Our Individuality Comes Before Our Blackness

individuality, youth

The worst mistake you can make is thinking that because you are black, and black people are in the overwhelming majority, then democracy will always align to your interests.

Firstly, as individuals, we don’t all have the same interests. It’s not just a matter of seizing stuff from white people; by seizing “the stuff”, a lot of black people will lose jobs and business deals as well, due to the interconnected and cooperative nature of economics. That’s partly why the ANC is so angry at the black middle class. Moreover, by setting the precedent that things can be seized by government for political reasons, there is nothing protecting black South Africans down the line from the same treatment.

Secondly, because of the above, there is no “black agenda”. We don’t all agree on what needs to be done.

For instance, there are bullies saying they have all the answers and we need to listen to them, or else (I’m looking at you, Mzwandile Masina, Andile Mngxitama and Jacob Zuma).

There are those like members of COSATU who want to protect their own interests even at the expense of the unemployed.

There are those who are advocating for a state-led capitalist model of development.

There are those who just want to continue getting BEE deals no matter what.

There are those (like me) who believe that the free market, property rights and minimal government involvement is what is needed.

And there are those who want government regulations to continue serving the interests of big business (because they are a part of it) at the expense of small business and workers.

There are even those who believe we need the pre-colonial model of government revived, with traditional leaders playing a central role.

Thirdly, in the absence of a “black agenda”, it is time to recognise that black people are individuals. Apartheid and colonialism may have tried to group us and oppress us collectively, and that required unity to destroy that oppressor; but apart from that common interest we have differing and sometimes divergent interests.

Yes, poverty might be an approximate unifier (because it affects us disproportionately; but not all black people are poor and we don’t all agree on how to solve the problem) and it is unacceptable that the colour of poverty should be black. That is why I believe we should be asking ourselves what the best way of solving the problem of poverty is, and going with that solution instead of race mobilisation for solutions that have failed all around the world.

The way forward? Accept individuality and propose solutions that don’t assume that black unity can be achieved or is even desirable. We are not mindless robots by virtue of our skin colour – you have your own view about what should be done and I have mine – let’s respect our respective intelligences and engage in earnest debate without resorting to emotional race blackmail.

My agenda? I want to sell something to you and everyone else; I’m just trying to set the stage so my trade with you can go as smoothly as possible, for me and for you, because your benefit is my benefit as well. Black or white, it is not a zero-sum game; we can all win.

Everyone has an agenda that ultimately serves their own individual interest. Maybe try and pick allies on the basis of a shared agenda rather than something as arbitrary as skin colour.