I am tired of speaking about racism because it affects me emotionally, psychologically and physically. And yet, it is difficult to escape because it keeps coming up. For those who are not aware, the aim of racism is to rob non-white people of their human dignity and make them feel lesser than the racist. But, more importantly, racism is lodged in whiteness or the civilisation discourse.
This discourse originated in Europe, giving rise to the transatlantic slave trade and imperialism. Both events were devastating for those who were regarded as non-white. They were rendered sub-human and were treated in that way. The civilisation discourse continued after the abolishment of slavery and colonialism. Every time it was re-incarnated in a different form. Many intellectuals over the years have tried to anticipate its new form and inevitable return, but they are always too late.
With this in mind, it brings me to the global response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After watching my take on the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people highlighted the difference between the global response when the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, respectively. They highlighted that the narrative is different and masked racism. I agree that the narrative is different when the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan and Iraq than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The narrative is different because it is still lodged in the same civilising discourse that brought about slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. This discourse, so far, revealed itself in three ways. Firstly, how black students escaping the war were treated at the Ukrainian borders. Secondly, the “relatively civilised” comment made by senior CBS reporter Charlie D’Agata, and thirdly, the UN General Assembly vote on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
If one has a closer look at the UN’s General Assembly vote, an interesting trend is visible. Many African states have either abstained or did not vote on the resolution. In addition to this, China also abstained from voting on the resolution. African states for years have been victims of Western interference in their internal politics. As a result, many leaders were killed or, more recently, dragged to the International Criminal Court.
Moreover, some African states also have historical ties with Russia and China. For example, it was Russia and China that supported the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The United States, on the other supported apartheid in South Africa and Israel. Both these racist governments were strategic allies in strategic geographical locations.
Furthermore, in particular, China has been Africa’s biggest investor for the past 10 years. The US, on the other hand, over the past decade, could not match China’s investment in Africa. However, many African states are aware that even though relationships with superpowers like China, the US, Russia, and Europe are essential for our survival, these so-called partnerships are not sustainable or based on equality.
So why is this the case?
This returns me to racism. Africans know that global politics and global political structures are always to benefit white people, especially white people in the West. For example, the UN does not serve the interest of black people in South Africa or Palestinians in Israel. To put it differently: If Russia invaded SA today, what would the West’s first reaction be? I think their first reaction would be evacuating white people to European countries. Black people trying to escape the violence will be blocked like they are now in Europe. This is because the civilisation discourse has rendered the non-white person an infrahuman and a disposable object.
It saddens me that I have to speak about racism in a time like this. Hence, I have to stress the following: I am against any conflict and any form of violence that results in human loss and rob people of their dignity. Like many other South Africans, I am not pro-war but against racism and the hypocrisy of Western powers.