For society to function, there are unwritten rules that must not be made explicit − hidden rules that allow official rules their force and function. The notion of the swaart gevaar, that fear of ‘black peril’, stems from subliminal abidance to rules unspoken. It grounds the rationale of libidinal and economic commerce between parties.
One such party (a white professor of arts and drama at the University of Minneapolis in the United States) says, confiding to her black counterpart about her daughter: “Frank, do you think my daughter needs to see a shrink? She seems to date black guys only. I don’t want my child sleeping with a fetish!” This professor’s sincere concern betrays an underlying code of white social cohesion; it spells out that to sleep with black bodies is a permissive slip allowed only as a passing experimental phase, something one should outgrow like one comes out of adolescent rebellion and immaturity into adulthood.
So before we nail/hail Oscar Pistorius as the victim of irrational fear, let’s look at the permissive slips that make us complicit, too. Let’s look at how Reeva Steenkamp’s puddles of viscous red clots mirrors our enabling hand in this preconscious murder we midwifed.
A year ago, I expressed my opinion that this was no premeditated murder; it was a preconscious murder. There’s no provision in the entire legal library fit to indict a white man whose discipleship of ownership courses in his political veins of privilege, masculinity and vainglory.
If it were a truism that white preconscious murder exists in our society, all white people would be in jail. Preconscious murder is the white man’s way of life. I would like to believe that the white value system is not about to buckle, now, under pressure and send one of them behind bars for being consistent with white norm.
I’m not callous. It’s just that my keen interest is on white psyche − what resides in the corners of psychosexual and racial attitudes of white subjects. Concerning the psyche David Marriott, a professor of literature whose PhD from Sussex was a study of how models of selfhood come to acquire cultural recognition through the aberrant fictions of race, says: “[Whites] bond over a phobic response to black imago.” Hence, the meme of Oscar’s defence is ‘black peril’, or what Margie Orford calls “the paranoid imaginings of suburban [Mzansi] … the threatening body, nameless, and faceless … armed and dangerous black intruder”.
When this case blows over (and white structural violence remains buried in the silence of things), there will be no reflective debrief to mirror society’s monstrosity and complicity. Blind justice will whisk us off, with verdicts, to pastures of safe devil-may-care quiet. We are not going to have a moment of silence to consider our racist make-up.
Now we pretend to care, as we savour our sadistic exemption, elated for not being the man in trouble. We tantalise our tabloid appetite. But will we ask the searching question: who is more on trial, of the three prime figures that constitute the scene of this crime/theatre narrative?
Who speaks for the prowling black intruder?
Reeva’s pain shakes the courtroom of human suffering and we relive her petrified agony in the grammar that shapes her silent wounds into words.
Oscar, too, may chorus his pain numb: Ain’t got no feet / Got no sponsor / Got no love / But I got my stumps / Got my blades / Got my lawyers / Got that “burglar” / Got crime stats / Got that text (SMS) / and I got white skin…
But the black image has no one. It is a prosthetic for supporting flaccid egos, a buttress to wade through murky legal waters.
You think racism is just someone saying “kaffir”? Racism is when a murder case, where no blacks were present in sight, hinges on cryptic logic that invokes sentiments as old as the hills, as racist as settler breath down natives’ necks − 350 years of swaart gevaar!
With Oscar’s defence not contesting his hand in the murder, the injunction by novelist EL Doctorow rings true: “There’s no longer such a thing as truth or lies, but rather what exists is narrative”. “Here we’re dealing with a truth whose structure is fiction,” wrote Jacques Lacan, a white fiction of social cohesion. In other words, what prejudices lurk in the preconscious discipleship of white nurture confines convenient truths in order to evade incriminating ones.
The chief stencil of truth that will swallow up all value-neutral attempts at legal discourse is that the fear of the black bogeyman organises white cohesion into a defence laager that wards off ‘intruders’. It’s inherently laager built on the constructs of anti-blackness.
The legal race to provide X-ray vision into Pistorius’ state of mind when he fired the shots is going to be a race of the best unwritten rule to first cross the finish line − the unspoken code of white brotherhood. It was clear that tugging these emotional strings of white cohesion and black peril would work in Oscar’s favour. But what if the white value system lets him down and leaves him and dry? It could happen, but I’m not concerned.
A much more pressing concern is this: as much as women are not the walking stick to men’s limping egos, similarly, blacks are not the walking stick to the limping white superego. It’s time to let go of the suburban fig leaf panic attack − whites made blacks into pariah that strike fear into their hearts.
Main Image: By Felix Karlsson