TODAY (7 September 2020) the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) marched to Clicks stores in the first of a week-long protest over an offensive advert the company posted on its website. It described the hair of two African women as “frizzy and dull” and “dry and damaged” while that of two white women was described as “normal” and “fine and flat”.
Black women have been subjected to a long history of institutionalised racism that demands that they not only have straight hair but they must also be light skinned, thin and smile otherwise they would be perceived as angry. The Black woman has been subjected to severe scrutiny dating back to colonialism and oppression around the world which exists till today, where they had to adopt Eurocentric beauty standards.
In the South African context, the Clicks advert immediately takes us back to apartheid’s repulsive history where human beings were classified according to how long a pencil could remain in their hair if they shook their head. The “pencil test” decreed that if an individual could hold a pencil in their hair when they shook their head, they could not be classified as White.
The advert resides in racist culture and should never be covered-up in euphemisms the kind Thuli Madonsela used in response to the protest: “In my view, the #Clicks case #BlackHairMatter,is a textbook case of unconscious bias. Calling it out is great but anarchy and violence undermine the cause. The best and most cerebral response I’ve seen so far is a video by young black women, among them my colleague”
EFF leader Julius Malema, quickly weighed in: “Do you call peaceful protest anarchy?”
What would Malcolm X have said? Here’s an indication from a speech he made in 1963. Brainwashed is probably what he make of Madonsela’s “unconscious bias” remark.
Malcolm describes black integrationists as “brainwashed.”