SA has stories to tell older than 48 years of racism – Alex Tabisher

AlexThe by-line for my column is “Literally Yours”. It means my thoughts are driven by the conviction that meaningful dialogue, in any language, is a powerful tool we could use to clean the Augean stables of the distasteful racist polemic so patently present at comedic and academic levels.

It sullies the bias-free engagement necessary to cleanse us from the debilitating cancerous assumptions that block relations in our beautiful country.

Everybody has opinions on racial categories and stereotyping to drive their mealy-mouthed fatuousness. Debate should not be based on racial categories.

That is arrogant grandstanding to depict a questionable attempt at transparency. Few of these socio-anthropologist-ethnic Einsteins are seeing the elephant in the room.

Our nation should start with two human categories based on geographic origin. My suggestion uses one such exemplar: European or African. By that I mean that you are either a native of Europe, or one from Africa. Other binary categories include Indo-Asian, Sino-Nipponese, etc. Using my choice, that is, European or African, we cannot categorise African as non-european or European as non-african.

This would merely open other areas of identification based on unacceptable and indefensible complex hierarchical imperatives.

Then we sit down and talk around these categories and address the assumptions that block us from reaching each other. One is that European culture is superior to African. Or African culture is not as seminal as Eurocentric culture.

The other is that only Africans suffered dehumanisation and as such are the only drivers and beneficiaries of reward. Wrong again.

Physical features and language differences should be acknowledged as proud identity. We should accept that the Eurocentric languages take unfair mileage from their encryption, while the African languages lag behind. But it is not racist to express yourself in English or French, nor is it anti-South African to not learn an African language.

These are the artificially-created templates that block a fair exchange of ideas. It shouldn’t be treasonable to own that the colonial languages left us with some beautiful literary gems. Hence my penchant to be “literally yours”. But this choice is not predicated on the false assumption that only English produced great literature.

We need to start accepting that the relevances that inform our aesthetic reception should be re-aligned. Africa has great stories to tell, but they cannot only be about a 48-year-long fight against the racist Herrenvolk. The tapestry is broader. The history has wider resonances. Black writers have always had a rich oracy to delve into. Predictably, my admonishment to the masterless few: don’t burn it down. Write it up.

Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher.


Cape Argus

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