I have been struggling with the Adam Habib story.
This is besides the fact that he (according to him) used the N-word in an academic setting, for the purpose of academic reasoning.
I get the outrage, but it also makes me wonder if it’s the same as displaying the old SA flag in a museum.
Or if a vexillographer used it in his class for academic analysis, would he also get cancelled by social media?
Be that as it may, what worries me more is how this story is highlighting and contributing to the divide among people of colour.
When I read the Habib stories, I see the insinuation that he cannot use the N-word fully in any way whatsoever, because he is not black (enough).
In fact, the student who tackled him in class reportedly made the statement that he has no right to use it, irrespective of his experiences.
The implication here is that people of colour are not a unified group, combating prejudice together; if you’re not Black African, then you have no right claiming a certain level of victimhood.
I have written before about the need for allies in all forms of injustice.
Men need to be allies to women when it comes to GBV; progressive whites need to ally themselves to the causes of black people; Christians need to speak out against injustices suffered by Muslims and Hindus in other parts of the world.
All social battles over the ages have been won with the help of allies, who don’t necessarily stand to benefit directly.
So I suppose the question is, is Habib an ally to the black struggle, a victim of it, or a beneficiary?
And should people of colour still separate themselves according to apartheid racial guidelines, before claiming victimhood?
And does that victimhood have levels of oppression that need to be addressed?
And what would the modern-day purpose be of attaching levels of severity to victims of historical prejudice?
And, most importantly, does that serve the broader, universal goal of eradicating racial prejudice? Or does it weaken it?
These are not loaded questions, but rather important conversations that we must wrestle with in order to grow as a society!
They can’t be allowed to fester below the surface, to occasionally make a nuanced appearance in the grey areas of intellectual discourse.
I am not arguing for or against Habib’s use of the word.
Rather I hope to understand the line between political blackness and social blackness; and the scope and extent of outrage that different people of colour generally are allowed to feel and how they are meant to position themselves in the #BlackLivesMatter era.