Xenophobia is in fact Afrophobia in disguise

IT IS not true that blacks don't read and engage in intellectual debate in the townships.

The young people in groups like Black Aesthetics and Blackwash are raising the bar.

This past Sunday I was invited to launch the latest New Frank Talk (blacks are kwerekweres, whites are tourists) at a beautiful and pleasant place called Roots Restaurant and Gallery in Soweto.

This venue overlooks the legendary Morris Isaacson school where the giant of Soweto's 1976 uprising, Tsietsi Mashinini, studied. We had a robust intellectual engagement from a very serious yet jovial audience that is committed to changing the world.

The main argument put forward in the journal is that xenophobia is actually Afrophobia. This is so because xenophobia is the hatred and fear of foreigners, but in South Africa we don't harm white foreigners.

All the whites are seen as legal and those from outside are welcomed as tourists.

The important question is to explain Afrophobia to ensure that we don't repeat it. It was clear from the discussion that in fact our government is the main author of Afrophobia because of the treatment it gives black Africans, and that it has failed to work towards breaking down the colonial borders, thereby entrenching colonial self-hatred.

We all know how home affairs and the police treat black Africans.

Blacks are illegal by mere appearance. The blacker you are the more likely you are to be in danger of being arrested by the police or being killed by an angry mob. That is why 21 of the 62 people killed in 2008 xenophobic attacks were black South Africans.

This actually means the so-called xenophobia is about hating black people and has little to do with their being foreigners.

Still, the issue of why take a gun, an axe and a panga and attack people that look like you must be explained.

We need to explain the madness that enters the hearts of good people to form a mob to unleash such violence.

The black philosopher Lewis Gordon has shown that in black gang wars, black people re-enact white violence against each other. He says "these situations reflect ritualistic behaviours that transform the participants . into white figures".

In other words, the attackers act as if they were whites against fellow blacks.

This is a learned and internalised behaviour from the violence of anti-black violence, slavery and colonialism that has shaped the modern world.

The triggers of Afrophobic violence are related to poverty and hopelessness. The brutal life of poverty generates and intensifies self-hatred.

To end Afrophobia we must end hunger, homelessness and redistribute wealth equally among the citizens of our continent.

Why is Africa so rich but its people so poor? There was consensus that the key source of Africa's problems are our political leaders.

They behave like the colonisers. It was also agreed that we must break-down the colonial borders and allow our people to move freely.

Maybe the young people can achieve the dream of uniting Africa.

It was real nice hanging out in Soweto with thinking brothers and sisters.

  • Mngxitama is the author of the forthcoming book Out of Context

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