Do you think the Christians asked nicely when they tried to wipe out all other religions? Do you think they went up to the witches in Salem and asked, “Could you please stop practising your beliefs?”
No. They burned human beings at the stake.
Do you think the Spaniards went to South America and asked, “Could you please give us you gold and let us stay so we can destroy the rainforests?”
No. They killed human beings.
Do you think the colonists who went to Australia asked, “Can we please send our criminals to live on your continent?”
No. They just dumped all the people they thought were not fit for human society onto the first peoples of that continent without any consideration at all.
Do you really think the European slave traders asked, “Could be please take your able bodied men and shackle them in the holds of our ships like inanimate cargo to be taken to serve our people elsewhere?”
No. They brought guns to a spear fight and actually sold real live humans beings.
Do you think when the English wanted to plant sugar cane in South Africa they asked,” Could you Indian people please travel to another continent to make sure our people can completely decimate entire ecosystems for profit?”
No. They used violence to force other human beings to risk their lives on sea voyages so that they could take over another continent.
Do you think the people who enforced apartheid asked, “Could you please leave school at the end of Standard 6 (grade 8) because we would really prefer not to have an educated population of slave labour?”
No. They shot children in the back when they were asking nicely to end Bantu education.
Do you think that if any of these people (who by the way were not black) had asked nicely, all the people they were robbing, oppressing, dehumanising would have said, “Yeah sure, go ahead and take whatever you want.”
That is not how the world works. People in power do not simply hand over power. F.W. de Klerk and the people he represented were not great pacifists who generously gave back a fraction of what they took. They were responding to a strategy to make the country ungovernable. They were responding to international pressure, which was not nice or polite.
You went around the world systematically using violence to take what you wanted. Then you told us that your oppression was called civilisation. Now when people are using the same means to take back what you stole, you tell us to ask politely?!
The funny thing is that we tried to do that. We tried to ask politely.
Our mothers wake up well before dawn. They walk miles from shacks made of pieces of tin and cardboard to ask nicely to receive water from your civilised homes, supressing the race memory of bathing in unpolluted rivers. They carry the water back on their heads to warm on a fire because they do not have access to the civilised world’s electricity. They risk their lives in minibus taxis to spend hours commuting to a place where they see all of the benefits if civilisation to which they have no hope of access. They use hot running water and electrical appliances to clean up your mess. They wash your toilets. They clean your bathtubs. They pick up toys that cost more than what they earn in a month. They are raped by your sons and husbands….
They do all of this to earn a fraction of the fees you pay to send you kids to school. Yet somehow you think that their children have equal access to tertiary education, if they work hard enough? You post memes about how you waited tables to get through varsity. We couldn’t do that. When your shift was starting, we were just getting home after taking two minibus taxis from varsity to take care of our younger siblings, waiting for our mothers to get home from cleaning your toilets.
You worked hard, burning the midnight oil (only figuratively of course). You had electric lighting to study after dark at the desk in your room. Meanwhile we couldn’t afford the paraffin or candles to keep studying and even if we could, the light would disturb the siblings that shared to tiny little living space. These unequal living conditions did not magically disappear in 1994. This is still the reality for the vast majority of people in South Africa. It is easy for you to sit in your comfy armchair in your house in the suburbs and tell us to be civilised.
You see the problem with telling us to be civilised is that our experience of your civilisation has been oppression and violence. Our experience of your civilisation has been to suffer abject poverty while you enjoy the benefits of our labour. The very buildings you value more than human lives were built on the blood and sweat of our fathers while yours cracked the whip. So, when you ask us to be civilised now, we are showing you our experience of your civilisation. When you think of civilisation, you see the inside of the homes you built, on our land, using our labour. When we look at civilisation we see the thousands of our people you killed to get that land, to oppress and terrify our fathers into building your homes and everything that makes you civilised. You didn’t ask nicely. Now you expect us to be better than you?
No. It is time to face the consequences of centuries of using violence to systematically oppress the entire planet. Karma is only a bitch if you are. We are taking back our world. #feesmustfall is not just about free university education. It is about taking back the basic human rights that were violently stolen from us. The revolution is here.