What Malcolm X Would Say Of Thuli Madonsela’s “Unconscious Bias”

By Pinky Khoabane

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.”
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. 23 January 1963.

Transcribed text from audio excerpt.

This type has blind faith-in your religion. He’s not interested in any religion of his own. He believes in a white Jesus, white Mary, white angels, and he’s trying to get to a white heaven. When you listen to him in his church singing, he sings a song, I think they call it, “Wash me white as snow.” He wants to be–he wants to be turned white so he can go to heaven with a white man. It’s not his fault; it’s actually not his fault. But this is the state of his mind. This is the result of 400 years of brainwashing here in America. You have taken a man who is black on the outside and made him white on the inside. His brain is white as snow. His heart is white as snow. And therefore, whenever you say, this is ours, he thinks he’s white the same as you, so what’s yours he thinks is also his. Even right on down to your woman.

Now many of them will take offense at my implying that he wants your woman. They’ll say, “No, this is what Bill Bowen, Talmadge, and all of the White Citizens’ Councils say.” They say that to fool you. If this is not what they want, watch them. And if you find evidence to the contrary, then I’ll take back my words. But all you have to do is give him the chance to get near you, and you’ll find that he is not satisfied until he is sitting next to your woman, or closer to her than that.

And this type of Negro, usually he hates black and loves white. He doesn’t want to be black he wants to be white. And he’ll get on his bended knees and beg you for integration, which means he would rather live – rather than live with his own kind who love him, he’ll force himself to live in neighborhoods around white people whom he knows don’t mean him any good. And again I say, this is not his fault. He is sick. And as long as America listens to this sick Negro, who is begging to be integrated into American society despite the fact that the attitude and actions of whites are sufficient proof that he is not wanted, why then you are actually allowing him to force you into a position where you look just as sick as he looks.

SOURCE: X, Malcolm. “The Race Problem.” African Students Association and NAACP Campus Chapter. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. 23 January 1963.


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