Is there a Crisis in Black Intellectual Praxis in Post Apartheid Context – The Crises of the Black SA Intellectual?
By Bishop Clyde N.S (Khoi-Khoi) Ramalaine on Friday, July 29, 2011 at 12:25am
It is my contention that the most misplaced group of people in a post apartheid context is necessarily those who constitute by design or default what I shall call Native Intellectuals. Black Intellectualism as a researched topic is not a new concept; the challenge of Intellectualism is the proximity of its nuanced historic affinity to the concept and subject of elitism.
Such challenge appears to hold for the African Intellectual, finds himself, no different to his American counterpart in a quandary, where his intellectual prowess is often a measured one in relation to and implicitly concomitant to what the prism of white intellectualism seems to portend.
Today we know Intellectualism is understood in manifested paradigms of organic intellectuals and academic intellectuals. To make matters even more complex there are those who talk of the public intellectual. I am not going to attempt to claim, I know the difference, for I think even those who advance this distinction have yet to define the term intellectual.
To understand the challenge and path I am charting I shall use two significant figures in Black American History. These are respectively Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X. The upbringing of these two, their economic status and family lives, their faith persuasions determined the picture we have of them in eternal grasp. James Cone, in his Book on these two giants, “Martin & Malcolm the Dream and the Nightmare”, shows us how it made sense for King to dream of a day when all men will be equal, a day when children of former slaves and slave owners will sit together in the circle of goodwill. Yet X, could not see such dream for X believed until America accepted the equality of humanity of all races in which the Anglo-Saxon mind afforded others what it afforded himself, there could not be a dream but a nightmare.
To understand King and X we must ask who was King and who was X. King being raised in a middle class family with access to a good education even in a time of oppression, him being the son of a Baptist preacher, when Preachers in black context were a venerated group of people associated with the educated. King’s dream therefore was to argue for an acceptance into an established white world.
Juxtapose this with X’s, upbringing him being robbed as a son from his father when the latter was brutally killed, the unstable almost dysfunctional upbringing of the young Malcolm Little, in which the teacher told him he will never amount to anything.
King clearly was crafted to ascend when X was given no chance – hence the premise for a dream vs. a nightmare. (It seems with adopted last names such as King and Little, these were indicative of their future destinies as wrought in birth)
These left indelible prints on the black history of the USA for a particular epoch. King represented the integrationist notion and X the nationalist notion. King could argue for an acceptance into such society for there was little that separated King from John Wilson who was white, accept that he could not sit on the swing benches of the parks, which were marked for whites only.
X was dealing with the fact that America rejected his right of existence such because he is black. These two stood with an elongated and celebrated history manifested in Integrationist and Nationalistic Ideology of intellectual construct, each making their own contribution, each celebrated by their own constituencies.
King went on to become a Nobel Peace laureate swayed by the Ghandian Philosophy of non – violence. X mostly remembered for his vitriolic speeches in which he castigated whites – calling them hogs – pulling no punches on supporting the typical violence of a Nat Turner (the slave who killed more than sixty whites and who was executed in the early 19th Century).
Yet what cannot be contested these were both intellectuals, both with a perspective and epistemological take on America, both with a vision of an America, both talked about black people, both understood the experience of black though such came coloured by their personal class situations.
Both conversed on the journey of being black in the USA, yet such conversations had distinct different departure points and paths that are even more distinct but yet the same vision. King reached the echelons of academic pursuit and X we not even sure completed school after he dropped out for a while.
I am saying this to postulate, Is intellectualism approximate to elitism, confirming an emphasis on class, and therefore can intellectualism not find meaning devoid of such class mellifluous confinement?
Is this therefore not the crises of the Native Intellectual? That though we are in transformative developmental state the reality is the Native Intellectual has either absconded into the hidden world of theory or calibrated himself to a class defined liberalist notion. In what is black, is conspicuously questionable particularly defined in government, business, and political or civil society context.
These necessarily miss the opportunity of making a connection between our collective history, present and future. I shall argue the Native Intellectual thinks a certain way of Black People, the Black experience, the Black future and the Black relations with others. It is my unequivocal assertion that the Native intellectual has reinterpreted his personal black experience in an evanescent manner in which such abdicates the responsibility to work for this transformation across all platforms.
The Native intellectual in South African context is almost compelled to adopt a liberalist notion in praxis for such is considered sanguine with true astuteness defined in intellectualism. The most radical of Black intellectuals have mellowed and integrated to the extent that being radical is not astute even proves uncouth.
The question must be asked, who determined or what informs the meridian of such accepted notion? Is the liberal notion as indicative of astuteness not the disjuncture replacement for the liberative mandate?
I shall ask again, what is the role of the Native intellectual in the distinguishing epoch we find ourselves? Can the Native Intellectual take of the proverbial singing diva ‘Mary Mary’ shackles of elitism in which his soul was cast for life?
Can the liberalist ethos make way for the exacted liberative mandate to truly free the minds of those who had not been as privileged. The thoughts of Black Consciousness as advanced by Biko and Fanon – asserts the true freedom required is that of the mind of the Black person for this mind, proves a partner for the permeating slavery practice.
I shall assert such mind regardless to being exposed to formal education or not can remain imprisoned, such I claim as attested of the silence of the Native Intellectual. I ask these tough questions of all of us defined across the spectrum as organic intellectuals, public intellectuals and academic intellectuals, even though we have not yet defined the meaning of such.
For today in South Africa the intellectuals are quiet, if they talk its from the vestiges of liberalist enclave, necessarily proving attacking our democratic narrative and discourse the native Intellectual seems to have lost his voice, unless such voice is usurped to speak in congruence with those who advance the enslavement of a people that cries to be free.
Why has it become necessary to castigate, to speak down from a calibrated and almost mendacious vantage point?
It appears the Native Intellectual’s thought-construct and paradigm is immured and coloured in need to prove the opposite of that which is Post Apartheid.
This, regardless at what price. The Native intellectual proves less objective in his critique and analysis of the road we had traversed, in congruence with the individualism that informs western civilisation the native intellectual has lost the moral compass defined in communality. The Native Intellectual analyse from the bedrock of a liberalist-vested contention.
The Native intellectual fails to participate in the evolutionary process of the collective ideal of Freedom as a lived experienced less than a theorised one. He is straightjacketedinto the conjoined denigrated role of affirming the construct of paradigms that he had no say in design. It is almost as if one picks up a sense of truculence in the silence of the Native intellectual.
The Native intellectual derives meaning from being the opposite in what we know our history embraced and defined as Ubuntu, the Native intellectual is endangered specie, and such endangerment is from within, which despite his success proves enslaved by not drawing a distinction between individualism and an independent mind.
I know my assertion as stated in this prologue of thinking, which I have no idea where it will end, accept for the desired hope to hear more intellectuals share with us their vision of this great nation. If we can hear them speak for their silence is audible and proves discomforting for they belong to this unfolding democratic narrative where the liberalist notion has hijacked the towers of reason as necessarily that which is the opposite of what we have been painstakingly building in this young democracy.
I shall ask again, what is the role of the Native Intellectual in our development context. This question is addressed to both organic and academic who manifest in public embrace.
Are we not robbed as a developing nation because no one wants to admit the CRISES OF THE NATIVE INTELLECTUAL, the same we desperately need to make a meaningful contribution?
Those who will necessarily see this as a myopic cry for what they will a subliminal call for proverbial blank Cheque Regime support – even suck up, in which we speak on behalf of the ruling party and defend such to the hilt, would have utterly missed my contention and necessarily dilute our debate. For the objective is to let the native intellectual speak, to let the Native intellectual engage, and critique – but such must be cognisant of the greater good we seek to attain as collective. The challenge of the Native intellectual is unlike his Afrikaner counterpart, who has been able to write textbooks on every subject matter, that spans the panapleas of complex disciplines the black child, is yet to have calculus in Venda. The black child is yet to study economics in IsiXhosa. Whilst there will be those who will use my latter stated examples as an indictment against the Native intellectual in contempt even as blind-sided contention, the reality is the black child is robbed of experiencing subject matter in his mother tongue where it matters most, yet the native intellectual is alive but even proves silent there to.
This critique stands in the same tradition of a Harold Cruse, James Baldwin, and WD Wright where such argue the crises of the Negro Intellectual and Black Intellectual respectively.
According to Wright “Cruse was critical of Black intellectuals for being integrationists and not nationalists, he said this made them susceptible as well as submissive to the thought of white intellectuals, especially Jewish intellectuals”( Wright (2007:3a)
One is not pretending to write a manifesto or sequel or a declaration on the factuality of such contention of assimilation to integrationist thinking on the part of the Native Intellectual in Post Apartheid context. Though I shall admit that I appreciate the axis of Cruse’s contention to have a salient point the same, which may direct our problem, which is becoming what I choose to call the Crises of the South African Native Intellectual.
Yet I shall ask can we journey towards this desired outcome of participating in this democratic process of nation building by admitting there is a crisis in Native Intellectual role post in post conflict. Let us analyze, argue, investigate and pronounce what should constitute the role of such native Intellectual. Forin the absence of such, we shall perpetually seek to prove congruent with those who want to measure our astuteness against the meridian of elitism necessarily devoid of the masses and negating the truth that the masses are THINKING. Perhaps the only presence of the Native Intellectual in the public discourse is his absence.
Clyde N.S. Ramalaine