Is it about Black Lives or is it about Power?
Reflection on the resignation of Dr. Matthew M. Wielichi
Following the resignation of Dr. Matthew M. Wielicki at the University of Alabama, I thought I would like add my opinion to the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) debate that is currently taking place within the United States of America. Although Dr. Wielicki (an excellent source on climate science), cites family matters as his primary motivation, he doesn’t shy away from saying that the rise of illiberalism in the name of DEI helped tilt his decision to give up on his career as an academic professor.
My view is that the broader DEI debate and political offshoots like Black Lives Matter (BLM) take place in a United States of America that is experiencing a period of post-colonial ideology that is comparable to what Sub-Saharan Africa experienced in the aftermath Harold McMillian’s Winds of Change speech that he gave to the South African parliament on February 3, 1960.
It’s my suspicion that many of these narratives jumped from Africa to the USA through student exchanges. They became prominent at universities in particular, because they managed to exploit a historical guilt in the United States. The United States has a history of slavery and segregation, but I have to constantly remind Americans that they talk as if the United States is the only country that ever existed on this planet. They would do themselves a good favour if they read more about the experiences of other nations and similar social movements. There are other places in this world that are not called America, and they also have a tragic history with similar experiences of slavery, exploitation, ethnic cleansing, genocide and segregation taking place. Notable examples include South Africa, Botswana, Russia, India, Iran, Germany, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, China, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Eastern Europe, Nigeria, Mozambique, Libya, Egypt or any country in the beginning of the last century for that matter.
Furthermore, the principle of our justice system is that guilt can only be individual. Any policy that exploits “collective guilt” is not only dangerous but wrong in principle. Before 1948, the concept of Human Rights barely existed in any meaningful form and despite the adoption of the International Law treaties like the UN Charter, the Helsinki Accords and the Nuremberg Laws, the principle of “might is right” still dominates many parts of the world today. The crimes of America are no more unique than the crimes of other countries. There is no moral basis to justify any policy today that asks of a child born to this world to address whatever legacy of past injustice remains through the means of racial classification. If racial classification was wrong in principle during Apartheid and wrong in principle during the US period of Jim Crow Laws, then they should be wrong in principle today.
Universities should not have the right to ask of students to classify themselves according to arbitrary features like skin colour - yet that is what the DEI movement demands. Collecting racial statistics has been illegal in France since 1978, because the practice was used to single out the Jews during The Second World War. Equality is the founding principle of the French Republic and collecting data about race, ethnicity or religion is rightfully prohibited by the French Constitution. Inequality is addressed in France on the basis of social economic conditions and not on the basis of skin colour. An even more interesting factoid is that racial and ethnic census data is also not collected in Namibia - a country that also experienced Apartheid. Neither is it in neighbouring Botswana, arguably the best country in terms of racial integration (Botswana had a mixed race presidential couple at a time when such a marriage was illegal in many parts of America and South Africa).
In contrast South Africa, probably the most race obsessed African country (rivaled locally only by Zimbabwe and globally only by the USA) actively encourages Racial Classification to the extent that of the 313 racist pieces of legislation on the books, 37% of them were enacted AFTER the end of Apartheid. South Africa’s rhetoric is so extreme that the leader of the third largest political party, Julius Malema, refused to rule out “the slaughtering of white people” and the courts were so deep into post colonial ideology that they couldn’t find him guilty of hate speech after he sang a “struggle song” known as Dubul' ibhunu that literally says “Shoot the Boer” and “Bring me my Machinegun”.
Shouldn’t the lesson to be learned by comparing France, America, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa's policies be that racism is obviously never going to be eliminated through more racist legislation and that racial classification in particular is probably going to make the situation worse?
Tragically, in the decolonization period many African countries were led by leaders who governed through the principle of vengeance and resentment, even though they talked about “achieving equality”. African leaders are no different than Western leaders who, like in America, use racial or tribal divisions as a weapon to maintain political power. The DEI movement like South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment Agenda is not about achieving equality, it’s not about correcting the statistics, it’s primarily about politics and money.
If one starts from a few simple axioms such as guilt can only ever be individual and that character is more important than skin colour, then the intellectual basis for many of their proposals simply collapses. Inequality, to the extent that it is within our means to correct it, should in principle, be evaluated on the basis of social economic condition, a concept that the political left used to call “Class”.
In reflection on the 2020 BLM protests, I wrote an article for New Geography (quoted below) where I drew a comparison between the rhetoric used by the BLM movement and that of Robert Mugabe. They are astonishingly similar. Had Americans known of Zimbabwe or Mozambique’s history, or even what is occurring in South Africa today, then they would have been far more skeptical of what is being proposed by the DEI movement and its intellectual offshoots. Fortunately though, unlike in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the BLM movement was not led by honest ideologues who actually believed in what they said, but rather a bunch of crooks who were too dishonest from the get go. The movement quickly degenerated into a grift as just one year after its “initial success” one of BLMs leaders was caught stealing 10 million dollars from the organization. It reaffirms the position that today’s proponents of black theology and equality, like the leaders of post colonial Africa, are clearly not in it to help the broader black population, but rather to maintain power as they collect money for themselves.
Victimhood sells and they they do not care about the followers whose sincere convictions they go on to manipulate. They will only stop if enough people start seeing them for what they are, just a bunch of grifters.
Article on Zimbabwe
In 2012 I started my career as a structural engineer in the industrial suburbs of Johannesburg. This was my first job after completing my studies and the only rent that I could afford was a granny flat in the backyard of a property that belonged to an old Zimbabwean couple named Archie and Gayle. They were by then in their late 70s and they were still working to earn a living. Just 10 years before I met them, their livelihood was confiscated by the Zimbabwean government when President Robert Mugabe gave an order to his North Korean trained 5th Brigade to systematically kill all the white farmers in the country. Archie and Gayle managed to escape to South Africa with only the clothes on their backs. They were fortunate to have family in South Africa that could help them to get back on their feet. They were two of the many victims of the idea of decolonization – an idea premised on the belief that an old order can be burned down and replaced by a new one or that a revolution is needed to change a society as opposed to a sensible reform.
The current BLM protests in the United States have raised legitimate debate about the status of black Americans in the society, but my Americans colleagues need to think before they support a movement whose origin, according to their own website, lies in neo-Marxist politics. Their American version of decolonialization philosophy has been tried --- and failed -- in countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and to a lesser extent South Africa and Namibia.
In contrast Botswana has done better, because like Singapore they did not do away with all the structures that colonialism left them. Botswana kept around white missionaries who not only spread Christianity but taught their children and to help them build the country. The Batswana embraced democracy, the rule of law and a free market economy and consequently the country prospered economically and socially. On the eve of its independence Botswana was the poorest country on the African continent and today it has highest GDP per capita. Sadly, many of the less successful Pan African revolutionary leaders regard Botswana as a puppet colonial state that does not honor the African Agenda.
That Southern African Country that decolonized with the most extreme barbarism was Zimbabwe. Here ideological fanaticism and corruption led to record violence and economic devastation. Following the death of George Floyd, the American public is rightfully calling for police reform, but the question is what form that reform will take, and could it move in the dangerous direction that we see in Africa today.
The case of Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, is instructive. In the early 18th century the King Shaka expanded the rule of the Mthethwa tribe and founded the Zulu Empire. One of his rebel generals, Mzilikazi, decided to establish his own kingdom by conquering the area that surrounds the Magaliesberg, in the north of modern-day South Africa. Mzilikazi soon realized that he could not take on the migrating colonial forces, so he took his own forces north to modern day Zimbabwe in an area known as Matabeleland. When Mzilikazi died, his son Lobengula took over his Kingdom and conquered many of the lands then controlled by the Shona tribes in the north of modern-day Zimbabwe.
Great Britain at first showed little interest in expanding its colony beyond the Cape of Africa, but that all changed when diamonds were discovered on the banks of Orange River in the area surrounding modern day Kimberley, where an 17-year-old Entrepreneur, Cecil John Rhodes, started his first venture by selling ice to the mine workers as he planned to enter the diamond trade. He built up the company that became known as De Beers that today remains the largest diamond monopoly in the World. Rhodes became one of the richest men in the empire and his ambition stretched into politics. He had a vision of building a railway from Cape Town to Cairo and that all the lands in between had to be conquered for the British Empire.
Rhodes dedicated his life for the expansion of the British Empire in Africa and this brought him into conflict with the Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers, who under the leadership of the Boer General Paul Kruger, grew increasingly powerful and started to challenge Great Britain’s foothold in the region. The Transvaal Republic held the Witwatersrand Gold Reefs that would eventually produce a quarter of all the gold ever mined in the world. Fearing the northern expansion of the Transvaal, Rhodes, with the support of the Conservative Government in London founded a Chartered Company known as the British South African Company with the mandate to settle the region between the Limpopo and the Zambesi Rivers. To conquer the area, he exploited the historical tribal differences in a time proven divide-and-rule style. The country would be known as Zambesia and later named after Rhodes himself, Rhodesia. The land was settled by conquest, and expropriation of the native lands and it would be ruled by a minority white government.
Starting in the 1960s, the white minority rule faced a long conflict known as the Rhodesian Bush War, or in modern Zimbabwe, the War of Liberation. The government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister Ian Smith, fought two rival black factions known as ZANU and ZAPU. Their respective leaders Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo were ideologically aligned with and supported by the Soviet Union and the Red Chinese government. The split was largely tribal in nature as the membership of ZAPU was made up by Ndebele tribe and ZANU by the Shona tribe. The country was torn between the white population’s fears and the legitimate demands of many black Zimbabweans.
In the 1980s the country, under pressure from the United States and ironically the Apartheid regime in South Africa, the Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith was forced to reform and give the black population Majority Rule. Robert Mugabe’s ZAPU party won the first democratic election and thus 14 years before Nelson Mandela he became the first African leader to preach reconciliation between whites and blacks.
The country, now known as Zimbabwe was for roughly three years between 18 April 1980 to early months of 1983 the envy of post-colonial Africa, leading many whites to live under majority rule. The government started an initially peaceful process of land reform where many blacks regained the land lost under colonial rule. The Conservative government of Great Britain under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agreed in principle to help compensate the white farmers on the Zimbabwean government’s behalf for financial loss.
Problems came as Mugabe’s post-colonial philosophy came to the fore. As like with the Black Lives Matter leadership, Mugabe embraced Marxism, famously saying to the last Rhodesian General Walls that he regards teachings of Karl Marx to be identical to those of Jesus Christ. Zimbabwe was unfortunate to have a Mugabe, not a Mandela lead its transition. Mandela strove to find accommodations with whites and Asians, but Mugabe, after a promising start, embraced a full-throated, vengeful and ultimately self-destructive anti-colonialism ideology.
By the mid-80s Mugabe conducting a full-scale race and class war. He created a private army known as the 5th brigade that systematically disenfranchised the ZANU faction of the country. He abolished the old Rhodesian Police Force and all resistance within the political establishment. Mugabe replaced the members of the old administration with his own Generals who still hold the power in the country. By the time that he launched the Gukurahundi, ethnic cleansing directed at the Ndebele population. More than 20 000 people lost their lives.
The Western World overlooked his atrocities. The Queen of England bestowed on him a knighthood and several US and UK Universities gave him an honorary doctorate. After all, Mugabe’s rhetoric was in line with the tone of many Western Academics such as were in theory on board with decolonization of the society. The problem was that they did not understand what decolonization would mean in practice.
As is occurring in both Britain and the USA statues of former rulers such as Cecil Rhodes were broken down and the history books rewritten to reflect a less Eurocentric history. The texts had to be deconstructed and decolonized. The Capital Salisbury’s name changed to Harare and the Town Fort Victoria to Masvingo.
Whites held guilty of benefiting from colonialism, which some of them certainly did, had little voice. When they pointed out obvious corruption in the administration, they were blamed for all the injustice in the country. By 2002, Mugabe’s once conciliatory tune had completely changed. He was done with the Ndebele and now he plotted to systematically killed the white farmers – many who supported him during his first few years of power.
"Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy."
In reaction to the farm murders US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair applied international sanctions and threatened to intervene militarily, but with the Iraq War already underway public support for another war was limited. Mugabe called their bluff, because he knew that the Western governments also lacked critical diplomatic support from the South African government. South African President Thabo Mbeki launched a policy of “Quiet diplomacy” to Zimbabwe i.e., keep your eyes shut when people are murdered. Mbeki also helped Zimbabwe circumvent sanctions.
Mugabe’s reign of terror and anti-colonial theology left Zimbabwe in ruins. The attack on white farmers resulted in the collapse of the rural economy with 60% of the population now being food insecure and millions of Zimbabweans living as refugees in South Africa or Botswana. With every new election cycle in South Africa, an ambitious demagogue sweeps up a local mob who turn on these unfortunate Zimbabweans.
Like many other apostles of black nationalism, Mugabe was no idiot, he had seven University degrees and “boasted” that he also has an 8th degree in violence. The country remains a cautionary tale of what happens to a country when it decolonizes by wiping away all remnants of the colonial past that might prove useful in building up the country. It is a tale widely ignored by many Western Academics and Media because Mugabe spoke to their ideological prejudices.
The Zimbabwe situation is the worst case of a country that allowed decolonization ideology to take root without thinking of the consequences. It is a cautionary tale about what full embrace of Marxist anti- colonialism — with its inevitable discard for the rule of law and democratic procedure — means to a developing country. The tragedy remains that first to suffer are those very people on whose behalf the ideologues claim to fight
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As an American, I noted BLM arose out of the CIA culture wars and is an Obama administration psyop. The pun is "Black Lives Matter" is the same as "Bureau of Land Management" which manages public lands in a checkerboard pattern (cf masonic symbolism - black and white). In 2014, you had simultaneously the Bundy ranch standoff with the Bureau of Land Management with the Ferguson Riots (Ferguson is the first city out from the St. Louis Arch, which is the US National Monument to Westward Expansion - the equivalent of the South African voortrekker monument).
Really measured and interesting article. Thank you.
Do you have a podcast Hugo? Can we follow you elsewhere like Twitter?