What’s the deal with decolonisation?

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Discussions about decolonisation have been ongoing for a number of years now yet the debates truly became heated and took centre stage in South Africa between 2015 and 2016, mainly fuelled by the RhodesMustFall campaign and subsequent Fees Must Fall nationwide protests.

The term “decolonise” is a more confrontational and bold term for what was already popularised as “black conscious”, “uhuru”, “power to the people” and “mayibuye iAfrica” which were chanted ceaselessly during the struggle against apartheid. To call for decolonisation is to implicate racist, sexist, anti-poor doctrines and their advocates. It is to reject the ideas and presuppositions that our societies and institutions have so deeply entrenched to become the norm, in which there is often no room for the African, the Indian, the Coloured or any “other”.

While the abovementioned versions of decolonisation which preceded the term as we use it today were centred on the affirmative transfer of power “to” those who were disenfranchised without any or little reference to those who held the power, this recent talk of decolonisation speaks of the affirmative transfer of power “from” those who have illegitimate monopoly of it “to” the disenfranchised. This explicit denouncing of colonial remnants in various spheres of life have exacerbated racial and class tensions across South Africa.

Part of the resistance to decolonisation is the misinterpretation of “colonial” to be synonymous with “white”. For some, this is a valid concession, however, colonial means much more than merely white. It refers to white supremacy and the structures and practices which uphold it at the expense of the rest of the population. To decolonise is to challenge the innate associations of white to the standard of success, wealth, beauty, professionalism and competency (re the African time jokes) or even purity, while the opposite is perceived of other races.

Many opposers of the decolonisation project refer to it as the revert back to a Hobbes “state of nature-like” primitive time where disease and war are rife, in the absence of law, art, science, philosophy and modern technology. This very attitude demonstrates not only a deep misunderstanding of the term “decolonisation” but the out-dated Eurocentric perception that disregards the advanced nature of precolonial African civilizations, history, art, philosophy and traditional medicine.

The biggest mistake made here is to assume that because a country is independent  that it is also free from colonial influences and constructs. The first revelation of this thinking is associating colonial rule with bringing civilisation and all the luxuries and innovations of the modern world, while ignoring cheap/forced labour, native taxes which were economically crippling, systematic and institutional racism. The second mistake made is to ignore the lost generations which perpetuated cycles of poverty as a direct result of the colonial rule and the inverse, generational wealth legacies created by the same systems.

The way forward regarding decolonisation depends on the collective effort to rebuild a society whose values, culture and institutions reflect its identity. If we claim our identity is of a reconciled or reconciling nation wherein all are equal, then those remnants which prove otherwise must be uprooted. This will require a concession to the dehumanising and oppressive nature of white supremacy and its guardians. Decolonising requires imagination, brutal honesty, reflection, co-creation and re-invention by an entire generation, as opposed to the view that it is an anarchic upheaval of civilisation and order by a politically frustrated  and free-riding few.

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The Anti-Dreadlock Delirium

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END THE WAR ON BLACK HAIR

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Controversial story of two boys (of thousands, I bet) who were suspended from school, for refusing to cut their dreadlocks

Controversial story of two boys from South Plaquemines School in Loiusiana (of thousands, I bet) who were suspended from school, for refusing to cut their dreadlocks

And I bring to you...the 'unhygienic' ones who must be completely isolated from the rest by means of suspension.

And I bring to you…the ‘unhygienic’ ones who must be completely isolated from the rest of the pure breeds by means of suspension.

Here’s an open letter to all the institutions which have consistently denied their students (and employees) the opportunity to lock their hair.

A round of applause to all those who have enforced the ideas of black inferiority! To those who have denounced everything which did not originate from or make sense to white people. Well done to all those who created a culture whereby Bonang Matheba, South Africa’s “Beyonce”, can openly say that weaves look great on her, as they distinguish her from the ‘raggedy Anne from next door’. Congratulations to those who have insisted with their sneers and employment policies that African natural hair, afros and dreadlocks particularly, are unprofessional. You have served your purpose well!

But shame on you, black men and women, who have allowed these stereotypes to taint your self image. Shame on you for allowing your insecurities to seep into your children’s schools-  so much that they are taught that dreads are “unhygienic” and “impossible to maintain” and “inappropriate” and, as I have heard, “just dreadful”. Shame on you for sitting back and allowing your children to be indoctrinated with these pathetic Eurocentric ideas.

Don’t we all just love Malcolm X and Steve Biko? Don’t we all just love to select parts of their words and ideologies that we feel are essential to embracing our identity? Blacks can be CEOs too; blacks can own mansions and pricey Mercs; blacks can be presidents of states…all this assertion of black power everywhere else but where it really matters.

What good is it to embrace your identity as an adult with all your ‘first-black-person-to…’ achievements, while little black boys and girls are told that their hair cannot be styled this way or that because it’s ‘inappropriate’. Then you wonder why they can’t relate to their culture and all things ‘black’. Because you stood back, as society with its assumptions and rules, stole chunks of their identity, their pride and the skin in which they are comfortable.

Not only do I think that these policies are backward, but I think they are a true reflection of the esteem to which many of these rule-setters hold themselves.

All I can say is: Well done! Especially to all the black people advocating these rules. Just think twice before you smile at this logo next time will you?

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I am a born-free: a post-apartheid baby. I embrace Black Consciousness more than those who claim Biko was a greater leader than Mandela because he died in the struggle. And here I am, with more to show for what I have learned from him (from my textbooks) than those who boast about being in the struggle with him. Ask yourself, how many young black people would be saved from truck-loads of of boo-hoo tales, had they been raised with non-hypocritical values of black consciousness?

*Note to the education system: If you don’t want us to speak up against your hypocrisies and injustices, maybe you should stop teaching us from books with those brave souls who died for these ideas.

END THE WAR ON BLACK HAIR