THE BLOG
06/07/2018 10:18 SAST | Updated 06/07/2018 10:18 SAST

The Conflicts Of A Black, Middle-Class, Urban South African Man

'Why can’t we, as Africans, get our act together and render services efficiently, effectively and ethically?'

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OPINION

I love many things about being black and African. The culture is rich and vibrant, the people are warm, and the ideas and experiences of the continent are worth sharing with the world.

I relish the ideology of Black Pride advocated by titans such as Bantu Biko and Marcus Garvey, and the boldness of institutions such as the Black Panther Movement. I want my children to be showered in African music, African stories, African folklore, African proverbs, African mythology, African history and African ideology. All things African.

I want them to be well versed in the music of Fela Kuti and Salif Keita, the story of Obe and Tselane, the literature of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Sello Duiker, and the bravery of Solomon Mahlangu and Nomzamo Mandela. I would love for them to be given this richness by black faces and leaders who have experience in all these facets so that they, too, have a sense of pride when they walk and engage with the world.

I want them to be able to walk into a black institution run with efficiency and ethics with one driving force: to push forward the African agenda. I want all of this to be passed on to my kids.

My father wanted the African agenda for my sister and I. He, too, had the same ideas of taking us to institutions where we would be nourished with good, untainted black education (and pride). Now that I am getting closer to having a child of my own, the same thoughts are running through my mind. I, too, want them to be well grounded, educated and versed in the African agenda.

However, the reality is I, too, will do what my parents did. I'll send my kid to a nursery school that is headed by a non-black person. They will teach my kid nursery rhymes that have French, German and Dutch heritage. They may be lucky and pick up African nursery rhymes from their peers, most likely from the townships. They will grow up calling me daddy and not papa.

They will have a strong command of the English language and an urgent need to learn Afrikaans if they are to stand a fleeting chance of navigating the corporate environment with ease. They will speak with accents that convince their peers and colleagues that they are "intelligent". They will attend private schools headed by a non-black principal and taught by non-black teachers who give them education on non-black matters. They will engage with people of different classes, backgrounds and creeds.

My parents worked hard to give my sister and I a good education – and life in general. I am eternally grateful for all they have afforded us. However, a few questions linger in my head when I think of the so-called 'quality of life' that has been afforded us...

However, their context will be heavily forged in the middle to upper-class paradigm that I will afford them. I will afford the private schools and Ivy-league tertiary tuitions where bold ideas of prominent black thought leaders will not be discussed.

Scholars like WEB Du Bios, F Fanon and PLO Lumumba will be conveniently left out of their syllabus. The ideologies of Bantu Biko will be in some book shelved in some corner of a library encrusted in dust. The treacherous history of our land will be a "by the way" chapter in some of their textbooks. When they are well educated and qualified in all matters other than the African agenda, they will enter the corporate arena.

Here they will see cognitive dissonance experienced by black executives who strongly believe in the ideals of the African agenda, but quickly shelve them for the pursuit of an alternative one — Western, perhaps? They may find themselves challenged with their identity as an African as they grow up. Rightly so! Very few of the figureheads they will be exposed to will be black. Neither their nursery school teacher, high school principals, tertiary dean nor eventually their first boss is likely to be of African descent. None of these figureheads will pursue the African agenda.

My parents worked hard to give my sister and I a good education — and life in general. I am eternally grateful for all they have afforded us. However, a few questions linger in my head when I think of the so-called "quality of life" that has been afforded to us:

  1. Why is there a conscientious effort to stay away from black-run institutions? Is it fear of the poor quality of service that they render?
  2. Why can't we, as Africans, get our act together and render services efficiently, effectively and ethically?
  3. Is there diminishing faith in African-run institutions?

These are the conflicting questions that I ask myself as a black, middle-class, urban South African man. I want the best for my children and country. It almost seems as if "quality life" equates to a Western life. I have no issues with Western institutions. Most of them are sound, albeit tainted with blood, contradictions and hypocrisy.

The African agenda is an ideology that requires African institutions, government, business and the citizenship at large to be efficient, effective and ethical.

However, would I trade what I have learnt and acquired from Western institutions for the pursuit of the African agenda? Can I walk away from the "quality of life" unapologetically for the sake of Black Pride? The painful answer is no. Don't get me wrong, I am a proud black man.

And for the most part, I am proud of my people. We are producers and creators of many things. (Plus, we have been created by the heavens with the perfect balance of gold and sunshine. Our skin is a testament to that).

However, I cannot confidently say that 80 percent of the institutions we have created or inherited are run with unrelenting efficiency, effectiveness and ethics since we were liberated in the 1960s. Leaders such as Sankara, who pursued these ideals, were annihilated by Western forces with support and complacency from an African, in some way or form.

The African agenda is an ideology that requires African institutions, government, business and the citizenship at large to be efficient, effective and ethical, so that all Africans can benefit from the gold and sunshine bestowed on the motherland. It is possible.