[OPINION] Dear EFF, can we please talk?
We are a lost post-youth. Constantly on the cusp of a search for leadership and direction. Simply put, we are searching for someone, something to vote for.
We finally find ourselves ahead of the pit stops of silence, laid firm of a map of the past. We raise our voices, we shout louder, all in the hope of erasing a history that made us who we think we are, what we think we should be.
Our eyes hunt for new warriors, a team to stand firm with us in the barracks of the books that forgot our people, between those pages, lessons we never use because the words were written for us and not by us.
So now, we look to step on those adjectives and rewrite the textbooks of our thought with inspiration from leaders who reach further, educate, challenge the status quo and inspire through embracing education.
Dear EFF, I cannot speak for everyone; I can only speak for myself. My name is Haji and I am a writer. Most of the time I am lost, other times I find comfort in a red beret revolution that I respect. It is my duty to interrogate, think critically and add to a discourse that moves faster than I can. If I don’t try though, then what’s the point?
So where there is a likeness in thought with the leadership of the Economic Freedom Fighters, my mind is also challenged by some of the ideologies. I am not a soothsayer. I have no crystal ball. I am not a know-it-all. But I am also not a sheep. Blind followers do not a constructive country make. I cannot be herded. We have seen this strategy fail with other political parties.
Recently, the biggest ideological challenge that has roused both my independent thinking as well as emotions is the anti-Indian sentiment shared by several leaders of the EFF. I am not an apologist. I myself am the byproduct of an intricate web of intercultural breeding, that has often been used as a subliminal reason for one half of my family to castigate me and shame me because of the colour of my skin – to name a few.
As you know, there have been several responses to the statements shared by the EFF. Most in the form of journalism – no different I admit to this piece. Apologists and people who unashamedly exercise a heightened form of fragility and defense for a kind of racism that moves well past colonialism and apartheid have participated as well. These contributions are housed in a kind of racism perpetuated in this country that stems from old ideologies that followed Indian from a country that is beautiful but built on the degrading of fellow citizens because of a complex caste system.
Indian people are racist. A lot of the time, they refuse to employ black people because of a… smell. When they do employ black people, they call them boys and girls. I can think of nothing more notable than this encapsulating thing that seeks only to make one kind of people feel lesser and the other superior.
When they do employ black people they feed them the scraps that are not good enough for their own families.
When they do employ black people they hide their belongings, constantly count their money, and when they do share their wealth, it is a despicable amount.
When they watch sport and tally up the numbers they shout derogatory terms at the screen because "lesser" people are now allowed to play.
No one bats an eye, because we have normalised racism. We have normalised an "us" and we have normalised a "them". I have spent the majority of my life trying to distance myself from the Indian community my parents were thrown in as a result of the Group Areas Act, where the diaspora thrived in their thought, in their homogeneity, in their separation and superiority.
Dear EFF, here is a story I didn’t know about because the history books did not share these narratives. We were too busy learning about Racheltjie de Beer. My mother’s great-grandmother was brought here on the ship. She ended up in Pretoria.
Separated from her family, she had no idea where she was. What foreign land she found her feet on. How far was this land from India, how far was it from the rest of the world? Torn from her family, her sisters, her brothers, her parents, she spent her life living in silent wonder. Where were they? What were they doing?
She died at the age of 72, with the memory of a mystery she was never able to solve. Six or seven years after her death, a next-generation nephew arrived in Cape Town to find medical assistance for his ill mother. By some miracle, he managed to track down an aunt. The lines connected. My mom’s great grandmother’s family was dropped in Mozambique. They had always been there. A mere 1hour and 5 minutes flight away.
It’s sad, but what’s sadder is that you would think stories like these would bring people closer, if for nothing else then at least because of a narrative that binds through burnt ends, separation and suffering. Instead, it seems that Indian people have spent a lot of their time trying to elevate themselves. It is a tragic irony that lives and breaths in a capsule rife with too much arrogance and too little self-reflection.
There are archaic apartheid systems at play that support this hierarchy of the Indian diaspora. That supports their incessant need to distance themselves from black people, from native people. They will not vote EFF. They will not vote ANC. They will vote DA. Enough said. Perhaps the only thing this archaic system achieved is to rob certain people out of struggling enough! And so now is the time to suffer through their own fragility.
I am the child of displaced slaves, a forgotten people. A people who exist beyond the struggle of apartheid. A people who found themselves dragged here over the course of three centuries in cuffs and chains that lay heavy as anchors in a soil they eventually made their own. But I am also the child of an undoubtedly racist people, who will not let me forget their racism by aiming it toward me and more so, the black brothers and sisters in this country.
Having said that, in my recent book Sorry, Not Sorry, I define myself as a brown and not a black woman. It was not done as an exercise of separation and hierarchy. It was an intentional decision and what I thought was a sensitive choice that lay itself to rest after years of an identity struggle.
You see, I have friends who are not African and who assert their blackness in the most militant way. And I always find it so disrespectful. What is the difference between this and white liberals, for example, playing saviour and coming to the rescue of a people? It is so entitled. So… ‘privileged’.
The black experience is different from the brown experience, we need to respect that as a people that apartheid undoubtedly favoured to an extent. The mixed brown experience is a whole other kettle of fish. And so there I am, on the cover, trying to express that.
But the EFF’s statements made me think. They made me interrogate. And so dear EFF, what I am looking for is a conversation. Let me understand your ideology, so I can begin to understand my own.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her onTwitter.