Of revolutions and Kool-aid

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”. Animal Farm

koolaid

The problem with revolutions is often that after all the bluster, after all the speeches and rhetoric and dust has settled down, they leave you precisely where you started. You being the masses that supported the revolution, I mean. The instigators and leaders often end up replacing the old masters, becoming the new masters in all but name. As one of these ‘masses’, I am feeling betrayed. I feel like I betrayed myself and drank Kool-Aid I knew better than to drink. And I feel like I’ve been betrayed by those that mixed the Kool-Aid and told me it was champagne. I say this as a black Zimbabwean Christian in the diaspora, living in South Africa.

The Kool-Aid? That the problem that needs fixing in our various spaces is the problem of white people and baaskap (boss-ship). Whiteness, if you will. Is it a problem? Yes. Many injustices have been committed consistent with a philosophy, worldview or attitude of white racial supremacy. So, it needed to be overthrown and needs to be confronted wherever it rears its head. The Kool-Aid part is the assumption that the removal of white hands from the levers of power would usher us into a Utopia. For the longest time, having drunk this Kool-Aid, I dismissed what former president Nelson Mandela said at his trial, that he fought against white domination and black domination. Say what? What black domination? Perhaps what he saw is something I, as a Christian with some understanding of theology and basic doctrine should have seen. Blackness and whiteness of skin aren’t what absolve you from or damn you of the sin of wanting to dominate others. This is a human failing. True, it found a home and historical manifestation in colonialism, apartheid and other forms of segregation. I’m not going to argue whether, if the situation were reversed, Africans would have enslaved Europeans. There’s a logical fallacy called “hypothesis contrary to fact”. We are where we are.

But looking at Zimbabwe, I’ve been in mourning after the death of our former president Robert Mugabe. Mourning over him as a human being, but also mourning for the uncounted Zimbabwean thousands who are displaced and unable to die in peace in a Singaporean hospital like he did. It was happenstance that around the time of his death, I was reading a novel by Shimmer Chinodya called “Harvest of thorns”. It is a great read, and it portrays the newly minted Zimbabwe fresh after independence as a country poised to succour the disenfranchised or to merely replace the old regime with more of the same, except with black faces. There are scenes in that book with Rhodesian armed forces beating people for supporting the cause of liberation; you could swap them out easily for countless scenes of modern-day Zimbabwe in which protestors are abducted, or crowded into police vans and beaten without due process for the victims or repercussions to the perpetrators.

 

And then I look at other spaces, such as the church spaces I’ve inhabited and move around in. The same Kool-Aid has been passed around among black folk – the issue, we say, is white domination, a theology and praxis that’s divorced from this context and too often is complicit with injustice. Is this an issue? Yes. As a wannabe church historian and theologian, there’s no way for me to look at the history of South Africa and not see the myriad failures of a Eurocentric, compromised faith that betrayed the fundamental truths of the Gospel. We needed more Pauls to call out the Peters in the Church for holding onto the badges of ethnic distinctions over the truth of the Gospel (See Galatians 2). And I cannot ignore how this is not a thing of the past, but a present struggle that still needs to be fought. In doing so, I am aware of the betrayal I feel that black church leaders perpetrate similar injustices on people that look like them and expect/get a pass in the name of ‘black solidarity’. That same spirit of domination and control is present in churches ekasi as in the suburbs. An Egyptian Pharaoh shouldn’t oppress the Israelites. Knowing human nature, though, I kinda get it. But for Israelites to become like Pharaoh among themselves – that hurts on another level.

 

I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m waking up to the fact that the struggle is against Sin and the Evil One. They have many vessels and manifestations. I got so caught up with the face of evil I completely ignored its heart. Whether it manifests itself as white privilege and an ideology of white supremacy, or if it’s a black person who’s taking advantage of and oppressing another black person – both need to be called out for the evil they are.

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