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a racist tag to black initiative

By unknown | Apr 17, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Since its relaunch, the Forum of Black Journalists has been nothing more than a boxer on the ropes. And each neat-handed attempt to protect its good name has cunningly been outfoxed by the racist tag that has become a standard accusation to all black initiatives.

Since its relaunch, the Forum of Black Journalists has been nothing more than a boxer on the ropes. And each neat-handed attempt to protect its good name has cunningly been outfoxed by the racist tag that has become a standard accusation to all black initiatives.

With the black community sinking deeper into hopelessness, the rising tide of political correctness has evidently usurped the centre stage to push all else that is black to a questionable periphery that is out of sync with the new South Africa.

Caught between black people's hopelessness and political correctness, the forum (FBJ) can either throw in the towel or stand firm, convinced that the reason for its existence is free of any criminal or discriminatory intent. With the Human Rights Commission (HRC) entering the fray to blow the whistle in favour of a complaint by Radio 702 and Katy Katopodis, the choices have become even starker.

If the FBJ chooses to fight, it will have to storm the centre of public discourse with a view to freeing itself from the tyranny of political correctness. Political correctness is fraught with falsehoods.

Its primary concern is always to make the miserable to forever defer to the unchanging comfort zones built upon their very misery. True to the logic of falsehood, the poor must not show any restlessness that amounts to instability. The jobless and the lowly paid must not insist on wage levels that will result in investors' disinterest.

The accusation that, when black people meet, something subversive must be in the offing against white welfare, can only be innocent when the doors are flung wide open for whites to swell black ranks. Consequently, articulation of black aspirations are forever stalked and vetoed by unfounded white fears.

To grapple with the dilemma that the HRC has imposed on the FBJ, and by extension, to other such forums, Joao da Veiga Coutinho, in his preface to Paulo Freire's Cultural Action for Freedom, makes the point that has a ring of relevance to all: "At issue are divergent images of man, or more correctly, an already established image which its keepers are attempting to prescribe for others and a new image that is struggling to be."

It is that struggle that seems to be lost in the disdainful provocative histrionics that have been directed at the FBJ. The pseudo-solidarity it is being coerced to acquiesce to has all the trappings of artificiality that holds sway in the kingdom of political correctness. That falsehood has no snow's chance of survival in hell. But now that 702 has found favourable relief, let us see what it will do with its victory.

As 702's victory celebrations get into swing, a brief reminder of the FBJ's historical intervention in the unfolding dicey developments of post-1994 South Africa may be worth sharing for the benefit of those who might have missed its eventful, but task-oriented stormy life. The FBJ burst onto the scene in January 1997 and seven months later made a submission to the TRC. In 2002, it was again invited to make a submission to the South African Human Rights Commission. Why then would it, six years later, stand in the dock since its aims and objectives have remained unchanged?

The simple answer is that a complaint was registered against it. Consistent with its modus operandi, it heaved back to life with no new agenda to declare.

Central to that agenda is the repositioning of black journalists, as part and parcel of the black community, to become the authors of their experience and to exercise authority. This means journalists should seize the initiative to confront their miserable circumstances, renew and redefine themselves without betrayal of their independence of thought action.

The effect of such transformative action has the benefit of making black people cease to be "object beings" of study, on whose behalf thinking should be done by others, only to be seen and heard when it is time to sing, dance and die.

In media terms, it means a demonstrable ability by black journalists to intellectual and analytic competence. The natural attraction to confer, on the basis of their collective black experience, to make sense of their unique circumstances and to jointly read their world, to deepen a shared understanding, was the rationale behind forums called imbizo.

In this way an imbizo is an exercise of the right to associate and assemble on matters of mutual concern. Being an off-the-record affair, these imbizo offer nothing more than insight. The imbizo at which it hosted Jacob Zuma in February was not an exception.

For 702 to have gate-crashed, bent on reporting on it, was an unprecedented method of white journalists' application for membership. That the HRC found no fault with the provocation boggles the mind as it appears to condone an invasive form of application. In celebrating its victory, 702 must explain what advantages, benefits and privileges were denied to it, which the HRC have restored?

l Oupa Ngwenya is a freelance writer.


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