From the book: Black ViewPoint by Ndebele, Ndamse, Buthelezi, Khoapa
Bennie A. khoapa is an experienced social worker and currently the Director of the Black Community Programmes
WHEN YOUR SRC President invited me to come here and talk to you, I replied that I did not feel it a great priority of mine to do so, for I belong to a group of people who are seeing increasingly the futility of devoting a major portion of their time to talking and intellectualising about things that prove unhelpful to both sides because we see things differently.
Your President did not agree with me and he argued that there is some value in getting white students at least to be aware of some of the things that make people (black and white) in this country see things differently and he assured me that white students at this University would benefit something from what I have to say.
I finally agreed to come here today and talk to you with the full understanding that I do not believe that what I say here is necessarily going to be useful for the group I am most concerned about, that is, black people. But if you benefit anything from what I am about to say to you well and good, if you don't I will not hold it against you because it will prove what I said earlier, that it is not possible for me and you to see things the same way until we have redefined a few things. Feel free therefore to walk out just as soon as you think you can't take it any longer.
I feel that it is important however to state very clearly where some of us stand at this time in our history. Very often the viewpoint of the so called 'militant black' has been so badly misunderstood that it becomes necessary to explain it for the benefit of those who are interested in understanding it sincerely. I will attempt to do this now, and in doing so I will start first of all by looking at two concepts which have bedevilled this country for many years. These concepts I refer to are integration and separation.
Very often, it is assumed that if a person is not an 'integrationist' in South Africa, he is therefore a 'separatist', and that because an increasing number of black people are rejecting 'integration' as a national goal, they are therefore 'separatist', i.e. they make the permanent separation of races a national goal. This is nonsense. The black people who have been accused of being separatist are in fact not separatist but liberationists.
Central to both integration and separation is the white man. Blacks must either move towards or away from him. But his presence is not nearly so crucial for those who pursue a course of 'liberation'. Ideally they do whatever they conceive they must do as if whites did not exist at all. At the very least the minds of the 'new black' are liberated from the patterns programmed there by a society built on the alleged aesthetic, moral and intellectual superiority of the white man.
Liberationists contend that integration is 'irrelevant' to a people who are powerless. For them the equitable distribution of decision-making power is far more important than physical proximity to white people.
This means complete emancipation of blacks from white oppression by whatever means blacks deem necessary, including, when expedient, integration or separation.
What the new black man is talking about is liberation by any means necessary and this does not depend on the question of whether blacks should integrate or separate.
The fundamental issue is not separation or integration but liberation. The either/or question does not therefore talk to the point that the New Black is making.
We will use the word 'regroupment' to refer to that necessary process of development every oppressed group must travel en route to emancipation.
What people usually call separation in the black community is not separation but regroupment. It is not separation for blacks to come together on matters of common policy. It is not separation for blacks to go on Sunday to a church which has never been closed to anyone. It is not separation for blacks to go into a room, shut the door and hammer out a common policy.
I would now like to explain why the liberationist gets irritated by the constant accusation that he should either be for separation or for integration or otherwise be a fraud. This kind of either/or thing is irrelevant and a waste of time and energy and I will say why.
First, the either/ or thing is irrelevant and immaterial:
because it confuses means and ends, strategy and tactics. it makes a fetish out of mere words and offers a predetermined response for every place and time. What is to be done? - that depends - Depends on what? - on what advances the cause of black liberation.
The question of the presence or absence of white people is a tactical matter which can only be answered in a concrete situation by reference to the long-term and short-term interests of blacks.
The tactics will depend on the situation and will flow naturally from that situation if people will only remember that the aim is not to separate or integrate but to triumph.
The second reason why I say that this 'either/or' proposition is irrelevant is because it is based on false premises. It assumes that blacks are free to choose and that their only options are the horns of a dilemma. This assumption does not do full justice to the complexity and the tragedy of the black man's situation. It ignores the infinite gradations between integration and separation and the fact that there is a third choice -pluralism, and beyond that the fourth -transformation. Even more serious is the hidden assumption that blacks are free to choose ex nihilo. But the essence of our situation at this moment is that we can neither integrate nor separate. We are caught just now in an impossible historical situation, and that fact, which terrifies some, and leads others to despair, gives our struggle a grandeur, a nobility, and a certain tragedy which makes it of moment to the world.
It is impossible to draw a straight line in a curved space. Both 'integrationists' and 'separatists' are trying to create right angles in a situation which only permits curves. The only option is 'transformation' of a situation which does not permit a clear-cut choice in either direction.
The philosophy of liberation recognises this fact and suggests that we use history as a tool of appraisal and analysis. It points out that all movements for liberation in the black community, whether integration or separation, have failed, and asks why? What were the movements' strong points and weak points? What mistakes were made and what can we learn from the mistakes? Another evasion of the situation is to assume that blacks can integrate unilaterally, and from this assumption it is but one step to the pernicious idea that blacks are polarising the country. This is the same old policy of giving a white disease a black name (the Native Problem) and blaming the oppressed for the oppressor's aggression. It is not 'separatism' of blacks but the 'separatism' of whites which threatens this country. The decision is in the hands of whites. If they want transformation, let them give up their separate neighbourhoods and institutions and organisations and come out in the open. Until then, blacks must organise and use their group strength to wrest control of every organisation and institution within reach.
The either/or proposition is false also because it is based on a misunderstanding of the modern world which is grounded on power, group organisation and group conflict. This is a world of groups. A man's power depends ultimately on the power of his group. This means that oppressed individuals must recognise their common interests and create a group. Groupness is a simple exigency of the situation. The oppressor creates a situation from which the oppressed can only extricate themselves by a regroupment.
From this sketch, it is clear that the oppressor and the oppressed must clash. Some men try to avoid the exigencies of the situation by preaching universal brotherhood. But it is a mystification to preach universal brotherhood in a situation of oppression.
Paradoxically, a prerequisite for human solidarity is a feeling of non-solidarity with men who stand in the way of solidarity. Paradoxically, the oppressed can only bring about a future of universal brotherhood in proportion as they feel and exhibit group solidarity among themselves and cease to feel solidarity with the enemies of human solidarity.
Indeed we shall earn the right to love all men by struggling against some, we shall earn the right to hold hands with all men by refusing to hold hands with all men who stand in the way of all men holding hands with all men.
Here, as elsewhere, the devil must be driven out first. It is too soon to love everybody.
This brings us to the paradox of integration, to the fact that blacks must sing black and black together before they can sing black and white together, to the fact that black integration must precede black and white integration, to the fact that blacks must unite before they can separate and must separate before they can unite.
There is nothing ominous or subversive about this principle. It is simply an exigency of the situation. History has charged us with the cruel responsibility of going to the very gate of racism in order to destroy racism - to the gate not further.
The either/or proposition does not explicate the dialectics of development in which a negation is necessary for a synthesis.
Sweet are the uses of 'integration'. The stress on Black nationalism and Black separatism in white media is ideological; its function is to keep blacks unorganised and powerless.
Whites have organised racially oriented
businesses, unions, churches, newspapers, resorts, country clubs, youth camps, welfare agencies, ethnic studies departments, colleges, universities, unmarried mothers agencies, child welfare agencies, vacation associations, war veteran groups, professional associations, employment services, theatres, encyclopedias, funeral homes, homes for the aged, agricultural societies, boards, tourist agencies.
But, whites are always telling blacks that organisation on a national basis is a no-no. It is especially naughty for blacks to form organisations without white members and white officers.
Finally, the either/or dilemma is irrelevant and immaterial because it is a reaction to an action. Both integration and separation are responses and largely emotional responses at that to white oppression.
Neither integration nor separatism deals with the question, for both remain on the level defined by whites. Both integrationists and separatists are excessively preoccupied with the question of sitting down beside the white man; the 'separatist' is excessively preoccupied with the question of 'not' sitting down beside the white man. The liberationist says the presence or absence of the white man is irrelevant. What obsesses him is the liberation of black people, and the white man is free to aid that liberation by contributing information, sweat, money and blood, but he is not free to join that struggle or to lead it. Preoccupation with the white man leads to blunders, confusion in the ranks and demoralisation; it obscures the issues. It is possible for example to be free, creative and happy without being in the presence of white people. It is also possible to be free, creative and happy in groups which are not all black. Neither separation nor integration confronts the system in its totality for both share the same root postulates. In one way or another both deplore the fact that white people do not love black people. But love is irrelevant. History is a struggle, not an orgy. Men decide matters of fundamental interest not on the basis of goodwill but on the basis of social necessity - on the basis of what they conceive to be in their interests. Men do not and cannot love each other if their material interests conflict. As long as institutions, particularly economic institutions, make it necessary for one group to hate another in order to maximise its position, then integration is impossible.
It is not necessary to argue the either/or question of whether racism is basically economic or basically ideological. What is certain is that racial problems can only be solved in a climate of economic equality. The 'either integration or separation' dilemma ignores the implications of this fact. One side ignores it by calling for 'integration' of the blackman into the economic status quo. But the prerequisite for integration, i.e. transformation, is the integration of the economic order.
Most proponents of the either/or dilemma find such discussions tedious. Basically they are idealists, they believe that the words in the books mean something.
The philosophy of liberation calls for a transcendence of the either/or dilemma which has had such disastrous impact on white/black policy. The liberationist concedes the power of the integrationist's dream but points out that black power is necessary to accomplish it.
A philosophy of liberation requires a frank appraisal of the institutions and policies of the white communities. A philosophy of liberation also requires an advanced programme of economic democracy. Racial integration requires economic integration, and this in turn, requires a recognition that the race problem cannot be solved without profound structural modifications in the country; without real changes in the tax structure and the relations between the private and public sectors, without a redefinition of all values and a redistribution of income and power.
A philosophy of liberation requires a re-appraisal of the policies and institutions of the Black Community. We must re-evaluate everything we are doing and saying. We must rise now to the level of conceiving the black interest as a universal interest. Too many people think blackness means withdrawing and tightening the circle. On the contrary, blackness means expanding and widening the circle, absorbing and integrating instead of being absorbed and integrated and from that perspective, it is easy to see that a philosophy of liberation requires black people to cast their light not over one thing but over everything. We must rise now to the level of black hegemony, the idea that blacks must establish moral and cultural authority over the whole. A philosophy of liberation requires transformation. It says that everything must be made anew, but we recognise that blackness, as so many people have said is necessary but not sufficient. Being black is not enough. One must be black and ready together.
A philosophy of liberation requires unity. Black unity in turn requires black organisation. We need more, not fewer, black organisations, we need black-oriented or black-based youth camps, centres, colleges, welfare organisations etc.
For the New Black, this is a preparatory stage. The means are not now available for entering the final road. Our task therefore is to prepare for 10, 15 and 40 years. The only question now is whether black people are made of such stuff as histories are made of, and black people must answer that question in the presence of the world and in the presence of the black living, the black dead and the black unborn.
An address to students of the University of Cape Town, June 1972.