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The Psychology Of Our Oppression – Part 1

We have not interrogated the psychology of our oppression – And until we do….things fall apart. We continue making monuments out of the mud to a covenant that just widens the emptiness inside. Praising 3 steps forward while ignoring the 10 steps back.

Beyond the apparent, what is it about our oppression that we cannot explain? What did it do to us that is intangible and forgettable? Black people have been analyzed a lot. I believe we have begun to resent it. We resent the likes of Debra Patta, always having their microscopic eye on us. Whether or not this eye sees our truth. We resent their invasiveness in sensitive matters that we are still grappling with ourselves and have no firm grasp of as yet. Everywhere we turn we are confronted with our blackness. Our dirty laundry is always being aired in public. We are not given privacy, time, and space to interrogate our own feelings regarding our state of mind. I would say since 1994 we have had to be very careful of what we say and our actions. We have had to toe a line we do not understand. We are closely monitored and we pay severely for our mistakes. And our mistakes are huge – because power excites us beyond the confines of decency. Our decency that we seem to have no concept of. I am now not talking about individuals but black people as a collective. We are still trying to reach a level of humanness that is ‘socially’ acceptable. What to do when we find out this circumstance we find ourselves enchained by is a product of our deceit!

I once decried to a professor friend of mine the fact that there is hardly any black South African literature in our bookstores. She told me a sad tale of how she once sat on the board of a publishing house and most of the black literature she chose was turned down by the other members. She said hardly any black literature made the cut. She resigned from the board. How else do we interrogate our feelings if not through our own story?

There is a systemic problem in the make up of black society in South Africa, and in Afrika as a whole. That there are a lot of other factors at play is clear to all but the ignorant. The levels of disunity, violence, powerlessness, helplessness are epic.

It seems that we left something along the journey to our emancipation. Something that no money can buy. The interrogation that must happen here cannot be under the scrutiny of a hackling public. It is deeply personal and opens unhealed scars. I always say Afrika needs one big shrink. Afrika is a people in shock, a people feeling withdrawals from the violence that was visited, as if a normality, on their bodies, implanted in their collective memory. It is a shock that some think they have managed to escape. It still haunts them though…because the window is a mirror. No amount of money will get you out. No shopping sprees in Paris, no accolades, will help you maneuver your way out. The only way out, is in. Even God is impatiently waiting for us, whispering through our ancestors, loud voices…words that get stolen from lips by the whirlwinds of our forgetfulness. We have travelled for so long with our heads to the ground we have forgotten the beauty of our path.

I cannot quite put my finger on it…how we so quickly fell apart at a moment that should have been our triumph. I can try but I feel it is not my place to do so.

It is time to interrogate what we are now, what we were before, and what happened in between. We should not fall into the trap of glorifying our pre-colonial existence, or of underplaying its relevance. Rather, we should be analytical without judgment so we can find sight of our true selves and value.
This is why this is a private undertaking. Because your pain, your shame, your prejudice are yours to own and own up to. And this is also why it is difficult to quantify the outcome of this interrogation. This is why it is difficult to brand package it for the masses. It is a personal journey. No two experiences are the same, but the outcome of the interrogation will be.

Could we, perhaps, find a catalyst to trigger this inner revolution? The ideas evoked by this question might be key.

Article first published in Sowetan, 28 March, 2013

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About Simphiwe Dana

Musician, Writer, Activist, Mom

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