Black men and boys are not failures, but wounded war survivors

Father and child relationships are very important. Ex-US president Barack Obama once said, "every father bares a fundamental obligation to do right by their children".
Father and child relationships are very important. Ex-US president Barack Obama once said, "every father bares a fundamental obligation to do right by their children".
Image: 123RF

The challenges that black men and black boys are experiencing in SA are typical challenges of being in a war. The rules are simple – identify your enemy, particularly his strengths, then concentrate all your efforts in destroying his strength and then exploit his weaknesses and vulnerabilities for your advantage.

Since imposition of colonialism and apartheid in SA, black men were at war to protect the annexation of their land and property. They were identified in terms of the rules of war as the Centre of Gravity (CoG). War doctrines dictate that having identified the CoG of your enemy, you unleash all your arsenal to that specific target with layers of bombardment.

War rules demand that you do not allow the target to raise his head. You suffocate him with layers and waves of bombshells day in and day out, until you reach your desired outcomes of peace terms that consolidate your position of power and dominance. The war against black men has resulted to heavy casualties.

On the other hand, black women and black girls became the collateral damage in a war that was specifically intended for black men. Whereas European countries including Nazi Germany benefitted from the Marshall Plan for reconstruction, post-World War II.

The Afrikaner men were given financial compensation to restart and restore their lives and dignity after their defeat in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899. Why black men are threated as an exception and not considered for post-war compensation?

Since 1652 black men have been under siege of white power and white entitlement, and whatever reprieve they gained is at their disadvantage. We are aware that black societies raise boys to be the protectors and leaders of the community. Our culture dictates that if needs be, men must fight for their communities and nation.

Men are the first and the last line of defence. Is it not a surprise that black men are wounded on many levels? The war they are fighting has been escalating with changing times and changing tactics. It started as land annexation, 1913 Land Act, Job Reservation Act, balkanisation into homelands, tear gas, and now contract work.

What about the indignities of being uprooted and dumped in hostels and reduced to digging wealth for other men? Can we measure the depths of the generational trauma and emotional damage that black men have been subjected to? Do the democratic institutions like the gender commission articulate restorative programmes for the healing of wounded black men and black boys?

Do we scratch deep enough to see the pain that black men are covering with the mask of wounded black masculinity? What are the systems that results in a downward-spiral of wounded blackness? Do we see black men and boys as war survivors or as social failures?

I propose that we learn from the restorative actions of the historical Jesus to the man who was reduced by his circumstances to a level of a beggar in the country of his birth (Luke 18:35-43). Jesus did not impose solutions to "help" the man. Instead, in verses 41 he asked him, “what do you want me to do for you”? Is it not time to asked black men and black boys what do they want?

What give us the right to label black men and black boys as failures, having been reduced to levels of beggary below R350 grants per month, in the country of their birth?

Rev Mashinini is a pastor of the Black Men Restoration and Healing Church of the Nazarene, Soweto

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