Identity Double- Speak: The Case of the Davidsonville Primary School !

Identity Double-Speak: The Case of Davidsonville Primary School What does the ongoing Davidsonville School claimed racial experiences tell us about where we are in our journey of giving content to the dream of a non-racial society for South Africa? A non racial society clearly articulated in Section 1(b) that commits to such society.

Maybe I should in the beginning make it bold that I hold no brief to speak on behalf of anyone other than myself therefore what is contained constitute my own surmising.

The race issue as a lived experience refuses to let go and manifests in jolts in the Gauteng education context. It is also an increasing polarized context that simply cannot assist us going forward in our question for non racial identity as our constitution articulates it. Today we awake to the news that the MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi, a celebrated and very visible member of the executive of the Gauteng government has again shut the Davidsonville, Roodepoort Primary. The brief historical background to this second coming of school closure stems from an earlier similar action in April when the community accused the Principal Ms. Nomathemba Molefe of fraud, corruption and mismanagement of funds.

Key to this claim which was refuted through a forensic test, is the fact that the community in question carries the denotation Coloured for a identity of their human agency. The school is now closed allegedly due to another claim of racism. It is reported that the School Management Team is virtually collapsed because there has until now not been any duly constituted SMT, meeting. It is reported that currently black HOD’s attend the SMT’s but Coloured HOD’s are boycotting these meetings rendering the SMT dysfunctional and inoperable. A functional School Management Team is crucial for the schools academic success if the intentions of basic education, a constitutional right pupils share.

We learn the school in its finishing of its annual curriculum is at least 3 months behind. Some of the acts reported to occur and reduced to racist behaviour claims community members to be influencing the learners to make inappropriate accusatory remarks in screams and shouts at the principal. It is further said that the community is up in arms and will be staging a march to even have black police officers removed from the station. Not only is the community considered racist but even 14 teachers have been served with letters of disciplinary procedures for their involvement in the destabilizing of the school. According to an unconfirmed report the claims of racism comfortably leveled by the MEC against the community cannot be substantiated for their claim is they want competent educators not race based educators. The claim of the community, learners and HOD’s and Teachers defined as Coloured as relayed against the principal appears to be as stated that of fraud, corruption mismanagement which is dovetailed with the common ‘pay back the money claim”.

Let us pause in unpacking the claims. Close examination of these claims leveled against the principal sounds so familiar and common in South Africa. It has been the collective experience of the South African society that in democracy it has become so easy to level claims of these (fraud, corruption and mismanagement) against people the apartheid ascribed the denotation black (African). From my understanding an independent forensic audit cleared the principal of all wrong doings and therefore that paved the way for her reinstatement as a cleared administrator of the school. The claim thus says less of the crime on the part of the Principal but of an attitude and belief system that confirms a legitimate racist claim.

It is here that South Africa in development of non-racial society evidences a manifestation of clear race discrimination coached in claims of accusations against a particular group or people denoted as black from the apartheid identifiers of identity. This is not new, neither is it dissimilar for we have seen how these claims are made without relent – when it really is an accusation laced in racism.

It is my submission as advanced on several platforms the challenge for identity will increasingly manifest because the 1994 State is yet to define its client. With client we refer to its people in identity configured and reconstructed context away from the apartheid definitions for identity. The 1910 Segregation State and 1948 Apartheid State defined its clientele until the 1913 Land Act attests and Act 30 of 1950(c) defines people as Coloured.   When we advance that it is incumbent on the State to identify  its client, we no asking for the state to define people for the state to afford a open engagement on the subject of identity in a non racial context.   To have the ideal of non racial identity stand as enshrined in the constitution warrants an opportunity for the people of South Africa to engage in defining themselves free from the apartheid identifiers.  

What we currently have is at least what I will call identity-double speak, we have a State that claims to work for a non racial society but addresses the very people of its society in ontological sense along the very contaminated race identifiers. It appears the real debate is therefore located in the double-speak as a lived experience in racial sense and within racialised language. Furthermore this doublespeak of the State enables some racist elements in society (like Currow and Davidsonville) whose agenda it is to maintain these racialised apartheid talk. It is my assertion that the positions are hardening and the right wing regardless to where it manifests are being entrenched in this season aided by this very ambivalence immanent in identity- doublespeak.

The twist in the tail is this, if the State embraces and endorses racial classification it cannot argue for a non racial identity neither can it claim it. If it is adamant to claim a non-racial identity notion it is obligated to take South Africa into its confidence on when and why it believes the time for such is possible.  Equally the State must indicate when it anticipates the moment of non-racial identity will take effect. Not only is the State obliged to articulate an unambiguous stance but it also is equally compelled to identify the evaluation criteria for the arrival at a non-racial identity.

This at best suggests the State is in identity crises when it is suppose to lead South Africa into the ideal of a non-racial identity. Perhaps at another level what we see in the Davidsonville Primary and Currow Schools is but symptomatic of the States’ identity crisis in regard to its clients, therefore leaving opportunity for those who have a clearly opposite agenda of racialising South Africa to come to reassert themselves and gain traction.

Having focussed on the state, I am now compelled to turn my attention to the face of the state, the MEC, Panyaza Lesufi in presenting some unsolicited advice:

  1. MEC, Can we categorically state the community name as Davidsonville, people take pride in their areas of location irrespective as to how these under apartheid like all other communities for example SOWETO came about. We must therefore attempt respecting the community to be Davidsonville instead of giving the city area name of Roodepoort. Is the community name deliberately not mentioned as Davidsonville and replaced by a greater Roodepoort?
  1. Perhaps one of the clear distinctions the current MEC must emphasize is that a small group of community members are driving this instead of a blanket claim covering the entire community. It is important for the MEC to articulate the community is not racist but elements of the community could be. Winning back this community for the aims of the education may prove challenging if the community is painted as racist.
  1. The fact that normal learning cannot take place is naturally a cause for great concern and such is duly appreciated by the Gauteng Education Department, yet the presence of this recurring problem suggests something bigger than a school principal dislike is at play. Something plausibly bigger than even education is potentiality manifesting.
  1. The critical question to ask, is there any reason to believe that the subject of identity has muscled itself into the school community. If its true we may assert that the identity-double-speak conversation is responsible for the loss of 3 months of learning, suggesting even if this subject is resolved by tomorrow, the backlog remains a full term of learning that must be regained. (this undeniably constitutes a crisis)
  1. I want to suggest this is a much bigger conversation beyond Davidsonville and the local school. It is important that this issue is considered for escalation to the appropriate higher level. The MEC perhaps is to register that this anomalous situation is bigger than just a mere education related issue thus rendering it unfair for the MEC to handle this alone.
  1. MEC Lesufi perhaps feeds into the cycle of the latent cause of this confusing situation thus compromises the ability of the state to deliver learning as is his function, when he volunteers as interviewed by Tebogo Monama and captured in the Saturday Star the following information: “actually I have reliable information that that they want to march to the police station to kick out black policemen there and say they will be taking over their jobs”. This may or may not be the case. It is rather unfortunate that the MEC of Education pronounces on this matter, for it may well confirm the perception that he views the whole community of Davidsonville as racist. That would be unfortunate.
  1. Perhaps my unsolicited caution to the MEC is not to run the risk of gradually painting himself into a corner of an-us-and-them scenario in which he is not able to deliver education to the Davidsonville as is his mandate.
  2. I have heard the MEC’s slogan in paraphrased sense ‘forward with non racialism, backwards never, no one will stop us’ yet the language we use when we speak of ‘black’, ‘white’ and ‘Coloured’ denotations for a politically free human agency are necessarily race informed and race based if not racist. How than do we make this claim of a non racial society stand when we engage in what i call Identity- Doublespeak which polarizes instead of unites?

A continuance along this trajectory can only harden positions and that does not help the cause of the learners who may very well be pure pawns in this racialised talk and battle for control.

Lastly, the sterling work done by the MEC on many fronts in particular the digital footprint of transforming education at a fundamental level, runs the risk of being made undone through the perpetual challenges around this unidentified issue of identity as exemplified in both Davidsonville and Currow schools.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine

Commentator

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America’s Race Problem: The Case of Dylann Roof shot and killed Rachel Dolezal!

For more than two weeks the world media was agog on an insignificant almost accidental story of Rachel Dolezal. Rachel Dolezal’s story reminded us in glaring sense of the racial contradictions and misgivings in the land of the brave and the home of the free, the very USA that boasts a democracy for the last 240 years. Dolezal’s story for being parented by a Chech & Swedish marriage active in Christian Missionary work and her four younger siblings which share the black denotation for description of their human agency presented for many a severe challenge. In no time the accusations against her were levelled.

On the one hand those who uphold whiteness as a pristine distinctive superior notion castigated her for her betrayal of her ‘white’ identity for a subservient black identity. For it is an insult for any born ‘ white’ to ever reject the white identity in exchange for a far lesser ‘black’ identity.

On the other side of the fence those who believe in their pure black identity notion attacked her for having played the fool with their identity. These argued that she became black without accepting the scars of blackness thus cheapening the identity of black.

As if that was not enough a third group entered the fray of dissecting and accusing RD, these I will call whites who are equally experimenting on different levels at a theoretical and practical level on the idea of non-racial identity.

The latter group however argues Dolezal’s behaviour is an indictment to blacks and therefore not authentic for it makes small the true experience blacks were subjected to. I still do not know how they fully understand this to articulate it with such almost custodianship of certainty. Those who come at Dolezal from this group, claims she really made her white privilege count.

However, Dolezal in her own words as a conscious highly educated and very active person is on record for having stated categorically her heritage is black. It became painful to see how the fact that a combination of her being born of ‘white’ parents and her current strenuous relationship with her biological parents presented for some the fertile ground to assume she left relations because of her identity choices.

 

These are oblivious to how most families often are separated from each other and often it has nothing to do with identity. Hence, why this had to be strung together to give credence to her cheating only the clever ones know.

No one questions the natural assumption that RD’s biological parents known as from Chech and Swedish origin respectively is presenting already a challenge for this pure white notion, it merrily accepted with no resistance that there is no mixing that could alter identity from this pure naturally white acceptance. Those who opine do not see plausible mixing already here, but conveniently hold on to the idea of a solid ‘white’ identity. We must ask why and in whose interest ?

No soon has America been dealing with the Rachel Dolezal case and the evil of racial hate manifested again, this time a young man Dylann Roof hardly 22 years old who is arrested for having in cold blood murdered church goers in their weekly prayer gathering.

What makes this interesting and lends the twist to the tale is that it was a human with the denotation of white as his identity marker that pulled the trigger on those who gathered in the Emmanual AME church in Charleston South Carolina, the victims again identified as ‘black’.

It is then here that the stories of Rachel Dolezal and Dylann Roof collide with tragedy of eternal disastrous description. The difference is the celebration of a humanity expressed in what is a ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’ of being.

Both Rachel Dolezal and Dylann Roof are considered white if their birth certificates are the only yardstick for assessment. However, they both embolden the plight of the American race problem. For Rachel Dolezal she has made conscious choices informed by her socialisation in a family that perhaps long ago introduced her to people less in description of ‘white’ or ‘black’.

In the case of Dylan Roof, we are learning he too was exposed to both sides of the description of humanity in denotations of ‘black’ and ‘white’ for he had friends beyond his narrow meaning of a white humanity.

They both made conscious decisions, for Rachel Dolezal it is the case of her conscious rejection of ‘whiteness’ and evidenced in an equal celebration of ‘blackness’ as her studies at Howard (essentially an African American Tertiary Institution) and her work in the NAACP confirms.

Dylann Roof too made some conscious choices, his manifesto as later unravelled attests someone who consciously made a choice for ‘whiteness’ as an endangered identity in an emerging sea of ‘blackness’. Thus his choice is for ‘whiteness’ in supremacy, seeing blackness as a threat and not only a threat but a problem.

It can be argued that Dolezal’s choice for blackness is her seeing of ‘whiteness’ as the problem of America’s incessant racial diaphragm and thus she rejects this for for a black identity.

What is important here is that they both identified whiteness as the anchor tenant for their adopted divergent stances in their respective prisms of race definition. The only congruent aspect of both their distinct poles of  stances is a communality of white identity.

We therefore can assert when Dylann Roof shot the people  in the prayer meeting at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston South Carolina he really shot Rachel Dolezal. We can now categorically say yes a few days ago Dylann Roof shot and killed Rachel Dolezal; he consciously attempted destroying her and thus her heritage.

He took it upon himself to fix what he considers the problem of America if not the world. This problem for the white supremacists is necessarily draped in a dark skin, which bespeaks the fear of an onslaught the terror looming with explicit intend of unleashing the virus that would cause the extinction of an endangered “white” identity. That problem is exemplified in a black identity.

Dylan Roof thus rejects Rachel DOlezal’s identity and equally feels entitled to annihilate her being only because he can. He feels duty bound to be the saviour of ‘whiteness’, a ‘whiteness’ this young mind never had dissected, questioned or critically engaged yet appropriated as non-negotiable a cast in stone construct and out of such appropriation he earned a confirmed right to exact the maximum penalty of pain. However it can also be argued that Dylann Roof could so easily have been a Rachel Dolezal, for he too was confronted by the two conflicting worlds her travelled in and out. On the one hand a world which he recognises friends beyond the racial bar,  friends who equally recognise him yet his other world from where he pulled the trigger  he sees the very friends really as the enemies of his identity.

In the terrorist-racist Dylan Roof’s mind  who Rachel Dolezal is constitutes the problem for America. A ‘black’ identity thus for those who worship an identity of ‘white’ is the antithesis of a true humanity only valued in white identity. The challenge of this primordial dualism does not befall the young saviour of whiteness to comprehend neither to grasp. For he is a Spartan in his mind.

Roof’ has more than just a combination of Apartheid and Colonial controlled Rhodesian connection as his proudly displayed flags across his chests attested a desire for this blighted history of Apartheid South African rule and English Colonialism rule over Zimbabwe confirms. When he has these flags proudly displayed on his chest it is to say ‘whiteness’ has already suffered a blow and lost control as these nations now present, thus if left unattended the stars and stripes of the USA flag runs the risk to be made extinct by the same ‘black’ problem of America if it is not dealt with.

Yes, Dylann Roof shares more than just an old Apartheid flag with SA but his last name in Afrikaans (my mother tongue) “roof” means to “to steal”, to “take away” and also “to deny”. Therefore, Dylann Roof – stole from Charleston South Carolina some of its finest confirming the human agent as bigger than a colour coded description. He stole those of dignity, those conscious of their common created state of collective humanity the same America’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 as articulated by its founders of democracy penned, …. we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

For Roof, those who gathered in the prayer meeting have no equal identity in creation, they are not endowed by a common Creator with certain inalienable rights. Chiefly these rights cannot be life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – they constitute a problem for those who are according to Roof epistemology the real human agent and those are denoted as “white”. Thus they must die in their less human state of blackness for they are the deadly virus of threat to the true identity of a  supreme white identity.

What does it say of the American society and dream of equality if an uninformed young man can walk into a church and kill informed older ones who toil for that equality even spent the night in prayer for that? It says after more than 239 years of this Declaration of Independence America has failed to let the non- racial reality count.

Dylann Roof thus entered a church building but not just any church building, he entered an institution as a frontier against racist, prejudice and injustice meted out in another epoch where the South of the USA was eternally defined as the epicentre of racial prejudice against those with an exacted black denotation for their human agency. He rips apart scab from a struggling healing wound of pain and anguish that generations of people of the South of black description had to contend with as exacted punishment for their otherness.

Dylann Roof enters the zone that RD lived and found her essential humanity, where she inhaled that which constitutes her uncontested humanity, the same for which she made conscious and costly decisions. Dylan Roof did not enter this space and comfort of a Rachel Dolezal dwelling violently, he entered camouflaged in simplicity as one seeking penitence and prayerful reflection, but with unknown to his victim vituperative evil intentions. How happy may those have been to welcome him, for his presence meant for them their prayers of  a non-racial South are answered.

By his own admission as related to police he hesitated at first, the primary reason for his hesitance was nothing but the love hospitality and kindness with which he was received as he entered the gathering of believers. Yes, a love that despite centuries of abuse stubbornly refuses to be contaminated by the same venom that is pillaged upon their being. A love some have defined the weakness of the black identity, their capacity to forgive those who had always served them with respite and agony. It is this love that Rachel Dolezal defines as her heritage her upbringing for she knew no other siblings but those she lived with who actualised this love and infused in her now contested identity.

When Dylann Roof causes blood to flow in the place of love, he not only marred a church history that revolts the very acts of his racist mind, but he without flinching reminded America how far the divide is for those who have shown a truculence to move to the centre of a humanity defined less by pigmentation or melanin distribution or lack thereof. Notice Dylann Roof knows where to find those whom he see as the problem, he does not take his fight to the hoods of Charleston, where potentially he would have met his match, no he carefully chooses his victims in a most defenseless place, the four walls of a church.

When Dylan Roof entered through the doors of the Emmanuel AME church he entered in whiteness intend on making blackness distinct, he knew where to find  the problem of America if not the world, right here in a church.

Perhaps Dylan Roof should have killed whiteness, in embracing his friends as equals and let that count, the same with no bullet is needed but a conscious decision to value others less from a supremacist notion. Maybe he should have allowed the experienced love to overwhelm him and confirm to him the sameness of identity.

When whiteness stood up and decided to blast away nine lives he didn’t just blow away nine lives but destroyed at least 4 generations of people who died at the hand of a sick-terrorist-hate infested young mind. In the aftermath and a pending bail hearing I again hear blackness speak when they notwithstanding the agony of having lost loved ones opt to forgive Dylan Roof.  (Perhaps the agony of the black identity his quickness to forgive whites for the evil they do, is it that unbeknown to them they have accepted their lot as that which must be violated?)

America’s problem of race no different to our South African problem of race, is not the fact that there exist no Declaration of Independence or a very egalitarian Constitution that articulates a pathway to a non- racial society. It is the harsh reality  that both these nations are confronted with the stark reality to have to give content to this non-racial identity of dream so often marred by the ugliness of its absence.

Perhaps it is here that I want to postulate for blackness to die, it’s reason for existence called whiteness must first go. The anchor tenant of the racial dilemma in the USA and RSA is the worship in history, present and future of a ‘white’ identity evidenced in white privilege informed by a white supremacy mind. For there is only a black identity because there is a white identity, the one feeds of the other and thus demands the demise of the other. Perhaps if more people with the denotation of black can reject this appropriated dictum of description, they too would kill whiteness which only lives and coalesce in the presence of a blackness of acceptance. 

Our insistence on holding on to either of the two evils is our looming nightmare that ensures another Dylann Roof who knows when and where.

Our obsession with denigrating a Rachel Dolezal from behind our entrenched picket fences symbolizes  the lethal weapons of whiteness and that of a retaliatory blackness in an enmeshed proverbial atom of destruction of humanity.

It is cause for great concern,  if the USA after more than almost two and half centuries of democracy in this season dismally fail to let its Statute on an equal humanity count – it does not bode well for us at the foot of Africa who are trying to shed the shackles of our colonialism of a special kind.

Ours is to consciously demand, Democratic South African State in post-apartheid sense to identify its client for the 1910 State with the 1913 Land Act did so. The 1948 Apartheid State did the same until Act 30 of 1950 (c) defined people as Coloured.

However, we must consciously forge ahead and challenge the frontier of identity construction and ask again and again for the new identifiers that will assist our reconfiguring of what constitutes identity in a non-racial society the journey we embarked upon gallantly at the dawn of democracy two decades ago.

Clyde N.S. Ramalaine

Political Commentator