By: Mcebo Dlamini
There is something heavy in the question posed by Oliver Mtukudzi on the song Todii. There is something about the immediacy and sincerity in his voice when he asks; what shall we do? Perhaps the context is different but as I was going through the different responses both textual and in praxis regarding the Clicks saga I could not help but keep on hearing the echoes of the song. The question is not a new one, many have indeed asked it but none of the responses have been satisfactory.
This is to say none of the responses have been able to alter our positionality in the world. Otherwise how do we explain the fact that many years after the ‘end’ of apartheid we black people are still seen as scum, whose existence is the opposite of everything good. How is it that in the imaginations of white people we have remained savages whose very essence represents ugly, dark, bad, evil, dirty, etc etc etc.
I will not go through the details but recently Clicks aired a racist advertisement which represented black people’s hair as ugly and undesirable. This caused an outrage from black people who, correctly, felt undermined and disrespected by the advert. This resulted in a nationwide campaign on social media condemning Clicks. The EFF took to the streets and shut down all Clicks outlets. But what is important first and foremost is to point out that this was not just about hair.
Remember that an occurrence such as this was not happening for the first time. Not so long ago it was H&M, the owner of Smokehouse grill, do you recall ‘No black person in sight’? What others might reduce to a PR oversight is but a glimpse inside the imaginations of white people. It bears witness to the fact that nothing has changed. We black people are beasts in the eyes of whiteness and no matter how much they attempt to conceal it the truth always slips.
But all of this is not new, there have been far too many cases that have demonstrated this. But What Shall We Do? Do we continue demanding apologies? Will those apologies change how white people really see us? It cannot be accepted that in a country that has, for so many years, dealt with racism and its meanings we still do not know which expressions constitute racism. So how is Clicks apologizing and what kind of apology should we take? None, we must take no apology, we must reject these convenient, empty and meaningless attempts to excuse racism.
Do we shut down Clicks stores like EFF has done? We can and it might really be helpful because it is through the disruption of the rhythm of the economy that we might be taken seriously in our simple call: to not be violated.
We are running out of hashtags, the mobilization must go beyond social media. Yes social media platforms are important for awareness but beyond that direct action is necessary. If we begin seeing what Clicks did as a violation of the essence of being black perhaps we will see why the arguments that we must protest peacefully do not hold.
How is do we engage peacefully with a people who perpetually attack the very being of who we are, our blackness? Amicability is no longer an option where the same attack is repeated without fail. But shutting down of Clicks stores is not enough as I have illustrated that what Clicks did is a reflection of an entire white imagination in South Africa. So What Shall We Do? The answer is simple, we shut down South Africa
What Shall We Do?