ameera conrad – on exhaustion over a lack of understanding

ameeraI am tired
God Almighty, I am tired
of being told that we need to move on,
that we need to forget,
that we need to put the past behind us,
that Apartheid is over.

They don’t understand.
We never will.
Our bodies are monuments of centuries of torture,
trauma
terror
these exist in us
we live it every day.
We built this country
slaves
whips at our backs –
The Man holding the whip did not build –
we built.

Apartheid is not over.
No magic TRC wand can bippity-boppity-boo! it away.
Our glass carriage is still a pumpkin,
rotting,
pulled by rats.
A polite revolution over tea and crumpets, good Sir,
‘twas the order of the day.

When could we mourn?
When could we cry?
When could we scream
for our loved ones lost
our chances trampled on?

Please Mastah Baas Meneer,
Asseblief,
Gee my ‘n kans om te huil
vir my ma
en my pa
en my susters
en broers
gee my ‘n kans om te huil.

Let me stand up for myself
and for those who stood before me.
Let me march for myself
and for those who marched before me.
Let me call out AMANDLA
and raise my fist
and let me cry
after hundreds of years
let me cry.

— Ameera Conrad
4th Year
B.A. Theatre and Performance at UCT

Please visit Ameera’s blog, HERE.

UCT black academics: when they arrived!

cherry bomb:

A substantive account of what students are doing right now at UCT. Fiercely awesome.

Originally posted on briankamanzi:

Foreword

Forgive me at this moment, it is difficult to not be romantic in my description of what I feel is History in the making. This story is dedicated to my friends and comrades who are making waves at the University of Cape Town on behalf of many students, on behalf of me, on behalf of our children to change the institutional climate from the restrictions it has been gripped with through it’s inception. This latest wave of energy takes its rightful place as one, among many, of the acts of resistance against the systemic forces that resist change and substantive “transformation” as voices take on a new interpretation of the never ending struggle for liberation.

Forgive me in my limitedness, as I am physically unable to recount to you all that happened but I hope you appreciate my account of what I remember.. along with the moments that, most…

View original 1,412 more words

biko on “white allies'” place in the struggle against racism

steve bikoWe are concerned with that curious bunch of nonconformists who explain their participation in negative terms: that bunch of do-gooders that goes under all sorts of names—liberals, leftists etc. These are the people who argue that they are not responsible for white racism and the country’s “inhumanity to the black man”. These are the people who claim that they too feel the oppression just as acutely as the blacks and therefore should be jointly involved in the black man’s struggle for a place under the sun. In short, these are the people who say that they have black souls wrapped up in white skins.

The role of the white liberal in the black man’s history in South Africa is a curious one. Very few black organisations were not under white direction. True to their image, the white liberals always knew what was good for the blacks and told them so. The wonder of it all is that the black people have believed in them for so long. It was only at the end of the ’50s that the blacks started demanding to be their own guardians.

Nowhere is the arrogance of the liberal ideology demonstrated so well as in their insistence that the problems of the country can only be solved by a bilateral approach involving both black and white. This has, by and large, come to be taken in all seriousness as the modus operandi in South Africa by all those who claim they would like a change in the status quo. Hence the multiracial political organisations and parties and the “nonracial” student organisations, all of which insist on integration not only as an end goal but also as a means.

The integration they talk about is first of all artificial in that it is a response to conscious manoeuvre rather than to the dictates of the inner soul. In other words the people forming the integrated complex have been extracted from various segregated societies with their inbuilt complexes of superiority and inferiority and these continue to manifest themselves even in the “nonracial” set-up of the integrated complex. As a result the integration so achieved is a one-way course, with the whites doing all the talking and the blacks the listening. Let me hasten to say that I am not claiming that segregation is necessarily the natural order; however, given the facts of the situation where a group experiences privilege at the expense of others, then it becomes obvious that a hastily arranged integration cannot be the solution to the problem. It is rather like expecting the slave to work together with the slave-master’s son to remove all the conditions leading to the former’s enslavement.

Secondly, this type of integration as a means is almost always unproductive. The participants waste lots of time in an internal sort of mudslinging designed to prove that A is more of a liberal than B. In other words the lack of common ground for solid identification is all the time manifested in internal strifes inside the group.

It will not sound anachronistic to anybody genuinely interested in real integration to learn that blacks are asserting themselves in a society where they are being treated as perpetual under-16s. One does not need to plan for or actively encourage real integration. Once the various groups within a given community have asserted themselves to the point that mutual respect has to be shown then you have the ingredients for a true and meaningful integration.

At the heart of true integration is the provision for each man, each group to rise and attain the envisioned self. Each group must be able to attain its style of existence without encroaching on or being thwarted by another. Out of this mutual respect for each other and complete freedom of self-determination there will obviously arise a genuine fusion of the life-styles of the various groups. This is true integration.

From this it becomes clear that as long as blacks are suffering from inferiority complex—a result of 300 years of deliberate oppression, denigration and derision—they will be useless as co-architects of a normal society where man is nothing else but man for his own sake. Henc what is necessary as a prelude to anything else that may come is a very strong grass-roots build-up of black consciousness such that blacks can learn to assert themselves and stake their rightful claim.

Thus in adopting the line of a nonracial approach, the liberals are playing their old game. They are claiming a “monopoly on intelligence and moral judgement” and setting the pattern and pace for the realisation of the black man’s aspirations. They want to remain in good books with both the black and white worlds. They want to shy away from all forms of “extremisms”, condemning “white supremacy” as being just as bad as “Black Power!”. They vacillate between the two worlds, verbalising all the complaints of the blacks beautifully while skilfully extracting what suits them from the exclusive pool of white privileges. But ask them for a moment to give a concrete meaningful programme that they intend adopting, then you will see on whose side they really are. Their protests are directed at and appeal to white conscience, everything they do is directed at finally convincing the white electorate that the black man is also a man and that at some future date he should be given a place at the white man’s table.

The myth of integration as propounded under the banner of liberal ideology must be cracked and killed because it makes people believe that something is being done when in actual fact the artificial integrated circles are a soporific on the blacks and provide a vague satisfaction for the guilty-stricken whites. It works on a false premise that because it is difficult to bring people from different races together in this country, therefore achievement of this is in itself a step forward towards the total liberation of the blacks. Nothing could be more irrelevant and therefore misleading. Those who believe in it are living in a fool’s paradise.

First the black-white circles are almost always a creation of white liberals. As a testimony to their claim of complete identification with the blacks, they call a few “intelligent and articulate” blacks to “come around for tea at home”, where all present ask each other the same old hackneyed question “how can we bring about change in South Africa?” The more such tea-parties one calls the more of a liberal he is and the freer he shall feel from the guilt that harnesses and binds his conscience. Hence he moves around his white circles— whites-only hotels, beaches, restaurants and cinemas—with a lighter load, feeling that he is not like the rest of the others. Yet at the back of his mind is a constant reminder that he is quite comfortable as things stand and therefore should not bother about change. Although he does not vote for the Nats (now that they are in the majority anyway), he feels quite secure under the protection offered by the Nats and subconsciously shuns the idea of a change. This is what demarcates the liberal from the black world. The liberals view the oppression of blacks as a problem that has to be solved, an eye sore spoiling an otherwise beautiful view. From time to time the liberals make themselves forget about the problem or take their eyes off the eyesore. On the other hand, in oppression the blacks are experiencing a situation from which they are unable to escape at any given moment. Theirs is a struggle to get out of the situation and not merely to solve a peripheral problem as in the case of the liberals. This is why blacks speak with a greater sense of urgency than whites.

A game at which the liberals have become masters is that of deliberate evasiveness. The question often comes up “what can I do?”. If you ask him to do something like stopping to use segregated facilities or dropping out of varsity to work at menial jobs like all blacks or defying and denouncing all provisions that make him privileged, you always get the answer—“but that’s unrealistic!”. While this may be true, it only serves to illustrate the fact that no matter what a white man does, the colour of his skin—his passport to privilege—will always put him miles ahead of the black man. Thus in the ultimate analysis no white person can escape being part of the oppressor camp.

“There exists among men, because they are men, a solidarity through which each shares responsibility for every injustice and every wrong committed in the world, and especially for crimes that are committed in his presence or of which he cannot be ignorant”.

This description of “metaphysical guilt” explains adequately that white racism “is only possible because whites are indifferent to suffering and patient with cruelty” meted out to the black man. Instead of involving themselves in an all-out attempt to stamp out racism from their white society, liberals waste lots of time trying to prove to as many blacks as they can find that they are liberal. This arises out of the false belief that we are faced with a black problem. There is nothing the matter with blacks. The problem is WHITE RACISM and it rests squarely on the laps of the white society. The sooner the liberals realise this the better for us blacks. Their presence amongst us is irksome and of nuisance value. It removes the focus of attention from essentials and shifts it to ill-defined philosophical concepts that are both irrelevant to the black man and merely a red herring across the track. White liberals must leave blacks to take care of their own business while they concern themselves with the real evil in our society—white racism…

… Does this mean that I am against integration? If by integration you understand a breakthrough into white society by blacks, an assimilation and acceptance of blacks into an already established set of norms and code of behaviour set up by and maintained by whites, then YES I am against it. I am against the superior-inferior white-black stratification that makes the white a perpetual teacher and the black a perpetual pupil (and a poor one at that). I am against the intellectual arrogance of white people that makes them believe that white leadership is a sine qua non in this country and that whites are the divinely appointed pace-setters in progress. I am against the fact that a settler minority should impose an entire system of values on an indigenous people.

If on the other hand by integration you mean there shall be free participation by all members of a society, catering for the full expression of the self in a freely changing society as determined by the will of the people, then I am with you. For one cannot escape the fact that the culture shared by the majority group in any given society must ultimately determine the broad direction taken by the joint culture of that society. This need not cramp the style of those who feel differently but on the whole, a country in Africa, in which the majority of the people are African must inevitably exhibit African values and be truly African in style.

What of the claim that the blacks are becoming racists? This is a favourite pastime of frustrated liberals who feel their trusteeship ground being washed off from under their feet. These self-appointed trustees of black interests boast of years of experience in their fight for the ‘rights of the blacks’. They have been doing things for blacks, on behalf of blacks, and because of blacks. When the blacks announce that the time has come for them to do things for themselves and all by themselves all white liberals shout blue murder!

“Hey, you can’t do that. You’re being a racist. You’re falling into their trap.”

Apparently it’s alright with the liberals as long as you remain caught by their trap. Those who know, define racism as discrimination by a group against another for the purposes of subjugation or maintaining subjugation. In other words one cannot be a racist unless he has the power to subjugate. What blacks are doing is merely to respond to a situation in which they find themselves the objects of white racism. We are in the position in which we are because of our skin. We are collectively segregated against—what can be more logical than for us to respond as a group? When workers come together under the auspices of a trade union to strive for the betterment of their conditions, nobody expresses surprise in the Western world. It is the done thing. Nobody accuses them of separatist tendencies. Teachers fight their battles, garbagemen do the same, nobody acts as a trustee for another. Somehow, however, when blacks want to do their thing the liberal establishment seems to detect an anomaly. This is in fact a counter-anomaly. The anomaly was there in the first instance when the liberals were presumptuous enough to think that it behoved them to fight the battle for the blacks.

The liberal must understand that the days of the Noble Savage are gone; that the blacks do not need a go-between in this struggle for their own emancipation. No true liberal should feel any resentment at the growth of black consciousness. Rather, all true liberals should realise that the place for their fight for justice is within their white society. The liberals must realise that they themselves are oppressed if they are true liberals and therefore they must fight for their own freedom and not that of the nebulous “they” with whom they can hardly claim identification. The liberal must apply himself with absolute dedication to the idea of educating his white brothers that the history of the country may have to be rewritten at some stage and that we may live in “a country where colour will not serve to put a man in a box”.

The blacks have heard enough of this. In other words, the liberal must serve as a lubricating material so that as we change the gears in trying to find a better direction for South Africa, there should be no grinding noises of metal against metal but a free and easy flowing movement which will be characteristic of a well-looked-after vehicle.

From I Write What I Like.

statement from students occupying uct’s bremner building

BREMNER OCCUPATION STATEMENT

We, the Rhodes Must Fall movement, are occupying the Bremner building with the intention to 1) disrupt the normal processes of management and 2) force management to accept our demands. We have chosen to occupy the Bremner building, and the Archie Mafeje room specifically, because of its strategic and historical significance – it is the place where management carries out its activities, and these are precisely the activities we seek to subvert. In addition, the building is a historical site of protest – in 1968 UCT students opposed the university’s decision to rescind the professorship of one of the continent’s leading anthropologists, Archie Mafeje. We have chosen the Archie Mafeje boardroom to recognise his struggle against the very institutional racism we are fighting against.

We have claimed and transformed this space to begin the decolonisation of the university. We are implementing a programme of rigorous political education under the guidance of a group of black lecturers from UCT and other South African universities that interrogates and problematizes the neo-colonial narratives pertaining to Africa. This education forces us to reject these narratives and their normative nature because they re-inforce our displacement both geographically and existentially.

We have begun to question the entire neo-colonial situation, whether South Africa belongs to all those who live in it and whether it is us the people that are occupying this building or whether we are realising the fact that this building and its land always belonged to the people. This education has extended far beyond the falling of the statue and has reached the language of struggle. How do we organise, how do we mobilise and most importantly how do we get what we want. How do we resolve the tensions between Pan-Africanism and intersectionality, moreover how does that implicate our own movement. Management has told us that they are allowing us to stay in Bremner. This building that sits on the land of black people, this building that was constructed on the sweat and blood of black people. If UCT is not afraid at this point all we have to say is NANG’UMFAZI OMNYAMA MAX PRICE!

We are here because we are calling into question the legitimacy of the supposedly democratic process Dr Max Price has put in place to address the removal of the Rhodes statue.

It is infuriating that management is attempting to open up a process of debate through their plan of action. Alumni have been emailed and asked for input, and notice boards have been put up near the statue to allow for comment from the broader student body. This is unacceptable to the black (by this we mean all oppressed people of colour) students, workers and staff belonging to this movement. It is absurd that anyone besides those who experience the statue as a violent presence should have any say in whether the statue should stay or not. White students in particular cannot be consulted in such a process because they can never truly empathise with the profound violence exerted on the psyche of black students. Management is making clear through this process that they are not interested in alleviating black pain unless the move to do so is validated by white voices. Opening up the discussion to an alumni that is overwhelmingly white and male will only prejudice black people, and black women particularly, in the decision-making process. To refuse to explicitly acknowledge these skewed demographics is unacceptable. Our pain and anger is at the centre of why the statue is being questioned, so this pain and anger must be responded to in a way that only we can define.

Further, the ‘Have Your Say’ notice boards have only made UCT’s black community more vulnerable – UCT has crafted a space that allows students to be blatantly racist with impunity, at the expense of a safe space for black people. This shows that UCT either does not know the violence black people face here, or they truly have no interest in our protection. Finally, it is revealing that while black protestors are threatened with and are facing investigations, the racist backlash from white students has been met with silence by the university.

That the presence of Rhodes is seen as debatable shows that management does not understand the extent of the terrible violence inflicted against black people historically and presently. The push for dialogue around the statue reflects the disturbing normalisation of colonisation and white supremacy at UCT.

In his letter “From the VC’s Desk: Rhodes statue protests and transformation”, Dr Price states that there has never been such university-wide discussion on this issue. He does so without interrogating why this is the case. It is the fault of UCT management that discussion has been suppressed for so long. Black students have clearly not had any channels through which to express their pain within the university, and no genuine steps have been taken by UCT to provide such. It is telling that a student had to go to the lengths that Chumani did in order to garner the university’s attention on issues of black pain. The fact that management has clearly disregarded the experiences of black students, staff and workers for the last 21 years on this campus calls into question their legitimacy in dealing with the issue of removing the statue.

The illegitimate nature of this process is also illustrated by our walk-out last Monday in protest of the disingenuous Heritage, Signage and Symbolism seminar. After the walk-out, the remaining members of the seminar stopped the discussion to respect student protestors and our decision that any conversation on the statue can only happen on our terms. The fact that the Vice-Chancellor mentioned this seminar in his letter without contextualising it reveals that he is committed to upholding a process that is clearly to the detriment of black students.

We take issue with Dr Price’s reasoning that “it is a council decision”. Again, the only view relevant to the decision is that of black students, workers and staff, and we refuse to accept the trivialisation of this fact in the form of management prioritising white stakeholders. We are also fully aware that UCT senior management has taken unilateral decisions before with no delay – we refer here to the decisions taken on the admissions policy which was pushed through by senior management.

We stress that this movement is not simply about the removal of a statue, and removing the statue is only the first step towards the radical decolonisation of this university. The removal of the statue is the first condition of our campaign – from which point we will allow management to engage with us. We demand that Management accepts that there is no decision to make: this movement has decided that the statue must fall. We demand that Dr Price organises an emergency meeting of council this week Friday the 27th of March to discuss the processes involved in removing the statue from this campus. We will remain in Bremner building until we receive confirmation of this.

olive schreiner on cecil john rhodes

“We fight Rhodes because he means so much of oppression, injustice, and moral degradation to South Africa; – but if he passed away tomorrow there still remains the terrible fact that something in our society has formed the matrix which has fed, nourished, and built up such a man!”

– In a letter to John X. Merriman on 3 April 1897, published at Olive Schreiner Letters online.

Rhodes statue, head covered in garbage bags. University of Cape Town, 17 March 2015. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Statue of Cecil John Rhodes, head covered in garbage bags. University of Cape Town, 17 March 2015. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Some more provocative white writing about the legacy of Rhodes can be found HERE.