“Social justice writer and blogger” Luke Waltham recently wrote an article for The Daily Vox titled, “Those who are against decolonisation are white supremacists”. The average reader whose mind is not clouded by preconceived, prejudiced, and collectivist notions of what people think by virtue of being of a certain race, would immediately notice the problematic thesis put forward in the title. Indeed, the title is enough to reject the entire article outright, as any argument which proceeds from such flawed premises would always also be flawed in and of itself.
However, given that I am not a philosopher, I have entertained Waltham’s short rant, and, even after reading the whole piece, I have arrived at the same conclusion.
Waltham’s entire article is one, big strawman argument, wherein he not only misrepresents the very valid arguments against so-called ‘decolonization’, but he ignores them entirely. Other than being a strawman, the entire article is also a non sequitur argument, in that his conclusion does not follow from what he attempted to argue. Let’s take his piece apart.
“The reality of the decolonisation debate, and the views argued, is that there is an exceptional amount of ignorance and lack of understanding from the majority of those who argue against it.”
This first excerpt was presumably inserted by a Vox editor.
So, according to this editor, opponents of decolonization are ignorant and don’t understand the concept. Sure, that’s one view. But based on this, how can Waltham later conclude that opponents of decolonization are ‘white supremacists’? Would a Zulu be considered racist if he were unable to speak French to Frenchmen? Would an extra-terrestrial alien be speciest if they were unable to make heads or tails of English literature? No? Then how can someone be a ‘white supremacist’ if they fail to understand decolonization?
White supremacy is the notion that the white race is superior to all others. It does not depend upon an understanding or lack thereof of concepts which emanate from the social justice left. A true white supremacist would be a white supremacist regardless of whether or not they understood the notion of decolonization. And those who aren’t white supremacists cannot be called white supremacists if their only error is not understanding.
“If someone were to ask you for the name of a well-known black scientist, professor or academic, you would most probably find yourself stuck, unable to answer.”
This is true, although there are some notable exceptions. Walter E. Williams, author of South Africa’s War Against Capitalism, is a brilliant black academic. Thomas Sowell, who once remarked that he is not a ‘professional black man’ but rather a professional economist, is a similar brilliant mind, who many within libertarian circles regard as virtually unmatched.
The lack of notable black scientists, professors or academics, however, has nothing to do with decolonization, unless one argues that ideas are racial.
Decolonization, as Waltham later defines it, is about opposing “the notion that our society and our education system should be based solely off of Eurocentric ideas.” I agree with this definition.
Why, then, is the race of these intellectuals questioned? Waltham, a white man, is a proponent of decolonization. Presumably if he were to become a law lecturer and later a legal intellectual, he would incorporate the ideas of decolonization into his work. Would he not qualify as part of the decolonization movement, then?
Thomas Sowell – a radical capitalist and individualist – is a black economist who would likely oppose decolonization with all the fiber of his being. Does he, however, qualify as an academic who is black? Or will he be discounted because his ideas don’t line up with the narrative?
Clearly, confusing race and ideas is problematic, and social justice warriors carry on doing it regardless. To them, as we know, being ‘black’ is not a matter of skin color, but a mentality. (This same rule does not apply to whites, however. If you are white, you are cursed with it for life.)
“The first ignorant, white supremacist response would be, ‘Yes, that’s because all the best inventions, discoveries and ideas have come from Europe and the West.’ This, of course, is wrong.”
Waltham continues to confuse ideas and race. Thinking that the best ideas have tended to come from the West does not make one a ‘white supremacist’. Thomas Sowell and his ideas are a product of the West. Does my belief that Sowell’s economic ideas and analysis are vastly superior to that of his peers in Africa make me a white supremacist? Surely not.
But Waltham also confuses ideas and geography.
“Europe” is a place; “the West” is not. The West is an intellectual tradition – or, at least, that is what it became. Sowell is a Westerner, but not a European. I am a Westerner, but not a European. Half of my black lecturers at university were Westerners, but not Europeans. My 98% black colleagues at African Students For Liberty in West and East Africa are Westerners, but not Europeans.
I agree with Waltham, however, that it’s ignorant to attribute ‘the best ideas’ to Europe. Communism, Critical Theory, Critical Feminist Theory, and Critical Race Theory are all products of Europe, after all. And yes, it would be ignorant and, indeed, white supremacist for someone to claim that the best ideas come from whites. But that is rarely said by any serious intellectual. It’s a strawman.
“Regardless, it is extremely important that as an African state and as people living in Africa, we oppose the notion that our society and our education system should be based solely off of Eurocentric ideas.”
I agree on the point about Eurocentrism, and that is why I have dedicated my life to fighting against Marxism, lite socialism, and Critical Race Theory – all products of Europe.
But Waltham’s argument that ‘as’ an African state and ‘as’ people living in Africa, we should follow a particular mode of thinking, is silly, dangerous, and totalitarian. As an individual, I will think according to whatever system I choose. If Waltham’s argument is that we should not impose these systems of thought on our children, then I agree. I am a big proponent of privatizing education and giving education firms and individual schools the ability to decide for themselves what they will teach. Ditto universities. I would love it if students could tick ‘Afrocentric,’ ‘Eurocentric’, or ‘Westocentric’ on their university application forms.
Waltham, of course, is not arguing for that, and I suspect he is likely a big fan of state-provided education. In other words, he wants to force kids as well as university students to learn according to an imposed curriculum with no real choice in the matter. So what he and other proponents of decolonization propose is no less authoritarian than what we currently have, and what they claim they are fighting against.
“Instead, we need to create an inclusive, open system that composes of African ideas, African education and African knowledge.”
Yep – authoritarian, but also doublespeak.
An “inclusive, open system” but that imposes “African ideas, African education and African knowledge”? How exactly is it open and inclusive if I have no choice in the matter?
“It is nonsensical to argue that there is nothing we can gain from integrating African knowledge and education.”
Another strawman argument. Nobody has seriously argued against integrating African knowledge and education where it is relevant. Teaching African philosophers alongside European and Asian philosophers is a great idea. Replacing European philosophers with African philosophers in the curriculum is, however, not such a great idea.
What is important at the end of the day is a diversity of ideas, not of origins and races.
“Our society needs to deconstruct systems of white supremacy and instead, uplift and equalise the ideas, knowledge and sciences of both black and white people. “
Quite, but let’s not ‘deconstruct’ those things which are not “systems of white supremacy”. In South Africa, we are fortunate that all of our systems of white supremacy – collectively known as ‘Apartheid’ – have already been deconstructed.
Of course, Waltham and company will argue that capitalism and a host of other ideas are part of ‘white supremacy’, which really makes his entire article irrelevant. He might as well have simply said: “Only those who agree with a certain ideology are good, and the rest are white supremacists.”
Lastly, ‘ideas’ cannot be ‘uplifted’ and should certainly not be ‘equalized’. An idea has no dignity – it cannot be offended or harmed, so it doesn’t need to be ‘uplifted’ or ’empowered’. You can advocate for a certain idea, but that idea has no independent right of existence. If people like the idea, they will accept it. If not, they won’t. And ideas are certainly not equal nor are they supposed to be. The ‘idea’ that a woman need not consent to sexual intercourse for it to be fine is not equal to the idea that consent is imperative. Ideas should be debated and argued on their own merits – not abstractly ‘equalized’.
The non sequitur in Waltham’s article should be evident.
It does not follow that favoring Western thinking equals ‘white supremacy’. It does not follow that being a black person means one supports decolonization. It does not follow that integrating African knowledge means imposing it on people. It does not follow that ‘deconstructing’ white supremacy means deconstructing everything the social justice warrior disagrees with.
Similarly, Waltham attacked a strawman. Virtually nobody has campaigned to exclude the ideas developed in Africa from education. What people have opposed, however, is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Let’s find a compromise. Those universities and schools which want to ‘Africanize’ ideologically should be allowed to do so. Those universities and schools which want to ‘Westernize’ ideologically should be allowed to do so. Those which want a perfect 50/50 balance should be allowed to do so. This, however, means that government needs to lose its monopoly on education and allow the people to decide for themselves in the open marketplace.