‘Black man, you’re on your own’*

June 23, 2010 § 5 Comments

I wrote a blog that lamented the fact that 91% of the CEOs of some 295 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are white last week, and boy did I get called names. I was called a racist amongst other things. To be honest I didn’t want to carry on writing about that subject on this column, but the interest and emotion that it seemed to provoke in people left me with no choice but to tackle the subject even further. The subject of race and economics, that is.

What I have come to realise is that it is almost impossible to address the issue of race without being labelled a racist. It does not matter how reasonable one is being on the subject – a clear sign that we have not healed as a nation and it will take some time before any healing takes place. We are divided, often along racial lines; where racial lines are closing class lines emerge. The topics that people have around their dinner tables and braai stands reinforce the “us and them” attitudes. Some politicians prefer it that way, keeping us divided because this gives them power over us. They tell us to fear those people, not to trust them, not in so many words but the clues are there.

I am currently reading Doris Kearns Goodwins biography on Lincoln, Team of Rivals. (Be warned, it’s a thick book, rivalling the Bible but remarkably shorter than Gaddaffi’s speech at the United Nations last year.) At a point when America was deeply divided over the slavery issue with the South refusing to free its slaves, Lincoln made his “A House Divided” speech during his Senatorial race (which he lost). In 1858, two years later he would be propelled to the presidency on an anti-slavery platform.

He said a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Incidentally Lincoln made that speech on June 16, albeit a different year, 1858.

A divided South Africa on the economic front cannot stand. Take a look at our neighbours up north – Zimbabwe. They were split racially and economically. A politician exploited the divisions. If the private sector does not mend the economic divisions, some politician will widen them. In the end the corporate world will lose what it thought it was protecting.

We find ourselves divided when it comes to the economic front. Some white people feel that they are being robbed of their right to make money. Others feel that they are no longer wanted nor needed in South Africa because of the colour of their skin. What they fail to understand is that there are black people who feel that this freedom is worthless because they still have nothing. They still see white people prosperous while they get poorer and poorer. Each side sees themselves as worse than the other. Each side paints itself as a greater victim than the other. Some scream reverse racism while others scream economic apartheid.

The truth is there are no victims. There are many who expect manna from heaven. There will be no such thing. People were on their own during apartheid, or if you wish, the desert years. There was no manna then, there will be none now. In the words of the great Steve Biko, “Black man, you are on your own”.

We have to make things happen for ourselves, study, work and above all, make a way where there is none; that is what every celebrated captain of industry has done. To borrow and to use his words as my own, White man, you are also on your own. South Africans, you are all on your own.

Taking individual responsibility is the only thing that will end these divisions. Entitlement will widen them. South Africans, you are on your own. If we are to be a great nation we have to realise that the path to greatness is not achieved through excuses.

*originally appeared on News24 http://www.news24.com/Columnists/Khaya-Dlanga/Black-man-youre-on-your-own-20100309

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§ 5 Responses to ‘Black man, you’re on your own’*

  • Malwi says:

    This is stupid. Why the hell people, both Black and White, think that explaining things to one is gonna get rid of the problem?
    Sociology/psychology is bigger than that.

  • Hey, you’re such a nice guy, I really like your style on your YouTube click sound classess! That’s why I simply can’t keep from telling you now this story: when I was around 16 years old, in our highschool in Germany – a boy born and raised in Southern Germany that I am (been living for 2 decades in the Far East) – we once had a young teacher for our Latin classes who had the knack of embarking on trips for private studies to the Xhosa tribe in order to record and study your language with its click sounds. Each time during the yearly school vacation he did that, going in a Volkswagen van into the depths of Africa, enjoying himself obviously big-time. He more than once stopped his Latin classes in between to tell us very interesting long recounts of his exploration and contacts with the African world. I got so inspired that I, for one, started to buy me books and study the Finnish tongue, another great challenge, as I found. And no regrets, indeed! Maybe I now know Finnish thanks only to the openness of the Xhosa tribesmen who so warmly welcomed and taught my Latin teacher then, who triggered my interest to learn a language by my own. An elder brother or sister of our friend . . . . might well remember this zealous Latin, history teacher of mine, a great friend of the Xhosa tribe.

  • Melanie says:

    Really, time for everybody to get over themselves and just move on. Has history taught anybody anything in this country????

  • John-Louis says:

    I think that this is very well put. The question I would ask you is do you think the white CEO’s in this country have gotten there because they are white, or because they cared only about their future? Economics is not governed by race but rather by money and a lot of times greed. This can be seen by how BP is handling its PR debacle. Its the greedy exploiting people who know no better or otherwise known as the poor. In this country the poor is still a black majority and in reality that will never change until the masses get educated and start looking after their own futures and not blaming everyone else and waiting for some inheritance that does not exist.

  • Shelley says:

    That is why it is vital that we make education available to ALL! How will we get there when the lines are still so clearly drawn?

    Watching the opening games of the world cup i felt the unity in the air, and for the first time we were all on the same page – all pullling in the same direction. A house in unity, not a house divided.

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