Is the Rhodes Must Fall movement about addressing the uncomfortable past or about reverse racism?
The matter certainly divided South Africa, mostly by colour of skin, but some white liberals such as myself were confused, seeing the merits in substantiated argument on both sides.
But a recent incident involving Ntokozo Qwabe, a black Rhodes Must Fall leader, delighting in punishing a white waitress is likely to remove some liberal sympathies towards those who see Rhodes as the devil.
The same week, by appropriate coincidence, the respected Motherjones publication published, ‘The Racist, Twisted History of Tipping’ with the subtitle ‘Gratuities were once an excuse to shortchange black people. In fact, they still are’. Qwabe would do well to read it… as should you so as to add more context to GroundUp’s blog below:
Ntokozo Qwabe, one of the leaders of the Rhodes Must Fall movement at Oxford University, has bragged on Facebook about the way he and his friends treated a waiter.
One of Qwabe’s friends wrote on the bill, “WE WILL GIVE TIP WHEN YOU RETURN THE LAND” which they showed the waiter. The waiter is a white woman. In Qwabe’s telling, she was reduced to tears. “LOL”, starts Qwabe’s post, which has been liked on his Facebook page 90 times so far, and shared 23 times.
Some of Qwabe’s Facebook friends were unimpressed however. Annie OT responded in a comment on his post: “I love you but a waitress? Is she really the person who stole land? A[re] we really out here for a dematerialised analysis of race?”
Here is the full Facebook post:
“LOL wow unable to stop smiling because something so black, wonderful & LIT just happened! And of course, the catalyst was a radical non-binary trans black activist – Wandile Dlamini – from the Rhodes Must Fall movement. Because trans activists have BEEN the ultimate blessers of this decolonial struggle!
To cut the long story short, we are out at Obz Cafe with the said activist, and the time for the bill comes. Our waitress is a white woman. I ask the said activist what the going rate for tips/gratuity is in these shores. They look at me very reluctantly and they say ‘give me the slip, I’ll sort that out’. I give them the slip.
They take a pen & slip in a note where the gratuity/tip amount is supposed to be entered. The note reads in bold: “WE WILL GIVE TIP WHEN YOU RETURN THE LAND”. The waitress comes to us with a card machine for the bill to be sorted out. She sees the note & starts shaking. She leaves us & bursts into typical white tears (like why are you crying when all we’ve done is make a kind request? lol!). Anyways, so this white woman goes to her colleagues who are furious. She exits to cry at the back & a white male colleague of hers reluctantly comes out to address us & to annoy us more with his own white tears telling us that he finds our act “racist”.
We then start breaking it down for this white man & ask him why they are catching feelings when we haven’t even started (like the part where we take up arms hasn’t even come & yall are already out here drowning us in your white tears? Really white people? Wow.). We start drawing him to the political nature of the act & why we couldn’t be bothered that they decided to catch feelings from the note. We tell him it’s great that business as usual has stopped & the pressing issue of land is now on the agenda in that space – seeing the cowntry was celebrating ‘Freedom Day’ yesterday. We then chase him back to do his job. And continue with our conversation before exiting the café.
Moral of the story: the time has come when no white person will be absolved. We are tired of “not all white people” and all other bullshit. We are here, and we want the stolen land back. No white person will be out here living their best life while we are out here being a landless and dispossessed black mass. NO white person shall rest. It is irrelevant whether you personally have land/wealth or you don’t. Go to your fellow white people & mobilise for them to give us the land back. That will be the starting point of all our interactions from now. We will agitate all our spaces with the big question: WHERE IS THE LAND?
Thank you to all the non binary, trans & all other black bodies who have been at the helm of this decolonial moment in the settler colony known as South Afrika. NOTHING will ever be the same again. Alibuye Izwe Lethu!”
Update May 2 2016: Ashleigh Schultz, the waitress, gets the last laugh as she’s been donated over R30 000.