An Open Letter: recognise me for my being, not as a proxy

I look forward to the conclusion of my second year at Stellenbosch University (SU). The institution that lifts its legs and places them squarely on the back of black pain, pressing down with the boots of their forefathers who did the very same to our forefathers.

Who then are we, the current generation, to be any better of the fight when even our forefathers had their spines fractured and broken at the unrelenting pressure that was pressed down on them? Of course we will be worse off, because of course this institution hides its violence behind the sun of a supposedly free, democratic South Africa. Back then, they assimilated in equal measure to the enduring oppression to no end.

In a few moments, I will reveal the contents that necessitate this inch. Perhaps I might add from the outset that my heart would be less heavy if it was not for the pain that has been inflicted on you, my fellow black brother. You my black sister. You see, the violence on you has been a result of the failure to recognise you and me as human beings on the land of our births. Our country. So easily are we dispensable because we fail to meet the standard that has been set by our history and the institutions that continue to house us. Mind you, housing us as proxies to making the administrative bodies of our country happy by way of meeting transformation targets.

I should help in revealing what the standard is: we are placed in institutions that accept white as being the standard and accepted norm. Our history of Apartheid dictates that we continue to throwback reference to the structural and institutionalised racism that continues to cut deep within our bodies as we continue to put them on the line physically and emotionally for the hope of a better future for us and those we leave behind at home. We supplement the need to reach thresholds of whiteness and privilege. And perhaps therein lies the rub: to supplement whiteness and privilege, one need not be human. And these white institutions continue to learn that in fact, we are human beings and we ought to feel. We are angered. We are saddened that there still exists the value of seeing our lives as cheap and dispensable because the minority of this country, placed on the threshold of privilege are yet to utter a word.

For too long, many the black child have tried to stick into the realm of being white. Because the comfort of being separated from being black seems to be better than that of your brother and sister burning in the sun back home eMthatha. eGcuwa. It seems better than being associated with the acceptance of your very own being which continues to be rejected by this threshold. Of accepting your culture because the white institutions and the piece of paper with the stamp of approval at the end of our degree allows us so easily to forsake the values of family and community which we were taught while growing up eMain Street, eCofimvaba, where I am, by my social contract, rendered useless if I take that piece of paper and bugger off to Centurion, Camps Bay and Ballito and not even blink an eye to my snorting neighbours child who has been waiting for a breakthrough her whole life. But, but, it happens because I subscribe to the standards of whiteness which judge me for my very being because my proxy, which I exist as being, renders me as a better educated black child. And in our social circles, we smile when we’re told “you’re not like them” and nod at the words that detach us from who we are.

We genuinely go through a lot as occupants of white institutions that continue to seek assimilation at the altar of forsaking our very beings. In addition to this, we have been let down by our very own Professors and Academics. Ouch.

What kind of content are we consuming? At the face of injustices, we sit in lectures of law, social justice and the like and we are met with theory that speaks to the heart of social issues. I here refer to #FeesMustFall, unlawful suspensions and the militarisation of campus. It would appear as though academics have lost their moral compass when it comes to the practicality of the words they teach. There can be no legitimacy when truths are only reserved for the classroom and when students are being brutalised and criminalised, you watch from the side-lines. The “business as usual” mantra of this institution while students are being victimised is sickening. It leaves a lot to be desired and it raises the question of our very own humanity. Have you descended so deep into the realm of selfishness and assimilation that we have forgotten how to be human beings.

I am here addressing the academics. Is it better to do what you came here to do, in the face of injustice and care less for the life of the black child? Or does your approved piece of paper absolve you of your humanity?

The past few weeks have been a throwback of scenes known only to me through the lens of history books. Showing off, without a shadow of incredulous how we could have easily rendered this place, this white racist institution befitting of an Apartheid state. Students were followed home, kept tabs on, followed to the mall, to social places and the like without a single word of outcry from the university. It was supposed protocol which needed to be observed. But who was it observed for? How can people be okay with students being unlawfully arrested, followed, brutalised and criminalised?

How cheap the black life is.

Weep mntakaMama. Weep, mntakaSisi. Kubi, Kubi, Kubi.

At an appropriate time, the University suits must spare us a moment or two and tell us why it is that they feel that psychological damage to black students is something they ought to boast and brag about. At an appropriate time, the University suits must tell us why they fear transformation on their part so much because believe you me, the suits might feel that they have a transformed student body, but the suits that want to represent that transformation leave much to be desired.

Our part-time Vice-Chancellor and part-time e-mail administrator who goes by the name of Professor Wim de Villiers, sends out his communique on the 18th of October 2016. I want to deal with an issue in that communique which I found baffling.
He writes: The students arrested last week were set to appear in court on Monday. To our knowledge, students were charged and released on bail with dates for further court appearances. Charges are linked to the contravention of the court order by continuing with protest activities specifically prohibited by the court order, as well as charges of assault reported to the SAPS by individuals. This is an external legal process in the hands of the South African Police Service and the Magistrate’s Court.

Students were snapped up at their places of residence. Spaces they deem to be safe and while going about their business, freely on the land of their birth. In their country. How then, I ask, can you not see this as gross injustice. Of course, Professor, yours wouldn’t be to denounce such actions because you forgot to tell us that when you accepted us into the university it was merely because of the colour of our skin and not our intellectual capabilities coupled with our ability to reason, which would then allow you to see as being human beings. You forgot, at the altar of your inauguration to tell us that we should be mum in the face of injustice. Perhaps now would be an appropriate time to spare us a moment and utter those words to us. The juggernaut of arrogance displayed by yourself, your Management team and the student body at large is nauseating and overwhelming.

Your student body, consisting largely of a majority of white privileged students don’t dare forget to let us know of this being an institution which belongs to them. Of course, the structural racism that exists in this place allows them to speak with such haste in this manner. The acceptance of my black skin, separated from my very being, they argue has turned this place from an ace to a joker. And that excellence is being sacrificed at the altar of mediocrity. Your student body conspires to say the most unbelievable things. Your draconian ways, by word of mouth or by application have left the black child naked and bear. Stripped of the very humanity we are trying to maintain. In fact, we have been reduced to having to perform to show you that indeed we are human beings.

Let me remind you, Prof, of your words at your inauguration in April 2015:
I am a proud alumnus of Stellenbosch University. But I know all too well that the Stellenbosch of today is not the Stellenbosch of yesterday, and nor will it – or should it be – the Stellenbosch of tomorrow. Life is dynamic; nothing stays the same, which means that we have the exciting opportunity of constantly changing, constantly transforming ourselves.

Where then have you showed an appreciation for the changing dynamics of our time? Where then have you embraced the need to transform oneself? If it’s not you, then who else can it be? Your Management team, part time abusers of power, full time so-called Academics are out of their depths. Their compassion leaves the mind boggled as to how, just how can people be so inhumane towards other people. Your predecessor, the late Professor Russel Botman was aware of how privilege would result in a breakdown of trust between those who were fighting quagmire of the struggle and the former I have mentioned. You have not covered yourself in any glory and I presume you will persist like that because it is the minority of your campus that is speaking.

Our lived experiences are but a laughing matter. Made for ridicule because even when we are naked at the altar of your mercy, we remain the slums of time, proceeding forth only from the barbaric tendencies of many that you have dealt with before. I conclude knowing that my proxy keeps me at this place. Never mind my intellectual capability. Never mind my ability to reason. I should be back next year, as will many others. But, I’ll flip the coin and quickly realise that many like me will not be here to achieve the benefits of our own country.


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