Mother’s day falls during the month of May (and we give respect to all mothers) and the same as Africa Month. Is this a co-incidence? I don’t think so. Scientists concur that humanity was conceived in Africa and got nurtured inside this continent’s womb.
We thank a countless list of leaders for their sterling work to fight and opine that Africa and Africans, equally, deserve nothing less than respect. These include Thomas Sankara, Marcus Garvey, Stephen Bantu Biko, Julius Nyerere, Rosa Parks, Emperor Haile Selassie, Robert Sobukwe and Sekou Toure. We also appreciate the innumerable efforts by African communities as collectives. We take our hats off to celebrate the works of heroes of the 1898 Hut Tax rebellion (in Sierra Leone), the 1904 Herero Rebellion (Namibia), the 1905 Bhambatha Rebellion (South Africa), the 1905 Maji-Maji Rebellion (Tanzania), the 1952 Mau-Mau Rebellion (Kenya), the 1961 Sharpeville Massacre (South Africa) and others. The message from these heroes was unanimous – We are all Home Sapiens!
In the thoughts and actions shown by humanity, can we say we have achieved the noble objective of recognising and treating one another as ONE HUMAN race? If you were to force me to respond to this question by choosing between YES and NO, my more accurate response would be, “Yes and No”.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
The reality is that the world has gone 3 steps forward and 4 steps backwards insofar as race relations are concerned with Africans continuing to suffer the negative consequences. Despite that evolution – on more occasions, racism has devoured our society and stepped us backwards almost negating the huge strides made before. Africans remain, almost exclusively, the victims at the hands of their historical captors.
It is important for us that we navigate the story of racism, put facts on the table, make unedited scrutiny of the obstructions that are responsible for the regression.
At the heart of this is selfishness and refusal by the neo-colonisers to let go of the wealth that their ancestry accumulated through looting from African societies. Therefore, racism is not genetic as there is no genetic code that prescribes racism for anyone at birth. It is a product of an individual’s response to what is on the ground. What is on the ground is informed by the conditions that the children’s ancestry implant into the mental psychology of each child. Parents shape an innocent child’s mental compartments with tendencies that influence their offspring’s later life conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious worldview. Racism becomes hidden safely in people’s minds. That’s why Nelson Mandela posited if you could teach to hate, you could also teach to love so that there could be racial harmony. The access to the resources by beneficiaries of the loot gives them the tools to perpetuate their racist dominance and superiority, forcing them to refuse to own up to the realities of history and its implications to the present day and future.
Instances of simulated racial transformation exist right across the globe. Literature, various countries’ constitutions, policies and other guidelines all exist, but what you have on paper is not what you always see in reality. Why should this be?
The legendary Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, in his book The Psychopathology of Everyday Life said, “He, that has eyes to see and ears to hear, may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his slips are silent, he chatters with his finger-tips, betrayal oozes out of him at every pore”.
What Freud meant was that you may opt to repress your true desires and that we must accept that it is not out of character for human beings to fail to override their true thirsts. This is called the Freudian slip or Parapraxis slip. After making the revealing blunders, it is not unusual to find the offenders attempting some antithetical damage control, “Oh, I didn’t mean it”. Some would say, “It’s just a gaffe. It was a slip of the tongue”. Some would say, despite all the evidence, “I did not say that”.
Freud emphasises that this is the unconscious element of each person bubbling through to expose the latter’s true views. Let me emphasise that by “unconscious”, he stresses that the slips come as a result of an interference of the individual’s unyielding subdued wishes or it may also be the internal sequence of thoughts inside an individual. By “unconscious” (I must emphasise), Freud was not referring to a state of being comatose or lifeless just in case the offenders think that this absolves them from responsibility.
We should, however, note that Freud excluded genuine mistakes, spelling mistakes, pronouncing errors or just plain forgetfulness.
Some try to minimise the seriousness of the impact of such Freudian slips by suggesting that these acts are not racist but are based on simple prejudice that is directed at Africans. They say this because their impression is that it is only overt acts that can be classified as racist. My view is that as long as such lazy excuses are made and accepted, we still have a long way to go.
The Freudian Slip on Africans
As long as the colour of my skin prescribes that another person must misbehave towards me, then the latter is racist. Africans, within the continent and in the diaspora, continue to be victims of attacks with the perpetrators claiming innocence.
We must be comfortable to discuss these issues and what needs to be done to reverse their ill effects. What racism has caused against a voiceless African must be uprooted.
Legislations are generally non-racist but the journey towards addressing the subliminal presence of this plague is definitely going to be tougher.
“We Are All Human Beings Now, Right?”
It is not surprising to find some offenders, when decisions have to be taken and a language of addressing the difficulties faced by the previously disadvantaged, always insisting that “we are past that” because “racism belongs to the past” and “we are all human beings now, right?”. Veiled under such statements is a racist insinuation that all is well whilst African people continue to get poorer as a consequence of racism. More importantly, it defies the truth of race-based structural inequalities that are outlined through the discrepancies related to access to quality education, income levels, quality of jobs, access to quality health care, etc.
“Obama Bin Laden”
Racism shoots up in what some refer to as mistakes. When the United States (US) government reported that they (government through the US Army) had finally captured and killed Osama bin Laden, one of President Barack Obama’s white critics said, “Obama is dead and I don’t care”. Was this a slip of the tongue? No. It may not have been planned but his unconscious compartments did not consult his conscious self. In isiXhosa (an African language) they say, “Uphulukiwe” to represent this.
What further qualifies my view is that, in the middle of that furore, a certain newspaper also went on to carry a headline, “Obama bin Laden is dead, but the ‘war on terror’ continues”. Really? Are we erroneous to opine that these represent the unyielding subdued wishes of the originators?
“I can’t Breathe…”
These days, every time I see the word ‘breathe’, I am always reminded of the late George Floyd’s last living moments and words when he was pleading for his life as he was choking. He called out to his deceased “Mama” for help (honour to our mothers). He literally begged to his racist ‘Officer of the Law’, Derek Chauvin, saying “I can’t Breathe”. The coward, in spite of everything, continued to mercilessly steal his life. Chauvin sees nothing wrong in what he did (placing his knee to break passage of breathing for a defenceless man). His sub-conscience is getting revealed for the value that he attaches to a Black man’s life.
Which law was Derek Chauvin trained to uplift?
He was brutally murdered during Africa Month of 2020, 15 days after Mother’s day. Africans are, by some covert teachings, victims of police racial hate and brutality.
Sports stars made it customary to take a knee performing a silent protest against racial inequality and injustice in the US. These are sports stars who are refusing to be deceived as they understand that they have a duty to set examples for society by showing their disgust at all these inhuman acts of racism. This is a fight for human rights that should inspire even five year olds who worship these artists so that they can also refuse to grow to become racist. However, a certain Ondrej Kudela, from the Czech Republic, decided to racially assault Glen Kamara, an African soccer player (born in Finland and plying his trade in Scotland) in a Europa League soccer match. He called Kamara a “f***ing Monkey”.
One of my most inspiring lines from Zig Ziglar is, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily”. We should not stay silent about it or make the racists feel that there are no repercussions for what they do which is unacceptable. The aforementioned episodes are just the tip of the iceberg.
Racism can only be interpreted as a criminal act and one of the cruellest acts of child abuse because the way racists raise their children is set on creating a time-bomb that, adulthood, tend to explode in a manner that is not only toxic to society but is also self-destructive.
Make Hindsight Beneficial
We must communicate more about it, with both the victims and the culprits.
Hindsight is always categorised as perfect sight. It is not my intention to split hairs but we need to, instead of zigzagging, be outspoken. If we do not, these truths will keep popping up (as if we have not been forewarned) in some very inedible forms at different locations across the globe almost every day.
That hindsight gets defeated by the silence which tend to propagate racism.
Stop Being By-Standers
Wherever there are observers, individual persons tend to diffuse responsibility and ignore a wrong happening right before their eyes. In our majority, we have become hopeless by-standers, consciously or unconsciously, playing a pivotal role in retaining this misbehaviour. We have become more of commentators and analysts than activists that work to undo the ills of racism.
This is my message to all by-standers – If you see something wrong and you ignore it, you are equally guilty of that crime. Your duty is to expose it, tell it like it is. Remember Martin Luther King Jnr. said: “ “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Take lessons from the citizens who opted to become activists instead of by-standers when the trained cowards of the US police force were busy violating a human being’s rights. They (public) took out their phones to photographs these illegal acts and addressed the courts as witnesses arguing on behalf of George Floyd who was murdered. Though they were not able to bring back his life, they did set a proper standard in the role that we all should play in defeating these inhuman acts. Take inspiration from Bongani Zungu and his Rangers teammates that were within earshot of the incident. They immediately informed the Match Referee of the Kudela mischief.
No Meandering Around the Truth
Difference is natural but must not be used to overtly or covertly prejudice against one or other human beings. This applies to me, as well.
We should not meander around the truth. Being black and African means you have a label that criminalises you, animalises you, dictates who you are, prescribes what you are capable of and justifies the ill-treatment thrown at you. Racism is inhuman and, therefore, all of us must wage a serious war against it. Tackling racism means confronting not only its genesis but also its evolution.
Who will set Africans free?
To get a guide to answering this question, seek to reawaken the philosophies of our thought and political leaders in Kwame Nkrumah, Franz Fanon, William duBois and Nelson Mandela.
Read Our Edition
The African Union (AU) declared 2021 (as a year) in “recognition of the arts, culture and heritage” as “levers for building the Africa that we want”. The AU recognises creative industries’ contribution to “Africa’s growth and transformation” as well as preserving our continent’s heritage and languages. Our edition this month, accordingly, carries a number of pieces that are in line with this theme.
We profile the Moving into Dance (MID) academy which is premised on contemporary African dance (Afrofusion).
We celebrate the inaugural South African Music Week in collaboration with Canada.
Read about the stunning work of Ethiopian Maaza Mengiste as she wins the “Mystery Writers of America 2021” Award with her next book touching on survival of Africans painting arts amidst racist and afro-phobic tendencies by German Nazis.
We also profile Eustace Mashimbye, the Chief Executive Officer of the Proudly South African that promotes uptake of our homegrown brands.
As it is winter, we join Mohale Motaung conscientious effort to help make winter bearable for children from disadvantaged communities. Join the effort.
The war against COVID-19 is far from over. To appreciate the value of all Homo Sapiens, this calls for yours and everyone’s discipline and respect for instructions given by authorities. Let me reiterate – wear your mask, maintain the required social distance and we shall defeat COVID-19!!
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