Let’s not be emotional about this. Let’s be practical and brutally honest with ourselves. These days, it’s hard to complain about your problems without feeling like a selfish bastard. Think about the Yazidis facing a holocaust at the hands of the Islamic State; the millions of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria; Nigerians dying at the hands of Boko Haram.
And all that is on my mind is that, last year, tennis champion Serena Williams made $10 million less than Maria Sharapova in sponsorship money.
The latter has been in the shadow of Williams for years; and if life were fair, she would be a forgettable, distant second, yet she is in the lead when it comes to earnings. Pundits have a simple explanation – racism. Sharapova is slim, blonde and blue-eyed ... a dream model, the white perfection marketing companies want from a woman, and so they shower her with deals.
Number one is the opposite. She is a black woman, and so gets offered far less than her number two. But most of the time, she gets no calls at all, even though Williams has now beat Sharapova 17 times in a row.
Who is to blame for all this injustice? Actually, it’s our fault. Yes, it is black people’s fault all over the world. We have not built any brands or businesses we could tag on her fame. We are so obsessed with being accepted and loved by white people that we have stopped thinking. We have abdicated the responsibility for our lives, believing the white world owes us something for their past and present cruelty towards us, and we have accepted the excuses they give us for our ineptitude.
“Men are shaped by their world,” Lyndon Johnson said. “When it is a world of decay, ringed by an invisible wall, when escape is arduous and uncertain, and the saving pressures of a more hopeful society are unknown, it can cripple the youth and it can desolate the men.”
It all sounds true at face value, but only because it is lyrical and demagogic, so it tickles the ear. But it falls apart under scrutiny. If it were true that people were shaped by their environment, then the black community would by now have been totally destroyed, because the white world’s aim was to destroy us and turn us into permanent and endless cheap labour.
Instead, “we overcame”, to borrow from Martin Luther King Jr. Sadly, in the process, we succumbed to mammalian vices like greed, jealousy and infighting. We cannot blame the white man for that. Think of the illicit wealth African leaders have hidden in Swiss accounts. Think of the service-delivery funds that are wrongly diverted to individuals’ pockets through corruption. What is all that in aid of? For executives to buy another Range Rover?
White sympathy has become the comfortable corner we hide in when we have to face our failures. As a result, we have embraced insulting labels so we can qualify getting the crumbs.
We call our children “historically disadvantaged individuals”. How do you expect them to succeed when they are reminded every day that they come from a lower, disadvantaged caste that is devoid of love? Such labels put mental chains on our children forever, and what do we gain? A few points on the BEE scorecard.
Granted, we do not know what is on Serena’s mind. Maybe she has a loftier goal, such as being the best tennis player who ever lived, and is unconcerned about the money. Indeed, nothing stops her from launching her own brand to compete with those who reject her for who she is.
Know this: Even though you are beautiful and good at what you do, there will always be people who will never do business with you or hire you. There will be people of your own race who think of you as low class.
There will be family members who are embarrassed by you, and there will be white people who discriminate against you. Don’t let such people determine your stay on earth. Live your life and make the best of it because, as I was told when I was a youngster: “The world is wonderful. Life is unfair, and black is beautiful.”
Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency