This afternoon I stumbled across a blog written by a man named Shane. The title of his piece is “What exactly did we steal from you??”
This is an extract from the Piece:
Who oppressed and disadvantaged you before the so called settlers arrived here? Did the settlers steal your advanced infrastructure? Did they steal your mines, hospitals, libraries and universities? No !! They did not!! They found masses of black people living on the fringes of the stone age!! Primitive beings dressed in skins wielding sticks, living in primitive dwellings dragging their possessions around with them because unlike the rest of the world they had not even discovered the wheel yet??Ethiopia has never been colonized and is today one of the most desolate places on the planet? Who oppressed them? Who disadvantaged them??
At the end of this piece someone called Neil posted the following comment:
‘Strange how no black man has replied in either the affirmative or negative. They are so blatantly aware of their agenda of discrediting the white man for the benefit of the most useless breed on planet earth”
(I have come to discover Neil that the reason “no black man” has responded is because Shane removes their comments from his blog. He removed my own comment from his blog.Make of that what you will.)
Well, I thought Let me humour them both. I am a black woman, who also happens to be a Zimbabwean born South African. In his piece, Shane makes reference to Zimbabwe, so I think I’m probably the best candidate to respond to this.
Your blog post landed up on my face book timeline, after a friend shared it and tagged it as “his opinion”. I found the title particularly striking, and my curiosity got the better of me. At the end of your post, I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh at you, or cry for you. I decided against both those options and thought it better to engage your opinion.
The essence of your post is a simple argument, that white people did not steal anything from the “savage blacks”. On the contrary you provided us with everything that we have today. So it makes no sense for us to argue that we “want to take back what is ours” because (according to you) we had nothing in the first place. The words you used are “primitive beings dressed in skins wielding sticks”.
According to your post, the settlers saved us from ourselves; the great white man bought us “civilization”, the wheel, advanced infrastructure, mines, hospitals, libraries and universities. Perhaps that is the case, but you must understand Shane your ancestors did not bring us these things, you imposed them on us. One must be wary of portraying the colonizers as being kind and thoughtful people that came with bibles and love in their hearts. That wasn’t always the case. Where were the bibles and the heart in taking Sarah Bartmaan to a human Zoo to be treated as a curiosity?
From your post, I gather you have not read Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart”. If you haven’t,I’d like to suggest that you take some time out and read it. (Perhaps when you aren’t so busy posting reactionary blogposts about “them and us”)
What you and most of the Western world have neglected to understand, is that when you supposedly “found us” we were not savages. We did not live like you did, but we had our own cultures, systems and traditions that we lived by, and they worked for us. Perhaps our laws were not written in fancy books like yours and our leaders did not wear fancy suits and speak into microphones, but they existed. We didn’t need saving. But your people never thought of that.
But let’s go with your argument, you bought us civilization right? Fast forward to apartheid. What did you bring us then? You bought us the pass laws, restricting us from moving freely on the land that you found us on (regardless of where we came from, the point is you came from there, when we were here). You bought us the native land act that limited land ownership by black people to 8% of the land area of South Africa. You also bought us the Bantu education act, which denied us a decent education. Because according to Hendrick Verwoed “”There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?”
If you are going to throw the “we gave you everything you have” card onto that table, then you should use it,in its entirety. I am baffled as to why you left this bit of information out of your post? I will let you think on that, while I move along swiftly. Engaging this opinion of yours is becoming a lot more painful than I thought it would be.
You believe that “its black population was handed the wealthiest countries in the world that had a surplus of everything”. No Shane, again you are mistaken. Zimbabwe was not simply “handed” this land, they fought for it. And may I remind you that when Zimbabwe declared its independence there was a very significant population of white people living in Zimbabawe. This surplus of everything that you speak of, was not exclusively set aside for the black population and it was by no means “handed to us”.
As for Zimbabwe “trying its best to outdo Ethiopia as the shittiest hellhole on the planet”. How do you know this? Have you been to Zimbabwe lately? Have you been to the shittiest hellhole on the planet? Because perhaps if you had, you would have a greater understanding of what exactly is going on in those countries.
Here you argue that using minerals is an entirely imperialist/ western concept that saw the most tangible advances by white South African men. Tell me Shane, is it White South African men that are working in those mines? Also. Where are these mines that you speak of? They are in Africa. Where you found us.
Do you see where I am going with this?
We could go around in circles for eternity if we want to play the blame game. We can do it and we would never run out of things to blame one another for.
Most black South Africans are unhappy about the fact that white people are unapologetic about the past. I for one, am not interested in apologies. The TRC has come and gone, they sold us the dream of the rainbow nation and most of bought into it. But its clear from blog posts like your’s that nothing has changed. So why would I want an apology from someone like you?
Besides, racism is not the issue at hand here. South Africa needs to sort out its economy and while the concepts of race and economy cannot be separated in South Africa, it isn’t something we should dwell on. Regardless of what happened in the past, the point is that we are all here today and we’re all trying to live. We’re trying to provide for ourselves and our families, so what good will it do to argue with each other about who gave who, what and when.
If you are so convinced that it was the white people that saved us and bought us money and everything else that we need, it seems your implying that you guys had it along and that you still have it. If this is the case, then why are there poor white people. In our country, all over the world in fact. Or are you not aware of this? What has your money and civilization done for your own?
I for one, have never believed that white people need to be kicked out of our country, I don’t know where you would go? If you are born in South Africa this is all you know, and its unfair that you have to be told to pack up and leave.
But here’s the thing, you have no place here or anywhere else in the world if you are filled with so much hate. No, its not fair, a lot has happened in the past and many of us are suffering for the sins of our fathers, but that doesn’t mean that we bite back and take to the internet and resort to racial slurs to belittle one another. And that has nothing to do with race or colonization or independence. Its about decency. Before race, religion, culture and tradition, were all human. We hurt, we live and we learn. So don’t make It difficult for yourself or for anyone else.
You may think that you are just retaliating to what “they” are saying to you and standing up for yourself, but you know what? If you follow their cue, then you’re just like them. You are no better than the “blacks that want you out of the country or dead”.
I know that your blog is your personal space and that you can say whatever you want too, but you should do it responsibly, because people are reading your material, and its not okay that we’re sharing such misguided opinions. By the way,taking information off twitter is not the best move, but then again, not everybody is a journalist like me and the words “attribution and verification” don’t always mean anything to everybody else.
So, what did you steal from US? I don’t know the answer to that, but I can tell you what you stole from me. You’ve stolen a little bit of my sunshine and my faith in humanity. You’ve made me worry about the future of our country and more than anything else you have made me really sad. I don’t get it, why can’t we all just get along?