Last year this time I was at the Apartheid Museum with Ramon In-Africa, Sellina Malindi and Kutlwano Man-k Motshwane. This morning on Radio I hear about Tutu’s proposal for “Fortunate” white South Africans to pay more Tax to “Less Fortunate” black South Africans, what is your take on the matter?
Ramon In-Africa :
First of all, I am surprised at such an unrealistic and unwise proposal from a man known for his intelligence and sensibility. This idea is problematic on many levels. Now, to start, I will begin as I always do when addressing such issues pertaining to the socio-political spectrum of modern day South Africa ; I am an outsider, a Black American—actually some of you refer to a person like me as “coloured.” Nonetheless, I believe that our people have suffered under similar racist systems with comparable outcomes. Yours is called “Apartheid” mine stemmed from legalized slavery and finally legalized discrimination and disenfranchisement under “Jim Crow Laws.” Thus, my analysis, however meaningful, is limited to that of an outsider’s perspective. With that said, I feel first and foremost, this particular proposal (no matter how well intentioned) is rooted in an unfair sense of entitlement at the expense of some, it is to be administered racially (which is both contradictory and hypocritical), and with this basically being a heist, there is no guarantee that the funds will end up in the hands of those intended to be succored. How many times have we seen our Black African leaders feign to be interested in helping those in need only to steal the money before it lands upon the poor? This whole thing smells of one more scheme with the intention to rob the “well to do” Whites of money under the guise of helping poor Blacks with the real motive being the siphoning of more funds into the hands of Black leadership. OK, it is quite understandable for those who have been systematically brutalized physically, psychologically, and emotionally and politically and economically excluded to expect to be reimbursed in a major way for what such a system has done to them and their people. However, when that very system also has a responsibility to put into law and enforce policies that do not discriminate on the basis of race (and other such social categories) but in fact strives to treat everyone equally, there is a fine line that must be walked when this same system seeks to right past wrongs based on race. Here arises the ambiguity that South Africa and to an extent the United States has been wrestling with. The whole idea of an equal and color blind society is turned on its head when such a society practices policies that are racial/racist in formation and administration—even if the said policies are implemented with positive/good intentions. At the end of the day, Black, White, or “Coloured” someone gains at the expense of someone else—based on race. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly support a system where certain quotas should be maintained because of past wrongs and also to ensure that those in charge reflect those they are in charge of. It tickles me when White people cry racism a few years after their centuries long domination of Black Africa/America came to an end—in theory (on paper).
Here it is, they built—financially, socially, economically, academically, industrially, agriculturally, politically, career wise, employment wise, religious wise, media wise, etc. a system that rewards and benefits them at the expense of Black labor, poverty, exclusion, disenfranchisement, health, wealth, etc. that existed for centuries and created a huge chasm in the quality of life between the two classes. Yet, because the racist system they created became illegal overnight, they feel that all is well and equal and that the exploited and brutalized should ignore the past and act as if everyone is on the same, level playing field. They feel these people should ignore the fact that they, the exploited and brutalized, are at a starting point far behind those who are the recipients and inheritors of the advantages, luxuries, and comforts of the racist and evil social system. They refuse to recognize the fact that even though such a system may have been outlawed, those adversely affected by it will have to endure decades if not actual generations to even approach some sort of equal footing. Slavery in America ended in 1865—look at the state of Black America—still at the bottom in just about every socio-economic and health related category. How much more for a system that “ended” in 1994? So, the recipients of such harshness are entitled to something. But at the same time, coming in 14 years later and claiming this particular program to be some sort of remedy is really short-sighted seems very desperate. What about a true economic plan? This is simply a case of “rob from the rich and give to the poor.” In theory that would work, but these sorts of programs never work in Africa—because the “poor” usually wind up being the tribal members or cronies of whoever is in charge (someone say ZIMBABWE ).
I mean look, when you give money to poor people, they soon spend it and it ends right back into the hands of the rich people it came from. What poor people need is empowerment, accessibility, opportunity, and education—not cash handouts. Yes, I understand entitlements are not handouts, but this whole thing will just be like the hilarious skit on the “Chappell Show” when all Black Americans got reparations checks and all they did was buy a bunch of junk and pay their cell phone bills—which put the money right back into rich White hands. If Tutu wants to take money from rich Whites in the form of taxes, then the money should be “invested” into poor Black South Africa, not simply “given away”. You can either eat corn or plant corn—which is more profitable in the long run? Finally, if South Africa is truly working towards unity—racially, ethnically, socially, etc. then such policies much cease. You cannot preach equality and the end of racism but only tax rich Whites. If Tutu and other rich leaders are for a “colorblind” South Africa , then all the rich—Black, White, etc. should pay. Don’t tell me that the rich White South Africans were the only beneficiaries of cheap Black labor! The rich Blacks and rich “others” used the same cheap and very exploitable labor for their own economic advancement. Thus, they should all pay. This should be a tax on the rich—not a racial rich tax. Such thinking assumes that ALL “well to do” Whites directly had a hand in abusing Blacks and exploiting them. That is simply not true. It also assumes that all non-White hands are clean in this regard—we know that’s not true. So, why should one get by while the other pays—regardless of the circumstances with which their wealth was created—their race? If so, you fall into the trap of creating and enforcing racist policies.
Then wouldn’t that be hypocritical? In conclusion, you must face facts. A significant portion of the wealth of your nation is held in the hands of Whites. Yes, they may have gotten this unethically, but it is still in your nation. Such policies as the one which Tutu proposes will only increase the already occurrence of “White Flight” from South Africa . You may want less White people there—understood. But it helps no one—especially Black South Africa , when these same Whites take their money with them—again I say, ZIMBABWE .