A man cannot hate the whip with which he is being flogged but then be expected to love the person doing the flogging. When such a black man, lying helpless bleeding on the ground expresses hate for the white person wielding the whip, it is only reasonable.
Many times, in the presence of whites, I have found myself in a position that no black person should ever find themselves in. After being accused of being a racist by liberals and conservatives, both black and white, I have found myself having to explain my existence as a black person and why the system does not favor a person of color.
Having said this, there are two things I want to address: First, I have lost patience continuously explaining what it means to be privileged to a white person and why black pain is valid. Second, I understand that black people have a right to voice out their pain. Their pain does not require validation from a white person to be considered real. If your arrogance as a white person is blinding you from seeing this, then it’s time you did some introspection. Do not be quick to jump on the “victim” bandwagon and accuse blacks of being racist. Black people can never be racist – we never had the tools or power to institutionalise racial oppression. So next time you as a white person want to accuse black people of reverse racism and insufficient anger – check yourself and your privilege.
May we learn to stop equating the need to speak out against racial inequality with “angry blacks” or “black people punishing whites.” We do not have the time or energy or interest to hate – but what we do have time for is the emancipation of the black person both physically and mentally. Do not attempt to silence our voices. You will fail horribly at that. Black pain is valid and it demands to be felt.
On discrimination based on one’s colour, I can only concur that blacks can be prejudicial towards whites - but not racist. What do I mean? Before I attempt to give an explanation of my argument, I first have to define words that serve as the premises: prejudice and racism. Prejudice refers to a positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their perceived group membership. Racism on the other hand refers to social actions, practices or beliefs or political systems that consider different races to be ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other. Furthermore, racism is socio-economic, with systemic structures which promote one race’s powers over another. Socio-economic being the operative word, I am certain you will agree that black people do not have the resources to impose such oppressive structures which enforce their superiority. White people on the other hand have, and had imposed them on blacks for over four centuries of slavery and colonialism. Black people can be prejudiced, but not racist.
And quite frankly, we black people are tired of having to deal with white people who have an inclination to play the ‘you’re also racist’ card. The energy and time invested in voicing such statement should be focused on understanding how whites can alienate themselves from their privilege and what is the source of black anger. By so doing whites will understand our pain and realise that they need to free themselves from the prison of privilege that took centuries to construct. The exclamation of such bigotry that blacks are also racist is incited both by white arrogance and ignorance. It’s about time we unpack all of the clueless vitriol that often comes from white people when we dare to talk about “black pain.”
We need to reject the notion that the blackness of our skin absolves us to the hate we are capable of spewing from our lips. We need to address the white view that when we talk about race we always seek for an easy target instead of a debate to transform the whole society. It has become a norm to be told that we are not the only victims in this world and racial oppression does not need to be given first priority over many oppressive issues caused by multitudes of privileges. For example, a black male is told to check on his heterosexual privilege, gender privilege, etc. The gender and wealth privileges are the most pardoned privileges amongst blacks and mostly they serve as a liberal propaganda in a form of campaigns to argue that we all have one form or the other of privilege. All forms of oppression need to be addressed but white feminism is far from multiple societal oppressions a black woman has to experience.
Lastly, we have to address those who are quick to accuse us of segregation when we question a liberal integration of all races whilst one race continues to thrive on the exploitation of the other. The segregation we advocate for is not a principle or a worldview but a tactic needed to remove hegemony from the struggle. Whites need not to reduce black pain by feeling the need to equate it to how they have also been mistreated and it is very suspicious of white liberals to quickly shout that blacks are also racist and their defence when they are asked to examine their privilege.
First of all, when black people voice out their pain that is not the time or the platform for whites to also “voice out an opinion.” White people need to learn the importance of respecting contexts and what is appropriate, at what time. When a woman has been raped, she is comforted and efforts made to give her justice; she is not simply told: “Oh, but don’t deny the fact that you too are capable of rape”. I find the white arrogance disgusting.
As concerned black people we are tired of having white people want to claim the spotlight even when all we want to do is talk about our pain. That is why we have been distancing ourselves from whites because black people have been robbed of opportunities of dealing with our pain on our own. Because in the past, every time we did, there was always a white person saying the same kind of thing or thinking in the same parallel: that the struggle is about classes in society not race. Why must black people educate white people on what it means to be humane? We are tired of doing that. And it’s crazy how the people closest to the oppression have to constantly explain themselves and their anger. This isn’t about you. Your opinion is not wanted. How dare you want to equate our struggle as black people, our black women especially, to what you go through?
The major problem with those who accuse blacks of being capable of racism lies with the comparison of pain. Our pain is an existential truth in its own right. You need to understand my fellow black people when they reject white involvement now. It’s primarily because of people who are arrogant and who think that “freedom of speech” allows them to speak whenever they want to.
Second, these are the things that do not sit well with me: 1) White and black scholars always in the forefront of defining and describing racism to the level of their academics or experience. Is it as if they are saying that people who are not white or from European origins or even academic route should not point out flaws in White people’s use of words in regards to reasoning because the colour of our skin discounts us from such a privilege? Apparently it is arrogant for us concerned blacks to even think about correcting a white person’s use of English on the context of racism. 2) The usage of the word racist being subject to find relevancy in the awful practice or hate speech by a black person. My assertion is that a black person’s attitude toward white skin could be prejudice – not that black people are racist. The usage of the word racist relative to a hate speech by blacks on blacks or whites is incorrect. A subjugated group cannot be racist – they can only be prejudicial. As I have pointed out, people have to make up their mind in regards to what exactly they seem to be advocating for. The colour of my skin does not discount me from being racist, but the very society that we as blacks find ourselves in – where we are automatically inferior due to the continuous systemic support of white privilege – discounts us from being racist. Due to the fact that we find ourselves in this inferior position it is impossible for us to be racist – do not make the struggle seem superficial by likening it to the colour of our skin – it’s more than that, and you need to start recognising that. Black liberals are buying into white people’s ignorance if their integration does not question white hegemony, arrogance and privilege of centuries.
There is no need to be petty – you have your opinion and you have the right to voice it. Just recognise my right to disagree with that view. Your advocacy – in saying we are racist for questioning your privilege and arrogance - shows exactly the mentality that black radicals have always been speaking out against. Just because a black person chooses to differ from the whites’ worldview, they should not be painted as bitter or hateful – I am allowed to speak out and differ form your view and my thoughts just like every other human being must be recognised as valid.
The call regarding the need for others to check their privilege is something that is important but completely irrelevant to debates on racial constructs – there are other victims in this world but the fact is that white privilege is still largely supported in South Africa – pointing them out is just an attempt to distract us from the topic at hand. Even if we engage on your matter – you must recognise that black people themselves must still face their subjugation by race in addition to their subjugation by wealth, gender, etc. So we will check our privilege, but recognise that your context is easier because you do not have to first bypass any constraints that your race places on you. Whites also need to be reminded that their privilege is mainly at the core of what keeps most of the world’s population underprivileged.
Whites who refuse to acknowledge the fact that in the current system blacks cannot be racist will necessarily miss the MASSIVE nuance around the discussion of structural and systemic oppression as opposed to simple slurs or offensive statements. In missing that nuanced discussion you would miss the opportunity to contribute to solving that problem. You would simply continue to ignore it. You would continue to alienate the real victims of oppression by equivocating their suffering to any prejudice experienced by someone who has the social standing to shrug it off. You would derail and scuttle the progress of those trying to solve the actual problem by forcing discussions to be re-focused on your own misunderstandings. You would continue to come across as bigoted and annoying. But if you want to continue with your way of looking at things, my suggestion would be not to continue to voice them on a comment of someone who has voiced their frustration based on experiences of oppression.
For a black person who for 500 years has known nothing but colonialism, nothing but apartheid, nothing but imperialism, it is only logical that such a man would hate the system. And reasonably, a man cannot hate the scourge that has whipped his body for centuries but love the person who has been doing the whipping. When such a black man, lying bleeding on the floor, helpless, professes to hate the white person wielding the scourge, it is only reasonable. The only time such a man can ever be accused of being racist is when he has his own scourge, equal in length and quality, as the one held by the white man whipping him. It is when the bleeding person is equal to his tormentor that he has the power to exert anything on him and to be racist.
* Sobantu Mzwakali is a 22-year-old grassroots activist from Welkom, Free State, South Africa. His blog can be read here.
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