Saturday, July 4, 2020

Black lives Matter No Matter

Over the past few weeks we have watched with so much disbelieve on television as black men in America were getting killed in a senseless manner by white police officers. The scenes are horrifying to say the least and this is the reason why black and white together were prompted to act. “BLACK LIVES MATTER” has become a phrase that every adult and child around the world have come to know.

The reality of the whole drama is that humanity can no longer continue to look the other way when all this is happening to other members of the human race. I have grown up listening to a particular American jazz singer known as Brook Benton. In my teenage years, it was a ritual for me to wake and tune onto what was then known as Radio Bophuthatswana at 5’o clock every morning. There was this particular radio personality known as Peter Manzana who always played Brook Benton’s song first thing when the station opened in the morning.The song Oh Lord, Why Lord has stuck with me from my youth because this radio personality used to go deep into explaining the meaning and the background of the song in such a way that it captivated the attention of every listener.

The first stanza opens with the words, “I have searched the open sky to find the reason why Oh Lord, The colour of my skin is said to be an awful sin.”The truck driver, as Peter Vusi Manzana used to refer to him and as he is known in the jazz music circles says, “Lord I cannot understand and I will never understand the reason why, oh Lord.” Every time I have had racial tension around me where I am treated in an unwanted manner, I take my mind back to the years of my youth and I allow this song to speak to all my faculties.

To be racially abused is not a good experience and I am glad I do not live under the same circumstances that Brook Benton lived and experienced. This was a man who was born in Lugoff, South Caroline, the heart of the racial south. He was born Benjamin Peay but decided to change his name to Brook Benton and it was to become a household name in the music industry and particularly with jazz but also in rock and roll and rhythm and blues.Benton was by and large successful in the music industry but this was not without serious hurdles of racism. As a songwriter, he penned this song because he was failing to arrive at an understanding why he had to be made to suffer just for the reason of the colour of his skin. He resented the behaviour of white people who wanted to regard him as an inferior person particularly in the industry that he started off with which was truck driving.

This song still reverberates across the whole of America in the wake of the protests that are taking place. The question that lingers and failing to find an answer is; why others have to suffer disproportionately just because they are carrying different melanin on their skins. The question is; why the intense hate just because someone looks different from the other person?Like Brook Benton, all black people are failing to understand why they are hated for just the colour of their skin. In the case of America, the white people have used them and are now finding them useless. They were only needed when slavery was allowed in the country.

For some who strongly believed in the institution of slavery, it had to take a civil war to bring it to an end. So there were people who were so willing to put their own lives on the line in order to preserve slavery.America is not a sick country, it is the world that has become so sick that it needs redemption. It happens everywhere around the world that the white man still sees themselves with that superiority complex over the black man. The world will never rest until this sickness is eradicated.

Coming closer to home, the oppressors have used every trick in the book to maintain the white minority rule for almost 400 years. The issue of racism was institutionalised and white people were allowed to enjoy unlimited privileges. And they were ready to die defending this mirage. Imagine what the state of the South African economy would be if there was racial equality from the very beginning and equity in education, access to finance and medical facilities. Coming home, if the colonizers had considered us as equal from the perspective of colour, we would as country be far ahead of ourselves. Racial superiority has delayed the development of the world and that of our country. We have fought battles against those who sought to defend their colour status.

The reason why Brook Benton has failed to see the reason why is because racism is mental sickness. And going forward it must be classified as such. The clinical evidence is derived from the level of anger against the black man. Anger over one thing; the colour of his skin is what keeps the world spinning for the white supremacists.During colonial times when this country was approaching independence, one of the imperial officers pronounced that if one day he would hear of a black pilot, he would never fly again. In South Africa after independence in 1994, blacks in the air force were told that they would not be able to fly because flying was too complicated for Africans. The South African blacks were shocked to find Botswana Defence Force soldiers and officers playing mechanics and pilots of their fleet while on a visit here.

It is time the world cures itself from this sickness. What is taking place in America is a clear reminder that time is over for racism in this world. The madness has to end now.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.