Below is a letter to the editor of the Sunday Times that proclaims indigenous Africans to be the only 'true Blacks'.
This is the letter in its entirety:
Only Africans are truly black
Published:Mar 01, 2008 (Sunday Times)
In South Africa race dominates our lives. It’s like an incurable disease.
The new definition of “blacks” boggles the mind. Blacks are black Africans finish en klaar!
Indians are Indians and they regard themselves as such except for the purposes of affirmative action and BEE. Come on, they never call themselves blacks!
It’s also true that they use racial slurs when they refer to us blacks.
I was disturbed when I discovered in my research into the origins of the k-word that Mahatma Gandhi used it freely when referring to us blacks.
As for coloureds, they also don’t call themselves black, and insult blacks with the k-word. — The Barefoot Doctor, Eastern Cape
This is news to me but hardly inconsistent with the kind of knee-jerk rationalizations about race and racism that is common here in the land of the non-racial front.
The 'who is Black' assertion is about capital aspirations and it betrays any nuanced understanding about the politics that is Blackness.
Underneath the assertion that only indigenous Africans can be Black is a simplistic acceptance that race is an organic, or rather biological, construct.
It is not.
Race has no creedence in biology. Race is a socio-historical and political construct.
Steve Biko understood this complexity. He recognized that Blackness could only be as real as the politics that underwrote its resistance to racism.
Blackness was in Biko's thinking an intellectual weapon to retrieve a common humanity. He sought not to entrench racial terms but to move beyond the containment of race.
Black Consciousness (BC) was thus a dialectical liberation strategy. The strategy sought unity between indigenous African, coloureds, and folks of Indian and Malay ancestry.
There is nothing new about this definition, unlike the claim made in the letter above.
What is most important to understand about BC ideology is that it seeks to set aside race and thus the apartheid terms and realities of being Black, Indian, coloured, Malay, and even white.
BC is thus is expansive in its liberatory reach. It rejects the notion that only indigenous Africans are Black. It also rejects the idea that the revolution against racism must be focused on white people.
BC is most concerned with looking inward and repairing the damage that racism has wreaked on Black people. "The mind of the oppressed" is the theater of operation.
In this context, knee-jerk racism and nonsensical notions of non-racialism in a racialized state is purposefully avoided.
Blackness is a politics and not merely a skin color. It is a politics that calls on the victims of apartheid to free themselves from the construct of race and its inevitable racism.
Blackness is not a redefinition of race whereby opportunistic indigenous Africans are empowered to reverse the historical course of racism in South Africa.
***This post also appears at The Indigenist Intelligence Review.