Sunday, February 06, 2011

The "Who is an African?" Debate

In recent months there has been a swell of columns in newspapers, letters to editors, and other mouthing that seek to clarify who is an African in South Africa.

Of course, you can't define an African unless there is an attached explanation of who is and who is not black.

And, inside of any such definitioning there is the perennial need to kick the ass of white folk just for the hell of it.

Folks reading from outside of the 'rainbow nation' may be surprised that 16 years after the end of apartheid we still spend copious amount of ink (bytes) and spittle on race definitioning.

But yeah there is obviously a need to chart racial exclusivity and territory.

This round of questioning cannot be untangled from the xenophobia that grips South Africa and, therefore, it must be noted that some Africans are also 'superior' to other Africans.

That said, the Africans doing the definitioning prescribe that only black Africans who were containerized by apartheid are African in South Africa (Malawians, Zimbabweans, and definitely Nigerians, therefore, do not belong here).

Coloureds, Indians (Malays are Indians because they look Indian) and some Chinese (approximately 12 or 14 individuals) may be allowed to be nominally black when Affirmative Action (AA) targets apply.

But in the main, being black and African in South Africa means you were here first and that makes you a 'true/real' African.

The rest just live here (no matter how long too) and remain forever not African and even un-African (especially white people).

Being first does not mean that the so deluded 'true/real' Africans are Indigenous Khoi or Bushman (San) or Khoikhoi or even Basarwa.

First to them is described and essentialized by racialization handed down from the colonial/apartheid eras.

Indigenous people are erased.

The intruder 'races' like Indians are always Indian and can leave at anytime to join their relatives in Delhi (Malays can join them there too).

Whites can move back to Europe or Australia.

Coloureds really want to be white so they can't be African even though they have nowhere to go.

No amount of pointing out the inconsistencies will dissuade the definitioning brigade and move them to think more critically (well maybe if Martians were declared black for AA purposes ... dunno).

I am infuriated by this so-called debate but don't give a f*ck whether I am considered black or African or not by these identity-seekers.

In the world of AA, BEE, and the other climb-up/step-over acronyms that speak to class redeployment this sh*t is more about p*ssing on (marking) capital interests than moving toward race equity.

And it is definitely not about justice and struggle.

The same fools who spend a lot of energy reconstructing apartheid essentialism do so with German cars parked in their Italian styled houses and speak with fake American accents/affectations while flicking the Indian hair glued to their heads.

Though some of these deluded wannabees can quote Biko most will not know that Black Consciousness has a dialectical (Hegelian) non-racial end (beyond the racism of colonialism and apartheid).

They are also unable to recognize the racialized disfigurement of their false consciousness (to extend a Marxist concept).

There is absolutely no reality in the racially derived notion of belonging and being first. The story of who belongs in South Africa and who is an African is more complex than that.

Still, I am willing to accept that I am not black and not African in the terms of the wannabee class (most who were born yesterday and the rest the day before).

I'm also OK with saying f*ck off to the race-derived delusion of belonging anywhere in the global era of collapsing nation-states (nationalism).



alleman said...

I'm also OK with the collapse of nationalism, but what I see replacing that, is globalization, anglification and it seems to me that at the top of that power structure sits the Anglo-American elites who have won the contest of nationalisms.
For them it is easy to look like wise internationalists.

Ridwan said...

You raise an important point and I agree with your assessment of globalization (for now at least).

It is bound to change is my thinking especially if the US and Britain are unable to find a way out of their diminishing dominance.

I think what we see happening in the so-called middle east signifies the crisis faced by their domination.

The slow rise of China cannot be discounted in the reshaping of global dominance (add to that Japan/South Korea/India/Brazil).

Things are changing (if slowly).

We cannot assume though that things are getting better (or will be any less oppressive under new systems of domination).


Dade said...

Excellent post. It points up the similarities you are having in South Africa to those that we're having here in the USA. We're divided into "Americans" and "illegals."

Nationalism is truly an evil philosophy. It doesn't nurture the natural love that people have for the place where they live. Rather it engenders suspicion and antipathy toward people who do not salute the same flag.

Thanks, Ridwan! Hope things are going well...

Ridwan said...

Hi Dade!

Thanks for your supportive comment brother I appreciate it very much.

There is a lot of similarities between South Africa and the US - you are absolutely right that it disfigures our humanity.

We belong everywhere in my thinking and, therefore, we are responsible for taking care of everyone and everything on this beautiful planet and beyond (idealistic I know).

I am well brother and trust the same is true for you too.

Peace Dade.



desert demons said...

nicely written - i like it !

Ridwan said...

Thank you kindly desert demons.

Peace to you,