Black Consciousness: Black Self-love and Emancipation Movement in South Africa


Article published in The Funambulist 26 (November-December 2019) Kids of the World, Unite! Click here to access the rest of the issue.

Khanyi pulled at her curly hair, wishing she could make it straight and shiny. “I just want to look like her,” she thought, as she stared at the model with long blonde hair on TV. They all had such perfect, straight hair — all the beautiful ladies on TV. Perfect hair and perfect, light skin…She wanted to be like them, but she knew that she was different and that made her sad.


There were many things that were wrong about Khanyi’s world. She and her family were not allowed to go to the beach or play in the park. They had to take a bus only with other people who looked like them. That bus was always late, and there were so many people you had to stand and push to get out at your stop. The people like Khanyi — “Black people” — were not treated the same as “White people.” Khanyi thought this world was very strange — as I’m sure you do too — but her parents and everyone around her seemed to just try to live a normal life. Khanyi’s family ate dinner together, went to church, went to school, went to work as usual… And then one day, everything started to change.


Khumalo Funambulist (3)

Because Black people were not treated equally to White people, Khanyi’s parents tried to fight together with a few White people for equality. They all met in a group to discuss and plan how they were going to fight. For a while, Khanyi’s parents were very excited and thought that things might really change. But as they kept going to these meetings, they noticed some things: even though all the White people said that all people were equal, they still sometimes acted like they were more intelligent or knew more information than Black people. When a White person had an idea, everyone listened. When a Black person had an idea, some White and Black people tried to shut down the idea. “White people just speak better,” some of them thought, “they have smarter ideas and better education… We should listen to them. They know the system we are fighting against.” Some of these White people were also a bit scared of what might happen if Black people were given a voice and allowed to vote for leaders in the government. There were so many Black people in the country — would they be angry and attack all the White people? Would they be able to lead well? Somehow, it seemed safer introduce change very slowly so that everyone got used to it and no one was hurt.