By Mlungisi Ngubane
“We have a problem with White Racism and it rests squarely on the laps of White society” – Steve Biko
Black people are running amok like headless chickens. The day black people started running as fugitives dates back to the time of Moses the black, the time he led the exodus. It is presented during the days of slavery. These historic facts lay bare before us and there is no denying it.
Less people would disagree that we are still slaves, even after the so called democracy. Hence we still running away with invincible chains, to an extent that we feel no weight at all, but the illusion of freedom makes us feel like runaway slaves. The words of Harriet Tubman come to life as she uttered, “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves”. These slaves are what Andile Mngxitama calls “free slaves”. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that ‘these slaves are black, or are black because they are slaves’.
It has never puzzled us why blacks are forever running away – be it from home, from a job or from our children. It is a norm! We have internalized it. We have accepted it as our fate and don’t bother about the deemed futile exercise of it.
The recent approach of the white world towards the South African black woman athlete, Caster Semenya, at the RIO Olympics urges us to think about we are running away from – the naked truth and reality that we face as black people being WHITE RACISM.
The analysis of the South African Communist Party (SACP) (of Joe Slovo) remains exposed as flawed and inadequate. It is not only misleading by pure deceit because of its one dimensionality, but more dangerously so, because white lies are perceived as always being correct. The SACP believes that our problem is class not race. Fanon counters this argument as he stretches the Marxist analysis to indicate that “you are white because you are rich and you are rich because you are white”. The reality of the social relations in South Africa requires recognition of racial categories as a determinant of a person’s place in an anti-black society. The integration of gender, age and geographical location must be emphasized as well.
White women at the 2016 Olympics complained that Caster Semenya runs faster than them (whites). To this end a Polish runner that finished fifth could not bring herself to the fact that a black women, who is supposed to be her kitchen girl, runs faster than a white. This just brought Saartjie Baartman back to our minds – white racist experts from different fields examined and exhibited her body in Europe during the 19th century. Baartman’s death did not spare her of further degradation as she was dissected and her genitals exposed for the benefit of the white gaze.
In 2009 Caster faced the same indignity of being an object of white curiosity by having to undergo scientific tests to prove that her athletic performance is not improved as a result of hormones. She was humiliated, ripped of her dignity and her private life was no longer private. Later we saw her performance slightly diminishing. I was extremely livid and couldn’t contain myself. I cursed whiteness as reality dawned on me – the reality I was running away from. I am black and I am a mere powerless slave. I am someone who would suffer the same harsh reality yet fail to respond.
The Semenya case is the black reality against WHITE RACISM. Ipso facto we, as Malcolm X pronounced, despise our skin pigment. We feel it is a prison that holds us back. White arrogance feeds on the existence of black people. The gold medal won by Wayde van Niekerk is out shined by that of Chad Le Close (who is white). The newspapers hail Chad as a hero for making history, by being the most successful South African Olympian. Again whiteness rises above everything. The most traumatic thought is that Wayde Van Niekerk had to accelerate his performance and sweat his body trying to return our stolen gold or just a piece of it.
In 2009 Caster Semenya was forced to take the gender test. The recent report of the RIO Olympics made reference to Serena Williams body physique as being “man-like”. It tells you that the issue is about race including patriarchy, not class. Caster was only 18 when she took these tests. Her family was disturbed by this action. The most embarrassing incident was when the ANC welcomed her and named her “our girl”. These remarks are to say “never mind about whiteness, let us party and endure”. White power as usual threatened to strip her of her gold medal.
The spineless professional body of South African athletics advised her to do surgery (here the house nigger took charge, and worked as the speaker of whiteness). Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso in 1984 denounced the Olympic games in solidarity with black people in South Africa who were facing racism. To this end he said that “we cannot participate in these games side by side with those who support South Africa’s racist polices and those who reject the warnings and condemnation that Africans make aimed at weakening racist South Africa.”
The bold statement above exposes the ANC as a party that has power to withdraw from the Olympics but goes on at the expense of its own people. Caster is used as a point of resistance, ‘a sheepish resistance’. Now the white Chad Le Close is the opiate of racism. He is the ‘hero’ that lets us drink and run away from our anti black reality reinforced by the notion of the rainbow nation (which is kept intact by the Freedom Charter).
Black people as fugitives are always running away. We run away from debts by ignoring phone calls from creditors – from, for instance, furniture stores and repo services like the Sheriffs. We send our kids to white schools to escape from today’s bantu education. Racism picks our children from these white schools, as we recently saw with the upheaval of the angry Pretoria High School black girls. Black students, who asserted themselves were reminded what it means to be a black person in an anti black world.
Black people are fugitives. Some run away back to slavery. A large number of black people believe that attaining some university degree is freedom on its own. We are running away from ghettos (which we don’t belong to) to white neighborhoods where we can be shot by whites on the justification that they “saw a monkey if not a bandit”.
Black woman are subjected to the patriarchal tendencies of black men which in turn is rooted in white racism. In this context black men, instead of directly dealing with white supremacy (that makes them feel that they are not real men), run away by violating and abusing black women. This patriarchal attitude is what Fanon has indicated as the sickness that is left behind by colonialism. The only remedy for this sickness, he said, lies in the act of removing it completely via clinical psychology.
Black people must, instead of running away, confront the white system collectively and destroy it completely so as to reach the kilombo in the fully responsive black world so that they can just be. This white world indeed suffocates us. Hence naturally, as Fanon declares, “(w)e revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe”