[A response to Gene Marks’s “If I Were A Poor Black Kid” in Forbes by Touré]
If I were a middle class white guy
writing on Forbes.com about being a poor Black kid I’d be clueless. I’d be so clueless that I wouldn’t realize that I’m clueless, so I would not know that I should really, really step away from my expensive computer and not press send on my condescending, paternalistic and simplistic little essay that breezily fixes the problems of poor Black kids. I wouldn’t think, well, if these steps are so easy — use the Internet to get more learning and try real hard — then why don’t more kids do that? I mean, wouldn’t some of them have thought of that already? No, they wouldn’t because none of them are middle class white guys.
I wouldn’t think about how my cheery advice doesn’t really interact with the challenges of being a poor Black kid — from the lack of role models to poor schools to depressed employment opportunities to the lure of the drug game to the day-to-day difficulties of being poor that makes it hard to get out of being poor because of a system that’s constructed to keep you poor. I wouldn’t think about those things because I wouldn’t really know anything about them because I don’t have to. I could potentially solve some of my ignorance by interviewing some poor Black kids before I write about them, but I wouldn’t go do that because, you know, what if I get robbed. I saw that happen in a movie.
In my pithy, encouraging, bootstrappy message to the poor, Black kids of America I wouldn’t include a discussion of overcoming the challenges of racism — from the mind-numbing messages society sends to broken families to the paucity of opportunity to the overpolicing of poor Black communities, which leads to the prevalence of criminal records which makes it nearly impossible to get jobs. I wouldn’t realize that Black people who are applying for jobs with a clean criminal record are treated the same as white people with a criminal record, so the struggle to find a job is complicated by Black skin. I wouldn’t know that the recession has hit Blacks harder than it hit whites, so no matter what a Black kid does he cannot find a job if few exist.
I wouldn’t think about these things if I were a middle class white man because I never really think about racism because I don’t have to. Racism is something that happens to other people and I don’t really think about it that often because it’s complicated and it makes me uncomfortable to think about. I don’t even think about how race impacts my life, but I have a race card. You didn’t know I have a race card? Of course, I do. I don’t even have to pull out my race card for it to work. It works automatically. It’s accepted everywhere you want to be. Membership has its privileges.
If I were a middle class man writing about a poor Black kid I would assume that anyone who knows the world in the way that I do would make the decisions that I would make so I need only share with them the knowledge that I have. I wouldn’t think about how their environment might impact their ability or willingness to use that information. I mean, everyone has access to the Internet, right? Just turn it on and become a Google Scholar, and then Skype away to a better education. I wouldn’t think that some of them may lack Wi-Fi. I mean, everyone has Wi-Fi, right?
Look, I’m a middle class white guy on deadline at a big-time magazine, with no idea of the hornet’s nest I’m about to step into — I’m just trying to be nice and give some advice to some poor poor Black kids. I’m doing the right thing. I’m not even aware that the very gesture and the breezyness of my discussion is insulting because I’m wrapped up in a cocoon of white privilege that blinds me to the realities of being a poor Black kid, so I’m not even aware of how difficult it is to be a poor Black kid because my life has never been anywhere near as difficult. Thank God for that.
[Personally I thought Gene Marks was pompous & facetious in this post. That’s just me.]
President Obama gave an
excellent speech last week in Kansas about inequality in America.
“This is the defining issue of our time.” He said. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.”
He’s right. The spread between rich and poor has gotten wider over the decades. And the opportunities for the 99% have become harder to realize.
The President’s speech got me thinking. My kids are no smarter than similar kids their age from the inner city. My kids have it much easier than their counterparts from West
Philadelphia. The world is not fair to those kids mainly because they had the misfortune of being born two miles away into a more difficult part of the world and with a skin color that makes realizing the opportunities that the President spoke about that much harder. This is a fact. In 2011.
I am not a poor black kid. I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background. So life was easier for me. But that doesn’t mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city. It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them. Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind. I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed. Still. In 2011. Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.
It takes brains. It takes hard work. It takes a little luck. And a little help from others. It takes the ability and the know-how to use the resources that are available. Like technology. As a person who sells and has worked with technology all my life I also know this.
If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.
And I would use the technology available to me as a student. I know a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays. That because (and sadly) it’s oftentimes a necessary thing to keep their kids safe at home than on the streets. And libraries and schools have computers available too. Computers can be purchased cheaply at outlets like TigerDirect and Dell’s Outlet. Professional organizations like accountants and architects often offer used computers from their members, sometimes at no cost at all.
If I was a poor black kid I’d use the free technology available to help me study. I’d become expert at Google Scholar. I’d visit study sites like SparkNotes and CliffsNotes to help me understand books. I’d watch relevant teachings on Academic Earth, TED and the Khan Academy. (I say relevant because some of these lectures may not be related to my work or too advanced for my age. But there are plenty of videos on these sites that are suitable to my studies and would help me stand out.) I would also, when possible, get my books for free at
Project Gutenberg and learn how to do research at the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia to help me with my studies. I would use homework tools like Backpack, and Diigo to help me store and share my work with other classmates. I would use Skype to study with other students who also want to do well in my school. I would take advantage of study websites like Evernote, Study Rails, Flashcard Machine, Quizlet, and free online calculators.
Is this easy? No it’s not. It’s hard. It takes a special kind of kid to succeed. And to succeed even with these tools is much harder for a black kid from West Philadelphia than a white kid from the suburbs. But it’s not impossible. The tools are there. The technology is there. And the opportunities there.
In Philadelphia, there are nationally recognized magnet schools like Central, Girls High and Masterman. These schools are free. But they are hard to get in to. You need good grades and good test scores. And there are also other good magnet and charter schools in the city. You also need good grades to get into those. In a school system that is so broken these are bright spots. Getting into one of these schools opens up a world of opportunities. More than 90% of the kids that go to Central go on to college. I would use the internet to research each one of these schools so I could find out how I could be admitted. I would find out the names of the admissions people and go to meet with them. If I was a poor black kid I would make it my goal to get into one of these schools.
Or even a private school. Most private schools I know are filled to the brim with the 1%. That’s because these schools are exclusive and expensive, costing anywhere between $20 and $50k per year. But there’s a secret about them. Most have scholarship programs. Most have boards of trustees that want to give opportunities to kids that can’t afford the tuition. Many would provide funding for not only tuition but also for transportation or even boarding. Trust me, they want to show diversity. They want to show smiling, smart kids of many different colors and races on their fundraising brochures. If I was a poor black kid I’d be using technology to research these schools on the internet, too, and making them know that I exist and that I get good grades and want to go to their school.
And once admitted to one of these schools the first person I’d introduce myself to would be the school’s guidance counselor. This is the person who will one day help me go to a college. This is the person who knows everything there is to know about financial aid, grants, minority programs and the like. This is the person who may also know of job programs and co-op learning opportunities that I could participate in. This is the person who could help me get summer employment at a law firm or a business owned by the 1% where I could meet people and show off my stuff.
If I was a poor black kid I would get technical. I would learn software. I would learn how to write code. I would seek out courses in my high school that teaches these skills or figure out where to learn more online. I would study on my own. I would make sure my writing and communication skills stay polished.
Because a poor black kid who gets good grades, has a part time job and becomes proficient with a technical skill will go to college. There is financial aid available. There are programs available. And no matter what he or she majors in that person will have opportunities. They will find jobs in a country of business owners like me who are starved for smart, skilled people. They will succeed.
President Obama was right in his speech last week. The division between rich and poor is a national problem. But the biggest challenge we face isn’t inequality. It’s ignorance. So many kids from West Philadelphia don’t even know these opportunities exist for them. Many come from single-parent families whose mom or dad (or in many cases their grand mom) is working two jobs to survive and are just (understandably) too plain tired to do anything else in the few short hours they’re home. Many have teachers who are overburdened and too stressed to find the time to help every kid that needs it. Many of these kids don’t have the brains to figure this out themselves – like my kids. Except that my kids are just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction.
Technology can help these kids. But only if the kids want to be helped. Yes, there is much inequality. But the opportunity is still there in this country for those that are smart enough to go for it.
[It’s heartening to note that not all Afrikaners agree with the extremist views of AfriForum. This open letter to AfriForum by Adriaan Basson keeps my idealistic self hopeful.]
By: Adriaan Basson
Open letter to AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel
Like you, I am a white Afrikaner who lives in Africa. I was glad to read in last week’s City Press that you identify yourself as “an African with a light complexion”.
I do too. I suspect, however, that we have vastly different interpretations of what it means to be an African Afrikaner in South Africa and on the position of Afrikaners in 2011.
You see yourself firstly as part of a minority group whose constitutional and human rights are being disregarded by the ANC. The premise of AfriForum’s campaigns is one of victimhood.
You regard the Afrikaners as a group under threat, a people whose basic rights to expression, association and movement are constantly being undermined by the black majority.
You want to struggle – in the courts, on the streets and in the legislature.This is a dangerous game, Kallie. You are not stupid, I know that.
So why are you refusing to present to your supporters a fairer, more balanced picture of your people’s position in South Africa today?
Is something more sinister at play? Is scaring people a more profitable tactic for AfriForum?
You know as well as I do that the Afrikaner’s cultural, religious and linguistic identity is not under threat. When I visit the Potchefstroom or Oudtshoorn arts festivals, I don’t see people who are suppressed.
In fact, they look happier to me than they were in 1994.
Have you heard of Afrikaner author Deon Meyer’s phenomenal success? We write what we like, Kallie.
You referred to the right-wing publication Die Afrikaner in your interview with us. Would an oppressive regime, hellbent on suppressing its minorities, allow such a publication to appear?
I think not.
You (and Judge Colin Lamont) use the very narrow definition of numeracy to define minorities. Yes, numberwise the Afrikaner is a minority group.
But even the United Nations, whose Minorities Declaration of 1992 is repeated almost verbatim on AfriForum’s website, recognises numbers can never be the only determining factor when defining minorities.
The UN published a report titled “Minorities under international law” in which it specifically (and ironically) quoted the South African example: “In most instances, a minority group will be a numerical minority, but in others, a numerical majority may also find itself in a minority-like or non-dominant position, such as blacks under the apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Who knows why the ANC’s legal team didn’t make this point in the case you brought against them. I’m sure AfriForum would agree that poor black South Africans are in an even less dominant position than middle-class Afrikaners from Pretoria.Which brings me to crime.
Why does AfriForum focus largely on crime against whites when you know black, poor people are by far the most vulnerable members of society when it comes to violent crime?
I see your old foe, the Transvaal Agricultural Union, admitted last week that farm murders were down by almost 100% in the last financial year.
I didn’t see a press statement from them or AfriForum on this.Isn’t there also a responsibility on a civil rights group to inform its members when things improve?
Isn’t there a risk we’ll have more Johan Nels – the young killer from Swartruggens who believed blacks were actively targeting whites in some form of genocide, and murdered four black people out of blind rage – if organisations like yours don’t inform and educate your supporters about what’s really going on?
Or is there some reason you don’t?
If they are a minority, then Afrikaners must be one of the most powerful, wealthy and diverse minorities on the planet.
Remember apartheid? The system that benefited your and my forbears to such an extent that we are still better off today than our black peers?
Have you had a look at the Sunday Times’ most recent Rich List published two weeks ago?
If you did, you would have seen that four Afrikaners – Christo Wiese (Shoprite), Laurie Dippenaar (FirstRand), Johann Rupert (Rembrandt) and GT Ferreira (RMB) – are included in the country’s top 10 richest people.And did you see who the top two earners were for 2010?
Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson (who earned R627 million) and BHP Billiton boss Marius Kloppers (R77 million) – two Afrikaners.
Did you discuss this with the members of AfriForum?
Surely it is not possible for people from a minority group who are suppressed to do business in their country of birth?
And have you asked Wiese, Dippenaar, Rupert and Ferreira whether they regard themselves as minorities? Have they addressed AfriForum’s membership on becoming a billionaire minority?
It doesn’t seem so when I look at your website.
I only see campaigns against Julius Malema, taxi drivers and Judge Nkola Motata (to your credit, you did commission a legal opinion on the Protection of Information Bill).
Did you see Stats SA’s latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey for 2011?
Did AfriForum tell its supporters that the year-on-year unemployment rate of white people was the only population group to have decreased?
Did you explain to them that 30% of adult blacks (four million people) are jobless, compared with 5% (105 000 people) of whites?
If not, why not?
I suppose you have to emphasise the “threats” to get your supporters to donate to your “Stop Malema” campaign.
This is speculation, but I’m guessing that AfriForum has close to zero legitimacy today for black South Africans (and thousands of whites).
I am not saying you shouldn’t have taken the Dubula ibhunu case to court, but I’m questioning why you decided to pick that case and insisted on a judgment, even when Lamont was trying his best to push for a settlement.
Even your own “Civil Rights Manifest” argues in favour of settlements.I am deeply concerned about the effect AfriForum’s actions are having on our society and this is why I’m writing this letter to you.
Your actions are having a polarising effect and you need to do serious introspection if you want to be respected as a civil rights group.
Otherwise, you risk being a racist lobby group. Is there any reason AfriForum has no black employees (according to your website) and, I assume, no black members?
Have you considered joining forces with other rights groups like Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers’ movement?
Or even the Landless People’s Movement?
Or do you really only want to represent the rights of (a small group of) Afrikaners, even though your “Civil Rights Manifest” commits you to benefiting “all the citizens of South Africa”?
Do you always have to feel white first, and African second?
I encourage all young South Africans to get involved and be informed on the “known knowns” & “unknown unknowns” of the politics in our country. Form your own opinions, whatever they may be. But make sure they are YOUR OWN.
Above is today’s Zapiro cartoon. There were many reactions on Twitter today. These are not my personal opinion, but those of other Tweeple. I know where I stand. I put to you two viewpoints.
“Zapiro is a free speech advocate who should be applauded for taking a stand against the ruling party & government.”
“Zapiro gives us sensationalist garbage under the guise of art.”
While nationalism sweeps the US with the death of Bin Laden, Muslim Americans worry bigotry against them will persist.
Following the death of Osama bin Laden, some are worried that the latest surge in nationalism could lead to increased acts of Islamophobia against the Muslim American community.
News of Osama bin Laden’s death has brought a surge of nationalism throughout much of the United States, and the Obama administration is using the event to justify its foreign policy in the Middle East.
Given that al-Qaeda has claimed the lives of far more Arab Muslims than Westerners, many Muslims and Arabs living in the US are relieved that he is gone.
Yet that relief is tempered by the knowledge that bigotry they face is most likely going to remain.
“I hope that his death helps
reduce the stereotyping we all face here at times,” Said Alani, an Arab and Muslim who is a college student in New York told Al Jazeera, “But even though the symbol [Osama bin Laden] is dead, and that chapter is closed, I imagine there will still be some people who carry the stereotype on against Muslims in the United States. Osama bin Laden was the symbol of the stereotype, but the stereotype will still exist. I even see people here that call Japanese ‘Japs’ and think that they should be in concentration camps. So even that stereotype is still alive.”
According to the US government, at approximately 1:30 a.m. local time in Pakistan, a US special forces team conducted a helicopter raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the so-called leader of al-Qaeda, where he was staying in a summer resort compound in the town of Abbottabad, roughly 60km north of Islamabad.
Abbottabad is also the home of Pakistan’s premier military academy.
Bin Laden, an adult son, an unidentified woman, and two other men were killed, according to US officials.
However, many Muslims in the US believe the event will not likely function to dispel stereotyping and bigotry against Arabs and Muslims.
Candeace Lukasik, a student of Political Science and International Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, is in the process of converting to Islam.
While she expressed relief that the killing of Bin Laden has ended this troubling chapter of US history, she was sceptical that the event would cause a positive shift in negative perceptions of Arabs and Muslims in the US and abroad.
“As a US citizen, there was a moment of happiness that this chapter has finally come to an end. But at the same time, the ‘war on terror’ has already gone way past what Osama bin Laden represented. This event is bittersweet, and I don’t know that it’s ever a good thing to be excited about someone’s death.”
But excitement about Osama bin Laden’s reported death is rampant around the US, and has been fanned by remarks from US president Barack Obama himself.
US citizens gathered at the site of the World Trade Centre in New York City and at the gates of the White House to celebrate Bin Laden’s death. An orgy of nationalism even led some to sing “Amazing Grace” while others cheered and waved U.S. flags.
The chant – “U-S-A! U-S-A!” – echoed in Dearborn, Michigan, a heavily Middle Eastern suburb of Detroit, where a crowd gathered outside City Hall and waved US flags. In another area of Dearborn people honked their car horns while they drove along the main street where most of the Arab-American restaurants and shops are located.
Lukasik, like many Muslim American’s Al Jazeera has spoken with, is concerned that the wave of nationalism currently sweeping across the country will increase negative stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims.
“I really don’t think this will have a positive effect on American’s perceptions of Muslims here,” she said, “Because the policies of the US government have been totally against Arab and Muslim populations inside the US. So things like Guantanamo, and other questionable intelligence gathering practises will likely continue. It’s the same with bigotry and prejudice. I don’t think this will change that.”
Lukasik believes that racism, bigotry and prejudice against Arabs and Muslims has been ingrained in US society for a long time, and particularly so in the decade that followed the events of September 11, 2001.
“These are things that have been ingrained in our society over the last 10 years, and I doubt this will change that,” she said, “While I’ve been on programs that have sent Americans to the Middle East to spend time with people there, that has helped, but that is small compared to the mainstream US media that continues to equate being Arab or Muslim with being a terrorist, and vice versa.”
Her comments are reinforced by statements made on Monday by Obama, who declared the killing of Osama bin Laden “a good day for America.”
“Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can’t do,” Obama said.
Obama, who claims to have ordered the operation to have Bin Laden killed, will most certainly benefit politically from the news. Obama also hailed the “pride” of those who broke out in celebrations around bin Laden’s death.
Good news or backlash?
Dearborn, Michigan, where some of the nationalistic celebrations took place, is also where the Islamic Centre of America is located.
“I was surprised and satisfied to hear the news, and feel satisfaction for the families of those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks,” Kassem Allie, the Executive Administrator of the Islamic Centre of America told Al Jazeera, “We are gratified this chapter in that horrible event has come to an end.”
Allie does not believe that the killing of Bin Laden will cause a negative backlash against Muslims living in the US.
“We haven’t received any threats,” Allie, whose organisation works to educate the general public about Islam, added, “I don’t think this is an event that would cause a negative reaction like that to us. People have been clear that this was an incident that had to do with radical lunatics.”
However, despite this, there have already been instances of negative backlash from the killing of bin Laden.
In Portland, Maine, just hours after Obama announced that Bin Laden had been killed, graffiti that included comments like “Go Home”, “Osama Today Islam tomorow (sic)”, and “Long live the West”, were found painted on the Maine Muslims Community Centre.
Nevertheless, Ahmed Rehab, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), hopes that recent events will help cause a shift in both US foreign policy, and by doing so, a positive shift in Arab/Muslim perceptions in the US.
“It [Bin Ladens’ death] brings closure for the families of 9/11, and all Americans, and hopefully brings closure on an era,” Rehab, whose institution works to defend civil rights, fight bigotry, and promote tolerance, told Al Jazeera, “I hope now we can usher in a new era that focuses more on the Arab Spring which is the reality now, and less on the so-called War on Terror.”
“Bin Laden was more of a symbol than an actual operation leader, and as such his murder is symbolic,” Rehab said, “Many analysts say he was not relevant, but nevertheless his murder is symbolic and this could help shift the focus of the public in the United States from the War on Terror over to working with the new fledgling democracies in the Middle East.”
Alani, the college student in New York, said that he, along with all of his friends who are Arab and Muslim, are relieved that Osama bin Laden is dead because of hopes it will bring safety to their loved ones abroad, but remain doubtful that the event will cause a decline in bigotry and prejudice they face in the US.
“Bin Laden’s death gives closure to the families of the thousands of Americans who were killed under the name of Islam,” he said, “It also gives closure to my friends and relatives who have been killed in the Middle East at the hands of al-Qaeda. But the judgement and racism we see here is not likely to evaporate with this news.”
Dr. Hussein, an Iraqi doctor from Baghdad who immigrated to the United States in 2007, now lives and works in Tampa, Florida. He asked that in lieu of his real name, he be referred to as Dr. Hussein, because he did not want his politics be made public for fear of retribution.
“I hope that more people in the US now have a better understanding of the shortcomings of stereotyping and prejudice against Arabs and Muslims by equating them with terrorism,” he told Al Jazeera.
Of the large segment of the US population that equates Arabs and Muslims with terrorism, Dr. Hussein added, “That’s a big lie, that all of us are with al-Qaeda. I cannot tell you how much we in Iraq suffered because of al-Qaeda. They did a lot of harm to us in Iraq. They [al-Qaeda] were killing people in Iraq because they did not have beards, or because they were selling ice.”
“This guy was a criminal, he by no means represented myself or other Muslims,” he said, “Al-Qaeda do not represent the rest of us that reject what they are about. I’m not a devout Muslim, but certainly those people do not represent us. Everything al-Qaeda has done has hurt Muslims. There is a lot of the stereotyping happening, we have to amend this ugly picture of Muslims. There are extreme people in all walks of life, and this minority group is just that.”
Meanwhile, the surge of nationalism sweeping the United States in the wake of the news of the killing of Osama bin Laden has some people manufacturing T-Shirts that read “Obama got Osama” and signs being held up in some of the nationalistic celebrations that read, “Obama 1, Osama 0.
By Dahr Jamail
Read the original Al Jazeera post at http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/05/201153195123966914.html
I was chuckling with my BestMan the other day (not Michael, the other one. Let’s call him Kevin.) I was telling him the story about Mr BEE who hit on me.
Mr BEE. This guy was old enough to be my dad, was wearing those floral shirt with 5 collars, addressed his waiter as “eh Chief” and was married.
I was sitting at my table, alone, having lunch and writing when Mr BEE approached my me. “Eh, but beautiful woman like you should never be alone,” he said. I did the requisite “oh-stop-I’m-so-embarassed” giggle, thanked him & told him I was working and that was why I was alone. When I turned back to my computer he said, “I will not give up eh. I am determined to get your numbers.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Out loud! Not because a 40-something year old married man was hitting on me. It’s happened before. I live in Joburg, where this is (unfortunately) commonplace. I chuckled because Mr BEE was determined as in DEE-TEH-MYND.
Shock! Horror! Mr BEE speaks “black.”
I am a post 1994 baby. I started Grade 1 in 1995 and went to former Model-C schools all through my scholarly years. My schools were majority white & the black kids who went to my schools spoke like me. I guess you can say, they spoke “white.”
My family is french-speaking and for many of them English is a learned language. They have learnt to pronounce certain words as they’re supposed to. Though many of my uncles and aunts have french accents, you can hardly ever fault their pronunciation.
Which is why I’m baffled by black pronunciation. If you’ve heard it being said “properly” many times, why not adjust your pronunciation. Because you can’t go through life being DEE-TEH-MYND.
We all have different accents. That goes without saying. And for many of us English is not our mother tongue, or even our second language. I understand all that. But is it too much to ask for Mr BEE to not pronounce “purple” as PAY-PULL or to ask for a “sandwich” instead of a SANG-WITCH?
If you’re gonna learn a new language, please extend the courtesy to the English people, to learn how to speak their language properly. I know you’d be offended if the English started speaking Zulu, Sotho or Pedi all wrong, butchering your language.
Then again who am I to judge right? As a “Freedom-Baby” I tend to forget that the Freedom Fighters suffered such things as Bantu education. Who am I to poke fun?
*shrugs* This isn’t a political debate. It’s just funny. It’s still funny to me. And next time a Mr BEE comes up to me and tells me that it’s OH-VEE-US (obvious) that I am BEE-YOU-TEE-FULL (beautiful), I will chuckle. We live in a sometimes sad and depressing WELD (world) & I need to get my kicks SUMW-HAIR (somewhere.)
As You Were.
I was sitting at a café the other evening having dinner with a few friends. The topic of conversation moved to towards African politics and the fire situation in Ivory Coast the conversation turned into a debate on whether Gbagbo our Ouattari deserves to lead the Ivoirians and whether or not democracy has failed the people in this instance. It got rather heated.
When there was a break in the conversation, one of the girls who was sitting with us asked, “Dude, who is Ouattari guy?” To say that we were struck dumb would be an understatement. Her ignorant question got me thinking. How many other people live in state of utter oblivion?
As a child, I hated the news. I thought it was boring and depressing. It was that thing that made grown ups shush us when it was 7 o’clock. As I grew up, my palate changed, and so along with a new taste for sea food and green peppers, I now love the news. At the risk of sounding like a complete dork, I am fascinated by news and current affairs, especially African politics. I’m that girl who checks the AP, AFP and Reuters websites before she even checks her Twitter. (Okay, okay, you got me! I check the news sites while waiting for my Twitter to load. But fact is I read the news before I read my tweets.) I listen to talk radio whilst I drive in the morning and watch various news networks while I eat my supper. I am fascinated by how a situation can change in an instant and how such changes can affect ordinary civilians. By how various news networks, can have a completely different point of view from another news network, on the same story. Or how, and why, one news network will not cover a certain story at all. I’m like a pig in mud. The only things that get me more excited than news are a shoe sale at Aldo and a gorgeous male in a well-cut suit, in that order. *swoon*
But, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, news. We are often told that what we are living, future generation will study as history. And never has history been so interesting. Where were you when Ben Ali fled Tunisia? Where were you when Mubarak announced he’d step down as Egypt’s president? Where will you be when Gbagbo finally cedes power Ouattari? Or when Gaddafi either tightens his stronghold or gives up the fight?
Maybe I should ask the question, are you even aware we’re experiencing an African Revolution as we speak? Or that Sarkozy is the only western leader to have visited Japan since the earthquake and tsunami? Or that Al-Qaeda has seemingly moved their base to South America?
Never has politics, news and current affair been more exciting. Never has news been so cool. You don’t have to become a news junkie. But avoid people looking at you like you’ve grown three heads the next time you ask “There’s fighting in Libya? Wow, I didn’t know.” Pick up a news paper, tune in to CNN, Sky or Al Jazeera. And if that’s too much drama then follow some news accounts on your twitter to at least get the headlines.
It’s quite frankly embarrassing that as a young individual, you do not know what is happening in your surroundings. You just sound stupid. “Nothing sways the stupid more than arguments they can’t understand.” (I forgot who said that, just google it.) But I think Dame Jane Fonda says it best, “You can do one of two things; just shut up, which is something I don’t find easy, or you can learn an awful lot very fast.” Please, please, please choose the latter.
Walking and driving around Johannesburg, I’ve seen a lot of ANC register to vote placards. I’ll put my personal political convictions and say that, regardless of the party, these placards did not interest me.
Obama made it really “cool” to vote and in the 2009 National Elections, I proudly stood in line, waiting to cast my vote. But here we are, going on two years later, and your news bulletins tells you of service delivery protests here and higher unemployment there. It makes me feel as if; my puny little vote didn’t make, even a little, difference. If nothing changes, then why bother voting? Be it National, provincial or local elections. My vote is insignificant, it’s useless. Right?
I was standing in a queue on Friday and I struck up a conversation with three girls and a guy who were also waiting in line. The topics eventually fell into politics. We were commiserating, rolling our eyes and recounting similar stories that our parents & grandparents have told us, about how they “fought in the struggle.” We’re laughing and moaning about “how annoying they get.” One girl even said about her dad; “it’s, like, he fought, it’s over! Cant he just move?” And that’s the mentality that many of my peers have. That was history; this is reality, ON TO THE NEXT ONE!
When recounting the story to my mom, she brought up a really important point. My generation, are fortunate enough to have been educated in a post Apartheid educational system where we mixed with different races. We are privileged to have known Apartheid only in history books. These parents and grandparents lived in constant fear and oppression. Their reality was so far removed from ours. Never in our wildest nightmares, could we ever understand the horrors that the generation before us endured at the hands of the Apartheid government. Our reality of democratic freedom and human rights is something that they could have never expected to live through.
Let’s try to understand their point of view shall we? Our parents and grandparents fought so that their posterity could be able to walk through Sandton or Melrose shopping centres arm in arm with their coloured, black and white clique of friends. They fought so that we wouldn’t be forced through the second-rate, Bantu “education” that they received. They fought so that we can choose who will lead us in the presidency, so that we wouldn’t be forced to blindly accept a government that does not have our best interest in mind.
For my generation to sit and be apathetic about something as vital as elections, must frustrate them immensely. That must be why they keep repeating their stories. They are trying to impress upon us, how great of a privilege it is, to live in Democratic South Africa. They want to remind us of something that we take for granted when we walk past “Register to Vote” placards.
I’m sick and tired of poor service delivery in my community and the fact that, no one in my town knows who our mayor is or what he does. My neighbourhood needs a change, and I know many of my neighbours think so too. Instead of complaining, I’m going to register to vote on 5-6 March and hope that my vote will create a stir. Maybe it won’t change the current leadership, but maybe if they see that their losing support, they could address our grievances better. Who knows? Either way, I am registering so that I can vote in the upcoming local elections because I’m a firm believer that complaining is like slapping yourself for slapping yourself. It doesn’t accomplish anything, it just hurts more.
On a final note, my parents did not fight in the struggle. My Mommy and Daddy are immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Zaire.) I am South African by naturalisation. I think it’s ironic that the country of my birth is the “democratic” Republic when the reality is far from democracy. People there, and all over Africa, fight daily for the freedoms to choose who will lead them. Africans – Egyptians, Libyans, Zimbabweans, Ivoirians, Congolese and Tunisians – are fighting to realise, in their own countries, what we in South Africa achieved almost 17 years ago. The best solidarity I can show my African brothers and sisters is to vote, because I can. Vote, because we can. Oh yes, (forgive me, but I couldn’t resist) YES WE CAN!