Are the black well-fed classes beginning to hate the black hungry masses?: iLIVE
Though I have heard the view that the well-fed black classes, embodied in the persons of such luminaries as Khulubuse Zuma, hate the hungry masses of blacks, I find that I have to disagree.
The general feeling of the well-heeled, ruling political class and their posse to poor blacks is, of course, not quite the same old feeling of comradeship. Yet it’s not outright hatred. I have to come to see it as, well, complicated, something of the sort of relationship Meryl Streep’s Jane had with Alec Baldwin’s Jake in the movie It’s Complicated.
You may recall the movie – about a woman having sex with her ex-spouse, even though she does not really feel it’s a good idea to get back together. The movie might well have been referring to the shifting race feeling in South Africa. Black intragroup inequality with its new set of emotions is a reality, and very few of the well-heeled blacks are unafraid of walking the reeking streets of their original homes.
Complicated is one way the affective relationship between the black classes can be characterised. This is what dawned on me while following reports of the African National Congress policy conference.
Truth is, like other observers I thought that the ANC policy conference was just another talkshop of the ruling political class and their sponsors which would not change much for the majority of blacks who featured so much in the discussions.
Somewhere towards the end my feeling for the ANC darkened after I read of the decision that we are not entering the second transition but rather the second phase of the first transition. Who cares? This, I felt, is yet another sign that the ruling party despises poor blacks. I thought: How they can spend money and time playing with idiotic phrases while black children are dying from hunger, their education is made to suffer and thus inequality is increased, AIDS and violence mortality remain stubbornly high, and unemployment confronts the party leaders and its deployees in government at every traffic light intersection?
But I have changed my mind. The answer to what we witnessed from the ANC policy show, and what we shall see more of in the lead-up to and during the ANC national elective conference in Mangaung in December, is to be found not in books on political theory but at the video store, comedy section. The absurd is back at the centre of South Africa life, and the ANC honchos are both directing and playing lead actors.
The absurdity of our present socio-economic condition is starkest when it comes to the intragroup life of blacks, though. One indication of our absurd condition is that whilst the elites want us not to forget about the economic dominance of whites, intra-black income inequality has risen since the beginning of the transition.
The interesting part of this is how the ANC is managing to persuade many of us to ignore the fact it is under a black government that inequality is growing and the majority of blacks remain poor.
To be sure, racial patterning goes far beyond wealth, employment and poverty. HIV/AIDS, homicides, child and maternal mortality, incarcerations rates, and other social and health problems also follow racial lines, and a disproportionate number of those on the burning end of these lines are black.
Conversely, the good life still is the white life.
And, as we know, even black people continue to associate making it with ubulungu, whiteness. The well-off black person is often referred to ‘mlungu wam’, my white person.
All that being the case, I really don’t think the black comfortable classes hate poor blacks for their misery or calling them white. What I think is happening is that these continuing racial patterns have brought with them a new complicated racial love into the lives of the black middle and upper classes.
It is not black-on-black hatred as much as it turning out to be an increasingly disbelieving, cynical solidarity. Brenda Fassie might have called it weekend special love.
- Professor Ratele is the head of the Programme on Traditions and Transformation at the ISHS at UNISA. He writes in his personal capacity.