Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A Critique of Crain Soudien’s Realising the Dream: Unlearning the Logic of Race in the South African School

by Mbali Baduza, 2012

Crain Soudien’s “Realising the Dream: Unlearning the logic of race in the South African school” is a book whose publishing could not be more relevant to the current South African reality. He poses a question that is not uniquely modern, but a question that has been faced throughout the centuries: “what kind of human beings do we wish to be?” (Soudien, 2012: 2-3).  Although, a seemingly simple question at first, when we take seriously the factors and implications which confront it, it becomes a question pregnant with meaning. This is because, I argue, it calls into question what we mean by being human. Soudien says and I quote at length (2012: 2):

“What it means to be a human being – to have the choice to exercise the full panoply of one’s rights and, critically, to accord that choice to others, or, to put it more starkly, the right to full recognition and the unspeakably difficult task of gifting that right to others – is a question that arises in South Africa with an immediacy and complexity rarely found in modern history. The question is simultaneously philosophical, economic, political, sociological and, in elaboration of the latter, ontological and practical in its nature.”

South Africa’s history of colonialism and apartheid is familiar to us all and thus a detailed description of our history is not necessary. However, it is pertinent in essay to say this:  for roughly 350 years ‘black’ people[1]  were denied the right to be regarded as people who matter, people of thought and reason and people deserving of a dignified livelihood. Apartheid was a powerful tool that stripped people of their humanity. Some argue we have come a long way since then, with the fundamental change and obliteration of a racially-qualified constitutional order. What this means is that civil and political rights are accorded to all citizens irrespective of race after 1994 (Currie and de Waal, 2005: 2).   The birth of democracy in South Africa held a large amount of promise in the early 1990s. South Africa was to be a society based on equality, freedom and human dignity. These values are pillars that are meant to maintain an open and democratic society and are enforced by the supreme Parliamentary legislation of the land, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Currie and de Waal, 2005: 6-8). The way South Africa exists nominally- in name or paper- has been highly praised as progressive and unprecedented (Faull, 2012). Soudien (2012) says that South Africa has and continues to get international attention, not only because of the tragedy of our history, but also because of a promise to realise the dream: a South Africa without racial prejudice; a South Africa that recognises the humanity of all; a better South Africa.

In reality, however, the lived experience of the South African people tells a different story: the underside of South African democracy- the maintained racialised space, access, wealth and ways of being (Pithouse, 2011). We do not need statistics[2] to validate this reality; we merely have to look through our windows at the outskirts of our cities; the normalisation and perpetuation of racism in the acceptance of racist jokes; the calling of ‘race’ when we say “hey you black man, hey you white woman” (Soudien, 2012: 1); recent public events such as the Johannesburg LBGTI Pride march of 2012, where Pride participants (mainly ‘white’) shouted “go back to your lokshins (townships)” at ‘black’ LGBTI activists, who were displeased with the apolitical nature of Pride to the struggles of the LGBTI community in the townships (Davis, 2012). The list can, unfortunately, go on, but my point is clear: South Africa, even today, remains a racialised country.  I am not alone, because it has been widely argued that the disparities that South Africa is facing are direct consequences of centauries of black oppression, or rather racial oppression (Janz, 2011: 462). In other words, contemporary South Africa has inherited racist legacies that were central to the justification of African slavery, colonialism, and Apartheid. Therefore, the promise to realise the dream remains just that, a dream, because our humanity is still in crisis.    

This essay seeks to engage with Soudien’s suggestion that to realise what it means to be human, to fully become human, we must unlearn the ‘logic of race’. Although this suggestion has its merits, I seek to argue, through a Fanonian lens, that Soudien’s solution is inadequate, because ‘race’ and racism are not merely ideas and ideologies; they are also a lived experience.

There is a wide tendency amongst positive sciences to rationally explain the phenomena of race and racism. For instance, when it comes to racism, Charles W. Mills (2012) argues that racism can be defined in two areas of application. On the one hand, racism can be defined in an ideological sense- ideas, beliefs and values- where humanity is can be divided according to one’s race and subsequently, those races are arranged hierarchically (Mills, 2012). In other words, some races are deemed to be biologically superior to others. On the other hand, racism can be understood in relation to institutions, practices and social systems. This socio-institutional understanding of racism refers to the illicit privilege some races have at the expense of others and “where racial membership (directly or indirectly) explains this privileging” (Mills, 2012). Put differently, unearned benefits and advantages are accrued to certain races, merely on the basis of being a member of that particular racial group.

Similarly, when it comes to explaining the existence of ‘race (s)’ or lack thereof, there is an emphasis on how it is a social construct. Social scientists, biological scientists, epidemiologists and alike, generally agree that biology-as-race is a fallacy, and that the 0.01% of the genetic variation between people of designated groups has no social significance or determinacy. Soudien himself says that the discussion of genetics is important, because it illustrates how we have reached an age where we can prove that as human beings we are more genetically alike than not and that, in fact, there is more genetic variation within the designated ‘races’ than between them.  He further goes on to say, “We have the empirical evidence for it. The significance of the human genome is that it has shown how genes have travelled and how population groups everywhere in the world can be linked. We are all related” (Soudien, 2012: 8). The small proportion that does vary is heritable, in other words, people who have more recent common ancestor will have similar genes than those whose common ancestors are distant. The physical basis of race is based on social relations when social or geographical barriers prevent people from intermarriages across generations, allowing for physical distinctions between people. It therefore follows, in their belief, that physical differences also cause cultural differences.  Race becomes a social construct when the grouping people are based on those physical or cultural distinctions. They further argue that these groups and subsequent categorisations are not natural, but rather are created by political boundaries and pressures- where there is a tendency to downplay the reality of mixed ancestry. The political contestations over categories, with regards to who qualifies as part of a group and what the name of that group will be (‘Black’, ‘White’, ‘Coloured’, ‘Asian’, etc), is also a means to justify domination as is evident with the displacements of American Indians, African slavery, European colonialism, etc (Baum, 2006).

Their general position is that for race not to matter, there must be an engagement with ideological justifications, which, in misanthropy, normalise the belief that there is a ‘natural’ hierarchy between races (scientific racism of 19th century). It is this ideology that makes racism possible in its various manifestations be it through essentialism, oppression, exclusion, subjectification or all of the above at the same time. This latter approach is a position generally adopted by anti-racist movements (Soudien, 2012).

As ‘objectively’ true as it may be that racism is an ideology driven by misanthropic ends and that it has had, and continues to have, structural implications; and that ‘race (s)’ is a socially constructed idea that has no biological determinism on our identities- such objective knowledge and reasoning take for granted, to the point of neglect, that ‘race’ and racism have bodily experience: they are lived. My critique is not so much that positive scientists theorise on what is instead of what ought to be, but rather the kind of knowledge they choose to privilege from what is: the intellectual and objective view of race and racism over subjective experience (Manhendran, 2007: 193-194). Frantz Fanon, in Black Skin White Masks, makes visible the ‘truth’ of this subjective experience of the ‘black’ body in an anti-black world when he says (1991 [1952]: 110; my emphasis):

“I have talked about the black problem with friends, or, more rarely with American Negroes...But I was satisfied with an intellectual understanding of these differences. It was not really dramatic...And then the occasion arose when I had to meet the white man’s eyes. An unfamiliar weight burdened me. The real world challenged my claims.”

What Fanon seeks to reveal here is that he is conscious of himself, but only through the white gaze which not only ‘others’ him, but also forces him to come face-to-face with his race, his ‘blackness’. In other words, Fanon makes an existential move when he argues that the experience of racial discrimination makes his race hyper-visible to himself: he feels his race; at that moment he lives his race; he becomes his race. A detailed exploration of what Fanon is alluding to here will be discussed in the second section of this essay. I mention this now so as to show how Soudien’s stance of ‘unlearning the logic of race’ interestingly recognises subjective experience, but then soon after, simply reverts to an intellectual or cognitive understanding of race and racism.

‘Unlearning the logic of race’

Looking at the South African context, Soudien (2012) argues that race has become a ‘master signifier’. It is what we see in each other, first and foremost. Our ‘races’ have become our default identities. Regardless of the genetic evidence that our genetic variations are insignificant, people continue to be prejudicial based on outward attributes and racial perceptions. At this point, Soudien recognises and emphasises that our ‘appearance’- the shape of noses, lips, hair and, most crucially, our colour- has real effects on how we know, exist and share the world. He says as South Africans we have dominated and subjugated one another; space has been segregated; rights have been denied; racial superiorities and inferiorities have left us divided and unforgiving; and as a consequence of the above, a South African prospect of being human is in constant negation (Soudien, 2012: 5).  We read the world and each other through the lens of ‘race’, prejudices, false certainties which limit of our consciousness from being fully awake; fully open (Soudien, 2012: 8). Therefore on the question on ‘what kind of human beings do we wish to be?’ he explains that he is confronted with two puzzles. The first puzzle is that the South African reality is infested with complex and interrelated structured layers of oppression: race, class, gender, etc.  He asks how can South Africans hold on to and cultivate “a sense of one’s humanity” in the face of its constant denial. He turns to Michel Foucault in Technologies of the Self who interrogated the Delphic moral principle of ‘know yourself’ and its dominance, to the neglect of questions and reflections about ‘taking care of the self’. He says the problem comes in when people, particularly the middle class, believe that their survival and personal self can exist without the ‘other’. He therefore asks how (2012: 2) “does one come to understand the full complexity of one’s personal and social history” when one isolates themselves from the designated ‘other’? He ties this question to the second puzzle which has to do with how we make visible that the capacity to ‘care for oneself’ is inextricable premised on an “unqualified appreciation of the humanness of all those ‘other’ to oneself”, i.e. the nature of our human interdependence (Soudein, 2012: 2). Note, here, that Soudien takes seriously how racial discrimination is an experience lived by the ‘raced’ bodies.
Soudien then takes a curious and sudden turn, one which I will attempt to explain, shortly hereafter. Soudien proposes that a way in which we can solve these puzzles is to unlearn the logic of race. For Soudien, ‘race’ is something that we have learnt; it is an ‘idea’ that has captured our imagination and has influenced how we relate to one another (Soudien, 2012: 7). He says that the idea of race, and the subsequent ideological hold of racism, inhibits us from actualising the South African dream (Soudien, 2012: 7). In his own words, he says (2012: 9; my emphasis):

“If we recognise this, and the enormity of it as a cognitive event in our heads is great, we come to the realisation that it is the ‘thing’ behind the oppression or the exploitation which we need to be getting at. That ‘thing’ is racism. What activates it, what material or psychological interest it feeds off and promotes, is what we desperately need to come to terms with. If we fail to do this, we then actually declare race itself a real thing.”

He, thus, finds that education is the tool in unlearning the logic of race. For Soudien (2012: 7), education should be understood the “deliberative act of working”, of negotiating and as the tool deployed in struggle. He says that education holds the capacity to awaken our imagination to create afresh the desire for a better South Africa, a better world where the “promise is that within us, as reasoning subjects, resides the capacity to engage with obfuscation, with ideology and with mystery in all their wiles ” (Soudien, 2012: 8). One could argue that Soudien suggestion is idealist, but such an argument would be shallow, if not borderline condescending. There is nothing wrong with idealism. In fact many years ago, it was merely a distant dream for women to have the right vote and attend university. I and many like me are living proof that dreams can come true as a result of struggle. What is ‘normal’ and practical now was once upon a time labelled idealistic. No, the problem with Soudien’s suggestion is not his idealism; rather, I argue, that in asking ‘what kind of human beings we wish to be’, Soudien is posing an ontological question, and where the suggestion of ‘unlearning the logic of race’ is of an epistemological approach. It is not merely the fact that his question and suggestion depart fundamentally from different positions that is in error, but also how in doing so he takes granted what Fanon argues in his existential phenomenology that “ideas of race as abstracted representations of lived experience miss the gravity of the phenomena of showing up as a ‘negre’ and the formation of the self-consciousness of the person who appears to others this way” (Manhendran, 2007:193).

The humanity of the black exists as ‘non-being’

Soudien says (2012: 2) that what is central and of significance to South Africa is how “it poses the question of being, of ontology, the capacity to feel, to know and to be aware of oneself, with an intensity not easily matched elsewhere in the world”. However, Fanon rightly questions the work of ontology. In Black Skin White Masks, Fanon writes (1952: 116; my emphasis) that “I am over-determined from without. I am the slave not of the ‘idea’ that the others have of me but of my own appearance.”  As mentioned above, Soudien notes that race is ‘master signifier’ in South Africa and therefore creates and determines the criteria who and how we become. A close reading of Fanon shows how for him, racial perception is a prerequisite when asking questions of human ontology, because it is those perceptions that shape our understanding of what it means to be human. He explains that the ‘condition’ of being black in an anti-black world is filled with ambiguity, paradoxes and tragedy, because black people only exist in the form of negation based on their appearance. Fanon would say we exist so as not to exist by being too much and simultaneously being not enough (Gordon, 1995: 6). The problem with human sciences, and Soudien makes note of this, is that they depart with a presupposition or an a priori knowledge of what it means to be human.  Put differently, there is an invasive normative standard that has been universalised on how to be-in-the-world. People of colour tick the relevant criteria on what on it means to be human, except for the one that counts: being white. And what it means to be white is to be the judge, preacher, peace-maker, martyr, authority of moral goodness, rationality and ultimately, being human (Frye, 1992). This is why Gordon (1995: 6) says that Fanon was “not white enough, which means he is not human enough”. Humanistic disciplines, ironically, pride themselves as being an adversary of natural sciences, which failed to take into account human agency and the varying ways in which knowledge is produced, when they themselves (practitioners of human sciences) perpetuate the disease of exclusion; of being critical of other sciences but not of themselves; and of “identifying the symptoms, but shrink cowardly from the task involved in indentifying the disease” (Gordon, 1995: 7).

What is puzzling is that Soudien makes this very point when he says “our theories will always fall short of the realities they seek to encompass”, because of their quick dismissal of lived experience (Soudien, 2012: viii). Even to this very day, black South Africans suffer under the whims of ‘Black Tax’.  ‘Black Tax’ refers to the idea that people of colour have to work twice as hard as white people so as to be taken seriously and the need to perform tasks just as well as white people, if not better (Duane, 2007).  ‘Black Tax’ is everywhere- in the workplace, schools, in conversation, etc. White people have the privilege of being assumed to be competent candidates for whatever they choose to do, be it a teacher, a manager or waitress, until proven otherwise (MaKaiser, 2011:  454). It is the inverse for black people in a white supremacist society, which says: ‘s/he must not have a heavy accent; is eloquent; must not, God forbid have a politics, let alone one rooted in activism (we cannot have strikes!); and whose qualifications must be tenfold. We cannot assume, you see, that they are like this, they have to prove it to us.’ This, Fanon says, is the “the fact of blackness”, where racist reasoning not only denies me a place to belong, a place to be happy, but denies me being, full stop. As he puts it, “reason... [has] made a fool of me. As the other put it, when I was present, it was not; when it was there, I was no longer. [We] played cat and mouse” (1952: 118-120). It is no wonder that in light of this reality, this degradation of humanity and the indignity in how we see and treat each other, that Fanon rejects ontology- it is fundamentally racist in its misunderstanding of what makes us human and therefore, it is anti-Human (Gordon, 1995: 10-12).

Soudien (2012: 243) says we should look to our Constitution, because it provides an inclusive ontological framework in where we can begin to unlearn the logic of race. Again, he neglects the reality of the contradictory relation that exists between South African lived experience and the Constitution. The South African legal system makes an interesting case-study in this regard considering that it is a hybrid legal system that has inherited a common law system from the Dutch, the Roman-Dutch and British; it also includes customary law from traditional Africans; and as from 1996, we have the final Constitution which is the supreme law of the land-where values that underpin it, such as fairness, justice and reasonability, are based on Christianised normativity. Often South Africa is considered to be a dual-system, since customary is not regarded as part of South African common law. But how accurate is the use of the term ‘dual’? It has been argued, particularly by African legal scholars, that the legal system recognises both traditions, but only when they are consistent with the Constitution, which is a product of a Westernised, global human rights discourse. In fact, one would not callous in noting that what is considered to be South African common law is in effect English customary law- an alien Westminster system and order (Ramose, 2003; Cornell, 2009). It is therefore not a stretch to argue that Fanon (1952:10) was insightful in saying, “For the black man there is only one destiny. And it is white”.

With the above in mind, it becomes clearer as to why Soudien’s suggestion on unlearning the logic of race falls short. In essence what he is suggesting is since race and racism are merely ideas and ideologies we can simple rethink our way out of the problem (Mahendran, 2012: 194). However, the thinking and rethinking of race and racism has been occurring for centuries and that is why the area of race has its scholarship. Could it not be then, as Fanon suggests, that racial perception is deeply engrained and implicated, at a more fundamental level, in how we experience the world and how that experience makes us who we are: raced bodies? It is no wonder that Fanon, at the end of chapter of the “The Fact of Blackness”, begins to weep (1952: 108). This undoubtedly paints a very dark picture of Fanonian thought and to leave it such would not be a true reflection of Fanon the man and his thinking about the human condition.  In fact, Fanon say in the same chapter (1952: 108):

“Nevertheless with all my strength I refuse to accept that amputation. I feel in myself soul as immense as the world, truly a soul as deep as the deepest rivers, my chest has the power to expand without limit”.
Fanon remain hopeful and trusting in the human potential to free themselves from being determined by others. Barney Pityana, one of the founders of the Black Consciousness Movement, makes a similar revolutionary declaration when he says (Gibson, 2011: 50):

“I am not a potentiality of something; I am wholly what I am. I do not have to look for the universal. No probability has any place inside me. My black consciousness does not hold itself as a lack. It is. It is its own follower”.
For both Fanon and Pityana it is in this assertion of being and not merely being a copy, that we find freedom. In other words, in rejecting the politics of recognition, we must remain open and free in the world, but at the same time we must committed to change it so it can heal.

Fidelity to Human Potential through action

Perhaps a way of showing fidelity to Fanon and his existential phenomenology[3] is through an interrogation of the conception of existentialism. Jean-Paul Sartre explains that existentialism, at the very least, can be defined as a doctrine that believes that existence precedes essence. In other words, we exist first, before we have any idea of who we are or who we ought to be. It is through our experiences and actions that we are able to define ourselves. Prior that projection, or the act of creating and becoming, we do not exist. Put simply, we are what we make ourselves. Sartre therefore agrees with Husserlian phenomenology in so far as the starting point in investigating human reality should depart from our subjectivity. Gordon (1995: 16 [sic]) argues that for Sartre “all investigating involves a form of self-reflection”. Is it not so that human beings need to personalise issues, first, before we can find ways to address those issues? This might be a grand generalisation, but it still has its merit. We tend to reflect on the suffering of others with regards to what we would do and how we would feel. John Holloway (2012) shares a similar sentiment in his idea of ‘the scream’, presumably inspired by a painting titled ‘The Scream’ by Norwegian artists Edvard Munch. He says that ‘the scream’, the condition of its possibility being the agony and despair we see in the world and eventually embody, is and must be the starting point of scientific and theoretical thinking.

Sartre, however, is critical of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology in studying consciousness or the appearance of ‘things’ in isolation and in our case which would translate to the bracketing of individual subjectivity from the presence of others. In other words, the subjectivity of the individual is constituted by the subjectivities of others. Sartre says and I quote at length (1945: 45):

“I cannot obtain any truth whatsoever about myself, except through the mediation of another. The other is indispensible to my existence, and equally so to any knowledge I have of myself. Under these conditions, the intimate discovery of myself is at the same time the revelation of the other as a freedom which confronts mine, and which cannot think or will without doing so either for or against me. Thus, at once, we find ourselves in a world which is, let us say, that of “inter-subjectivity”. It is in this world that man has to decide what he is and what others are”.
Fanonian thought undoubtedly faces a peculiar problem, when it is quite clear that there is a need to suspend the ontology that grounds human sciences and its normative conception of the human condition, but at the same time recognises that human existence is contingent on human relationality (Gordon, 1995: 34).  Contingency becomes a problem when what makes part of my subjectivity is the denial of my existence, “[f]or not only must the black man be black; he must be black in relation to the white man” (Fanon, 1952: 109-110). As a way out of this peculiarity, Fanon calls for a radical phenomenology that is critical, self-reflective, a meta-stable methodology, if you like, in the study of human being. To put is simply, what Fanon is proposing is for the philosophy of human science to take seriously “the open door of every consciousness” (Fanon. 1952: 181). Fanon’s existential phenomenology is a Humanism, a critical Humanism that recognises that with the study of humans, there is always an ‘incompleteness’ and the  possibility of human subjectivity, of becoming truly human lies in having taken thought from our experiences and being actional (Gordon, 1995: 12; 69-70).

Being actional is a collective experience

Unlike, Black Skins, White Masks, Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism can be read as dedication or an investigation to the potential of individuals to band together under a common cause. Of course, one can be critical as to the romanticism surrounding the idea of ‘a people’, but Fanon, here, is attempting to make visible the possibility of the impossible.

Fanon illustrates how the Algerian Revolution was a struggle by and for everyone. The possibility of this mass collective action was the realisation that when humanity is at stake and in question, even if it is of a particular social group (s), it becomes everyone’s responsibility to safeguard it. In the introduction, Adolfo Gilly eloquently states (1959: 5):

“To describe a revolution one doesn’t have to describe armed actions. There are inevitable, but what defines and decides any revolution is the social struggles of the masses, supported by armed actions Fanon shows that this was the Algerian way. The guerrillas in the mountains, the army of liberation, did not defeat the French army militarily: it was a whole population supported by the guerrilla army which defeated and destroyed the imperialist enemy as a social force. For each Algerian solider who died, says Fanon, ten civilians died”.
This is a powerful statement, because it illustrates the interconnectedness of a people: the centrality of human relations above entities. As a tool of transformation, people put themselves and their relations to one another at the centre of all operations of life and thus the transformation of social relations was inescapable at that moment in time. The struggle was living, immediate, all encompassing and taken seriously. What Fanon crystillises so well in A Dying Colonialism is that when our humanity is in question, then life itself is at risk.

In many ways the Algerian Revolution can be likened to the Paris Commune. The Paris commune of 1871 was caused by an insurrection of the working class against the elite, after the French were defeated in a war against the Prussians. During this war, at the face of defeat, the elites and the state had armed workers with weapons to partake in the war as part of the National Guard. It was after the war when the working class refused to accept the system of state oppression and democracy that did not represent the demos that workers refused to put down their weapons, and fought instead, against the oppressive elites. This insurrection can be seen as a monumental moment in history that marks the beginning of the struggles within societies in terms of class.  The workers were representing the idea of equality within society. For two months ordinary people took over the city of Paris, this was an example of ordinary people, who are not experts in politics or philosophy, showing the capability to think and govern rule themselves. That was their version of a politics, of a philosophy (Badiou, 2006).

the Paris Commune was in no way a nationalist movement. It was more of a political movement, based on the belief that everyone is equal and that all have the right to assert themselves political subjects. In fact a significant amount of people in Commune were in Polish (Badiou, 2006). This suggests that the modes of operation and of thinking in the commune were not based on national principles, but rather on mass political will and agenda. Paris was for all who lived in it regardless nationality. Similarly, Fanon points out how the Algerian Revolutions was supported by people who were not Algerian. Again to quote Gilly (p.11):

“These men were not only Frenchmen or Arabs; they were also Spaniards, Italians, Greeks- the entire Mediterranean supported an Algeria in arms. And from beyond came Englishmen, Dutchmen, Belgians, Germans, Latin Americans. Like every great revolution, the Algerian revolution attracted men from all over the world, and received them as its own”.  
What is clear is that in the Algerian Revolution, just as in the Paris Commune, non-Algerians participated in the struggle and risked their lives as though it was their own humanity at stake. And what we realise from A Dying Colonialism is that an assault on the humanity of others, in an assault on all us and therefore it is the responsibility of all to take action and defend our humanity. Fanon writes in The Wretched of the Earth, “Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it” (1963: 205).

Conclusion: Reflection on Soudien’s Realising the Dream: Unlearning the logic of Race

In many ways Soudien is in agreement with Fanonian thought. Soudien is grappling, in the way Fanon did, with hegemonic presence of race in lived reality. Race, like death and taxes, has become a certainty. Both Fanon and Soudien are critically thinking of ways and possibilities to work outside the limitations of race. Soudien, in fact, says that and I quote at length (2012: 5; my emphasis):

“South Africa is a country which is simultaneously about integration and segregation, tradition and modernity, being safe and unsafe, being well and unwell, and which brings these all together into an ensemble of inexpressible tragedy and beauty, a country which is almost unique as a space in which people are called upon to be human. The intensity of being fully alive – awake – in the deepest human sense is an experience that South Africa [should] make important.”

Fanon says (1952: 181) as much in Black Skin White Mask, “I want the world to recognise, with me, the open door of every consciousness”. However limited Soudien’s suggestion of ‘unlearning the logic of race’ is, he still makes a Fanonian move when he says that we need to create and recreate ourselves, first and foremost, as human beings (Soudien, 2012).   For Soudien, education is a collective effort and tool that can assist us in “locating oneself in one’s environment and coming to the real sense of one’ dependence on those around oneself and the dependence of others on oneself” (Soudien, 2012: 244). Perhaps, I judged Soudien ontological approach to the question ‘what kind of human beings do we wish to be’ and his epistemological suggestion of unlearning the logic of race a bit too harshly, considering that he, like myself, is grappling in thought an action with the experiences of ‘incompleteness’ in how we understand ourselves, others and the world we live in. I nevertheless stand by critique, because the enduring effects of race and racism, through a Fanonian lens, takes seriously and calls into question the meanings we attribute to being human, or rather, to human existence. It is the experience and not solely the ‘idea’ of race (racialised bodies) and racism that continually places our humanity at stake.  It is in our experiences with one another that we grow, learn and essentially become human. In similar fashion to Fanon’s final prayer in Black Skin White Masks, I pray (1952: 181; my emphasis): “O my body, make me always a (wo)man who questions!”

Badiou, A., (2006). ‘The Paris Commune: A political declaration on politics’ in Polemics. London: Verso.

Baum, B.D., (2006). The rise and fall of the Caucasian race: A political history of racial identity. New York: New York University Press.

Cornell, D. 2009, uBuntu, Pluralism and the Responsiblity of Legal Academics to the New South Africa, Law Critique, 20:43-58.

Currie, I. and de Waal, J. (2005). The Bill of Rights Handbook. Cape Town: Juta & Company Ltd.

Davis, R (2012) ‘Joburg Pride: A Tale of Two Cities’ Accessed: 15 October 2012.

Fanon, F., [1952] (1991). Black Skin White Masks. New York: Grove Press.

Fanon, F. (1963). The Wretched of the Earth. C. Farrington (Trans.). New York: Grove Weidenfeld.

Fanon, F., (1965) A Dying Colonialism. Grove Press: New York.

Faull, J., 2012, In Praise of the South African Constitution,, Date of access: 23 May 2012.

Foucault , M. (1988) .“Technologies of the self”. In L H Martin, H Gutman and P H Hutton (eds)  Technologies of the self. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Frye, M., (1992) White Woman Feminist, Willful Virgin: Essays in Feminism, Berkeley: Crossing Press.

Gibson, N., (2011). Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo. Durban: UKZN Press.

Gordon, R., (1995) Fanon and the Crisis of European Man: An essay on Philosophy and the Human Sciences, New York and London: Routledge.

Janz, B.B., (2011). Shame and Silence, South African Journal of Philosophy, 30(4): 462-470.

Pithouse, R., (2011). Denying the Wages of Whiteness,, Date of access: 5 April 2012.

Manhendran, D., (Summer 2007). “The Facticity of Blackness: A Non-conceptual approach to the study of Race and Racism in Fanon’s and Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology”. Human Architecture: Journal of Sociology of Self-Knowledge, pp. 191-204.

 McKaiser, E., (2011) “How Whites Should Live in This Strange Place”, South African Journal of Philosophy, 30(4): 452-461.

Mills, C.W., 2012, Racism and the Political Economy of Domination, New Leftist Project, 12 April 2012.

Ramose, M, 2003, Transforming Education in South Africa: Paradigm shift or change? SAJHE/SATHO, 17(3): 137-143.

Sartre, J-P., (1945) “Existentialism”. Marxist Internet Archive.

Soudien, C., (2012). Realising the Dream. South Africa: HSRC Press.

[1] Note that throughout the essay I use the term ‘black’ loosely, so as to also include all people of colour in South Africa such as people of Indian and Coloured descent.
[2] For statistics see: De le Hey, M., 2012,  A better life for all”: The case for a youth wage subsidy,; also see: Pithouse, R., 2012, Thought Amidst Waste: Conjunctural Notes on the Democratic Project in South Africa,  Paper for the Wits Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities, WISER, University of the Witwatersrand, 28 May 2012.
 [3] Phenomenology is the study of consciousness and how it experiences phenomena from a subjective point of view.