Tuesday, July 28, 2020

White people must step up?!

It seems that racism is still alive and well in South Africa, but not where you would expect. I refer to the racist diatribe in Sunday's City Press entitled "White people must step up". It may be well written, but it is lazy, sloppy journalism nonetheless. I have had several responses to this and similar rants by other opinionated people in the past year, so I decided to write them down.
Option 1: Say what!? 

I get an allergic reaction to people who perpetuate Apartheid by insisting on talking about "white" people or "black" people like they are somehow a homogeneous group. They are not. This was a poisonous lie introduced by unscrupulous politicians in 1947 when the term Apartheid was first coined. Long before I was born. So don't blame me for the actions of others.
The absurdity of the notion can be demonstrated in the context of the article by asking: "Which White people?" Is Mondli referring to working class "white" people who got jobs on the mines like electricians, miners, fitters and turners, and so on? The ones who never really thought about how their appointment to a particlar job excluded everyone else from getting that job. Why would they? They were grateful to get a job after studying or doing an apprenticeship.
Or is Mondli referring to the "white" Mine Manager or the Mining Engineer or other "white" management positions on the mine that were in charge of day to day operations of the mine? People like my dad who started as a Shift Boss and eventually became the manager of Albion Colliery, a small mine on the highveld. The one who put out the fire on the waste coal dump, and reduced its sulphur pollution so that everyone who lived there could breathe cleaner air. The one who replaced wire fences corroded by the sulphuric acid pollution with precast concrete fences instead, and had all the dirt roads tarred to reduce the dust. The one who planted grass to reduce the dust in and around the works area. The one who got angry when safety rules were ignored and who had to appear before inquiries when workers got injured or killed. My dad was in no position to challenge the Apartheid laws that enforced a colour bar, but was able to give Cyril Ramaphosa's union permission to recruit members on the mine.
Maybe Mondli means the women on the mine, like my mother, who got involved in charity work in the area, and who did their best to improve the quality of life of the miners who were a long way from home by knitting jerseys and mending clothes. And teaching local women how to sew and do other things to supplement their income and regain their dignity.
Or is Mondli referring to the "white" directors of the mining company, who were excluded from membership of the Broederbond because they were English, but were somehow responsible for the Apartheid system anyway, even though they did their best to improve living conditions on the mines?
Perhaps Mondli means the "white" scientists like my grandfather whose research and advice to the Chamber of Mines helped cure scurvy (a painful condition caused by lack of vitamins) by making sure that the mineworkers from rural areas ate the right kind of food? Rural men refused to eat vegetables because it was "women's food" and would only eat meat and drink soghum beer. So my grandfather had the compound cooks chop up vegetables and put them in the stew, so that the miners got the vitamins they needed in spite of their prejudice.
Oh, wait, Mondli must be referring to me, the son of "white" mine manager who went to university on a Chamber of Mines bursary and was thus super-privileged and entitled. The one who refused to co-operate with the Apartheid regime's military conscription and who instead faced down the possibility of going to jail for 6 years rather than shoot at fellow South Africans in the townships. The one who shared a flat in Durban with a friend who refused to carry a rifle during his military conscription, and whose head was blown off in 1994 by white extremist terrorists who sent a bomb inside a computer at his place of work.
Which of these people are nominated to represent "the whites" Mondli? What racist criteria should we use? After all, their skin colour is more important that the quality of their character, isn't it? Their race is more important than their contribution to society, even when they were excluded from the corridors of power by the same white Broederbond members who held the reins of political power. Obviously.

Option 2: WTF are you anyway? 

Who are you to engage in raice baiting by calling out these so-called "white people" for what they did or didn't do? What sense of entitlement gives you the right to judge others in this way, making racist generalizations about what "whites" did or didn't do, or said or didn't say?
Your narrative creates a scenario that cannot possibly be met. All "white people" are damned if they do, and damned if they don't, because none of them can go back in time and do things differently to meet your unrealistic and ridiculous expectations. You expect "white people" to apologise and fix what they supposedly broke through four centuries of colonialism and 46 years of Apartheid policies. You forget that the "liberation struggle" demanded to be able to fix the problems through their own leaders, not through the racist rulers in charge at the time. You can't have it both ways.
Clearly you aren't very good at maths. It is now 26 years since the end of Apartheid. So the people who were in charge of the government in 1948 are all dead or in frail care. FW de Klerk is 84. PW Botha died 14 years ago. Pik Botha and Magnus Malan are also dead. So is Jan van Riebeeck, Cecil John Rhodes, Lord Kitchener, Paul Kruger, Jan Smuts, Henrik Verwoerd, BJ Vorster and a number of other racist villains. So it's going to be a bit tricky to get them to apologise or atone for their sins.
Most of the people in charge of big business from 1948 to 1994 are similarly unavailable to be held to account. Many of them appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which you so casually dismiss. You claim that "white people" didn't follow what was going on. Well, I have news for you: they haven't followed the Zondo Commission or the Arms Deal Inquiry either. Most "white people" learned pretty early on that politics is a nasty game played by nasty dishonest crooks and lazy journalists, and they figured that there wasn't much to gain from all of the political theatrics done in their name.
You also conveniently sideline or minimise all the efforts of all the people who took a stand against Apartheid. From the well known heroes like Helen Joseph, Trevor Huddleston, Alan Paton and Helen Suzman, to the lesser known people from the Black Sash, churches and labour unions. Did they not step up? Obviously not.

Option 3: How many apologies are acceptable?

What feeds this rapacious appetite for a "white apology"? What sense of racist entitlement blinds people to the historically obvious: "white people" apologised for Apartheid before 1994, and celebrated its end alongside Mandela and other leaders during and after 1994.
Maybe you forgot about the 1983 Tricameral Parliament. "White people" were told by the cynical National Party leaders that this would be an extension of democracy to more people. Most accepted it at face value, and saw no reason why "coloureds" and "Indians" should not have a say in the laws that govern their lives. Two thirds of the "white voters" accepted the proposal. Some "white people" opposed it because it wasn't enough, and I recall joining comrades in the Natal Indian Congress in their call for a boycott of the elections. We celebrated together when the pathetic results came in.
Then there was the unbanning of the ANC and other liberation groups. If that wasn't an apology by the Apartheid regime, what was it? It was an admission that Apartheid was morally wrong and unworkable, and the start of a process of ending it without too much bloodshed or civil war. So not only did the "whites" admit that Apartheid was wrong, they took steps to end it in a peaceful manner.
The 1992 Referendum was the chance for "white people" to support the negotiation process and end Apartheid. Again, two thirds supported this process. Given the relentless propaganda by the SABC for the previous 4 decades, it was remarkable that only a third of "white" voters opposed it out of fear of the "communist threat". Why, Mondli, did you miss this clear and unambigious turning away from Apartheid and embracing the idea of a democratic society? Are you so blinkered by your racism that you can't see it for what it was? Didn't your colleagues at the Weekly Mail explain it to you?
During the CODESA negotiations, how many people did you interview who longed for the "good old days" of Apartheid, and weren't ready to move forward to a truly democratic South Africa with a modern Constitution and a Bill of Rights to protect the weak and the marginalised? I don't recall reading any articles about them either. Only the idiots from the AWB who were trying desperately to derail the inevitable, mainly because they were no longer relevant, and who were mocked by most "white people" for their pathetic propaganda.
Did you miss the euphoria in 1994 when "white people" finally got to stand in the same queue with "black people" and vote on the same ballot paper for the first time? What was unapologetic about that? Sure, they were worried about the future, but it was less bleak than the prospect of more Apartheid repression, strikes, boycotts and rioting. Many "white people" felt a profound sense of relief that they were no longer responsible for the running of the country, and could leave it up to the "democrats" and "liberators" who claimed to know what to do. These same people were shocked and aghast when the Arms Deal corruption was exposed, and when Thabo Mbeki lost his mind over how to deal with HIV.
An apology by itself means little. An apology followed by a change of heart and direction means a lot more. FW de Klerk didn't win the Nobel Peace Prize because he acknowledged that Apartheid was wrong and apologised. No, he won that prize because his susequent actions led to a peaceful transition from Apartheid repression to democratic rule for all. But that's not enough. The demand for apology will never end, because racists like Mondli cannot see the apology in front of their faces. Nor does he acknowledge the tectonic shift in thinking that it took to make those changes.
What must I make of his declaration: "What irks is that there is zero acknowledgment of the hurt and devastation that came with apartheid and colonialism"? Clearly Mondli wasn't listening. That acknowledgement was made 30 years ago when the "liberation movements" were unbanned and Mandela was released from jail. It was more than simple lip service: it was concrete action that resulted in democratic elections in 1994.
Why would "white people" on social media get wound up with the racist #BlackLivesMatter hashtag? What's wrong with #LivesMatter? We have a Marikana massacre every day and twice on Sundays on our roads, but nobody in the ANC government cares. We can have a Marikana massacre followed by a Marikana Commission but no one goes to jail. We can have a Life Esidimeni disaster and a Life Esidimeni Commission, but no one goes to jail. We have a Zondo Commission and mountains of evidence, but no court cases except for a few low grade officials in the Vrede dairy debacle. No one is in jail.
We have a week of activism around violence against women every year for the last quarter century, but still gender based violence is still a problem. #LivesMatter, except when they don't. Faint acknowledgement, but zero change. In spite of the ANC having a Women's League of some note, the ANC is mysoginistic and corrupt.

Option 4: Pointing the finger

When you point your finger at someone, three fingers point back at you. So what is it that Mondli really wants "white people" to "step up" to? If it's a simple matter of joining in the millions of words and hours of outrage on social media, then it's a pitiful demand. "White people complain about everything" according to the twittering classes. If it's not the arms deal or state capture, its about the cost of living, taxes or stupid politicians.
When the USA erupts every 4 years with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, or the #OccupyWallStreet hashtag, most South Africans watch from afar with bemusement. After all, we have a democratically elected "black" government who is in charge or everything, including the economy. BEE has seen to that, or so we are told. Those racists who prattle on about #WhiteMonopolyCapital are just being ridiculous, especially since the term was coined by an overpaid UK propaganda consultant, paid for by corrupt imigrant capitalists.
A lot of the ideas and ideologies floating around the heads of people at they Southern tip of Africa came from foreigners: capitalism, socialism, marxism, communism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, human rights, industrial technology, the internet, and so on. So I smile when those "fallists" who want to "decolonize knowledge" at our universities, insist on keeping the racist ideas of Marx and Lenin, but want to throw out free speech and technology. Except they want to keep their smart phones. But I digress
"White people" are accused of not doing enough to rememdy the injustices of the past. Yet is this true, and how much is enough? Churches and other religious groups have been alleviating the plight of the poor and disadvantaged ever since missionaries arrived on our shores. They built schools, universities and hospitals long before the state did. They fought to keep their schools desegregated during Apartheid. They made soup kitchens, and set up refugee centres, libraries, published newspapers and books in local languages, and provided meeting venues for communities and political activists. Privileged, entitled commentators ignore all of this, because it isn't sexy or political. The socialists in their midst denounce the work of churches and missionaries, yet provide no alternatives of their own. Their excuse is that the state should do it, because they are too incompetent to do it themselves.
They also ignore the role that civil society has played over the decades, both before and after 1994. Anti-Apartheid groups like the Black Sash, the End Conscription Campaign, the South African Students Press Union, NUSAS and others are dismissed as racist minorities. How convenient. Mondli in particular loves to deride and dismiss the efforts of groups like AfriForum for the same reason, yet it is people like them who fill in potholes, repair street signs, and repaint road markings in neglected and dysfunctional rural towns, for the benefit of all. City Press has provided coverage of some of the work done by "white" farmers to provide agricultural training and support to aspirant "black" farmers. AfriForum has taken on court cases on behalf of some of these farmers to get the title deeds for their farms when dysfunctional government departments drag their heels in search of a bigger bribe. Yet in spite of the spotty coverage of this in City Press, its esteemed editor ignores them because it doesn't fit his racist narrative.
There are other things that City Press ignores. Farm murders being the most obvious. But what about the stories of all the "white people" who were forced to leave the country because of affirmative action and BEE? I'm not talking about immigrants who returned to their country of origin because life became less cushy here. I'm talking about people like my friend Jonathan who grew up here, whose father taught in the Education Department at Natal University, and who qualified as a male nurse and a Mechanical Engineer. He worked for hotels and hospitals as the on-site Engineer until he became "over-qualified" (i.e. too white) to be able to work anywhere in the country. Instead of being able to transfer his knowledge and skills to others, he was forced to move to New Zealand. Now he is building power plants that run on biogas, a skill that is sorely needed in this continent.
Why is it that the ANC government has enacted more racist legislation than it has abolished? Why is it that a quarter of a century after the end of Apartheid, that education and training institutions have to report the racial breakdown of their students and staff or lose their accreditation? What kind of sick ideological twist is that? The students they teach were never classified under the odious Population Registration Act, but are required to state their race, gender and nationality in order to register as a student. Their ID number no longer contains their race classification, but they have to state it anyway.
A few years ago I got fed up with all the "Social Justice Warriors" on Twitter ranting on about "white privilege", "white monopoly capital", colonialism and racism. So I started to ask them (especially the ones who tweet from their expensive iPhones) what they were doing with their own money to alleviate poverty and suffering. Were they putting their money where their mouths were? In general the answer was a deafening silence or being told to "mind your own business". In other words, nothing.
It confirmed what most beggars at the traffic lights will tell you: very few "black people", especially the ones in flashy expensive cars, give them money. Most of the time they just skip those cars and move on to the "white" occupants, even if the cars are obviously old and second hand.
Waitrons at restaurants will tell you the same thing: flashy "buppies" and "black" celebrities refuse to provide a tip, often with indignation. The more mean spirited ones will add in racist jibes like "I will pay you a tip when you return the land" to make sure that the working class waitrons "know their place" in the new pecking order. They are surprised and then outraged when the "racists" on social media got together to give a big tip to one particular waitress who had to endure such outrageous and insensitive behaviour.
Yet that doesn't fit Mondli's narrative: "What irks is that there is zero acknowledgment of the hurt and devastation that came with apartheid and colonialism". So my challenge to Mondli is simple: get off your backside and publish the stories of the "white people" who have "stepped up" to provide help and comfort to people in need. The feeding schemes who were forced to stop providing cooked meals by ridiculous lockdown regulations. Or the food parcels that had to be "inspected" by ANC officials at centralised locations. The "white" teachers who teach school children irrespecive of race. The "white people" who run NGOs that alleviate poverty, hunger and disease. The "white" farmers who support and assist their "black" collegues during drought and disaster.
Look around you for NGOs like "Partners for Possibility" that link up struggling schools with business leaders and others of goodwill. Or the "Small Enterprise Foundation" that helps rural women set up their own businesses. The farmers and business people in rural towns who have repaired dysfunctional water and sewerage systems because the theft and corruption of municipalities left people without water or services.
Those are the people who, without saying anything, get on with the job or building the nation and addressing the wrongs of the past. Stop being so wilfully blind of what is going on around you. Just because they don't issue press statements or hold press conferences with lavish lunches for you to attend, doesn't mean they don't do the work that needs to be done. And apologise to AfriForum for your racist nonsense. You'll find they are nice people who are busy building the nation, one town at a time.