Archive | September, 2015

Coloured/Mixed Race/Black

28 Sep

There has been a lot of noise on my Twitter timeline about identity in South Africa especially around the borders of Coloured, Mixed Race and Black identity.

One idea thrown around vociferously and emotionally was that in 2015, people identifying as Coloured were somehow definitely still trapped in apartheid mindset and should identify as Black. Identifying as Coloured is supposedly antiBlackness at play.

Other is that people of mixed racial heritage post apartheid must identify as mixed race, as they are clearly not Black and do not share a heritage with Coloureds so also clearly not Coloured.

Some of this trouble seems to have started with a form. The kind of form we use to track race in order to ensure we address the racial inequities of the past and present.

For some reason, the box you tick on the form is what defines your identity. Forgotten is that race is a fluid and imprecise construct.

For a mixed race identifying person, the choice seems problematic as mixed race was not commonly used during Apartheid South Africa. My suggestion is to use the racial identity of the parent from a historically disadvantaged background. If both are pick one. The form is not really you.

The problem here is that Black, Coloured, Mixed race originally came from the system of white supremacy so posturing that one is superior form of identification is somewhat disingenuous.

The other problem is that Apartheid actually did happen. People were classified according to race, have lived experiences of being that race, have cultures that now form part of that race.

To erase Coloured identity is to subsume and thus partially erase that history and its differences from the mainstream Black experience.

To tell someone their identity is unacceptable like @kaysexwale did is an act of power not liberation. It projects the insecurities of a mixed race parentage post 94 onto the Coloured community. It is also an act of othering another human being. These insecurities are best dealt with on a personal level and not projected onto others.

People also choose to ignore that identity Black changes meaning depending on context.

Generally Black means of mainly African descent.
Under Black Economic Empowerment, Black legally means African, Coloured, Indian and Chinese.
Under Black Consciousness Black means African, Coloured and Indian. I guess Biko would not really quibble with post-94 addition of Chinese..

The question that arises is whether Indian, Coloured and Chinese people really identify as Black? Some do, some don’t.

It does not matter, because the question is a disguised accusation that these groups practice AntiBlackness. The question is slightly unfair as all groups even those who identify as Black/African practice antiBlackness. #IamStellenbosch shows the smiling monsters of antiBlackness at work and all race groups are represented.

Insisting on erasing people’s identity is not a particularly effective way to build respect between groups or to combat antiBlackness. The most likely outcome is increased animosity and we already have enough of that between Coloureds and Black/Africans.

In “Black Souls in White Skins”, https://franknatter.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/white-skins-black-souls-highly-recommended-critique-of-white-liberals-steve-biko/ Biko suggests that true integration between Whites and Blacks, can only take place when there is mutual respect.

Perhaps the first step in achieving Black Consciousness is to cultivate mutual respect between the Black/Africans, Coloureds and Indians.

There are no shortcuts to mutual respect. Listening rather than demanding erasure is a good place to start though.

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“Structural racism is a thing hey” (Unathi Voice) #HomoNaledi

16 Sep

This is a summary of my mentions when I questioned Homo Naledi team composition. While I cannot accuse the department of overt racism, many of the justifications in my mentions like from @LemonsRsweeter were racist or drew from a racist narrative.
The real danger of this colourblind racism is that it reinforces the unconscious biases of whiteness and white supremacy.


Thabo: this is odd. The Homo Naledi team seems to be rather homogenous

image

Answer: We must not look for racism everywhere. Move along.image

Thabo:

But wait, this exclusion of Blacks with the corresponding overrepresentation of Whites, is that not the much talked about structural unearned advantage called ‘white privilege’. This rat smells.

This Black exclusion and white overrepresentation repeats itself over and over in South African institutions. In media, in corporates. In Academia.

This rat…….

Answer:

image

But Thabo, there are just no Black students in Berger’s paleontology sub-speciality. They are all in other fossil loving groups.

But Thabo, wait. You know he crowdsourced this on Facebook. It looks like his Facebook contacts are overwhelmingly white. You know he is colourblind. He just does not realise that he only sees white. He is not racist

But Thabo, the spec required thin people. Maybe ….

But Thabo, Black people have big booties, ..

But Thabo, we all know that due to white supremacy there are no POC scientists. We must focus on education.

but Thabo, it was volunteer work, no pay. Lol! good luck finding a POC to do anything without pay/

No! No! Look away. Here is peg. Shut your nose! Nothing to smell here. “

Thabo:

Hmm! still all smells like structural racism. Exclusion via practice of the white ideology of colourblindness.

Can we ask how a university committed to transformation, just does not do things resembling transformation?

Can we ask when this shit of Black exclusion will end?

And no, please let’s not ask the legion of foot soldiers for white hegemony.

Let’s ask that smooth Habib dude

image

Answer: You just don’t like white people,Thabo. You’re racist.

Thabo:trods off chanting ‘Mapaputsi ‘Izinja’

Sediba – A sense of ease

13 Sep

I spent ten days on retreat at http://www.sedibamountainretreat.co.za and I miss it just a day later.

I miss the sense of ease. The Sense of ease not sense of easy.

It was not easy, on day 3 &4, my body decided to revolt. My sinuses seem to prefer Soweto pollution. The Hartbeestpoort swamp gases caused my sinuses to dry up painfully.

In meditation, I would often find myself out of pose, holding my head in my hands as shameful and painful moments flooded my mind.

I walked for hours on end. Each day different muscles and/or joints would complain but I persevered.

However, all this took place in an environment of ease, of low egos and of acknowledgement of personal space. It was a safe space – or at least the closest to the concept that I have experienced.

My only caveat would be that I fear snakes. I did not see any during my stay but I know they are out there and walking up the hill one night, I scared myself silly.

Safe Space
The safe space, a space for contemplation and meditation is what in many ways, the Catholic priest {Prashant/Anthofer) who founded the place was aiming for.
Hence, the number of guests is limited to about 7. Each guest sleeps alone in their own rather cool hut.

Noble Silence is practiced lightly as opposed to Buddhist retreats I have heard of but if one wanted to practice a strict version, the priest and guests would accommodate the request.

The sleeping arrangements and Noble Silence go a long way towards preventing the poisoning of the atmosphere by the sort of sexism on conferences that @nthabynooe wrote about recently. https://nthabynooe.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/the-leadership-territory-whose-community-is-it-anyway/

Most importantly, it is a self-directed retreat. No-one will force you to sit cross-legged for hours while every pore itches incessantly.

Willingness and self-discipline are encouraged.

A Catholic yet safe space? Seriously?
The founder was clear that this was a space for contemplation and meditation and not dogmatic rectitude.

Anyone on a spiritual or secular quest that requires some solitude is welcome. That welcome is extended regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or non-religion, and any of the churches other dogmatic frictions like divorcees and women who have had abortions.

From a Catholic perspective, it is a space that uses solitude to create room for the grace of God to enter.
From a secular perspective, it is a mindfulness practice. There is now a lot of work on mindfulness from psychology, neuroscience and other cognitive sciences.

Meditation as a Christian practice
Prashant spent over six years learning meditation in India under the guidance of a Hindu guru.

It seems Jesus may have meditated too. Jesus definitely did go on the ancient version of a retreat – spending 40 days and nights in the desert. He must have spent some time in prayer and/or in contemplation and meditation.

In Catholicism, there is a tradition of contemplation sometimes referred to as Christian mysticism. They will often talk about the Mystery. Contemplating the Mystery is similar to many of the Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices.

Why I went?
I struggle with anxiety, depression and exhibit traits of attention deficit disorder. I have been on medication but have stopped. I am trying to find alternatives.

On a more existential basis, my life is a clusterfuck. An ever deepening crisis of senseless wandering. A nicer way to put it maybe is that I am undergoing a midlfe crisis.

In summary, I have a lot of baggage.

Sense of Ease

So it is surprising that looking back, a day later, the mind is clear – ease was present and it asks simply for more.

It asks how can the sense of ease be present in daily life in non-safe spaces like those we call home, work, university and church.