Race, Class and Agenda.

After the most damnable life and deserved death of Eugene Terre’Blanche there has been a faint resurgence of attention to the race problem in South Africa, as filtered through the consciousness of those least capable of paying such attention, as per usual.
Where racism came from is a matter for debate, generally among those who have way too much time on their hands. We can argue over whether people naturally distrust other people who look funny. We can look at the Crusades. (We rarely look at the Mongol conquests, at least not from a Mongol perspective through which we might notice that though the Mongols slaughtered people they seem not to have racialized them). We can look at colonialism and imperialism.
But here in South Africa we know it’s colonialism. The interesting thing about the issue is how it gets evaded. For instance, there was the great Race-Class debate in South African historiography which filled several shelves of unreadable books in the 1960s and 1970s. This wasn’t actually a debate, it was an attempt by the liberals who were in control of South African history to exclude the Marxists without being too obviously dependent on the Suppression of Communism Act. The way the liberals did this was to do an end-run around economic issues and insist that the logic of apartheid was not underpinned by economic forces as the Marxists claimed (the need to keep wages low through the reserve system and through suppressing trade unions, the need to force people into the job market to prevent a labour shortage, by making conditions in the reserves unbearable, and so forth, the need to encourage capital accumulation by diverting as little as possible to consumer goods and infrastructure for the workers, in the manner of Stalin). No, the liberals insisted that apartheid was purely an issue of racism.
That of course is a tenable position. It is also a scary one, because it suggests that apartheid reflects a human reality which was not going to go away when the laws were repealed. Who, however, were these racists? The liberal historians insisted that they were not the racists. The racists, in fact, were concentrated in the National Party (one could ignore the United Party’s long history of racial segregation and oppression, just as one could ignore the Progressive Party’s ideological commitment to white domination all the way down to its final dissolution in 1989). Therefore, the apartheid problem was entirely due to people who spoke a funny language which sounded vaguely like German (and we won the war against the people who said “Ach, Himmel! Donnerwetter!”) and who, furthermore, did not dress quite like us (they often affected big hats and their suits did not fit).
In other words, the liberals evaded the consequences of their conclusion (that they should scrutinise their own racism) by appealing to tribalism.
Racial prejudice in South Africa is a slippery thing, even amongst whites. The reason seems to be that whites are not a homogeneous bloc and therefore do not sustain a completely monolithic racial focus. Such a monolithic racial focus has been constructed, but whites adopt it selectively — sometimes accepting parts, sometimes swallowing it almost whole.
The gist of white racism is that people who are not white are stupid, ugly, unreliable and have bad habits which render them unfit for advanced activities, such that whites are more capable. These can be applied in different ways to individuals. For instance, indians are notoriously shrewd and are physically quite attractive. Therefore, whites tend to see them as being suspiciously prone to dishonesty, and to being unduly prejudiced towards their own race (forming cabals wherever you look) and, of course, obsessed with money, unlike whites. Thus they may be clever and pretty, but this is only a facade; beneath the surface you wouldn’t trust them with your money, let alone your husband. (Sort of like the way European anti-Semites felt about Jews back when there was serious anti-Semitism.)
Recently there has been a hoo-ha about some clot in the Stellenbosch DA who sent an e-mail to another clot in the DA talking about how appalling the situation was in the region because of the unreliable coloureds and the incompetent kaffirs. The DA has promised to investigate. (They will find themselves innocent of racism, of course, since that is what such investigations are for.) Maybe they are innocent, but the e-mail reflects very broadly held opinions. A white looking at a black in a responsible position, whether that is driving a flashy car or sitting behind a flashy desk, automatically assumes a) that the black did not acquire the position fairly, and b) that the black is not capable of living up to the requirements of the position. If the car does not crash, it is dumb luck; if the business or government department does not fail, there must be enough white people in less obvious positions (no doubt oppressed and exploited, too) who are keeping the ship afloat. Just wait till they emigrate!
We can see this pattern of thought throughout white discourse on blacks. Municipalities and provincial governments are failing; they have learned to complain about “skills shortages” which to whites mean that there are not enough whites in the posts. (Thus racism serves to cover up corruption and idleness, because racists assume that africans will fail at whatever they attempt — giving the africans a gilt-edged excuse for their behaviour). The DA talks about “cadre deployment”, by which they mean giving responsible jobs to blacks. What is needed, they say, is for people to be deployed “on merit”; what they mean is that since any white is superior to any african, such conditions automatically mean that white people will be promoted. It would be tedious to multiply such examples.
It is extraordinarily comforting — to the point of egomania — to believe that seventy percent of the population of South Africa is by definition inferior to yourself, by virtue of the percentage of melanin in the cells of your epidermis. It is not at all odd to believe all this. However, it is also worth noting that this is a value-system of the comfortably irresponsible. If you genuinely believe that the population of this country almost entirely consists of retards with criminal tendencies, you cannot have much faith in the future. (Not that there is much justification for that, admittedly.) Instead, white racists of this particular carry on with their lives (lying, cheating, stealing and making stupid decisions on the basis of ignorance, mostly) as normal.
Many of this category of bourgeois racists are not at all obviously racist. One passes universities and sees black and white couples. The white elements of those couples will undoubtedly go home and be as racist as their parents — the fact that they can find blacks physically attractive enough to fuck them does not contradict this. In bed with a white, a black is an honorary white. In addition, there is no real contradiction between seeing one’s partner as cute, sexy and sharp as a tack, and seeing one’s partner’s racial category as repulsive, stupid and lazy. The Viennese anti-Semite Mayor Karl Luger was once asked why, if he considered Jews such a threat to society, he had so many Jewish friends. Luger shrugged it off; “Das ist für die Gasse,” he said; that’s for the gutter. It wasn’t personal, it was just a way of getting the people of the street to vote for him. Hermann Goring, the Nazi commander, similarly remarked (before the Final Solution, of course), “I’ll decide who is and isn’t Jewish.”. But when the chips are down, racism is racism.
But also there’s another category of racism; the white racism of insecurity. In this context, black men have huge penises and an insatiable desire for our women. They have knives and pangas and want to spill our blood. Their women are diseased and seek to lure us in and give us their diseases. They want to tear down all that we have built up out of envy. This, of course, seems to be the opposite of the notion that africans are too lazy and incompetent to do anything effective; if they are so ineffectual, how can they possibly threaten us? But the answer is that they have huge numbers and no regard for life (they all take drugs, you see, and their witch-doctors tell them that the bullets will turn to water). What’s more, because their skulls are thicker than white peoples’, it’s no use just hitting them once, and furthermore a crazed kaffir will keep coming at you, so an ordinary 9mm isn’t good enough; you need a .44. And so on, ad nauseam. Really nauseam here, because this is an argument for genocide. It’s also an argument for body-counts; so long as we kill a lot more of them than of us, we are displaying the fact that whites are superior to blacks. And we have to kill them, for it’s the only language they understand.
This subtext comes up in discussions about crime (which whites think is a vast conspiracy against them) and about Zimbabwe (which whites think is a vast conspiracy against them) and it ran like a thread of shit through the attacks on Mbeki over AIDS. It’s also implicit in some of the white criticism of Zuma (not that Zuma doesn’t deserve criticism). It’s also apparent in the attempts by Afrikaner nationalists to keep blacks out of Stellenbosch University (the nationalists recently won fresh victories in the elections to the convocation there, cheered on by the DA).
This kind of subtext is teenwoordig by alle vergaderings en wetgewings (yes, the Creator worked at Stellenbosch once); it is above all the informing principle behind white perspectives on democracy. These perspectives assume that the blacks unfairly ganged up on the whites (the numbers, you see) and installed a government of idiots (for that’s what blacks are) and they only won by threatening mass murder (hordes of panga-wielding savages, some with bones through their noses, no doubt) and this drives the gigantic grievance of superior whites suffering under the yoke and lash of their inferiors. Which is why the Democratic Alliance is what it is.
What appears interesting is that black racism is so very different — as one would expect. Blacks do not think that whites are unfit to rule. On the contrary, many africans appear to have unconsciously internalised the idea that whites might be genetically superior. Therefore, many blacks assume that alarmingly clever whites are conspiring against them; any white might be a racist (maybe s/he is just being friendly to me in order to gather intelligence and pass it back to the Whiteybond?). Therefore, blacks need to stick together, and overlook the failings of other blacks because to acknowledge their failings is to play into the hands of the white conspirators — who are probably so cunning that we cannot even see their conspiracy. In effect, it’s a bit like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and it’s driven by a dim sense of inferiority.
Unfortunately this sense is partly justified — not by race, but by the circumstances of history. Most africans receive bad education. Most africans grow up under difficult conditions. Africans have alien culture imposed on them continuously. As a result, africans learn to be defensive about themselves and their own culture, sometimes hysterically so. Therefore, black racism itself tends to be defensive — but of course, defensiveness can be pre-emptive. “These people might at some stage pose a threat to us — let us kill them first!” as Barack Obama incessantly shrieks (the “D” in his NSDAP party stands for “Democratic”).
Meanwhile, blacks are the disadvantaged majority. Nothing that has happened since the end of apartheid has done anything substantive about this, and what few things which might have served to change matters — affirmative action for the middle class, black economic empowerment for the aspirant ruling class, social grants for the working class — are under continual attack from the white ruling class and its allies. Africans feel cheated. What, they ask, did our ancestors fight for? For the right to read a newspaper printing, without fear or favour, racist and corporate propaganda? For the right to watch whites make merry at our expense? Bleeeahh!
And, of course, whites feel cheated, because they are convinced that they really won the war (the newspapers tell them so) and that their leaders are the true rulers of the nation (disinherited by wicked blacks) and so on. And coloureds and indians feel cheated, because they don’t get a look-in on all this ideological claptrap and they would like to have a slice of it.
Bad news, eh?

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One Response to Race, Class and Agenda.

  1. Johan Meyer says:

    While I’m hardly one to deny white racism, I seriously doubt that that is the primary motive force for problematic white behaviour. For example, how many courses at Skelmbosch are taught in English, and how many in isiXhosa? Get the latter courses going (a huge project, but damnit it is necessary – many Xhosas in the cape simply don’t have the relevant English literacy – start translating the relevant scientific concepts that haven’t been already), and many Afrikaners will feel a lot less threatened – most of us do want our language rights (or privileges), in whatever form we can get them.

    Likewise, if you really want to defuse general white opposition to land reform, push a package where the big (white) farms are broken up, and urban poor whites can get their 100 hectares or whatever (it is called divide and rule 😉 ), “just like Blacks etc”.

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