‘Blackness’ Comes in Different Packages


Written by: Kamogelo Mangena

I have been battling to write this piece for an agonising month now.

And, I have to admit, as a black, rational thinker, I sometimes isolate myself in the transformation discourse, not because I have little to say, but because I am bestowed with a fait accompli on my blackness and identity. The concept of ‘transformation’ and ‘decolonisation’ has populated the South African lexicon; and, although the term remains undefined for many, it is correct that it implies tangible improvements in an inherited set-up so that it can perform efficiently and to represent Afrocentric epistemologies. The discourse has become racialised by its focus on a poor, previously-marginalised group; those upon whom the term has been shoved.

A, B, C – Blackness comes in different packages

In the acclaimed 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, there is public manipulation under the control of a privileged elite of the Inner Party that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as ‘thoughtcrime’.

In our context, self-appointed vanguards of black pain and blackness have made it an anathema to question or oppose a collectivist trait that a black individual must, apparently, fulfill. I have come to witness virulent criticism that I apparently exude nothing more than ‘whiteness’ and a ‘colonised’ mind. I mostly chuckle at this verbiage, because the collectivists are saying black individuals do not have the intellectual capacity to think, assess and conclude for themselves. In fact, they should be doing so because of a white agenda and a ‘colonised’ mind.

Until recently, I did not realise the rather intriguing irony of one ‘defender of blackness’ who often makes appearances on my social media feeds. Here is this fellow who is very instrumental in fighting ‘whiteness’ and any idea that reeks of Western thought, with a picture of his grade 1 child and a white educator (assuming she’s the teacher to his child) captioned “Back to school”.

I was gobsmacked. How can this man send his child to be taught by someone who doesn’t share the colour of his skin, yet expect that his child be taught to reject whiteness and anything that comes with it? Why would you expect a white woman to teach a black child about being black? (Thanks, but no thanks, Gillian Schutte). Surely I am not misguided in expecting the progenies of slave masters to educate my child so they can compete with their children, or am I?

South Africans should be wary of these demagogues they swoon over: To them, ‘developing’ and ‘building’ this country are foreign verbs.

Our discourse should be centred on creating wealth whilst recognising means of redress. But I, like many other black, rational thinkers, are denied this opportunity. If we allow them to speak for us, we will soon be writing an epitaph to our thoughts.

The ghost persists: How do we ensure access to the economy and build wealth without entrenching ‘race’ as the determining factor of the future, and without being policed on how black scholars should apparently think? What South Africa doesn’t need now, is people who seek to tell others how they should think. The socialist resorts to claiming that a utopian society will lead to a mum economy. We need to, of course, adapt to change and learn to look at ourselves beyond the lenses of race and ethnicity. The youth definitely has the capacity to turn things around; will we allow for ‘transformation’ to impose itself?

Author: Kamogelo Mangena is a socio-political activist, he is currently the DA Youth Chairperson in Hammanskraal, Gauteng North and writes in his personal capacity.