Biko Mang’ula posted two questions in relation to the recent out-breaks of Black-on-Black violence in SA and a conflicting dynamic between Afrikans in the Diaspora and on the Continent. This my attempt to respond. Please, add yours too!
Baba Buntu, I’m just wondering why theres so much hatred..why South Africans hate other africans..why African Americans never want to associate with Africans????
Biko – your question is so HUGE, so broad and yet, so NECESSARY to answer. These are subjects I prefer to have face to face conversations about, but since we are more than 4,000 km apart right now, I guess FB will have to do…
Although I think I know what you mean, it is not correct – in my experience – to assert that all South Afrikans HATE other Afrikans. Misunderstand, maybe. Being ignorant about the rest of the continent, yes, to a large extent. Being conditioned to see themselves as different from other Afrikans, oh yes. But, being HATEFUL, I would say that it is a minority. But, I guess your question is about how misunderstanding, ignorance and conditioning – for some – get to a point of such intense hatred that killing is the only ‘solution’. I have given you some answers to this question before, but, ultimately, it is not really understandable.
I think I have said before that there are no simple answers here. We are talking complex psycho-social-political realities, multiple layers of oppression and unprocessed anger accumulated over generations.
So, one side it is what those who project hatred say they are upset about. This is a combination of frustrations related to being let down by SA government, seeing Brothers from other parts of the continent as a threat to their own subsistence levels, thinking that SA is “overflowing” with migrants and believing that many or most Afrikans from outside SA are involved in criminal activities and are in the country illegally. Added to that, some paranoid views out there propagate that “foreigners” are in SA as part of a conspiracy (supported by White South Afrikans) to attack/destroy/overpower/destabilize Black South Afrikans. When such ignorance appear to be “The Truth” (largely because there are very few “facts” that are made public which could dismiss these views and government institutions often seem to agree with the above sentiments), acting out against “these people” is no longer a violent attack. It becomes justified self-defence.
Then, on the other side, there is the analysis of the conditioning of the Black Experience in SA, and the potential it has to take the shape of intense Black-on-Black violence. SA has a long history of ultra-oppressive tactics where the European minority stage conflicts and incite disputes between Black “groups” (divided by language, ethnicity, residential area, political affiliation, economic opportunities etc). Now, these waves of violence take place within another world of constant violations; systemic poverty, injustice, land-grabs, miseducation, silencing, health complications and unfair treatment. ALL the time. To such an extent that DEATH not only becomes part of the Black Experience. In many ways it IS the Black Experience. Which leads to a subconscious “truth”; Black = Dead.
When death is expected – and internalised, the enemy is no longer just an “outside force”. It has grown roots within the Black Individual. It forms a disturbing filter for (mis)understanding Self, others and everything between. It is a dark place. It is not self-imposed, and it cannot be resolved by superficial awareness campaigns. This is a deep form of self-hatred where the most vicious values of White Supremacy shapes the Black Individual’s beliefs, behaviors and evaluative systems. This is – by far – not a South Afrikan phenomena. We see traces of this all across the global Afrikan world. And we also see it intensifying and explode within sub-groups in our communities (Black men killing Black men, Black men raping Black women, Black families abusing Black children, the so-called “tribalism” and all outbursts where we seek to destroy that which looks like us).
Now, keep in mind how explosive all these aspects are. And how violently potent they become in circumstances where the poor is competing with the poor; at the very margins of our colonial existence; in the most powerless and oppressed layers of communities; in the most shut-down spiritual spaces of Black Being. The violations are already so present and flammable that it just takes “one matchstick” to make it all blow up. So, when the “truth” is instigated that “these foreigners are here to take our jobs” or “Afrikans from other countries are living it up while you are suffering” – reason goes to complete stand-still and gives way to escalating thunders of violence that words fail to explain.
Against these realities, it doesn’t help to simply say “South Afrikans were accommodated in other countries when they went into exile”, “Afrikans all over the world sacrificed in their fight against Apartheid”, “Black South Afrikans today have some sense of ‘freedom’ because of the solidarity shown by other Afrikans”. These points are true. And relevant. But, the messages become meaningless to those who live in voiceless non-presence. Suppressed anger shoots to the top of extreme non-rationality.
The link to oppression and white supremacy are not just philosophical excuses. They sit at the very root of this problem, and if we – collectively – want to resolve Afrikan Unity/Power, we need to address it. Without apology. And with diligent attention. Some Black people WANT to hurt, attack, destroy other Black people (and ONLY Black people) as a form of self-destructive assault on themselves. Dr Amos Wilson describes it as a psychotic result of racist conditioning: “The Black criminal who attacks another Black as the result of a relatively minor incident, or when the objective basis for such an attack does not exist, is one whose internalized rage toward what he has been inductively made to perceive himself, and others like himself to be, is so intense that only violent outbursts against others perceived to be like himself can relieve the pressure.”
So, the answer to your question is: We have so much hatred for each other because we have internalized values that lead to deep self-hatred, which we project onto each other. This does not excuse Black-on-Black hatred or violence. But it goes a long way to start explaining it. And paint a picture of what kind of healing interventions, political actions and cultural defence mechanisms we need to re-establish.
You ask: Why do Afrikan Americans not associate with Afrikans? Again, this is a massive simplification and very far from an objective truth. Yet, it does reference the myriad of experiences that take place when members of our brutally torn-apart family meet. To start off: There are many Afrikan Americans who associate with Afrikans and Afrika. Many of our most profound scholars within Afrikan Centred Writing and Black Conscious Theory are Afrikan Americans. Many of our most progressive, Afrikan organizations have been formed in the USA (ex. Nation of Islam, Ausar Auset Society, Black Panthers etc). And many of our most dedicated activists are Afrikan Americans.
However, there is an underlying, destructive dynamic that in many instances lead to misunderstanding, over-projection, simplifying facts, stereotyping, disregard and various forms of dislike. And I find it being expressed from both sides, not just one. A lot of this is related to what I have called the internalization of “Black Death” above. But, in this instance, the more specific event that has caused contention is often located in the MOMENT of our historic, forced separation. The time when some of us where forced to border ships and taken away to become white men’s property (enslavement). And others were forced to stay and work to enhance the value of white men’s property (the stolen land, raw materials, minerals etc).
A deep rift of resentment can sometimes be traced in the relation between Afrikans on the Continent and in the Diaspora. From the side of the continent, a “disgust” is often expressed in relation to being “a child of slavery” and now “belonging” to a non-Afrikan part of the world (which, it is assumed, also means you have discarded your identity and “think you are better”). On the side of the Diaspora, many have a deep resentment towards Afrikans on the continent who they believe assisted the slave trade by participating and betraying their Sisters and Brothers. Also, some look to Afrika and say “how can you still allow so much Western influence, power and oppression?”, feeling that continental Afrikans are “weak” and “think they are better”.
Again, we are acting out dramas we never wrote the script for. Afrikans in the Diaspora have not necessarily lost their identity, completely. In parts of the Diaspora, Afrikan culture is stronger and more alive than certain places on the continent. Similarly, Afrikans on the continent did not coordinate and benefit from enslavement, and they are not just sitting with their hands in their lap. Yet – and this is where it gets tricky, there are some elements of “truth” to the allegations. But, we fail to recognize that the challenges have impacted on ALL of us. Collectively, we have lost identity, presence and power. Some of us have sold-out by supporting White Power. Some of us are not standing up for Black Justice. Some of us “think we are better”. But, it is not a one-sided issue. Again, we allow the “Master” to orchestrate our conflicts, our drama, our Black-on-Black Death – and for as long as we fail to establish sustainable, decolonized realities, we become complicit in our own demise.
So the answer to this question, too, is that we often see each other as enemies because we have internalized values that lead to deep self-hatred, which we project onto each other. Again it does not excuse us from responsibility. But it does help to explain. And – if we read the analyses right – push us to take responsibility for what we will DO with the disempowerment we now have gotten used to. If we don’t, we face an extremely grim future: Black Death will not only be our most common trait, it will be all we know that we can be, do and represent – as we continue to give birth to new generations of non-beings. That scenario is a victory that White Supremacy most NOT be afforded!