiar role in the oppression of the black masses, his racist and conservative ways continue to be shielded in his subtle and ‘angelic’ approach. It is the white liberal who is at the forefront of spreading the gospel of integration and a peaceful society. White liberals point towards white conservatives as the problem, and they have convinced themselves that they have arrived at enlightenment pertaining to the sins committed by their forefathers. Yet subconsciously they share the same set of values and desire to protect their privileges.
The ideology and culture of formerly ‘whites only’ spaces has still not changed. What has taken place is that blacks can now access those spaces of learning and living in order to immerse themselves in a western culture. Thus, for the blacks to enjoy the benefits of accessing those places they have to integrate into whiteness. Our integration is nothing but black people assimilating to what is still regarded as righteous, ordained, intelligent, beautiful and angelic whiteness. It is a matter of fact that integration has benefited whites as opposed to blacks. Those blacks that now sit at the same table with whites, have had to rid themselves of their languages, cultures and overall sense of self and so have lost more than they will ever gain.
The so-called integration in South Africa has given blacks a false sense of hope and belonging that leads them to misdiagnose the cause of their plight. It cannot be the case that, in this day and age, blacks are still seen as merely appendages to a white society. How is it that we have become content with a university like UCT that has six permanent, full-time African professors and only five permanent, full-time coloured professors? Associate Professor Xolela Mangcu wrote that the number of black South African academic staff at UCT in 2013 was 48 out of a total of 1405, this is only 3%. How can we remain content with such statistics?
Our present day society, deeply rooted in capitalist values and ideals, is characterised by gross poverty, deaths from preventable diseases, corruption and starvation. We have machinery that gives abundance and a rich earth that provides abundantly, but many are still in need. More than intelligence we need compassion, love and humanity. Our path leads only to despondency and destitution; is dystopia the end we seek? May the hour come upon us where we suspend our egoistic attitudes and dedicate ourselves to eradicating poverty and inequality. We have got to realign our ends to a commitment to a better life for all.
Freedom is not having the opportunity to be white or to live like whites. It is the right to self-determination and a dignified life.It must be known that what is taking place is only the beginning. Blacks must fathom the fact that whites have still remained in positions of power. We therefore need to consolidate our power and break the resistance of the white community in trying to preserve the status quo.
Blacks need to rally behind dismantling white supremacy to its very core. It is always us blacks wanting to reconcile, to forgive and forget while white folks stand on the side lines, enjoying their privilege. No matter how much flowery language you may employ to conceal the truth, the reality is that it is the whites who have reaped the benefits of our negotiated democracy, blacks have gotten a raw deal. We are murdered in plain daylight for demanding a decent living wage from white capitalists and nothing is done about it.
It is saddening to see institutions of higher learning – the likes of the University of Cape Town – being the hub of massive creation of non- whites (blacks who worship at the altar of whiteness). UCT’s environment propagates uncle toms (ie black liberals) who will take every opportunity to ridicule blacks who speak of the problem of racism; they claim that class is the issue.
The majority of our people are not fooled by this facade of lies – our struggles is not simply class antagonisms. Liberal institutions are the factories that offer blacks who aspire to be white, despite their pigmentation, an opportunity to do so. Blacks are being dangled a carrot like a donkey – with the perception of change in sight, yet never reaching the end result. Black folks must rid themselves of the ulcer called assimilation; we need to eliminate the need to assimilate in any way, shape or form to whiteness because we are perpetuating our own oppression and the destruction of our humanity.
Unity amongst blacks is a necessary first step and the goal is self-determination towards the creation of an independent African society.