The Abantu Book Festival was hosted in Soweto from 6 to 9 December 2018, bringing a wide range of speakers and authors to discuss and promote African literature. The entire event was scarred by the ludicrous decision to ban white people from attending, even going so far as banning the parents of mixed race children as well.
Excluding whites from events is not new. Racists who don’t think they’re racist have been doing it for a while now. In an effort to combat “whiteness” and the apparently inherent oppressive aura that white people have, ‘critical racialists’ – racists – have been insisting that whites cannot enter their “space”.
In an effort to keep back the oh-so-vicious and oppressive aura of white people from ruining a literary festival, the Abantu Book Festival banned their attendance. Only black authors and black readers were allowed to attend.
Contrary to what some supporters of this decision may think, a lot of people are upset with this decision not because they wanted to attend, but rather that this decision is fundamentally racist (and unjustifiably so), bad for race relations and, most of all, bad for the African authors that we should be supporting.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that banning an entire race group from an event is racist. It takes a moron to think otherwise. I am all for freedom of association, however, and support private ventures hosting as racist events as they’d like.
But this wasn’t just a purely private affair.
The event was sponsored by both the arts and culture department as well as the City of Joburg. That meant that public money, much of which is provided by white taxpayers, was used to fund an overtly racist event. This is unacceptable in a country which claims to want to fight racism.
It goes without saying that this racial policy only damages race relations and nation building. While race is an almost biologically-negligible factor, and it is only state policy that keeps it afloat, events like this choose to return us to Apartheid era racial classification. There is no difference between the racial classification that was the foundation of Apartheid and the racial classification that is used by the racists behind this event. The ideology of the festival is clear. They don’t care about eliminating racial boundaries. They care about trendy racial hatred.
Not so ironically, many reported that they felt that the event was still a place of whiteness.
And, of course, they would think that. Whiteness has come to refer to everything, but most pertinently to the feeling of unease that some people have and can’t explain.
But whiteness doesn’t exist. It is just a term given to complain about anything and everything. If the presence of literature and the literary process is something to criticise as whiteness, then one is confusing whiteness with civilisation and culture.
If you see whiteness everywhere, or anywhere, the problem isn’t with whiteness. The problem is with you, your hang ups and your insecurities.
Fortunately, even the typically radically social justice left-wing website The Daily Vox published a piece on why the racial discrimination was a bad thing:
“While it has become more popular in university circles, festivals, and organisations, excluding white people is a useless political move most of the time, as it mostly occurs as a form of self-aggrandising ‘fake wokeness’ with no desire to change society.”
Bad for Business
Even if you ignore the intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology behind the Abantu Book Festival’s decision, it is still counterproductive and ultimately bad for the people it is meant to support: black authors.
When you ban an entire demographic from coming to a book festival to buy books, then all you are doing is chasing away paying customers. That’s bad business. And even if the trendy lefties running the convention don’t care about business, they should care about black authors. And for any author to survive and keep writing, they need to make money.
Like it or not, white readers make up a huge portion of paying customers. All the banning of whites from the Abantu Book Festival accomplished was alienating white readers from black authors, and preventing black authors from gaining fans, readers and customers.
If you support banning whites from learning about black authors and buying their books, you don’t actually care about black authors. You only care about a morally and intellectually bankrupt ideology that gives you a nice and smug feeling when you air your racial hatred.
If the Abantu Book Festival truly cares about literature in Africa, they must apologise for their decision. Not to whites who may have wanted to attend, but to the authors who have lost out as a result of this petty virtue signalling.