Are Black People F*N Up The Country?

A few weeks ago a friend and I had one of those news/newspaper sparked chats that most of us hate to have but end up having anyway. The one about the current state of the country. I even had the humorous version with my drunk as land sea horse ‘plane mate’, Charles on a flight.

There’s really nothing new about the topic nor its insides. The country is going in the wrong direction and, well, we all know it. On the face of it, it’s a leadership issue. Or rather the f*d-upness thereof and its ripple effect. But what caught my attention about what he said was when he said, “what is wrong with us, jo? You switch on the tv or read the newspaper and it’s a bunch of black folk f*n sh*t up. Or it’s some politician screwing with us. Or some BEE businessman in trouble.”

The point he was making was that the news is dominated by what seems to be a downward spiral of our society. Television screens and newsprint are saturated with, most importantly, black faces and one does need to ask the question, however touchy; are black people ruining the country?

By now you have made up your mind about what I’m about to say. You have either decided that either this post is about wanting to blame someone for what is going on. Or that it’s one of those apologetic writings. Those pieces that try to not piss off white people and scold black people while
sitting on the fence of rhetoric.

Let me start with the second point. I have a very specific reason why I’m addressing white people in this post. (“But why does it have to be about race, blah blah…?”. Shoosh…listen first). Ever since I left high school most of the environments I’ve found myself in have always been mostly white. I’ve always been one of the few black people around. At one place it was me and the tea lady. I’ve sat and listened to many of my white counterparts and how they approach life and the joys they experience and the challenges they face. What I will not claim is some kind of expertise on white people, not in the slightest. Nor do I claim the same for black people. But I have come to understand is that there are fundamental differences between the different races (perhaps a topic for another day). Most importantly, as black people, we will never fully understand white people and, subsequently, white people will be baffled by a lot they see on tv news and newspapers. Most white people will never understand the black struggle, historically nor at the moment.

Now back to the topic. Why am I singling out black people? Come on. No, really, come on. What about the ills on our society perpetuated by? Corporate collusion? The profit-driven pillaging of our resources?

I’m glad you ask these questions. Let’s get straight into it, shall we? There was a protest in some or other township, by now we’ve stopped keeping stock of where they happen. The people had issues with not having decent road infrastructure. As a result, they burnt down the local high school. In another, residents complained about water supply and refuse not being collected. A library was burnt down. In yet another, over another gripe, community members prevented school kids from attending class. I may be wrong but don’t I think burning down of schools and libraries does anything in challenging Caucasian conglomerates to do right by the communities they inhabit.

What I believe plagues us is that we are stuck in ‘Survival Mode’. YOLO in a very destructive way. Black people have endured so much hardship that many will do anything for even a moment of ‘rest from it all’. Why did thousands of miners rock up with all manner of weapons on a hill ready
to die for R12 500? Did they think their lives are worth a little over 10K? I don’t think so. But the men were tired. Tired of poverty.

The problem with Survival is that it’s about staying alive, at any cost. There is also an assumption that this instinct is only exercised by those with little means. I have spoken to many of my peers who are, to some extent, self-employed. Most lament the bullsh*t that comes with doing business with fellow business people. Inconsistency, unreliability, inferior product/service. We hustle each other with no shame. It’s like an “if I can’t get this now, then I’ll never get it” type of thinking. Our desire to get out of poverty has turned to desperation,

I will admit though that the title “are black people f*n up the country” has a flaw. It assumes that something was ok and is now getting ruined. SA was never ok. The roads people are fighting for, they’ve never had them. The salaries people are dying for, they’ve never had them. Most of the things people are fighting for are things they’ve never had. Since ’94 people have grown tired of waiting.

It is not in the fighting for what is right that is an issue. It is in how the fighting is done. In the pursuit of ‘getting’, a lot of what was ‘had’ before, is getting destroyed. Many of the solutions being sort are temporary. I don’t think Black people are not ruining the country. I believe we are defeating ourselves.

Writer: Vus Ngxande          Photographer: Jeff Rikhotso