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Eusebius on TimesLIVE

LISTEN | Black consciousness, white tears: ubuntu’s challenge to liberalism

18 January 2022 - 09:00
A young boy pays his respects to the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The author says white South Africans have yet to grasp the full requirements of ubuntu, the philosophy Tutu spoke about at length.
A young boy pays his respects to the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The author says white South Africans have yet to grasp the full requirements of ubuntu, the philosophy Tutu spoke about at length.
Image: Esa Alexander

Eusebius McKaiser discussed Black Consciousness, liberation theology and white liberals with Harvard University doctoral candidate and author Panashe Chigumadzi.

In this latest episode of Eusebius on TimesLIVE, Chigumadzi starts off by explaining why it is important for black people to not be distracted by anti-black racism, puzzling through the conundrum that racism cannot be avoided in analysis and activism but that, nevertheless, aspects of the justice project require white people to do work on and among themselves without the presence of black people.

Thereafter the discussion takes a historical turn, reinscribing Black Consciousness into the public discussion by focusing on the radical challenge to liberalism Black Consciousness entails. Chigumadzi emphasises the importance of African epistemologies that are often marginalised in global conversation and scholarship, showing by way of example how important it is to know and draw on the work of radical black thinkers from Africa who illuminate concepts such as racial capitalism.

Listen to a segment of the conversation here: 

For the full podcast, go here

McKaiser and Chigumadzi then tease out a conception of ubuntu as an ethical doctrine that infuses it with radicalism, and distances ubuntu from liberal interpretations that bypass the hard work required to meet the high demands of ubuntu. Chigumadzi talks us through her recent Sunday Times column that explains why it is not easy, when properly understood, for white people to claim knowledge about ubuntu, let alone show off ubuntu in action.

McKaiser expands on the challenge presented by ubuntu by focusing on the idea of “recognition” in interpersonal relations, but cautions against the assumption that a radical understanding of ubuntu makes the philosophy one to be avoided. Rather, he argues, ubuntu is an invitation for white people to recognise  that they had also been scarred by white supremacist ideology.

Finally, Chigumadzi ends the discussion by circling back to liberation theology, explaining why you cannot have Black Consciousness without black liberation theology.


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