Asking an elephant to be a bird?

A few weeks back, I alerted all my wonderful readers to the fact that I'll be doing weekly updates.


Well, we all know that I write when inspiration instigates, which is unfortunately not that often.  However, God is good and recently positioned me in a place to access weekly inspiration as well as a potentially good class mark.Recently, I chose the elective "Writing as healing" in which we address the wounds of colonialism through the post colonialist gaze of womxn of colour. As well as the different ways in which these writers use writing as a method of healing and catharsis, similar to the way I do but theirs is far better and more gramatically sound. (For the record, I'm actively working on my punctuation issues. ) Nonetheless, my weekly assignment is to write an article about the poem we discussed during that particular lecture. So buckle up, because for the next 10 weeks, you will receive a weekly update from SANKOFAS' SPACE.

WEEK 2 :

(I know, I still need to post an article about week 1)

This week we discussed Koleka Putuma's poem "Graduation" from her new anthology "Collective Amnesia". I'm going to post a picture of the poem below with all rights reserved in respect to Koleka Putuma, taking no credit for her work or the distribution thereof.


Heavy, and yet an alarmingly familiar narratives found in many families- particularly those of colour. Which is when I began to think about the title of the poem "graduate" the assumed inference so alternate to those that the poem actually provides. In a highly articulate way, the poet interrogates the methods of healing or learning held by her parents generation in comparison to ours, and how through learning and unlearning we have chosen to disinherit some of the methods our parents have chosen. Perhaps rightfully so, because for many of us the wounds of Apartheid walk upright into our homes, laying a blanket of silence upon pains too unbearable to speak out loud. And it was there... There in that silence that many of us were raised. In the chasm of wanting to give a voice to their pains and wanting to protect their children from the little that they could control. There that many of us were raised.         It was there, where many of us were taught to become willfully ignorant to the microagressions we would soon face. We have been charged with taking the high road. Even if our charge has set us upon paths so jagged and unclear many of us would fall through the cracks of the born free generation., we- we are well versed in the language of oppression and the different ways it now manifests itself around our dinner tables. Perhaps our parents silences are the reason we are all so attached to the sound of our own voices. Perhaps, it is the exhaustion we all feel at rebuking our "gham" accents to conform to the sound of lingustic imperalism now called "private school English", that involuntarily commits us all to saying that's on our minds. Perhaps what is on our mind is not the absence of our parents voices when it comes to the black pain we all feel, but rather the crushing burden of black excellence that weighs on our shoulders as we share our report cards.

See, some of us inherit land, cars, houses est.... but there is one thing our blackness has committed us all to inherit - oppression. Our generation seems to have inherited neo-colonial oppression, neo-liberal narratives, faux neo-liberal narratives and a blatant preoccupation with labels (which self-asserted can be equally as empowering as problematic).

The colonial exploit was hinged on the creation of powerful dichotomies  intentionally erasing the concept of fluidity and the duplicity of human beings. A highly compartmentalized narrative. Of course, the compartments were determined by patriarchy, as well as other tools purposed to enable the establishment and survival of colonialism such as religion, language and violence (naturally).  Boxes- shaping society. Leaving very little to no space between each compartment- unaware that hundreds of years later there would be a generation occupying the space in-between. In-between, throwing our full weight against the deconstruction of these boxes while others pull the compartments closer, desperate to gate-keep the memory of colonialism and the privileges afforded to some as a result thereof.

The in-between space now known as intersectionalism, a space in which many of us unknowingly interrogate our identities as well as how colonialism has informed our conceptualizations thereof. I've also come to believe that our generation has inherited an indomitable spirit, hunger for change as well as acknowledgement. Acknowledgement not only of our greatness but of the ever-present pains of colonialism. Which may sound academic until it you're confronted with it around a dinner table divided not only by the wood, but a generational understanding of how to interrogate and address physiological wounds.

Today, I was in a lecture by Nadia Sanger where she said "Nothing about the space you occupy in this country is an accident. Where you live, the school you attended... all of it was engineered centuries before you."

Which lead me to thinking about the intense frustration I feel when I imurse myself in different ways to dismantle an inherently oppressive system, only to watch other millenials protect it by all means nessecary. Calling it the preservation of "traditions". Not understanding that these traditions were rooted in the oppression of people of colour. Actually correction, chosing to not understand the implications of these traditions.

I watched this narrative recently play out during HK elections in which anxieties were verbalized at the prospect of having a "revolutionary" POC HK member on the next house committee. Which lead me to wonder, if there was nothing wrong with the way POC are treated in general, why was there so much panic at the thought of someone like me being elected as HK?

If white privilege doesn't exist then where exactly does the intense fear of changing the status quo come from? and what does that say about the status quo and POC's position in relation to that in academic environments.

A few of the POC candidates were asked how we're going to ensure that our minority status didn't disable our ability to make decisions in the best interest of a majority white comprised house. Of course, it was phrased in a less blatantly problematic way.

If my memory serves me correctly:

e.g " How are you going to ensure that your minority status [ disclaimer :in stellenbosch] doesn't stop you from repersenting THE WHOLE HOUSE when making decisions and not just POC and minorities? How are you going to make sure to include the minority without excluding the majority."

A question which was... insulting to say the least.

Insulting because :

- Well... I'd never actually perceived my blackness to be debilitating to my decision making capacity. The question implies that my ability to make sound decisions is somehow severely hindered by my blackness. The implications of which is that whiteness, and the possession thereof, would  somehow constitute a better positional occupation in taking decisions on behalf of the collective at large, including POC and minorities. Why? Well, thought through a neo-colonial lens: whiteness was considered to be the pinnacle of the production of knowledge and rationality. As opposed to blackness; the body. Physical beings, devoid of rationality as well as intellect. Human labour, labour integral in constructing colonialism and our understanding of how knowledge was produced. Insulting because I'd always perceived by blackness to be an asset as opposed to a liability.

- You cannot ask an elephant to be a bird. I am a proud womxn of colour, now and always. I had never expected to be asked to perform whiteness at the expense of not only my integrity but further my blackness in order to be deemed an acceptable leader. Why? Well because I'm not white. To ask of me to represent the white constituent of the house beyond my own sphere of representation seemed... not only deeply insensitive but absolutely absurd. The underlying presumption that I would be willing to co-sign my oppression in favour of a position. The underlying assumption that somehow a duty rests upon me to want to be what is unobtainable as well as undesireable to me. The underlying assumption that leadership equates to whiteness. I cannot assume a racial identity other than my own, and cannot presume to do so and call it leadership. I blatantly refuse to do so and to ask this of me would be to ask a denial of my identity so great that it could only be called neo-erasure. Do not mistake this with an unwillingness to lead beside white counterparts but represent? To represent is to ask an elephant to bird.

-Moreover, I am pretty certain it's mathematically impossible to exclude a majority as a minority in a majority occupied space? There is no space that blackness occupies to the extent of ultimately excluding whiteness except that of oppression and historical narratives of slavery. There is no event or space which would permit such an exclusion. There is not 400 years of slavery in combination with 50 years of apartheid providing well fortified power systems which would result in the exclusion of whiteness. If anything, white privlige would be the sole space occupied by whiteness impenitrable to blackness.

And again, I was not allowed to occupy the space I call home - intersectionalism. It was demanded of me to operate in a dichotomy violent to my humanity.

So there it was... in one "simple, impersonal question" the memory of colonialism , upright oppression staring me in the face. With the hurt of the knowledge that any potential anwser given, that did not co-sign my status as a token could render me an inadequate leader. Hell, this article could stand to do that.

Which lead me to wonder where exactly is it that black pain is allowed to exist, not policed by respectability politics? How are we suppossed to tend to wounds inflicted by colonialism and the memory thereof, when we are forced to relive the trauma thereof on a daily basis. At what point does our healing begin?

"It's been 20 years, stop playing the victim"

Is there an expiration date on when our healing is suppossed to end?

Also, why is there such a push for POC to make our pain palletable to whiteness?

Our pain cannot be condensed into a bitesized portion, perfect for consumption but not powerful enough to pose any threat to pre-exising privliges.

It is these pains which Putuma addresses. Are you allowed to be at home in your own home? is it a home if it fails to accommodate the intersectional complexity of your person-hood? And when, if ever, will our generation be able to graduate from the pains of our inheritance into the privilege of a physiologically safe environment.

In the famous words of George Orwell "All animals are equal, some animals are just more equal than others."

I do not intend to be an animal complacent with injustice, are you?

2 thoughts on “Asking an elephant to be a bird?

  1. I in addition to my friends appeared to be reviewing the best secrets found on your site and then suddenly got a terrible feeling I had not expressed respect to the web site owner for those secrets. Most of the women came certainly warmed to read all of them and now have actually been using those things. We appreciate you simply being very considerate and also for pick out such notable information millions of individuals are really eager to be aware of. My personal honest apologies for not expressing appreciation to sooner.

  2. I intended to post you a very small observation to be able to thank you very much the moment again with your pretty pointers you have contributed at this time. It’s so open-handed of people like you in giving publicly all many people would have sold as an ebook to end up making some profit for their own end, primarily given that you could possibly have tried it if you ever decided. The creative ideas also served as a easy way to be sure that someone else have the same passion like my personal own to realize significantly more with respect to this problem. I’m sure there are a lot more fun opportunities in the future for people who see your blog post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SANKOFA WORKS HARD & DOESN'T LIKE THEIFS! don't copy paste my work babe x