As I was watching Selma, a question a friend of mine asked me a few weeks ago came back to me. We had just walked past a group of happy-go-lucky-looking friends (they happened to be white), and she turned to me and asked “Why do black people suffer so much?” I cannot for the life of me remember what my response was but it was probably something preachy, but watching this movie had me asking myself the same question! Because it really does seem like black people have been suffering since the beginning of time.
From Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Coretta King to Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma black people have had to fight for and defend the livelihood of the black body. I kind of get it if you protest my adding Jacob Zuma to this list but once upon a time he played an essential role in achieving the freedom we enjoy today.
Most of the suffering endured by black people happens at the hands of the white man. Julius Malema writes that the oppression of black people and the white man’s assumed right to abuse the black man at will is built on the deeply rooted white supremacy. In order to change the perception of inferiority that is closely associated with black people we need to change the foundation on which white supremacy is built. Malema argues that since white supremacy is built on the structural organization of black lives, the dilapidated material conditions that have been made exclusive to black people, white supremacy can only be dismantled by changing the structure of black lives. From this reasoning we can also conclude that black people will continue to suffer unless the collective black race progresses beyond the animalistic conditions we are assumed to we live in.
The black man’s current suffering is based on the foundation laid by the colonial project dating back to the 1600s. What about before that? Did we always suffer so, if it started at some point what did we do to deserve it? What did our ancestors do so wrong against God that His wrath is still upon us almost a millennium later? What was the catalyst to all this suffering?
This though is immediately followed by a question; whether or not I and others like myself contribute to us staying in this state of “despair” by constantly writing about and debating how the black man is a victim instead of writing about solutions to the black man’s state of “despair”. I’m not victim blaming, nor am I saying that black people are to blame for all the suffering they have had to endure. I do, however, wonder if we have been victims for so long we cannot stop thinking like victims and thus remain victims (does this make sense?). One of my sisters always says you cannot change any of your habits if you haven’t changed your mindset about and towards those habits, similarly in order to change this seemingly never ending state of despair we need to stop thinking like victims.
"I’ll tell you what I know to be true...that we are descendants of a mighty people, who gave civilization to the world. People who survived the hulls of slave ships across vast oceans. People who innovate and create and love despite pressures and tortures unimaginable. They are in our bloodstream. Pumping our hearts every second. They’ve prepared you. You are already prepared."-Amelia Boynton, Selma