By ANDREW IHSAAN GASNOLAR
This past week kicked off with (the Chinese) Black Monday, the turbulent depreciation of our exchange rate against the major currencies and the realisation that we don’t have enough exports or manufacturing muscle in our economy.
Amongst the economic pinch, it would be easy for us to pretend that normative structures don’t exist or even worse matter. It would be easy for some of us to pretend that patriarchy, racism, misogyny and hatred are issues that are secondary to bread-and-butter issues.
However, these issues are interrelated and interconnected and definitely not secondary. We were at this crossroads before when we opted to embrace compromise and a negotiated settlement that didn’t pay enough attention to the issues of how our society is structured and how to meaningfully change it.
It is with reflection and time that we realise the inefficiencies and flaws of our democracy. It is with time that we have realised how fractured our society is and how divisive issues of colour, race, class, language, custom and religion still are in our society. We cannot ignore this any longer or pretend that it doesn’t matter.
When we stand up against this hegemony, that perpetuates prejudice, racism and oppression, we are dismissed as being hysterical, populist, crazy, and dangerous or even worse some fringe movement without any real support. We have seen this narrative trying to undermine the work of groups such as #RhodesMustFall, #OpenStellenbosch and #BlackLivesMatter.
The power of movements such as #RhodesMustFall, #OpenStellenbosch and #BlackLivesMatter, even in their imperfection, is that they are able to articulate and drive a call for change without being solely reliant on the power of numbers or the need to campaign for votes.
Truth be told, we must begin to confront our own complacency and even worse our own inertia which has led to the fact that the normative culture remains oppressive and destructive of what it means to be black.
Conversations like this tend to offend and to pit people against each other. However, we have to lead the charge in articulating what the next phase of our transition will be. We cannot rely on leadership or the chattering classes to shape that conversation.
There is grave risk in letting others lead the charge, we only need to look at the recent statement by the Stellenbosch Students Representative Council (SRC) to realise how out of touch many people in leadership are.
Following, the release of #Luister by #OpenStellenbosch, the Stellenbosch SRC issued a statement claiming to be listening but in their words they have confirmed their inability to confront their own prejudice and role in that normative structure.
The Stellenbosch SRC statement goes on to read that “the idea of any student or group of students being treated as second-class citizens is unacceptable” yet they decide to describe black students, in their original published statement, as “non-whites”. As an aside, if you now look for the SRC statement, the reference to “non-whites” has been conspicuously removed almost as if the entire incident never happened.
It may seem unnecessary to call the Stellenbosch SRC out for this but the danger of letting too much slide is that there are grave consequences for just letting things go. For too many people, the phrase “non-white” will not ring any alarm bells but then those people truly don’t understand our history or the struggle of the Black Consciousness movement.
The consequence of putting up with too much is that we have to then contend with the honouring, through street names or other such nonsense, of people such as FW de Klerk. That compromise forces us not to question De Klerk’s bona fides when he states in arecent op-ed piece that former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration “reduced the country’s national debt to only 23% of GDP (gross domestic product) from 46% in 1994”. Yet, in his critique over the weekend, De Klerk never acknowledges his own role in creating that massive debt.
Instead, we are expected to simply forget the past, forget their ‘mistakes’ (or as I see it a pervasive, violent, destructive and purposeful regime to secure their privilege at expense of black South Africans) and ultimately for us to pretend all is well.
That is not the role we should accept. We must confront the demons that would seek to keep the status quo in place while many South Africans continue to feel unwelcomed and burdened with the ongoing legacy of Apartheid.
Simply forgetting is not what our struggle is about and we must not allow them to make us believe the only solution is to conform to their way of thinking. We must become conscious of ourselves once more and then we will be free from this hegemony. DM