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28 Apr 2008 23:59
The recent ruling by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on the complaint lodged by Talk Radio 702’s Katy Katopodis against the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) has to be the most eloquent and devastating testimony that our Constitution does hold fundamentally anti-black sentiments. In essence, the ruling forbids blacks from taking collective initiatives against white racism.
The ruling can be viewed as both absurd and insulting.
Its absurdity stems from the fact that it forces blacks (the victims of racism) into a coalition with whites (the benefactors).
The ruling is insulting in two respects. First, it re-inscribes the old racist and liberal paternalism that prescribes white supervision for blacks. As in the period before black consciousness, blacks can’t be trusted with their own struggle for liberation.
The ruling confirms what Steve Bantu Biko called the “totality of white power”. “â€¦ Not only have they [whites] kicked the blacks but they have also told them how to react to the kick.” Surely even those who believe in non-racism (of the integrationist type) would agree that you can’t force non-racism on blacks in a manner that simply perpetuates white privilege. Basically, the ruling sanctions psychological violence towards blacks.
The wide-ranging implications of the ruling were, ironically, pointed out by Katopodis herself. She enthused that it was not just about the FBJ but a matter of wider principle; then she gloatingly called for the transformation of the FBJ. An initiative intended to redress 350 years of systematic white racism against blacks has been turned on its head, and the burden of transformation falls on the victims. This is not surprising. Whiteness will always defend white interests by appropriating mechanisms of black redress.
It must also be asked, in all honesty, what do white journalists have to lose by not being part of the FBJ? If Katopodis, Anton Harber and the rest of the white liberal media establishment who have hailed the ruling are true friends of blacks, shouldn’t they allow blacks to decide who should be part of their projects? It’s not surprising then that the DA, the quintessential party of white interests, has praised the ruling.
The aftermath of the ruling has also exposed the fact that there is no political party in South Africa today that caters for blacks only. Azapo and the Socialist Party of Azania, the two main BC formations, are open to whites.
The PAC responded to the ruling by proudly informing the nation that whites are swelling its ranks. So, blacks, you are on your own. Again? Little wonder this country is unable to defend black people.
Where is the national uproar when a farmer forces blacks to exhume their buried child and to live with a coffin for days in a scrap yard? Where is the outcry when more than 1Â 000 well-marked black graves are flattened to make way for cabbages and carrots?
We annually kill more than 70Â 000 black children before they reach the age of five. A million farm dwellers were evicted from land in the past 14 years. Silence and ritualistic responses calculated to get publicity are what we get.
In spite of itself, the FBJ has emerged as a lightning rod for the black condition.
In contrast to Frantz Fanon’s injunction, the FBJ didn’t have to find its mission: history thrust one upon it. Now it can either fulfil it or betray it.
But there has been flip-flopping since the ruling. Initially it was the principled rejection of the ruling, with just enough anger. Then there were the many contradictory statements, including an invitation for whites to join.
What was this farce all about? A shrewd marketing strategy, all a commercial move that never had anything to do with black interests? Both the FBJ leadership and 702 have done well in building their respective brands, and so cheaply nogal.
Three options are open to the FBJ now. First, amend its constitution to allow white membership as per the ruling. Second, appeal the decision—a decidedly unsafe move because they are likely to lose that appeal. The last resort is to accept that the FBJ is the last Mohican, an ugly anachronism in the post-1994 era. It must close shop.
The hands of blacks have been tied: they can no longer respond to continued racism and white supremacy under democracy.
This is the end of the black struggle. Let the historical record reflect that the FBJ was the first black organisation to be disbanded by law in post-apartheid South Africa.
Is this not ironic? The AWB, that violent anti-black extremist group, has very publicly relaunched itself recently. Our law permits and protects its existence.
Andile Mngxitama is the co-editor of Biko Lives!: Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko (out this July)
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