The fight of every black man

To my black brothers.

Ewu, kodwa we are an angry bunch sometimes!

Across the world, people of colour have begun and are increasingly becoming less tolerant of the systematic oppression that we experience on a daily basis. And by systematic, I do not necessarily mean that there are white people sitting in dark-lit rooms intentionally plotting and scheming ways to continue oppressing people of colour and developing systems to perpetuate the “good old days”.

Though of course, I do not discount that this may still happen, I think it is no less subtle than that. It happens over a braai, in a boardroom, under church bells and around family dinners tables. It is less ominous, less conspicuous and therefore difficult to identify. But it is there! We black people know this too well because we experience it daily.

We have very good reason to be angry. I find that there is a continued struggle within me to avoid being drawn away in this sea of emotions, but rather to use this anger as fuel to energise me to fight for justice in the various situations in which I find myself. There are a million permutations of situations where there is a need to correct a statement, challenge a mentality or resist a situation, that can go along way to ungreasing the cogs of the systems of injustice.

In our workplaces, for example, we have black people being excluded from projects (for inexplicable reasons) and where technical teams are all white even though there are plenty black people available- especially in the junior levels (a tragic irony). And so blacks do not get a chance to gain experience, do not get challenging tasks that grow them like their white counterparts or opportunities to practice leadership. And so you find that blacks get left behind and are ineligible going forward to lead teams (technical or managerial) because they then really do lack the necessary skills. This is an example of systematic oppression…where the systems are designed to favour one group over another.

The temptation as black people is to give up the fight. We become so frustrated and the perceived lack of progress, the incessant “assault” of whiteness, superiority complexes, ignorance, resistance to change and rotten mind-sets. And of course, we still have to fight the inferiority complexes that we blacks still suffer from.

And this is my point…we blacks (men particularly) need to up our game. We need to refocus our energy…use our anger to drive us to do better. Rather than trying to point out to white people where they need to change themselves (which is outside our control), let us focus on changing ourselves. Rather than addressing the superiority mentality let us work on resisting the feelings (and subsequent actions) of inferiority within ourselves. Rather than being racism police, let us organise and unite our resources to change the ownership of companies and the representations in boardrooms, in work forums, in work committees, in community meetings and every area of society. Yes, the politicians are there, but I am talking of the normal man and woman.

Rather than spend time complaining in the canteen about not being given opportunities to develop and grow, let us learn the rules of the organisation (its policies etc.) and use that knowledge to get ourselves involved in the organisation in whatever way we can find. I observe that the majority of black people in my former place of work mostly complained (sometimes justifiably so) but often do very little to contribute to positive change.

Let me be clear…change will not come if it is not forced.

That is not how a change of any kind has ever come about…it is not organic. Change is brought about by necessity, by brave men and women who choose to rise up and act. Complaining is NOT action…it only adds fuel to the flames. It helps us to vent. It makes us feel good because “someone understands”. It is necessary to talk about it and it can be a healthy release, however, if that is where it stops, then we are only wasting time and energy and destroy ourselves from the inside.  We must move on and act.

And so from our side, we cannot afford to remain in our trenches. We must exit and come to no-man’s land. This is where the real fight is now. I am not saying let us no longer be angry at the injustice, I am saying let us repurpose the energy from our anger to create a future that is better than our present. For me, this future lies in no-man’s land…it lies in the mental and emotional engagement that we must make with “the enemy”.

It means that black men should focus on fathering their children and preparing them for their futures. It is not our fault (mostly) that whites forced my generation to grow up without fathers in the home- that we were not taught/shown how to budget, how to love a woman, protect our children etc. However, our future demands us to lay down the shields of self-preservation, escape the grip of the Zamalek, put rings on the mothers of our children and raise them to be daughters and sons who are prepared for life.

We must recapture the spirit of Ubuntu and build our communities. We must look out for one another and make more of ourselves- demand more of ourselves and resist the temptations to act according to the stereotypes.

We are a far better people than what we have been fooled into believing.

The lion does not turn around when a small dog barks” African proverb

Let’s act like the lions we are.

Reposted from a previous blog.

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