Recently I had the pleasure of talking to few white people and the topic was on the strikes of the university students across the country. They were angry at what they term is disruptive methods of black students who believe that they are entitled to free stuff. They did not understand the commotion and their grievances since the universities do need the money to operate, and if they cannot afford, they must not go to institutions that are “above their range”.
This reminded me of my schooling days when teachers at my high school would make remarks about how we shouldn’t be there and should actually go to the township schools, because that is where we belong. She went on to say that white people’s government built the school and we can’t just now claim it.
All these made me think that it must be real a privilege to be white in this country and how fortunate they are that they are living the dream. This proves again the topic that has been raised many times on social media: that white privilege exists and whites are living it.
White privilege is a term for societal privileges that benefit white people in South Africa beyond what is commonly experienced by black people, Afrikans in particular, under the same social, political, or economic circumstances and it corresponds to a set of social advantages in South Africa, and conventionally refers to these advantages as ‘white privilege’.
Many white youth, including some delusional adults, do not understand what is meant by white privileges and the fortunate advantages they hold. There is the notion that since apartheid was ended in 1994, suddenly their status and position in the social, political, or economic circumstances have ended with apartheid.
Trapped in a system
In her piece A Comprehensive Guide to White Privilege in South Africa (published in 2013), Gillian Schutte says: “There are 56- million people in South Africa. Half of those people live below the breadline---the majority of poor people are black. This means they are trapped in a system that favours whiteness and white business at the expense of the poor. Many white people will blame this entirely on the government and while government must be critiqued for failing to adequately change the system and deliver to the poor, many white people refuse to see the role of white greed and corporate power in this systemically skewed and racialised economy.
“White privilege is investing in red rhino horns and demonising impoverished black poachers while never once considering marching against hunger or pointing their fingers at those at the top of the value chain in poaching, which is, sometimes, a white game farm owner,” Schutte wrote.
These are the same privileges that make people like Dianne Kohler Barnard to retweet and want PW Botha to come back. It is those privileges that make white people born after 1994 to continue seeing Afrikans as baboons and calling them ‘kaffirs’.
When you realise the complaints of white people (white tears), you realise that they mostly have nothing to stand on. The very same people under apartheid did not complain about the mistreatment of Afrikans in this country. They saw nothing wrong with Afrikans being at the bottom of the feeding chain. They do not believe for instance that a black man is capable or deserving to be something. Their sole and only example is to point at the ANC, specifically Zuma, however they don’t believe that pre-1994 existed. They never saw how the apartheid government stole their money, their pensions or how they were not as free as they are today. They see every black person as a danger, corrupt and black males as rapists. This is enshrined in them. It is the continuation of ‘Swart Gevaar’ going on and on.
What most white people fail to realise is that they started with something in this country that continued over to post-1994. Blacks, Afrikans in particular, had nothing. When a white child was born, he/she was born already having an advantage over the black child. When they went to school, they were already ahead and given recognitions---and when they applied for a job, already they were in an advanced position. So what are they crying about?
Honestly, most white people have not changed. Instead they carry on from the apartheid days. They hate blacks and when blacks complain about jobs, economic climate, social conditions etc. one normally hears whites asking, don’t you have a black president? What is your ANC doing?
When Nelson Mandela and the ANC negotiated for this ‘democracy’ they made sure that they protect the interests of white people. People like Desmond Tutu and Mandela even went on to forgive the perpetrators of apartheid on behalf of black people. However, they did not notice that they were shaking hands with a clinched white fist.
Black people are now tired of pretending. The prevailing conditions and the refusal of whites to change, or at least come to the table and talk transformation, or at least acknowledge the privileges, have resulted in blacks saying; “Screw it.” They have been holding out their arms for a long time to shake hands, but the people who stole their land, minerals and wealth, and kept them as slaves, refuse this noble gesture and are not prepared to be equal. This is now resulting into black anger.
White privilege was legally enshrined in South Africa through apartheid and Bantu Biko once said: “The blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. We do not want to be reminded that it is we, the indigenous people, who are poor and exploited in the land of our birth. The white strategy so far has been to systematically break down the resistance of blacks to the point where the latter would accept crumbs from the white table. This we have shown we reject unequivocally. And now the stage is therefore set for a very interesting turn of events.”
Black people are angry, young black people are angrier and they are getting worse. They have no patience as exhibited by the older generation. They do not carry begging baskets to ask for handouts from the white community who stole more than their land and resources. They are willing to fight and change the current situation they find themselves in. They have realised that Mandela sold them a fake dream and they are not buying into the rhetorics of the ANC anymore.
The list of things to fight for
Issues such as poverty, youth unemployment, an unaffordable schooling system, lack of transformation, white capitalist monopoly, greedy mine bosses, return of Afrikan land and unrepentant racists have featured in the list of things to fight for without reservation. Young black people seem to have made a pledge to themselves that they will not sit back and wait for a miracle like Mandela in order to get some leverage: economic freedom in our lifetime, academic freedom in our lifetime---and land and minerals that must be shared by all. These are the fundamentals which the likes of Anton Lembede spoke of after an Afrikan has achieved National Freedom.
At some point something in this country has to give, as young people won't sit back and wait for a miracle or accept the crumbles from the white persons table. They are not going to sit and watch as white people eat their stomach full when the black child goes to bed hungry. A new revolution is upon us.
(Former Cope Youth Head of Communication and Spokesperson, writing in his personal capacity)