Apartness

In Afrikaans, “apartheid” – introduced by the Nationalist Party, was a system of government and legislative framework that upheld segregationist policies against non-white citizens and indigenous people of South Africa and any Black person from the rest of the world. Despite strong and consistent opposition to apartheid within and outside of South Africa, its laws remained in effect for the better part of 50 years.

How might the current events in the United States resonate with someone living in South Africa, a country scarred by its own tragic history of institutionalized prejudice and racism?

The fundamental difference is that, black people are not a minority in South Africa. Black Africans constitutes 81% of the population, White’s only eight percent and the 11% balance is made of ethnic groups that are classified as Coloured and Indian (Statistics Africa, 2019).

Irrespective of what the numbers say, many believe that the minority own 80% of the wealth, most of the land and that in some way continue to oppress the majority. How come? You may ask.  Well it is a complicated story in that there is a democratically elected Black led and majority government that rules South Africa today.  However, most of us believe that there is a conditioning that has taken place, in that some black people honestly believe that white is superior to black. And this is not unique to South Africa, it has been picked up across the African continent.

According to the World Health Organization 77% of Nigerian women use skin lightening products on a regular basis, followed by Togo with 59%, South Africa 35%, Senegal 27% and Mali 25%. The single most dangerous commonality between black people in Africa and those in America, is self-hatred. While some of our parents have raised us to be strong and self-confident, we have all responded to being exposed to racism differently. After all we are human.  Also, the way African leaders have behaved in office has somehow perpetuated this evil and dangerous stereotype and perception on how being black is viewed by many people. 

We are human beings with a lifetime of experiences that have shaped our minds. We are all a product of our upbringing, and our beliefs reflect our experiences. If you grow up in a country that is racist, where one is constantly exposed to hatred and dehumanization that has been masked in one way or another, then it is no surprise that some black people actually believe it to be true that they are inferior to other races.  Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid activist who was killed by the apartheid government in 1977 said, “The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”. This is one of the desired outcomes of systemic and systematic racism.  

Internalized racism refers to the feelings of self-hatred among oppressed groups. Their traits have intentionally been devalued in Western societies. In their book The Psychology of Racism, Holloway-Friesen and Johnson emphasize that internalized racism involves both “conscious and unconscious acceptance of a racial hierarchy in which whites are consistently ranked above people of colour.” These definitions encompass a wide range of instances, including, but not limited to, belief in negative racial stereotypes, adaptations to white cultural standards, and thinking that supports the status quo (i.e. denying that racism exists).

Internalized racism as a phenomenon is a direct product of a racial classification system and is found across different racial groups and regions around the world where race exists as a social construct. In these places, internalized racism can have adverse effects on those who experience it.

Internalized racism is likely to consist of self-hatred, self-alienation, self-concealment, fear of violence and feelings of inferiority, resignation, powerlessness; and accepting limitations to one’s own full humanity, including one’s right to self-determination, and one’s range of allowable self-expression (Jones, 2000; Pheterson, 1986; Watts-Jones, 2002)

It is naive to think that the system is going to change itself, if we, as black people want to change the tide, we need to understand that “only us can save us”. This transformation can only happen in our own mental models. This is where most of the damage has taken place, this is where through various ways, the dysfunctional pattern of thinking has been created, in our minds there is a collection of attitudes, beliefs, expectations, morals and values that form the underlying structures that perpetuate self-hatred.

Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behaviour (Senge, 1997). Awareness is a good place to start – we need to be aware of our blind spots, find and use knowledge that can influence positive change.

Southern Africa Delegation to #SHRM20

SHRM’s Annual Conference & Exposition brings you and thousands of other HR professionals together with one goal in mind: to build a better work environment for the millions of people whom you directly impact. It is the perfect opportunity for you to focus on your professional development.

It is such an honor to lead the Southern Africa delegation to SHRM20. If you are an HR practitioner in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia or Zimbabwe; this is your invitation to join us. Please contact me to find out how you can be a part of my delegation. I look forward to hosting you in San Diego.

Click on the link below to get more information https://annual.shrm.org/

#SHRM #SHRM20 #SHRMAfrica #GlobalHR #HR #HRConference #HumanResources #ProfessionalDevelopment

Differently-Abled! Makhiba’s story

Each year during the December holidays we traveled to the Qacha’s Nek District, home to both my parents. We spent Christmas Day at my father’s and New Year’s Eve at my mom’s home. We immersed ourselves in the village ways of living. I have fond memories of going to the water well, filling up my bucket and walking back home with it on top of my head, only to reach home with half of it empty and my clothes drenched in water. Balancing a bucket full of water on your head and walking up a mountain is not child’s play.

My maternal grandfather had a younger sister, who had a grandchild my age. We went to the same primary school and well, it’s all love when you have your super-smart cousin in the same class as you because you get to help each other out, and also their family had just returned from living in Denmark, so she was the cool kid, we all admired her. My cousin is a source of inspiration to me, she reminds me of how precious life is, and that no matter the circumstances we have the inherent strength to live life to its fullest.

We were around 10 years old, probably playing dodge ball during break time, just before the bell rang, she asked, “who turned off the lights.” During broad daylight, I wondered what she was talking about, only to realize that she could not see. We all knew that Makhiba couldn’t see well, she wore glasses and had to sit next to the blackboard in class. We knew that but didn’t expect that her sight would get worse.

This is her story:

Makhiba was in and out of the hospital for about a year, in Bloemfontein, a South African, who was one of two of the best eye doctors in the world operated her, she regained a little bit of sight, but then a few months later developed a cataract. She then had to go back to have the cataract removed, and, then there were all kinds of complications after that, including the fact that she had developed tonsillitis. This meant they had to postpone operating on her eye, which then also meant that her eyes were getting worse. By the time the tonsillitis had fully cleared a lot of time had passed, and her sight could not be recovered.

Makhiba missed out on three years of schooling, and ultimately had to go back, doctors advised that she go to a mainstream school to be able to cope in normal society later. And she did. She pursued a Political Science Degree at the University of Cape Town, then a Post Graduate Degree and most recently obtained a Management Corporate Governance Diploma. She has been able to study and work meaningfully, first at Africa’s largest stock exchange, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, in Sustainability and now in Corporate Governance at the Public Investment Corporation and considers herself somewhat successful in Corporate South Africa. And this is why I see her as differently-abled, she is able to do anything she sets her mind to, it’s just that she does things in her own way.

Her short-term goals are public speaking, she would like to champion her message throughout the world, to change the world for other’s who are like her and is driven by the shocking statistics. According to the 2014 White Paper, Integrated National Disability Strategy, Situation Analysis an estimated 99 percent of disabled people are excluded from employment on the open Labour market.” This is her purpose.

Her message to the world this National Disability Employment Awareness Month is:

“Despite suffering a double retinal detachment at 10 years old rendering me instantly blind, life, with all its travails, is good, woe can’t be me. To bemoan existence as a blind person, I’d not be paying tribute to those who have believed in me and held my hand through life’s turbulences. I would be making a mockery of the real challenges faced by so many blind people unfortunately inhibited by a world, itself without vision.

In a world of adventure and adversity, we choose adventure. As blind as we are, we are visionary. Remove the blinkers and allow yourself an opportunity to see as we do, evenly.