Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Klein Baas Did Not Mean to Shoot Us"

I just read a comment by Nolwazi and I can't stop laughing.  Let me explain why and weave this post into context.

Black folks have over the centuries of racism created escape mechanisms to deal with the pain and degradation of being oppressed.

Humor is a key mechanism.  Music is another.  And there are others (literature).

When I was a child my dad used to listen to Gospel Soul.  Mahalia Jackson was one of his favorite artists (damn now some Muslim bigot gonna say I grew up in a Christian home).


Well if you consider that my dad's listening habits must have influenced me to the extent that one of my favorite Commodores songs is simply entitled: "Jesus is love."

But I digress.

I remember being about 15 and watching my dad watching a gospel singer on television doing a rendition of "Old Man River" and his eyes were moist as he said:"You must have lived oppression to sing like that.  That feeling cannot be manufactured.  It must come from deep inside where resistance to oppression is born."

It is for this reason that I cannot fully embrace white artists who are described as soul or neo-soul singers.  It is not the same listening to Michael Bolton or Simply Red doing old Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes songs, for example.

But this post is about the art of using humor to contextualize oppression and its politics.

A month or more ago Nolwazi called to talk about this and that and it ended up being a conversation of about four hours.

Somewhere in the conversation we got to talking about sellout black folks who will bend backwards to make excuses for white folks even where they have experienced racist brutality at one time or the other.

It is at this point that Nolwazi said that even where white farmers have shot and killed black folks some would offer the excuse that "Klein baas did not mean to shoot us". (klein bass equals little massa and his father is groot baas, or big/daddy massa)

"No no klein baas just made a mistake.  We know klein baas is not like that," she added as I went into laughing convulsions.

Some of these same folks would slash the face of another black person who called them out but yet could hardly muster enough righteous anger to condemn klein baas for his brutality (the white madam too).

To appreciate the deconstruction of white racism and the centerpiece of klein baas (the smaller oppressor who was nurtured by black folk who worked for his father, groot baas) it is necessary to know the race history and dynamics of apartheid, particularly as it played out in rural farming areas.

Whiteness in these contexts constructed black folks to be obedient.  Non-questioning and child-like.  They did not make a fuss, accepted the divine authority of whiteness and just played along hoping that the crumbs would reappear on their plates from day to day.

If my dad was to describe why I laughed so hard that my stomach hurt and my eyes looked like I had popped blood vessels from smoking crack he would say: 'You can't fully understand what Nolwazi was saying unless you know what klein baas was capable of and how black people were deployed to support whites even in their brutality."  

Knowing how brutal klein baas was and still is in many contexts - especially when farm laborers are killed for supposedly looking like intruder animals (dogs and baboons) - it is seemingly ludicrous to make excuses for him today.

But some obedient ass-kissing black skins do exactly that and the system rewards them for their cooperation.  Apartheid may not be legal anymore but the structures that it put in place still demand loyalty to the supremacy of klein baas (the racial state and its capitalist support system, for example). 

There is more depth and complexity though and despite the hilarity there is also a story about the way in which black folk have taken on a greater humanity to even love klein baas, despite.

That love may be delusional and it may speak to the oppressed mind in Fanon and Biko terms.  But Nolwazi's humor captured a tragedy of black life under white oppression and balanced it against a time when Mandela and Tutu and others are telling the still downtrodden to forgive klein baas, despite.

In other words to serve klein baas, still.

She was not degrading the black experience.  She lives the black experience and its gender jeopardy as a woman everyday.

Instead, her humor highlighted the tragedy of apartheid in the post-era where that tragedy is still consequential and very much unresolved.

Humor does not erase the pain and suffering.  It merely makes it more bearable and it also sharpens the anti-racist scalpel as it must.

Humor about our oppression also tells stories of what we have endured.  And without these stories we would simply disappear ... 

And for these reasons and more, this blog says Nolwazi is one of the funniest and most serious kickers of racist ass in South Africa.

Onward! sista soldier.

PS: You should be on stage where folks who know can see your brilliance my sista!

And maybe klein baas will get why we still so angry even after Oprah was given a doctorate in White Studies at that University just in case klein baas and his daddy felt bad.

Don't you just hate sellouts?


Nolwazi said...

Come now Black, I really don't remember saying all these derogatory comments you're accusing me of making about YT.

I'll have you know that I happen to love, cherish and honour YT...just like Oprah did way back when when she was a lil' slave...And just like her love for YT has deepened over the last 25 years, so has mine...well, since Uncle Ruckus came into my life.

Remember that security guard who didn't wana let you through the gate coz you didn't have your access card, even though he knew that your apartment was what? Like 4 doors to his left? That was one triflin' plantantion negroid:) Your face-off with him was hilarious, though!

Oh man, Ridwan, you're the only one who knows just how much I hate niggas and YT-all at once-all equally-all the time-all day e'rryday!

Why do niggas gotta be the way niggaz be?! And why FOR FLIP'S SAKE YT gotta be the way (s)he be?!! It just aint right!

I dono where to turn to anymore, hey. The Blacks aint Black enough and way too White. The Whites...well, *let's out a deep sigh*...the Whites are full of k*k, like, "Excuse me, did you go to a praaavet skuuul hey, you speak English so nicely, you don't even that accent you people have."

Hey wena, remember that sista with the TATA comment? Damn, I was so pissed off at her. When you told me, I had the right mind to give her every bit of uncouth, kassie-Zuluness I'd learnt from my Scotch-drinking grandmamaz!

Remember that short Black guy in the queue at Spar? Remember how he just overlooked me and the fact that I was standing in front of him, and that he only came up to my knee? OOOH, THERE WAS JUST NO WAY HE WAS GONNA BE BLACK AND SHORT ALL AT ONCE AND STILL BE DISRESPECTING ME LIKE I WAS ABOUT TO SPAWN HIS FOURTH CHILD!

Ok, I may have made the klein baas comment.

Howz you, Ridwan? You good, ma nig? Howz Kimbo treating you?

Ridwan said...

Damn Nolwazi you need so to leave Village Hell that I am gonna spring you sista.

For real. It is legal now. Your momma don't need to worry or nada.

You need out of that dichotomous hell real soon ;0)

Yeah I remember all those trifling asses real well.

Did I tell you that I called the Tata woman to ask her to give back my US driver's license ... she said "you will have to hand in your Sefafrican one if we do dat ..."

I said well hell keep it and then reminded her about her Tata comment and the heffa laughed like I was telling her a joke.


Maybe I was since she would not have caught the joke if I said I preferred the Proton because my mom is of Malay heritage.

But ya. Black folk think that all folk who look like me are Indian.

But hell they don't realize that Indians don't claim folk like me ... to them I am a bushy and it don't mean a damn think that even Bollywood thought I was a real Indian.

AnyHowze, let me skool you on South African Indians and their caste pathologies when next we share a carcass (a vegetarian one).

I am of course shocked that you do not remember anything in the post ... did I tell you I told the folks at the museum I knew you and therefore they should respect me since I was really close to the blood of Comrade Anton.

Let me tell you sista they were really impressed.

Onward! ne,