Since the years of slavery and colonialism, racism has been used as an emotional draw card by black people. Revolutions and struggles for independence were evoked by the desire by black people to overcome oppressive systems, to redeem their stolen dignity and to be an equal with those who oppressed them.
By Tapiwa Gomo
The struggles assumed capabilities on our part as black people to lead ourselves, self-determine and to self-develop. The passion that carried the liberation struggles convincingly suggested that we could do better than the slave trader and the colonialist.
Neither slavery nor colonialism are forgettable and forgivable because of their abusive and dehumanising nature. Nonetheless they contributed to the establishment of the foundation that anchors the big global economies in the world today. Part of the economies of the United States of America and some of the European countries were built through free labour and resources from black African territories.
These countries have continued to effectively manage their economies to the extent that they also offer equal employment opportunities for black migrants from Africa.
During the period of slavery, principles of property law were applied to black people, allowing individuals, mainly from Western countries to own, buy and sell Africans as slaves. Because black Africans were reduced to property, they lost their rights and power to withdraw from the slavery assignment of free or forced labour in locations far from their continent.
On the other hand, colonialism was the practice of super powers, mainly Western countries, extending control over African territories.
The same Western countries extended their control and authority over African people or territories. Both concepts were obviously designed to benefit Western economies while oppressing the black African States.
The 20th century was marked by a major rise in egalitarian movements. The African independence movements took centre-stage in that period, with a wave of struggles for independence in European-ruled African territories witnessed across the continent. The American civil rights movement, mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the United States of America came to national prominence during the mid-1950s.
While these were not directly connected, but spoke of the same agenda, they achieved the intended goal of according black people their equal rights and their dignity. Looking at the situation right now, one would be mistaken to think that equality and dignity were the ultimate goals of all these struggles. But in actual fact, the real struggle was not only limited to reclaiming what was stolen from black people, but to place black people in a position of power where they can lead their own course of life.
Sadly, this is yet to happen as black people have only used equality and dignity to access the systems and services established by the slave trader and colonialist. Where such access is denied, we cry foul, instead of establishing ours. For that reason, we have not been able to earn our respect, place and voice in the world. We are yet to prove that even with equal rights and opportunities and self-rule, we can self-develop.
Our knowledge and ideas, skills, resources and labour are not for our own use, but for sale to the slave trader and colonialist as if we don’t have our own development to achieve.
Our claims to be independent and sovereign are nothing but a mere political rhetoric, as we continue to feed from the crumbs of the slave trader and the colonialist.
Our inadequacy is so telling to the extent that even the slave trader and the colonialist have become aware that we as black people are far from being capable of being our own people without them. So the slavery and colonisation continues directly or indirectly.
We are yet to convince ourselves and the world that we are a capable self-determining race that can autonomously lead their own way of life that is not dependent on the race we accused of brutalising us.
We have neither proven that we can maintain the development left by those who perpetrated slavery and colonialism on us nor demonstrated that we can build and develop on our own. What the slave trader and the colonialist have built, using our stolen resources and slave labour, our black leaders have failed to maintain.
The Zimbabwe situation is one of the cases in point. We have taken our country a couple of decades backwards from where it was left by the colonialists, evoking questions on whether we fought to regain it and destroy the country or we are just not capable.
The colonialist, who did not belong to the continent, came to our land, built infrastructure and established services and systems that functioned effectively. These were meant to serve their people and interests. And because these systems mainly targeted to benefit the colonialist’ interests, that is what became racial segregation which the liberation struggle sought to address.
Efforts to address this anomaly ended at just opening up to the majority access to the very limited services without necessarily expanding them for their benefit.
Have we helped the world to appreciate us as a capable people?