I am that one person who gets a little excited about things and at times tend to take my excitement a little distant, however if there is one day I don’t really get excited over is the Mandela day/ 67 Minutes do Good etc. It has not always been that way though however I find myself questioning its existence, must be the whole ageing thing I don’t know. I think maybe just maybe it has more to do with the fact that I am not a black diamond or a middle class nor am I a working class I don’t know there could be more underlying reasons to my lack of interest over the day. Scrubbing floors really? How on earth should that float my boat? I did enough of that, I still do so the idea of painting classroom walls, planting a vegetable garden, reading stories to kids in a school in Alex, Diepsloot, Tembisa or Snake Park does not enthuse me one bit, If anything it JUST irks me.I know its 67 Minutes doing Good for people who are less privileged and its is not about Me (Gee why do I make everything about me?).
In fact Irk is a wrong choice of a word, I did the Mandela thing and for me instead of being liberated I just felt uncomfortable at the realisation of how huge the gap is between the haves and the have nots and how its not about to be breached anytime soon, particularly not by a sheer 67 minutes of feel good doer. How could I even thing that I was a better person just because I had a job? The fact that I worked and could be conversant with white people somehow put me in a better standing as a black person? Being moved for only 67 minutes because someone thought it will be a good idea, forgetting about it the 68th minute carrying on with my life until the next 18th of July, are you kidding me! So when my friend asked me what I was doing for Mandela day this year, I told her nothing NOT because I don’t really believe in the notion of doing good for others, but the whole 67 minutes looks more like a mockery to the poor black people than it is doing good. Since when do black people get prompted to do good for others when its ingrain in our DNA (remember UBUNTU?), oh I see since the world of technology we see it fit to publish our acts of kindness, so we can get comments and followers on twitter and Facebook because we have managed to spare 67 minutes out of our busy schedules and did good for the poor. Are you serious right now? Are we even doing it for the right reasons? Since we have labelled ourselves the middle classes and the black diamonds of these world we feel whatever white people are doing we should trail and replicate? Really? Where is Steve Biko xa kunje?
Richard Dyer, in his book White, writes that Europeans developed the construct of whiteness via Christianity and spirit — “something that is not of the body”. He saw this as happening “through three elements of its constitution; Christianity, ‘race’ and enterprise/imperialism”. In his view Christianity, the dominant ideology in Europe, embraced the model of bodily transcendence as synonymous with the ideal of whiteness itself. This became the premise of the European discourse on race during the 18th and 19th centuries. White people were thus set up as the absolute opposite of non-whites, who were considered “no more than their bodies”. Indigenous people were perceived by the European colonisers as untamed and rampantly sexual and the enslaved black person was constructed as inferior, savage and ungodly. The inferiorisation and demonisation of the black body was constructed as a way to justify the brutality of the slave system and it was upon this oppression that white supremacy was built. I could not agree more with Gillian: Whiteness is transcendent and godly — and like Jesus and Mandela, they go forth to spread their kindness to the wretched of the earth, who will smile affably and accept this charity with grateful hearts. In this scenario black folk lack agency. They are reduced to child-like status and are incapable of being anything other than inadequate. If, however, they could be more like Mandela and closer to whiteness, they would be fully human — except of course, none can reach Madiba status as his godly realm is only accessible to those made in the image of god — aka whites.
While I don’t have issues with Tata (Mandela) being the symbol of peace and reconciliation uniting all South Africans, it troubles me though that his ongoing legacy, which appears to be a highly marketable commodity called Madiba Magic, has served to enrich the privileged class. His image is a highly prized commodity to this class and is bandied about as proof of their non-racism and humanity — as long as his iconic status has been stripped of a revolutionary history and sanitised so that he is palatable to the global liberal echelon. Thus a once “socialist terrorist” has miraculously been transformed, procured, capitalised, trademarked and marketed commercially for the past two decades. Not that this marketing has impacted on the lives of the marginalised as much as it has the business class or the wealthy middle class. Messianic constructs have a way of blessing some and not others in the end.
Indians had Ghandi, Black Americans had Martin Lurther and Europeans have Santa Clause, Black South Africans had Mandela okay – Let’s assume that Mandela day is a step towards the right direction in combating inequality, fostering transformation, reconciliation and non-racism, why is it then that when such issues are raised the very same white people are the first ones to cry foul at the reverse racism? Let’s just say we all agree that inequality exist in South Africa and it is because of apartheid amongst other things , can we atleast be allowed to talk about it as much as we talk about 67 minutes and how well we did in our social cohesion efforts? Before you say I am counterproductive or I am a racist or an angry black women, take a look around social media today in fact track it as far back as when the whole Mandela day started how has it helped the poor?
1. Are mothers in Alex less afraid to put their babies down to sleep for fear of them being eaten by rats now that 67 minutes is over?
2. While you still in your do good mode- and your fears of black people have subsided – Will you now as a result of your 67 minutes take your black subordinates more seriously at work, Are you able to look beyond their skin colour and give recognition when and where it’s due.
3. Will you stop preaching that Affirmative action, and BBBEE policies are doing more harm than good in trying to close the gap that clearly exist, will you look at such policies contrarily? I mean now that you have done your 67 Minutes?
4. Now that your guilt has been alleviated a little by your 67 minutes -will you stop saying “People are poor because they aren’t smart about their life. They have children when they can’t afford children, they riot instead of going to school and they look for excuses like apartheid and structures for the reason instead of looking at themselves
Now for the black do gooders of 67 minutes, the back diamonds who have arrived, the middle class, before you continue on your ranting on how other black are lazy and how you managed to get your degree regardless of apartheid being strife at the time and how you don’t understand why the same people who were afforded the same opportunities as you never managed to seize theirs, I urge you to spend more than 67 minutes at a school in Alex, Tembisa or where ever you did your 67 minutes, go beyond the surface of doing it for TV or publicity, try and understand that, though other black people like yourself have managed to be just like white people others did not get to benefit as much from the messianic constructs and that has less to do with them being lazy or less interested. I know you got where you are because you worked hard and you are treated as an equal to your white colleague who has the same degree as you or maybe just a Matric certificate but hey you will not complain because he worked hard to be where he/she is, it was not because his father was white or he sat in that board of directors it’s because he or she has worked for it. I will not invite you to spend your 2015 67 minutes in Mdeni a small rural area in the Eastern Cape just to see what being less privilege is no I will not do that to you moreover your selfphone cell phone might not get a good reception there and you will not be able to twepic, Instagram or Facebook your well worthy efforts…
…until then just keep your Mandela T shirt as a memento.