Unathi Slasha writes,
One can’t help but cringe at the manner in which the University of Cape Town approaches the Rhodes Must Fall campaign against the Rhodes statue. For the call is not only for the destruction of the statue, but also for what many term ‘transformation’. Although I am sceptical about how the ‘transformation’ question is equally approached by both black and white academics who would have us believe that they are progressive and against the underrepresentation and devaluing of Blackness within the racist South African academia, I partially support this call for ‘transformation’ on the basis that it puts whiteness and its assumed superiority into question. But this is not the focal point of this piece.
What I would like to raise is the issue of how the call for ‘dialogue’ by both black and white academics reveals the devaluing of Blackness. I say this with an anguished heart and a deeper understanding of how whiteness defends its heroes even when they are proven by history and the countless critiques made that accentuate their anti-Black villainy. But how does the call for ‘dialogue’ accentuate the antiBlackness of these ‘intellectuals’ who are habitués of boardrooms, campus halls and auditoriums where ‘critical’ discussions usually take place?
As I am writing this I am thinking about what Eldridge Cleaver talked about in his autobiography Soul on Ice; what he termed the white “racist conscience”. This is imperative, for Cleaver explains that this white “racist conscience” is built so that murder does not register as murder unless the victim is white. I am completely certain that the same Jews who brought some of the Germans to justice at the Nuremberg Trial would, in the name of tolerance and heritage, allow the Germans to erect and maintain some statues of the great Fuehrer in their country.
There is no wonder there is ambivalence within white academia which has feigned progressive politics for a very long time. They talk double speak. Their ambivalence bespeaks their actual disregard for Blackness. They don’t want the monuments destroyed. For the monuments and other edifices memorialise white victory, dominance and heroism. For destroying these colonial symbols would denote their treason against whiteness. But, not acting on the demands of the students would mean that they are complicit in the resistance against the ‘transformation’ of the country’s racist academia. What these white intellectuals do not understand is that their ambivalence in this issue shows exactly where they stand. They are actually white supremacists who have no regard for Black lives, humiliated, severed and massacred by the brutal Rhodes and his anti-Black policies. The call for ‘dialogue’ is an insult to Blackness. It is a bucket of excrement thrown at blacks who express their lived experience within academia and all the Blacks who have suffered under the anti-Black Rhodes. It is an insulting discredit of our grammar of suffering. It is a trivialization of black suffering. What this implies is the old racist stereotype that the Black is innately hysterical and is fond of blowing small things out of proportion!
These are not stupid whites. They know what monuments and other edifices symbolize. If the demand for the destruction of the statue of Rhodes, as a symbol of colonial dominance and white victory, is not enough as a ‘substantial argument’ then the only thing this proves is that there is indeed a mental problem with whites in this country. If the presence of the statue really does not have any malignant intent, as most whites would have us believe, then, why does the call for its destruction, elicit white ‘backlash’ against the revolutionary outcry of black students? Why are whites so uncomfortable with the statue being destroyed? Why are whites masking their racist defence of this symbol with poor arguments of white heritage? What kind of a ‘new’ country allows a celebration of a racist ‘heritage’ that insults the very existence of the native?
A white country, South Africa is a white country, that should have been destroyed long time ago had the ANC not agreed to settle in a ‘dialogue’ with white supremacists. Until this very day, it is nauseating to know that in this ‘new’ dispensation the Black government of the ANC allows the maintenance of colonial monuments erected during Apartheid in honour of anti-Black villains.
The call of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign should not end there. It should be a national outcry that calls for the destruction of all colonial symbols in occupied Azania rather than this restriction to the destruction of a single monument. The outcry must spread out and agitate and organize not only Black students, but should include everyone all over the country.
The verdict arrived at by Vice-Chancellor Max Price and the deans of UCT that the statue should be ‘removed’ and I suppose placed elsewhere is precisely why I am pessimistic about the nature of how the ‘transformation’ debate is handled. For me, removing the statue symbolises not only the power of whiteness in decision-making in this country but how impotent Blackness has been rendered. Rhodes, as a symbol of anti-Blackness, does not deserve to be ‘removed’ but should be ‘destroyed’ together with all other white supremacist symbols in this country. For this statue, together with many other monuments, stands as a mocking reminder of how impotent Black people are made to be in their own country. They are a slap across the face of black people – dead and alive