This paper is an attempt to work out what seems to me to be some of the implications of the concept "Black Power". It covers a vide range of problems, and is not intended to be the final answer to any of them. It is designed to provoke debate rather than to be academically respectable. In simplest terms the idea of Black Power is that it is necessary for black people inthis country to begin thinking about themselves in a new way, to question certain values which have adopted from the dominant “white” culture, and then to organize themselves politically around the themes which arise from this reflection.
But why should they need to think about themselves in a new way? What are values? What is culture? Is it meaningful to talk about "white" culture? What is the relationship between "culture" and politics, and is Black Power a racialist doctrine? To answer these Questions we have to look at how a society operates and at what the role of culture is in this process, and then to apply what we learn to an account of South African society.
" A "society" is a number of people in a situation in the world. In this situation they are faced with a variety of problems-material problems such as how to get food, how to combat floods and disease, how to raise children, how to live relatively peacefully with one another, as well as problems such as "what is the meaning of life” and, does the Universe come from?". In the course of time, in trying to solve all these problems, they develop a complicated set of ideas, attitudes and ways of behaving which represent a more or less satisfactory set of solutions. All these ideas attitudes and behaviour patterns are what we call CULTURE.
a) that a culture is an attempt to solve problems
b) that cultures vary from society to society
c) that law, state and political organisation of laws, state etc. are part of the society's culture
d) that culture is learned. People behave the way they do because of the kind of culture they have learned/been taught.
e) a culture, since it includes the way in which people relate to one another, implies certain kinds of powers and of privileges.
To say that a culture is a set of solutions to problems doesn't imply that the solution is equally satisfactory to all members of the society. Slavery is one way of solving the economic problems of production. In some societies it exists as a relation of power and privileges within the culture; an accepted pattern of behaviour which is explained and justified by certain religious/ philosophically ideas- ideas which may be accepted by the slaves as well as by the slave owners.
These facts imply that culture can change. As the problems with which a society has to deal change, so the old culture becomes irrelevant and has to be modified or replaced. If people cannot adopt their culture they cannot solve their new problems. The process of adoption is difficult, both because people don't like the insecurity of having to change their minds, and because a change might threaten certain powers or privileges. A culture includes at least three elements of varying importance:
1) ethical values- ideas about the good and the bad, about the importance of other people
and about the meaning of an individual's existence;
2) customs and conventions- ideas about what one should wear, about how to greet people, about whether to eat with one's fingers or with a fork;
3) A picture of reality- beliefs about how the world works.
Of course, often these three elements shade into one another, but it is useful to distinguish analytically between them.
In South African history a number of groups with varying cultures have come together and interpenetrated in a particular sort of way. This fact is interpreted in a number of different ways. Apartheid theory sees each of those cultures as a fixed entity, with its basis in biology, and either unchangeable or able to develop only to a very limited extent and in a certain direction. It thus sees it as meaningful to attempt to preserve traditional cultures, whether Xhosa, Afrikaans or Indian, in more or less their original form. Thus a number of diverse cultures co-exist. What might be described as Orthodox white English theory sees the situation in terms of one dominant, near perfect culture (English culture) in contact with a number of inferior cultures (Indian, Zulu, Afrikaans etc). The members of the other groups will, over a period of time, adopt themselves to the dominant culture, copying it more or less successfully and thus becoming more or less civilised.
Now both these above theories contain elements of truth, but also very large elements of error. It seems to me that "Black Power" is an attempt to combine the elements of truth, and to add a further orientation which is lacking in both.
The "English" theory points to the factual dominance of an industrial and urban culture. The "Afrikaans" theory avoids (in its purest form) the arrogance of English cultural imperialism and relativists culture by pointing the validity of different cultures. But both are eventually conservative. They fail to see the problem of future cultural change.
It is clear that the process of industrialisation and urbanisation in which South Africa has been involved, for the last century has irrerversibly affected the traditional tribal cultures. But it has also transformed both Afrikaans and mainstream "Western" culture. The urbanised Africans have great problems in adapting their culture to fit the new set of problems. They are tempted to adopt "we stern" ways as a solution. But the Vest as a whole is having great problems adapting itself to solve the new problems. Often its traditional solutions are as irrelevant to today as are Xhosa tribalism or Afrikaner agrarian-populism. In addition blacks in South Africa have one very large problem which the whites don't have: that is, how to get the whites off their backs.
White supremacy, the beliefs and values underlying it and the behavior patterns that keep it in being, are an integral part of White culture. So White culture cannot be adopted by blacks to solve the problem of white supremacy. In fact in so far as they do accept it white supremacy is reinforced.
How? Firstly, certain attitudes to race color and class are deeply embedded in white culture; in its language, in its values, and in its ideas. The idea of "whiteness" reappears continuously, explicitly or implicitly. The massage comes through that white is beautiful is clever, is prestigious. In daily behavior blacks are taught certain rituals of subordination- touch your cap, say "baas"- think of yourself as "boy”, wait in the queue- and whites are taught to dominate. These rituals and expectations become fundamental and unquestioned ways of behaving. Colour becomes not only the dividing line between oppressed and oppressor, but also the criterions for a whole status hierarchy within the oppressed group. Fair Colourdes or Indians have a higher status than dark Colourdes or Indians, both because Whites are more likely to employ them and because Blacks see them that way. The fair child in the family is the pet; the dark child is the outcast. Skin lightening cream and hair straightener represent the ultimate in self abasement which is really imposed by the whites. The black man is taught to reject his own skin and hair, to experience his own body as inferior.
At school the child is given a picture of the world in which history is made by whites, art and literature are made by whites, Africa is "discovered" by whites, morality and religion are invented and propagated by whites, science is produced by whites, and blacks are “civilised” by whites. Little mention is made of the history of black peoples, or the evil side of white history- imperialism, the virtual extermination of indigenous people, or the failure of whites to live up to their stated “civilised” values even in dealing with one are another. All this helps in the process of giving the black child a negative image of himself.
If it is to be valuable, education should help the child to develop the tools with which he can think about himself in his world. The major tool for this is language, but instead of helping the child to develop his language and express himself fluently and freely, formal education concentrates on replacing the type of English spoken in his environment -with "correct" English-that is with white middle-class English. A gap is created between spoken language and "school" language, so that the child learns to write cardboard predigested essays with pretty surface "learnt by heart" phrases which mean nothing to him. He learns to write formal letters which will suit the tastes of his future boss, but the idea that language could be a fruitful way of communicating with his friends is, if possible, hidden from him. Jonathan Kozol in his book "Death at an early age”, an account of his experiences teaching in a Boston slum school, illustrates this point clearly. He was finally sacked from the school for reading the kids a poem by the Negro poet Langston Hughes in which Hughes uses colloquial language to deal with the typical ghetto situation of landlord—tenant conflict. In explaining why such poetry should not be permitted, the headmistress said "...we cannot give directives to the teachers to use literature written in native dialects..... we are trying to break the speech patterns of these children, trying to get them to speak properly. This poem does not present correct grammatical expression and would just entrench the speech patterns we want to break." (p 189)
Obviously children need to improve their coherence and to develop their vocabulary. But they can do this within the context of their own speech patterns. To break those speech patterns is to break the children using them and to discredit their own culture. This approach to teaching is not just a characteristic of race situations. A group of Italian peasant children discovered the same thing in their society. In their book "Letter to a teacher" they write, "besides we should settle what correct language is. Languages are created by the poor, who then go on renewing them forever. The rich crystallize them in order to put on the spot anybody who speaks in a different way. Or in order to make him fail exams" (p 24)
A language is a picture of the world. In breaking their speech patterns, and replacing their old vocabulary with a "proper" one, the teachers are trying to make the children see their world in a different way. Kozol comments; “I thought the reading teaching and Deputy Superintendent and, many others would have been confused to be told that the world of those Negro children was in a great many cases a good deal more interesting and more vital than their own.
It seemed to me that what they were trying ineffectively to do was to replace a very substantial and by no means barren lower-class culture with a concoction of pretty shop-worn middle-class ideas. The ideas they introduced, moreover, did not even have the joy of being exuberant, for they were mainly the values of a parched and parochial and rather grim and beaten lower middle-class and were, I felt, inferior by many times to that which the children and their parents already had. More succinctly, what I mean is that the real trouble with perpetrating such colorless materials upon very colorful children was not only that the weak culture they perveyed was out of kilter with one the children already had, but that it was also medicre by comparison.(p 85) Thus education turns out people equipped with "white" values and a "-white" culture irrelevant to their situation, which isolates them from their world, instead of involving them in it.
There is a second major aspect of white culture which is incompatible with the struggle against white supremacy. In his book “Swartman, stad en Toekoms”, a study of life in New Brighton, J.J.F Du Rand crystallises it. Writing about the negative attitudes towards city life which he discovered, he says, " it is the expression of his protest against the fact that man at his work is no longer man-in-community but has become man-in-competition" (p50) That is white culture is competitive and exploitative. My neighbour is not someone with whom I co-operate, but rather someone with whom I compete someone who, if I am lucky, I will be able to get to work for me. Material possessions are no longer simply part of a process of living together with other people. Possessions have become the goal of life- we want more and more of them and within fairly wide limits we don't care what we have to do to other people in order to get them. This attitude is fundamental to imperialism, the spreading out of whites ant-like over the globe in the last few hundred years. It is fundamental also to the present situation of racial dominance, which results from imperial conquest and only continues because whites exploit blacks in order to increase the amount of goods they themselves possess.
If, in such a situation the members of the oppressed group the values of competitiveness and accumulation of goods, and see their fellow oppressed a-s competitors for the few goods available, then they reinforce white supremacy and so in the long run, reinforce the conditions which create their poverty. Unless they can break out of this culture which teaches them to despise themselves and to compete destructively with one another, they can never attain either the self-confidence or the group coherence necessary to change their situation.
Thus contemporary "white" culture is inadequate for the problems of an evolving world, and is dangerous for the black man trying to emancipate himself and his fellows. But with what can it be replaced?
The answer is that there is no ready-made culture to fit the bill. There are at least three distinct black cultures in South Africa- "African", "Indian", and (perhaps) "Colored", All three in their present day forms are shot through with "white" values, and in their traditional forms neither Indian or African culture can cope adequately with the problems of urban industrial society.
Du Rand describes traditional African society as follows: " the traditional economic activity of agriculture and cattle brewing was carried out with only rudimentary division of labour and limited Specialisation, Induction into work occurred of itself through the individual's participation in the first instance in the family house hold which was to a considerable extent self-sufficient, and then in the extended family, the clan etc. Within this structure he had an assured and easily defined economic and labour role. Work organization was communal and mutual aid a recognised social norm. Group solidarity prevented the coming into existence of a pauper class and the enrichment of one individual at the expense of another or of the community as a whole was an impermissible form of behaviour. Apart from the possession of cattle, which often had more a status function than an economic function, there was no capital accumulation. Personal possessions were thus limited and had little value beyond there immediate utility, while motivation to work sprang from the necessity of maintaining the group" (p 51) (my translation)
This picture is in many ways an attractive one, but it is clear that the ethical norms and the economic structure are inter-dependant and so this cannot be transferred unmodified to a highly diversified economy. I distinguished earlier between three elements in a culture: the "fact" element, the "value" element, and the conventions. The techniques of scientific analyses and the scientific picture of the world characteristic of western culture give us a much more satisfactory account of how the world works than do other alternatives. It is therefore the other two elements which we have to consider. As far as conventions are concerned, all that is necessary is to realise that all conventions are more or less arbitrary. Whether one eats with a knife and fork or with ones fingers is a matter of taste. Whether one covers one's breasts or bares them is a matter of climate and/or taste. And so on. Here then, is not a question of replacing "white" conventions with "black" ones, but rather learning that there is no uniformity or inferiority of conventions. Bare breasts are not less civilised than bra-encased ones. Conventions must not be confused, with basic values.
In discussing values we can distinguish between an ethical principle and the way it is embodied. Let us take marriage as an example to show the distinction between principle, embodiment and convention. A marriage is begun by a particular ceremony, varying from a long and complex ritual wedding to a casual mention of the intention to live together, which form the wedding takes is a matter of convention, but a marriage is much more than a ceremony. It is a set of ways in which husband and wife behave towards one another, towards their children and towards their relatives. These ways of behaving embody a particular principle, such as female inferiority or equality and mutual respect. If we take some such very general principles as "mutual respect", then the way in which it is embodied will depend on the social and economic role of the family. In a hunting society in which the family is the basic economic unit, there will be a certain kind of division of labour in the family, with the husband being the main provider and the child-bound wife filling a secondary role. So "mutual respect" will occur in a situation of factual deference. In another society, such as our own, where the possibilities for the woman have increased, and where she is no longer child-bound, then the principle of mutual respect may require that the husband treat the wife in a very different way. Similarly, the parents responsibility to the children may require a very different sort of upbringing for them.
So we have to look both at what basic values we need and at how to embody them in a given situation. The basic values which I shall assume, are equality and freedom. Black Power, as I understand it, is a drive towards a culture which liberates the individual from exploitation and from self-contempt and psychological deference. It is for this reason that no already existing culture can simply replace white culture. The concept of Black Power is not an uncritical worship of "blackness". In fact it is an essentially self-critical concept. It is a call to purify and rethink culture.
In the book "Black Nationalism" E.U. discusses this self criticism in connection with black Islam: " Mohammed's ideological pronouncements, which are popularly termed "Black Supremacy" are aimed at purging lower-class Negroes of their inferiority complex. The "real" rather than the "ostensible" enemy of the nation of Islam or of the Negro masses in general, is not the white people per se, but the Negro himself- his sub-culture, his image of himself and of his "place" in society, his attitude towards white people and his idealisation of all that is white. From the point of view of all black nationalists, the Negro can never be really free until he has purged from his mind all notions of white superiority or Negro inferiority and then ceases to despise himself and his group" (quoted) in Banton: "Race Relations".
Black Power as pathology
All political theories have pathological varients. The danger of Black power is that it could become merely a pathological over- reaction to white dominance. An oppressed group, if it wishes to escape from its oppression, needs to weigh up the odds and to understand its situation very precisely. It needs to think more clearly, rather than less clearly than the oppressors. And it needs to conserve its resources for acts which are politically effective, rather than merely emotionally satisfying. Specifically, in South Africa, where whites are the major obstacles to change, it is a luxury to ignore the effects of whites 'actions on white attitudes. This does not mean that one should act so as to make the whites happy. But it does mean that ones acts should fit into a general strategy which takes into account the existence of the whites whose weak points need to be discovered and worked upon. The first danger then, is acting in terms of short-term emotional release. The second is the growth of a narcissistic mystique of blackness- the idea that merely being black is an adequate statement of political radicalism, and that by being black one is contributing more to the overthrow of white supremacy than white skinned people could possibly do. Or the idea that because I am black I automatically can understand and work with other blacks. This is not true. A middle-class university trained black has to go through a difficult process of adaption in order to work on a fruitful level of equality with a black peasant or labourer. He has to break deference patterns and to adapt his own attitudes and language. It is easier for him than for a white person, but it is still difficult, and it is important that he should not let the common blackness blind him to the difficulties. Both these attitudes are possible reactions, to a situation which is very unpleasant, and which it is very difficult to any thing about. However, though they are understandable reactions, they are products of the system of whites dominance rather than valid attempts to overthrow it. They are not justifiable reactions and they need to be very carefully guarded against. This kind of Black Power becomes a way of adjusting to the situation, rather than a way of changing it. Probably some individuals in any Black Power movement have such attitudes, but there is no evidence that they are predominant in South Africa. I would now like to look at three specific areas of experience viz. theology, art, and education, and see how the concept of Black Power might be applied to them,
Black theology involves a triple thrust at the white church; on the cultural level, on the political level, and on the strictly theological level.
The white missionaries who brought Christianity to Africa were unable to distinguish between basic Christian principles and European culture. They therefore thought it their duty to impose European cultural traits, such as styles of dress and worship on their converts. They did not see Christianity as a creative approach to the world, as man reflecting upon himself, on the meaning of his life, and on his relations with other men in the light of Christ's teaching and example. Instead they saw it as a set of rituals which needed to be learned and repeated. What was meaningful, or potentially meaningful in these rituals lay in their relations to the problems and experience of the European culture from which they came. It was necessary to trace back the rituals to their meaningful roots, to rethink them in terms of the problems and experiences of Africa, and to recast them in terms of African culture. This was not done. It is this task which faces Black theology, in fact all theology. One of the main elements in Christ's teaching was an attack on legalism - the idea that salvation lies in the rigid application of pre-ordained laws. In one incident a cripple cones to Christ on the Sabbath. Christ heals him, and shrugs off the reprimand from Pharisees who says that the law forbids healing on the Sabbath. The needs of suffering men are more important than the law. Theology must come from the situation of men. Black theology is the attempt to build a theology by reflecting on the condition of Black men living in a situation of repression.
The mission churches came to Africa at the same time as did European traders and soldiers. In this way, and perhaps against their will, they became inextricably tied to the project of Imperialism. This reflected in their structure and in their practices. The church was unable to transcend the limitations imposed on it by the way in which nineteenth century Europeans perceived of themselves and Black men. Although often protested at some of the excesses of Imperialism, it was never able to recognise that Imperialism in itself -was a denial of Christian teachings. Similarly in South Africa, where the relations of dominance and suppression arising out of Imperialism still exist, the Christian churches have not been able to see that the situation arises out of the immoral use of power by whites. They have often preached against the excesses of the situation, but have rarely invited their white congregations to reflect upon the fact that their wealth is based on exploitation of black labour which in turn is based on military conquest - or to reflect upon the fact that "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven". Black theology is an attempt to force the churches to do that. History must be looked at through the eyes of the black man. White Christians must be obliged to look at their responsibility for the continued existence of the situation created by white aggression in the past.
In my introductory discussion of the concept "culture" I used the term in a very wide, anthropological sense, to refer the sum of ideas, attitudes and behavior patterns characteristic of a particular society or group. "Culture" also has a narrower meaning, referring to art, literature, music, etc. What is the relation between culture in this narrow sense and societal culture? In what sense could one develop a Black Culture?
To answer this adequately would require a detailed discussion of the nature of art. I shall merely sketch in very general terms an answer to this problem. (To avoid confusion I shall use the term "art" to refer to culture in the narrow sense) Art is bound to a specific culture and to a specific society in two important ways. Firstly, art is an attempt to expand and refine human experience. That is, it starts from a particular element in human experience, whether it is the experience of love, of death, of family conflict, or the experience of a sunset or a sound. The poem, the play or the painting is an attempt on the part of the artist to reflect upon the experience, to understand it more clearly, to experience it more intensely. And if he wishes to communicate to others he must at least start from an experience which is common to them.
He might wish to make a universal statement about love, but he has to start from the way in which love is experienced by particular people in a particular culture. By exploring the implications of this concrete experience, he is helping people both in and outside that culture to see it and understand it more clearly.
Secondly, the artist uses symbols - shapes, sounds, words, and gestures. These symbols take their meaning from a particular cultural context. The artist can extend their meaning, but if he totally alters this meaning he becomes incomprehensible. In a play, the writer and the actors cannot spell out everything. They assume certain conventions - specifically theatrical conventions on the one hand, and general conventions of meaning on the other hand. Simple gestures like crying or offering one's hand may have different meanings in different cultures. The rituals of courtship vary enormously: what may be restrained gesture in one society is a gross impropriety in another. The symbolism of colour may vary from culture to culture. In Hindu culture white symbolises mourning.
And so on and so on. So if one wants to communicate to a particular group one has to adopt as a basis their language and their symbolism.
Only after these two points have been made can one talk about the universality of art. In an ultimate sense good art is universal because there are certain elements of experience common to, and important to, all human beings. This is just another way of saying that any human being can, ultimately, communicate with any other human being. But although this communication is possible, it is very difficult. Each has to learn the other's symbol system. Each has to learn to identify to a certain extent with the other's world.
Too often the universality of art is confused with the fact that largely due to the process of imperialism, there exists a common middle and upper class culture spread throughout the world, or at least throughout the capital cities of the world. This middle-class in Nairobi or Delhi, Johannesburg or Buenos Aires, Turkey or Paris, has gone through a similar type of formal education, preparing it for a certain type of city-based, materially sophisticated, science-oriented symbol system, ''universal" work of art is often merely one which embodies this particular culture - a culture which, because of its roots in western imperialism is Euro-centred. In the context of this culture any suggestion that one might need to write in some special sort of way in order to deal with the problems and connect with the symbol world of the European worker, or the Indian peasant, or the American slum-dweller, is mockingly rejected out of hand.
In South Africa, artistic activity is directed towards this middle-class audience. "Success" or "acceptance" means making it in London. The models used, and so the problems dealt with, tend to be those of that peculiar cultural group the London intelligentsia. I suggested earlier that there are two ways in which art is culture-bound - through a particular type of experience, and through a particular type of symbol-system. Some artists here accept both of these from London. They deal with the problems they have learnt from reading English novels and journals, and they deal with them in the universal middle-class English. Others explore local experiences and problems, but they aim at making these experiences clear to the average English critic, and so they use the particular kind of language and the particular kinds of conventions which this critic is open to.
"Black Culture" in South Africa involves trying to break out of this situation of artistic neo-colonisation. It is necessary to write about, And to -write in a manner accessible to, working-class and peasant black people. This means exploring new problems, using a new language, and adopting different kinds of artistic forms.
For example, the traditional European in-door theatre, with its particular type of stage and stage connections, may need to be changed. In an important sense this kind of theatre is culturally inaccessible to the working-class - simply because it is expensive and because the wish to go to the theatre is half culturally acquired. To use the theatre as a means of making them more conscious of themselves and their world, it will be necessary to use a stylistically simple type of open-air mobile theatre, playing on street corners to casual audiences. This would involve changes in many aspects of dramatic technique.
In Africa as a whole there is probably no place in which the effects of cultural imperialism are more obvious or more serious than in education. The European system of education grow up in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to satisfy two major needs: firstly the need for a disciplined and literate work force the growing industrial capitalism; secondly the need for elitist managers and colonial administrators. Africa needs neither of these groups, but often, because of successful internal colonisation, because of the great awe in which Africans stand of European culture, it is felt that any system of education which is not modeled on the European system is a "second-class" education. This is nonsense. Education in Europe is bad. Education for whites in South Africa is terrible.
It consists in the attempt to tear the guts out of the child's experience of the world; it teaches him large numbers of irrelevant facts, not because the facts are important but because the habit of accepting crap from authority figures is crucial if he is to become good citizen, i.e. it successfully produces individuals who are quite incapable of thinking creatively about the complexities of a rapidly changing world. That is, instead of introducing the child to the real world, it attempts to create a plastic world of false values and false certainties, the latent function of which is to leave him an easy prey to manipulation and superstition of all sorts.
The child's education should start off from his own experience of the world, and build a complex world view on the basis of that and try helping the child to see and solve problems as they arise in his daily and educational experience. The main moving force behind this should be the child's curiosity, rather than a rigid teacher-imposed discipline. Discipline is necessary when the child is bored, and he is bored only when the teacher is teaching crap, that is when the teacher fails to make the connection between what he is teaching and the child's curiosity. Sometimes this failure results from bad teaching, but usually it results from the fact that there is no connection.
Much new thought is being given towards a drastic overhaul of education today, both in Europe and the U.S.A. and in the underdeveloped countries. It is vital that what is being discovered should be applied to the South African situation, and to the specific problems of, on the one hand, black teachers teaching under rigid government control, and, on the other hand, the new education departments in the Bantustans.
In Africa, Julius Nyerere, in his "Education for self-reliance" has sketched out the way in which education tied to the problems of agriculture could fulfill this function, and at the same time prevent the growth of an elite mentality and of contempt for manual labour, and develop social solidarity (which is not the same as social conformity)
He writes that colonial education was "motivated by a desire to inculcate the values of the colonial society and to train individuals for the service of the colonial state...(to satisfy) the need for local clerks and junior officials...(it was) modelled on the British system, but with even heavier emphasis on subservient attitudes and on whiff-collar skills. Inevitably, too, it was based on the assumptions of a colonialist and capitalist society. It emphasized and encouraged the individualistic instincts of mankind, instead of his cooperative instincts. It led to the position of individual material wealth being the major criterion of social merit and worth"(Ujamaa na Umoja) p 269)
He argues that this form of education is basically elitist, that it divorces people from the society it is supposed to be preparing them for, that it teaches the idea that all knowledge which is worthwhile is acquired from books or from “educated people”, and that it "takes out of productive work some of its healthiest and strongest young men and women" (p278) He suggests instead a school with its own farm, run by the children, where their formal teaching is based, on the one hand, on the technical understanding of agriculture, and on the other hand, on the social and financial problems which arise out of the running of the farm. He stresses that the students should make as many of the decisions as possible.
"The whole school should join in the programming of a year's work, and the breakdown of responsibility and timing within the overall (p265) Here the child discovers the necessity of learning to read and write, of learning arithmetic, of learning about people and how they interact, from a situation in which he is actually involved. That is, academic work is not neglected; it is made relevant. Of course, South Africa is a different kind of society from Tanzania. Nyerere's methods cannot simply be copied. They would have to be adapted,
The first prerequisite for beginning to think in these terms for South Africa is the realisation that the “white" model of education is not desirable because it is white: It is undesirable because it is bad.
So far I have dealt with the various cultural aspects of Black Power. These need to be related to the problem of organisation. Power conies from organisation. Organisation cannot come into existence without consciousness. Consciousness develops along with organisation. This means that the way you go about developing organisation must be related to the way in which people see the world, and one of the objectives of organising must be to help them to see the world in a new way. The essential elements in this new way are that the individual should see the world as able to be changed, that he should see himself as having the capacity to play a role in changing it, that he should see that this capacity can be realised in cooperation with other people. After this, of course, he has to understand the nature of the particular situation, and the tactics of strategy necessary for changing it. But the three above-mentioned factors, which are more in the nature of fundamental psychological shifts in attitude than of mere changes in awareness, are fundamental. In a situation of oppression, most people see the situation as being part of the natural order of things. It does not occur to them that it can be changed, any more than they would think of changing the earth's geography. They experience themselves as powerless as subject to the operation of external forces, rather than as independent centres of action. In addition, they often distrust their neighbours. In a situation where oppression is a function of race, all these factors are made worse by the process of inculcating feelings of racial inferiority which I discussed earlier.
In this context some of the more traditional kinds of multi-racial political organisations are useless. Firstly they have often aimed at changing the hearts of the white electorate, and so neglected the problem of power entirely. Secondly, they have often kept their programmes and activities at the level of general, society-wide, abstract principles, such as universal suffrage, equality, and non-discrimination which, although they are important goals, do not constitute organisational themes which can solve the above mentioned problems.
That is, they failed to make the connection between the individual's daily experience and the general principle, both on the level of understanding (what would the vote mean for me) and on the level of action (how can anything I do help me to get the vote?). Thirdly, these organisations sometimes, and quite unintentionally, tended to recreate internally some of the race hierarchies of the larger society. Both black and write found it difficult to escape from their backgrounds of dominated and dominator, and, because of the emotional importance, in a nasty world, of a little haven of at least relative non-discrimination and brotherhood, neither group would risk probing into the relationship to see if it really was working.
The three points that I have mentioned each involve, in varying degrees, an organisational problem complicated by the race issue. Organisations have to start from the basic situation of the individual and from the problems he faces there. By organising people at this level, around these problems, they can learn the three principles: that the world can be changed, that they can change it, and that to do so they must work with other people. That is, organisation must work out from the situation of the black working people, from their problems as they experience them, rather than from their problems as seen by black or white middle-class sympathisers. This is the organisational principle of Black Power. It requires a different type of organiser, perhaps a different kind of dedication, and different skills from these of previous organisations.
Black Power and White People
About a fifth of the South African population is white-skinned. What is the significance of Black Power for them? For those who are wedded to white power and privilege, the answer is obvious. But what of those who are not? On the abstract level, "white culture" and "black culture" are ways of thinking. They are not essentially linked to a particular biology or a particular skin colour. It is important to talk about "black culture'1 precisely because many
black-skinned people have a "white" culture. So there is no reason why white skinned people shouldn't adopt what I have been describing as a black culture. Since it does not ascribe superiority to blackness, it is not alienating for whites to do so.
But on the practical level it is not as simple as that. Let us look at the experience of the average white "liberal". His school and home background fills him with racialism. He starts with certain ideas about the mental and social inferiority of blacks, with certain emotional reactions to blacks, reactions which go beyond his intellects into his reflexes, and certain habitual ways of behaving towards blacks. One day he discovers, perhaps at university, that it is factually incorrect to believe in the biological inferiority of blacks. He begins to think that, after all, "they" are at least potentially educated, civilised and intelligent, like "us"; that they" should be given the vote if they reach "our" civilised standards that "they" are not irreducibly different, but can becom like "us". This is, of course, great progress in comparison with his old position, but it is only relative progress. He still assumes that everybody essentially wants to be like him. He still sees history through "white" eyes, as whites civilising the rest. His emotional and behavioural reactions to race are still there.
Very often, when he has made this first step, he thinks he has gone the whole way. He is still very confused about race, but thinks, "he isn't. He therefore behaves with a mixture of arrogant paternalism - deriving from his view of history - and of over-polite timidity - deriving from his emotional confusion - towards blacks he meets. This is the situation of many liberal white students. as a result, multi-racial student gatherings such as NUSAS often become psychotherapy sessions at which white students use black guinea pigs to work out their confusions, through ritual dance of politeness and brotherhood, "'-The white student goes away perhaps emotionally contorted, by little the wiser.
For a white to liberate himself from racialism is a long and difficult intellectual and psychological process -probably a process which he can never be certain that he has reached the end of. It requires, firstly, an awareness of precisely how deeply racialism and ethnocentracism sink into all aspects of one's emotions and one's picture of the world, emotionally then, one has to go through a long period of critical self examination, trying to keep a balance between being continually self-conscious and stiff in Inter-racial situations, or; the one hand, and sinking back into the old habits on the other hand. Intellectually he has to reformulate his view of the world, of history, and of South African society. He has to recognise that -whites are where they are in the world not by virtue of a superior civilisation, or the connotations of the" moral values which the term "civilisation" carries, but rather by virtue of their greater capacity to develop and wield force ruthlessly in pursuit of their own ends. White domination in all spheres in South Africa is partly a function of the fact that the early white settlers imported a more advanced technology. But much more important is the fact that they use the military advantages of this technology consistently to reinforce their position. a white starts off with an advantage not because his father was cleverer, but because his father was more successfully nasty than the black man's father.
It is not of course necessary to go in the opposite direction and bear a burden of guilt for what Leopold did in the Congo, or the Dutch did in Indonesia, or what the British did during the Opium wars in China - or, for that matter for what the white government does in South Africa today. This fruitless racial emotionalism is an inverted hangover from earlier racial attitudes. However, this only applies if one is not benefitting from the sins of one's grandfathers. Most whites are so benefitting, and this is what they need to feel guilty about. The only way in which this can be morally defended is by using those benefits to try to end white supremacy. Too many white liberals engage in verbal rebellion but continue to enjoy all the benefits of the system. If a white-skinned person wishes to do this, what is his role? Firstly, he is best equipped to attack white supremacy from within, by attempting the difficult task of civilising the whites, through ordinary political and educational activities. Secondly, his skills, if he has any, may be useful to black groups, in that he may be able to help with research work, and other such ancillary jobs. Thirdly, direct organisational work is not necessarily excluded. For example, there is only a difference in degree rather than in kind between the problem faced by middle-class black students, whether African, Indian, or Coloured; and those faced by middle-class white students trying to help peasant communities organise themselves to solve their problems. Both have to escape from their habits of command, to learn what the world looks and feels like to the people they are working with, to learn to communicate with them not only in their own language, but also in their idiom. This is always difficult. Having the same colour will help, but it won’t solve all the problems. Any middle class student, white or black, has to rid himself of the muck of his education and of this social milieu, has to acquire a “black culture in order to do this effectively.
I have tried to sketch some of the aspects of the theory of the theory of “Black Power". I do not believe that it is a racialistic theory. At this stage, both practically and theoretically, black power is undeveloped. But the broad lines are clear. Tribal culture is dead. Today we are all more or less contaminated by the racialism of “white” culture. We have to purify ourselves by the creation, in the theory and practice of a new culture. That the slogan Black Power is a temporary and necessary stage in this process.