Sharing the pain of “adulting”

I remember my mother sending me a text message late last year in December nonchalantly saying: “By the way you’re on your own for medical aid beginning next year…”

She was speaking of 2017.

The amount of sad and crying face emojis I sent her immediately tossed her into a laughing frenzy. This was her way of telling me, “Welcome to the world of adults.”

Shock! Horror! “Adulting” soon became a reality. One that still has me #shook.

I felt like I was being kicked while I was down and out. Ok, maybe not down and out. But in my eyes, having just moved back home as a graduate, after years of being away at varsity and being broke counted towards my struggle argument.

Do you remember your first day in first grade, high school and the dreaded first day of university? Well, none of these phases could have prepared you for the “adulting” world that social media has turned into a trend.

If you haven’t noticed, Twitter and Instagram have become abuzz with the #Adulting craze lately. These are mostly young adults who have taken to these platforms to share their daily struggles and victories of being an adult. Most, who are not of our generation, think of “adulting” as a vain manner in which we self-congratulate.

Writer Danielle Tullo in Cosmopolitan insists that the word “adulting” implies that being an adult is not a necessary part of growing up but rather a life choice you’re hesitant to fully buy into.

I beg to differ. The thing is,we are already in this “adulting” thing whether we like it or not. We are fully aware of it but we choose to share these “adulting” moments with friends, acquaintances and loved ones because of a simple need to feel like we are not alone in the struggle. Yeah sure, we get a couple of giggles and likes along the way. But it is the mere fact of knowing that I am not the only twenty-something-year-old stressed about bills, savings and responsibilities with my barely-enough-to-go-around salary – we’re in this together.

“Adulting” is having to deal with the fact that for the first time in your life you are expected to have it all together: career, finances and relationships, amongst other things. It is finding yourself sitting behind your work desk even when it is raining cats and dogs outside and you would honestly rather be at home in your pyjamas watching series. But you understand being here pays your salary and that will ultimately afford you that first car you’ve been dreaming of.

Now that I have my newfound freedom – including no curfews – you’d think I’d have more time to hangout and party with friends but hardly any of that is coming my way. See, with “adulting”, spontaneity is almost always a myth because now you resort to planning engagements with friends since everyone is always busy. Delayed gratification becomes the norm.

The reality of taking on adult responsibilities is no easy task. There are days when I’m able to get through the ups and downs. There are other mornings when the dread and constant feeling of being thrown into the deep end can be overwhelming, making me want to crawl into bed next to my mother and have her comfort me through it all.

The reality of “adulting” is having to make things work even when you don’t have it all figured out.

So, excuse me and the other young adults who want to self-celebrate and give ourselves a pat on the back every now and then for even the smallest achievements of this “adulting” life.

Good hair, no Becky

On Monday August 29, #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh was trending on social media while black learners at the school were protesting against what they described as cultural discrimination.

The learners highlighted their school rules which force them to wear their hair in ways that conforms to western standards and how they are prohibited from standing in groups or speaking their mother tongue languages during school hours.

The movement sparked a national conversation in which I think provided a good learning opportunity for all South Africans. First off, let me say definitively, it’s not about hair! The debate plays out through the dreadlocks and the cornrows but really, the conversation is about institutionalised racism. And more specifically about the institutionalised racism at some of this country’s most prestigious schools.

In other words it’s about the fact that black students are animalised in schools. When white teachers think that black hair is untidy, they refer to it as a “birds nest”. They are “behaving like hooligans”, when they are often, just being themselves, themselves in a way that is not white. They are told to “stop cackling” or “acting like monkeys” when they laugh too loudly and their “messy” schoolbags or desks are said to resemble a “pigsty”. I’ve experienced all of this and I am only one person. One black child. So there’s this consistent reference to black students and animal behaviour. This notion that your habits limit your acceptance into human society.

Then there’s the chatter about the code of conduct.

The code of conduct is fundamentally a set of rules that governs the school. It is the law. All laws only find relevance in the societies they exist in. When society evolves, so too should the law. Codes are written by ordinary people who seek to promote their own bias. How can we expect a law that was written without black students in mind to work to serve them?

The very problem that the learners are working to address is the idea of not seeing colour. It is necessary to see race so the structures that people of colour occupy can operate to equally benefit them. Ignorance to colour, “race blindness”, is not a noble gesture, it is to dismiss the diversity of people.  Diversity is good, it also requires flexibility and that must be taught in institutions of learning.

Schools are the facilitators of such lessons but they should not simply distribute teachings as gospel. Paying for an education is not like buying loaves of bread. The factors that produce an education, such as teachers, rules and environment are as important as the education itself. Learners are not consumers but stakeholders in the chain of production.

It is up to the schools to look into their policies, change the rules and fix it. The stakeholders can’t be told to go elsewhere if they are unhappy, it’s their school too. Black students are not the inconvenient guests at the former model C school, they are partners, these codes of conduct should get it right.


Wits Vuvuzela, Good hair, no Becky, September 10, 2016

Wits Vuvuzela, It’s not just about hair, September 10, 2016

We are ‘coconuts’, but there’s levels ‘bru’

Katleho“I choose to appropriate the term ‘coconut’ and self-identify as one, because I believe it offers an opportunity for refusal, and this very refusal allows for radical anti-racist politics to emerge,” said Panashe Chigumadzi at the Ruth First Lecture this year.

Validation, resonance and irony in her humour is what I walked away with that evening. That said, I don’t know if she’ll accept my subsequent notion.

Of course I identify as a ‘coconut’, my whole upbringing dictates that I should; Model C schooling, occasional white best friends, ‘creamy-crack’ hair (see Chris Rocks Good Hair), hell, even smugness in sporting braces in Grade 6. But I like that I can now decide and accept that I am a coconut but still be able to refuse the assumed notion that I too am a benefactor of white privilege. There’s a kind of freedom in that.

But have you ever met some young black girl or guy and thought, damn, “you really are a coconut of the coconuts? Perhaps even the queen of coconuts?” You know, those whose speech is consistently punctuated with unnerving amounts of, “laarks” and “reeeallys”, or that “yah bru”

“The truth is hard to swallow when the belly’s full of lies.”

There are levels in life, I think one should know theirs and be comfortable with it. But more, one shouldn’t have to get defensive when another black person not quite on their level mimics you and things get all emotional and personal.

It’s understandable, that kind of outrage, seeing oneself through someone else’s eyes has rarely been funny. “The truth is hard to swallow when the belly’s full of lies,” said Jamie Foxx in Ali. And it’s not just in the tone of language, it’s the ‘hi-how-are-you?’ as you quickly walk by, not waiting for any response (then why did you ask?) Some coconuts don’t even have any speech impediments but just a denial that they are in fact Black. Others walk around calling themselves black feminists but laugh at the black rural girl who’s English isn’t that great. It’s a constant conflict.

“The ‘extreme coconut in denial’ skates close to the very whiteness that black people are constantly battling against.”

My fundamental concern with the ‘extreme coconut in denial’ is how it conducts itself with the older black security guard, domestic worker, gardener or ground staff in various environments, as if there’s a subliminal hierarchy at play. There’s a disrespect that has a likeness to when you’re discussing race with someone white; a not-listening, a defence mechanism, the kind of pose that says I’m just trying to get through my day, so I don’t have time to really acknowledge your presence.

The ‘extreme coconut in denial’ skates close to the very whiteness that black people are constantly battling against. I know that the black female waitress sometimes deliberately gives you bad service, but it’s nothing personal. She’s angry with a system that doesn’t recognize her as worthy and she hates her manager because she always has to pretend she’s busy even when she’s not. No, I’m not saying you deserve bad service, but tact and reverting to your mother tongue usually works.

Denying your coconutism is the very mechanism that allows some to perpetuate a free spirit, the candid race-doesn’t-matter-to-me attitude. Race matters and it’s an issue. Because being a coconut only means I’m Model-C schooled, black-taxed and sometimes free.

We are all numbers to power

We are all victims to the system!

You wake up in the morning, to act out your gendered role, to go to work, to drive on the right sight of the road, to abide by the laws of the country that you belong to as a citizen – just so you don’t get in anybody’s way… We are all victims to the system.

I enrolled at Wits four years ago, unaware of my disempowered, caged self. Until my first year in Sociology when I was taught that everything that I know has been part of a systematic control mechanism to ultimately make me a pawn to whatever category I fit into. And I have never felt more like a number than I do now. A fourth year Wits student who has a part-time job just so I can pay for my student loans and get to school, just so I can somehow make it in an industry that I thought was set to keep power in check. I was wrong, no matter how many Ruth First discussions we have, we will never be able to hold power to account in any meaningful way.

“We have been forcefully detached from ourselves for the sake of control and there is no way around it because tomorrow you and I will wake up before sunset to please those who have downsized our worth to a number.”

We are entrenched in capitalism, patriarchy, and a system of laws that are all ultimately steeped in injustice and inequalities. Societal structures that are supposed to liberate us, instead infringe on our freedoms to do whatever the f*ck we want.  Methods of control to dictate to us who and what we should be and even how we should be spending our time.

We are being policed at every point of our lives.

The puppet masters

The only people who benefit from this systematic infringement are those who are on top. They hold the power to do what they want with the lives of others and make decisions in order to allow the oppression to continue.

These people who occupy positions at the top of boards and heads of councils, sit in leather seats – specifically designed for their comfortable execution of oppression – have already made decisions about you and your place in this world. The worst part is that these people consider themselves humans but really they are just pawns as well. These “humans” cower behind their rhetoric of equality, peace and justice because they have the privilege of not having to account for not putting those words into action. Never considering that the money they make is not because of how hard they worked but because of how easily they were able to disregard the lives of others for their own personal gain, and many of us have done the same thing. Whose blood do you have on your hands?rafieka

We have been brainwashed into the belief that if we bow down and submit to the rules of gender, citizenship, religion and money, we would be rewarded. In essence we end up neglecting the self in order to move forward in our lives. But why should that be the case? Why should we submit to the constant policing of our opinions and all forms of our expression? Why should we be victimised by this all-encompassing power that controls universities, streets and social spaces?

It’s because we do not own ourselves. We have been forcefully detached from ourselves for the sake of control and there is no way around it because tomorrow you and I will wake up before sunset to please those who have downsized our worth to a number. Student number, ID number, tax number, clothing size number, licence number…

You and I, we’re just numbers.

OPINION: Blacks are not “jealous” of White privilege

This serves as a response to the privileged white girl Anlerie de Wet on her piece that appeared in the Wits Vuvuzela, on August 24, 2015. De Wet states that she was, “only bouncing around her father’s testicles” when the racist lunatics orchestrated the venomous system of colonialism in all its manifestations – internal, external, apartheid and structural mechanisms that served and continues to serve as restrictions for the black man to gain economic emancipation in his own land.

It is important to initially clarify the historic events because they shape the current material conditions that many black people are subjected to survive under.

De Wet might have ‘been bouncing in her father’s testicles’ when the separate developments were implemented by her forefathers, but she does not have to ignore the fact that her parents received quality education while many of our parents, as black people, were the initial recipients of inferior education that systematically shaped them to be slaves. It is therefore easy for De Wet’s parents to be promoted at work as she clearly stated in her piece.
While on the other hand, our black parents are coerced to be in the primary sector of economic activities, they work hard in the field, and in the assembly line to increase productivity.  Our parents are exploited and alienated from the benefits of their hard labour, they earn peanuts, while white monopoly capital advocates enjoy the surplus through profit obtained from the sweat of our parents.
Our parents are not slaves because they want to be. The workers that De Wet always sees on campus are not cleaning toilets because they want to but they sell their labour all the time, to put food in the table for their children. They are not stupid, most of them would have been doctors, lawyers, successful entrepreneurs and good educators today, but they cannot be that, because De Wet’s parents and many others who share the same pigmentation with her are pure beneficiaries of institutionalised racism.
I keep wondering if she ever noticed that there are no white cleaners on campus? Well, she seems to have the same mentality as the apartheid engineers for they believed that white people are blessed and black people are cursed. Maybe that is why she keeps emphasising that she is “blessed”; does it then mean that the black workers on campus are not blessed?
We are not jealous of white privilege. In fact, for many black poor students who have no place to sleep and often feed on food from dustbins at night, they do not care about white people who “reside in Sandton” and own “Iphones” per de Wet’s example of the wealth of white people.
But black students do care about academic excellence, striving to be employed and then to transform the material conditions at home.
De Wet is thinking about creating an environment that will make her white kids privileged like her, but we not even thinking about our future kids, because we have our families to care about and also our communities.
Her utterances are a pure indication that most of the white people are in tertiary institutions to create a better future for their kids, while the black poor majority have a bigger task to firstly combat poverty at home, in our societies and also create better conditions for our kids.
De Wet is not alone, there are many like her who are prepared to protect and enhance white monopoly capital using the phrases, “blessed” and “equal”. It cannot be that the All Mighty God blesses thieves.
I mean De Wet was too quick to say that she is blessed, and it is not a sin to be privileged, well the Ten Commandments put it clear that; “Thou shalt not steal” De Wet’s forefathers stole our land! Let them bring back our land then we can talk about blessings.
Bhekithemba Mbatha is a Postgraduate Law student who hails from Orlando, Soweto.

OPINION: Hitler debate exposes our hypocrisy

By Sibulele Mgudlwa

Sibulela Mgudlwa was the 2012-2013 Wits SRC President. He shares his thoughts on the ‘I love Hitler’ comments made by Mcebo Dlamini.

Former SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa gives commentary on the case of recently dismissed Mcebo Dlamini. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

OPINION: Former Wits SRC President Sibulele Mgudlwa gives his opinion on the case of Mcebo Dlamini. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Well, Hitler was an animal who had no limits to his brutality. But one thing about the recent comments of SRC President Mcebo Dlamini about Adolf Hitler is that they have created a lot of healthy debate around many issues. But they’ve also created their fair share of retrogressive opinions joining the discourse and these must be squashed immediately.

Perhaps to be more specific, there’s a laughable notion that suggests that a love for Hitler directly translates into a love for the colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Some people have cunningly, and perhaps insidiously, introduced the idea that those who love Hitler or his style of leadership automatically love Cecil Rhodes and other white supremacists. It’s a very lazy view that seeks to reverse the gains made by the #RhodesMustFall movement. Zapiro certainly takes this view further in his recent cartoon by depicting Wits as a Hitler-loving and transformation-hating university, in direct contrast to the more “forward-thinking”, Rhodes-hating University of Cape Town. Well this is plain silly.

Lessons can be learnt from Adolf Hitler

There’s a whole lot we can learn from the Hitler and the period of history he lived in. Appreciating some aspects of that portion of history and their relevance today does not necessarily mean you’re against transformation or that you’re a raging, rabid racist intent on killing white people. We can study the energy and passion of Germans living during the Nazi era, who wholeheartedly stood behind a common cause (albeit a terrible one) and use it in our own country in the fight for radical economic emancipation of the most needy in society.

In addition to that, we can also use the Hitler period to expose the glaring hypocrisy of the Israeli regime; a country which today happily and determinedly runs their very own concentration camp which would have made Hitler beam with pride in their very own backyard. We know only too well that in Gaza the life of a Palestinian is as disposable as a Jew in Nazi Germany . The sheer barbarism of the Holocaust is a critical lesson from the Hitler legacy that we can, and must, understand; an event that should never again happen in our society.

“Perhaps the biggest lesson in all of this is that we, as varsity students, must learn to accept complex and multi-dimensional views that don’t just have one side to them.” 

The Hitler legacy also teaches us how to deal with our scars from apartheid. The way Germans dealt with Hitler and Nazi symbols after his rule should serve as an educating process on how to deal with those who offend our values as South Africans.

Hendrik Verwoerd still celebrated in South Africa

How is it that the man who conceptualized and implemented one of the biggest crimes against humanity in history, the ‘architect of apartheid’ Hendrik Verwoerd is still celebrated by many South Africans who name streets after him and erect his statues? Verwoerd and Rhodes and what they stood for is as offensive to us as Hitler was to Germans. Surely we must be as impatient with our colonial symbols as post-Nazi Germany was with Nazi symbolism (which today is illegal in that country). We must learn a thing or four from the Germans who refused to be associated with leaders who violated their beliefs.

Perhaps the biggest lesson in all of this is that we, as varsity students, must learn to accept complex and multi-dimensional views that don’t just have one side to them. We must be able and willing to engage views that offend us with high levels of maturity and soberness. It really doesn’t help much when we retreat and hide in our stereotypical corners whenever our core beliefs are contested. Otherwise why are we in university? Lastly, we must refuse to be punished and persecuted by anyone (particularly vice chancellors) for airing views which don’t sit well with them or their friends. This is a learning space.

We are not, after all, in Nazi Germany.

OPINION: I am white and I am an African

Samantha Camara. Photo: TJ Lemon

Samantha Camara Photo: TJ Lemon

One of my guilty pleasures is the movie Mean Girls.  In the movie, a character named Karen asks the lead character Cady: “So if you’re from Africa, why are you white?” Although the question is asked in a funny way, the idea that there are no white people in “scary, dark Africa” is a stereotype that has often annoyed me.

Does the unavoidable pigment of my skin really exclude me from being a member of the continent I call home?

I have been extremely privileged to represent South Africa overseas in international competitions. Every trip has come with countless stares, mumbles and tactless questions from strangers about my obvious lack of expected blackness.

I can remember two accounts in particular, the first round of questioning came from a young Texan man who was fascinated with the strange mixed group of South Africans, to which I belonged. To his absolute amazement, not only were some of us white South Africans but we were all dressed in “real clothes”, were well-groomed and could speak fluent English.

He then launched into a list of questions about what it was like to live in huts, how we felt about being fully dressed instead of wearing animal skins, the difficulties of driving elephants to school and what we feed our pet lions.

In his defence, we all wove elaborate stories of what life in wild Africa was like. After a few minutes, the stories became too elaborate and we felt bad so we told him the truth about life in Johannesburg and that most of the wild animals were kept safely in zoos and game parks.

“Often I feel like I am not allowed to be proud of being African because my skin is too light.”

The second incident happened in Malaysia a few years later, while I was walking in the city to get food with friends. A local woman, seeing the South African flag on my backpack as I walked passed, stopped me and with genuine confusion asked me why I was white if I came from South Africa.

Fighting back the urge to give an offensively sarcastic and dramatic answer of “Oh my gosh! I’m white? I never noticed! All my life is a lie!” I opted for the more polite response that there is actually a reasonable amount of white people in South Africa (Surprise! We are not a bunch of unseen yeti-like creatures of legend who have all immigrated to Australia).

Despite my often humorous or sarcastic responses to questions about race, I find that these questions, which often come from a place of sincere misunderstanding, cause me to question my identity as an African. From a young age, I saw myself as member of a diverse and abundantly beautiful country.

I have jumped at the chance to make friends with people from other African countries and dreamed of exploring this beautiful continent I am lucky enough to call home.  I was born in South Africa and have lived here my entire life, does that not classify me as South African? According to my I.D book it does, but I feel that society has a different opinion.

Often I feel like I am not allowed to be proud of being African because my skin is too light, like I should be ashamed to be a white African because it does not fit the common global idea of what being an African means.

I am fully aware that I am not black and that my South African family tree does not span the ages of history. But, I am an African. I am an African because this is where the roots of my identity lie, this is the land I love and this is where I will always return when home is needed.