Monday, March 12, 2007
Robert Sobukwe used to say that the term "non-white" was an imposed descriptor that purposefully restricted us into a non-existence alongside whites. "Non is a negative and being non-white means you do not exist" he would assert frequently.
Over the years I have thought closely about Sobukwe's dictum. I have thought about the layers of complexity that attach to the history, politics, and philosophy, of his words. And, I have thought about his Africanist struggle against non-existence.
In truth, his words have left such a large imprint on my being that my entire politics can be defined by its provocation.
In a collective sense, this kind of mental emancipation is exactly what threatened the apartheid state the most. It was the power of political will that Sobukwe conveyed. A power that de-centered whiteness and lay bare its incontrovertible contradictions.
The apartheid regime responded fiercely to make Sobukwe invisible. They sought to keep him from the those who claimed him. But it was a futile grasping. Sobukwe lived large inside of Africanist struggle.
And, he was a thorn in the side of whiteness.
During his so-called ‘treason trial', Sobukwe refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Instead, he contested the very existence and legitimacy of the apartheid court.
In this way, Sobukwe subjected apartheid, and whiteness, to an existential crisis. And it was a severe crisis. Short of executing him, the apartheid state responded in the only way they knew how. Sobukwe was declared ‘non-existent' and a banished captive of the state.
But again, it was Sobukwe who lived above the apartheid state. The existential crisis was not his, but his jailers and their system.
Now, 12 years after the negotiated election that brought a selected Black bourgeois to power, the last apartheid president believes that "whites coloureds and Indians", or what he calls "non-blacks", are second class citizens.
Second class citizens because of Affirmative Action (AA) and Black Employment Equity (BEE). These programs unfairly advance undeserving and inept Blacks into positions that should be reserved, like in his presidency, for whites, we should presume. Though be sure he is not going to say it like that ... oh no broer, what he wants to say is instead communicated in code words/phrases/terms.
One of the major code words for inept Blackness is "crime". It is, afterall, crime that makes South Africa unsafe for white life. It is also crime that is driving whites to leave, in addition to AA and BEE of course.
So De Klerk thinks that if AA and BEE were scrapped then crime would subside. We are told that crime is out of control because skilled folks are going to live overseas. "Skilled folks" is code for, well you know, white folks. The implication being that whites are not part of the crime problem. But rather, as any good racist knows, it is Blacks who commit all the crime.
Now don't forget that apartheid was defined as a crime against humanity by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). That is, of course, a different story in the white imagination. Different because you cannot find any white person who supported apartheid. They have disappeared. The whites you will encounter spent the apartheid years just torn about the conditions of Black life. This they did while feeding their faces at the trough of privilege.
Also, dont forget that the TRC finding must be dealt with differently because we are free now. 12 years on and all that structural advantage that whites developed over 5 decades is not really an issue of unfair advantage. Their leafy suburbs, the full trough they still feed on, well all that is just a matter of skills and hard work. None of that was achieved through racism and state directed murder, pillage, rape, ...
What every Black person must do now is to put the past behind us, because it really is not good for business. Investors will be scared away if we keep wanking about racism and justice.
What you must know about De Klerk is that he profits from selling this kind of racist nonsense in the international market. He frequently sells speeches to a global market predisposed to accept and even confirm his racist manipulations without asking peering questions.
His use of the term "non-black" is curious. Curious in the sense of how he has conveniently manipulated the old era anxieties to fit his new era interests.
In his usage, "non-black" is an inclusive racial ‘catch-all' that is really all about bolstering the numbers of whites who want to portray South Africa's politics as beset by Black power mongers.
But the category of "non-blacks" simply does not exist in South Africa. Not in the terms that suggest a consensual political agenda and overall group identity.
De Klerk is merely, and arrogantly so, reviving an old apartheid management strategy that deploys coloureds and Indians as decoys. In this latest of deployments, coloureds and Indians are included in his dubious category only because they bolster the number of whites. In effect, "non-black" is just a code term for self-obsessed white interests.
The coloureds and Indians who are foolish enough to buy into this deployment are nothing more than agents of white interests. Agents that are contained and cauterized as "non-whites" in the white imagination. Still.
And Sobukwe's dictum stands.