South African Indians be afraid, be very afraid

South African Indians need to stop mincing their words and point out racists within the community.

The culture of sweeping things under the carpet whether it is a case abuse, fraud, sexual violence or any form of corruption must come to an end.

“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories …” 

Amilcar Cabral

Of late we have had these racists shame our democracy

#RajeshGopie #AdamCatzavelos #PennySparrow #VickiMomberg #KessieNair #AlochnaMoodley

We should never forget the Cato Manor riots

We are on the cusp of 70 years since the horrific Cato Manor killings better known at the ‘1949 riots’. So whenever a South African Indian rears their racist mentality, my thoughts time travel to this incident.

It’s as if I can almost hear the screams of people being bludgeoned to death at Cato Manor & Kessie Nair actions is potentially a vehicle that can raise violence between Blacks & Indians.

It’s a reality that incidents like Kessie Nair’s ignorant utterances can stir racial tensions and flame the fires in KwaZulu Natal.

Each time a racist is exposed, their actions chip away at the work that has been done in the name of social cohesion from the likes of Dr Rajendren Thangavelu Govender, Logie Naidoo, Madiba, Mama Sisulu and especially the late Ahmed Kathrada.

Decide which side of history you want to be apart of

If you as a citizen of this country want to be a part of the South African narrative of democracy, let us stop walking on eggshells around false minority feelings. Black on white racism is more prevalent in the media as of late, but the more insidious and dangerous form is ‘brown on black’ kind that lies deep further the below the surface.

During the apartheid years, Indians were championing the case as being victims of racism & apartheid rather than being seen as perpetrators.

Is that a correct assumption? I believe so. But racists were not just white, the culture of a racist tendency belongs to any race group. There is a considerable amount of concealed racial antagonism that lies below the surface between Blacks and Indians that explodes occasionally and we have to admit to that. 

The seeds of Gandhi’s k-word use lives on today through the likes of Kessie Nair, Alochna Moodley, Adam Catzavelos and many others.

In The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire, Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed write that during his stay in Africa, Gandhi kept the Indian struggle “separate from that of Africans and coloureds even though the latter were also denied political rights on the basis of colour and could also lay claim to being British subjects”.

Gandhi was indifferent to the plight of the indentured, and believed that state power should remain in white hands. The liberator of India has also called black Africans Kaffirs, a derogatory term, for a larger part of his stay in the country.

In 1893, Gandhi wrote to the Natal parliament saying that a “general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are a little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa”.

In 1904, he wrote to a health officer in Johannesburg that the council “must withdraw Kaffirs” from an unsanitary slum called the “Coolie Location” where a large number of Africans lived alongside Indians.

“About the mixing of the Kaffirs with the Indians, I must confess I feel most strongly.”

MK Gandhi

The same year he wrote that unlike the African, the Indian had no “war-dances, nor does he drink Kaffir beer”. When Durban was hit by a plague in 1905, Gandhi wrote that the problem would persist as long as Indians and Africans were being “herded together indiscriminately at the hospital”.

This, in itself, say historians, is not entirely new and revelatory. Also, some South Africans have always accused the man who – led India to independence – of working with the British colonial government to promote racial segregation.

In April, a man was arrested in connection with vandalising a statue of Gandhi. A hashtag #Ghandimustfall (sic) has gained circulation on social media.

The Economic Freedom Front (EFF) a known disruptor of the political landscape are posing the questions about internalized racism that South African Indians harbor and there is a need to hosting open dialogue – honestly. 

Dali Mpofu is correct in stating that anti-African racism of Gandhi is what defined the path of all South Africans of Indian origin. It was the exclusionary practice that Gandhi worked towards for the indentured laborer was a cut above being a ‘kaffir‘ as he would refer to Blacks.

Unknowingly the early days of action of Gandhi were the seeds of what we are experiencing today. 

One of the ambits of the EFF Founding Manifesto says:

“The Indian/Asian working class is largely constituted of peasant traders who own small shops and medium shops and enterprises. Their oppression and exploitation is relatively not at the same level as the oppression and exploitation of the African and coloured working class in South Africa. The question of their inclusion on the affirmative action and empowerment legislations is one that needs thorough reflection and consideration with the view of establishing whether as a group, the Indian population should continue to be classified as a historically disadvantaged population and group”.

More than 140 lives were lost when bitter racial conflict between Indians and Africans occurred in Durban, in 1949. More than 1 000 people were injured, with buildings and dwellings also destroyed and damaged and shops were looted, according to SA History Online.

Let’s admit there’s racism in our Indian culture against our fellow South Africans & when you do admit to its existence it is then possible to do something about it. Make positive changes that will teach a future generation to deny racism and work for transformation into a better society than what we are in now.

Late struggle veteran, Ahmed Kathrada said, “I am afraid, that if we do not commit to tackling racism now, South Africans will continue reading headlines of individuals who very blatantly use the k-word, call black people monkeys or baboons and dehumanize and attack others based on race. We will continue seeing examples of individuals who find it so very easy to overlook the legacy of years of oppression, inequality and systematic racism.

I fear that racial tension will continue bubbling under the surface of our society, and those sweeping, false generalizations, such as ‘all whites are racist’, will start emerging.

We cannot allow South Africa to retrogress towards the divisions and attitudes of the past. We cannot allow the re-emergence of the type of mentality that paved the way for the National Party of 1948, to advocate such a blatantly racist election slogan.”

In order to fix the problem is to address the past, the present situation and how to change the narrative for our future generations. So, who are you?

Your next move decides whether your child will ever use the k-word, coolie and others.

Some excerpts of this article arose from this opinion piece. Indian or not you are a racist, Rajesh Gopie


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