Back in 2000, I am sure we all had a utopian vision that black people in Africa would be better off than they were that year. More opportunities would be available to them, government structures would be working so smoothly that service delivery issues were a thing of the past and we could rent or buy property reasonably anywhere.
Now it’s 2017. Governments all over the continent are unable to fully deal with not only plotting a visionary future for their nations, but they can’t even deal with present issues; in fact, some are tearing themselves apart due to the desire to attain or maintain power. Many black citizens are struggling to be black even in their own countries, because the many economic, political and social resources are still geared towards the interests of whites.
Being black in Africa is not a free and established state. Being black in Africa still means that you are viewed as incapable, sadly even by your own people. It is still common to see a black person followed around by security in a shop, while the white counterpart has no such issues. Townships are still tourist attractions; and even though these ‘tours’ are a source of income, they reinforce the idea that poverty and blacks go together. Plus, if one was to conduct “suburban tours” police would be called because these tours would be carrying people who “don’t belong” in such areas.
I have lived in Cape Town for 13 years and I have learnt that being white really does open doors that you did not even think existed; in some cases, the doors open before you are even born. These are mostly due to relationships that have been maintained for generations and the children from these families benefit immensely. As a black man, getting a seat at the table is practically impossibly – you can get to serve those at the table though. A black man, who has shown his capabilities throughout his life, still has to prove himself so many times just to get an opportunity to put food on the table.
Black people are some of the hardest workers one would ever encounter but it has become clear to me over the years that hard work does not pay – smart work does. No matter how many times people tell you work hard for your dreams, they forget to tell you that things may not work out because you don’t know the right people or how much you really need that “lucky” break. Because when as a black man you walk into a space surrounded by white people, there is a sense that you don’t belong there – some of that emanates from within you, because you have grown up with the idea that you are beneath them. It may have never been verbalised, but it has been implanted within you. Most of it however, comes from the environment you are in, because you are made to feel that you don’t belong – it may not be said, but it is in the looks, the words not spoken and the struggle to interact with white people in these spaces.
White people are seemingly taught to own any space they walk into, that they are better than anyone else. They are viewed as the smart ones, the leaders, the visionaries and just plain better. Because those who hold economic power are of the same skin type, it is easier for whites to be heard and understood than it is for a black man.
I am not saying all white people are the same – I am saying they all have the same starting point of privilege, no matter where they come from. I am not saying black people are always the victims, but I am saying that blacks are classified as workers not leaders by those with economic control. And even those in leadership positions are not seen as legitimate leaders who hold power and influence; in fact, I came across as statement that said:
“Black men and their white owned power are the worst….”
This statement reminds me of how slave owners used to have black men watch over other black men forced to work in the fields. If any field worker slacked, they were punished by one of their own, who walked around with “white owned power”. What they did not or could not fully process was that it didn’t matter what position they held, they were still slaves; they had no power within themselves and if what they had was taken away, they had nothing to show for it – in fact, they used their white owned power to impress their white masters to prove that they are worthy to keep using it. Yet in so doing, they are part of the destruction of their own kind.
A white man can walk into a rural village and everyone celebrates, as they are seen as saviours and demigods. Black people who are even more qualified and experienced than that particular white person will have to prove themselves better than their colleagues in the eyes of the same black people.
It really is still nice to be white in Africa.
Photo: On 20th October 2015, White supporters called on by the Rhodes Must Fall movement, formed a human shield around black protesters to protect them from the police. The human shield reportedly proved effective as police ceased violence. Sentiments on twitter agreed that the shield indicates how white lives are more important than black lives - even in Africa. [Twitter photo].