EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu told other MPs on Tuesday that it’s impossible for black people to be racist.
The former ANCYL spokesperson made his remarks in the middle of a National Assembly debate on #BlackLivesMatter, which his party proposed is a matter of national importance, according to IOL.
“There is no black person who can be racist because they never, ever think that they are superior to any other race. They are despondent of the white supremacist system. Those who speak and work against white supremacy and the nonsense of white privilege are not racist,” Shivambu said.
Here is the Oxford definition of racism:
1. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
1.1 The belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.
Moving forward, it is important to keep these definitions in mind when addressing this kind of rhetoric that’s consistently espoused by our country’s leaders.
“Any human being who holds the view that black people are inferior is either stupid, or insane, or both,” Shivambu said.
To the latter statement on racism by Shivambu: I believe we can all agree he is correct.
As for his statement on it being impossible for black people to be racist, I counter his argument by citing the definition above, which does not close off the idea of any specific racial group being able to hold racist beliefs. However, there are other definitions that are found in the framework of critical race theory, which argues that race is a power structure and because (in America and other Western nations), black people don’t hold enough power to be considered racist.
Of course, this is an idea that is disputed by many, but in Mr Shivambu’s statement, we don’t need to make an argument against it. Mr Shivambu is the Deputy President of the EFF, South Africa’s third biggest political party, having previously served as the spokesperson for the country’s biggest party’s youth league. He has an Honours Degree in Political Studies and International Relations which he received from the University of Witwatersrand.
He has a personal fleet of luxury vehicles, including a Range Rover, a BMW and a Porsche. He also has received millions of rands as part of both his salary, as a party leader and MP, as well as in uncovered deals with VBS – one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit our country. He’s secured millions in home loans for his family. And, most pertinently, Floyd Shivambu is 37-years-old.
As a child of apartheid, Mr Shivambu has accumulated a mass of wealth, education and power. Yet, he still did not hesitate to call a journalist, Carien Du Plessis, “stupid” and a “white bitch”. Yet, it is impossible for him to be racist because of the colour of his skin.
#BlackLivesMatter is a critical movement for the social progression of the entire world and its foundations of white supremacy, and perhaps it’s even more important for our country, given how very deep the foundations run here. And, particularly white South Africans have a collective responsibility not to apologise for the world that was created in our less-enlightened past. However, white people have a responsibility to educate themselves on the issues and the consequences of a 300+ year history of slavery, colonialism and apartheid. #BlackLivesMatter is not a movement to apportion blame onto any individual person and it’s not about apologies, it’s about the acknowledgement of a society that was built and designed to continue the cycle of racial disenfranchisement.
However, tackling these issues is not a uniquely white responsibility. It requires navigating through amicable solutions along with people of colour. And Mr Shivumbu’s remarks on racism, along with just about all of the media’s coverage and rhetoric regarding race in South Africa, are an obstacle to progression. Apartheid is over, but its consequences are more alive than ever today, with rampant unemployment, collapsed education and healthcare systems, an overrun power grid and countless other faults in our society in 2020. Yet, the frictionless redistribution of power, economic freedom and the sheer psychological liberation of black people will not be possible if we perpetuate the idea that the black men and women who run our government, which shows little to no regard for poor disempowered black people living around the country, cannot be racist.
White-on-black, black-on-black or black-on-white racism is 100% possible, they all exist in their own right and, if anything, #BlackLivesMatter should be teaching us that racism in all its forms should be condemned and systemically eradicated from the structures of our society. If Mr Shivambu doesn’t stand against all racism, he doesn’t stand against racism at all. Because it’s an incredibly slippery slope from “black people can’t be racist” to “black people are superior”.
This article was written by an Essential Millennial writer and represents the author’s opinions, not that of The Essential Millennial. For more stories on South African current affairs, visit our News & Politics section.