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Those who are against decolonisation are white supremacists

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We are living in a society that is deeply divided on racial issues, decolonisation being one of them. The reality of the decolonisation debate, and the views argued, is that there is an exceptional amount of ignorance and lack of understanding from the majority of those who argue against it. Luke Waltham says their remarks, comments and statements are extremely problematic and often express blatant or subliminal white supremacy.

If someone were to ask you for the name of a well-known black scientist, professor or academic, you would most probably find yourself stuck, unable to answer. It is rare for any person to be able to list well known black inventors and academics, yet it is extremely easy for someone to list well known white inventors and academics. The first ignorant, white supremacist response would be, “Yes, that’s because all the best inventions, discoveries and ideas have come from Europe and the West.” This, of course, is wrong.

What many do not realise is that Africa is rich in history, knowledge, education and ideas. Unfortunately, white supremacists and ignorant individuals continue to disregard this idea and claim that, “if it weren’t for white people, there wouldn’t be universities, electricity, industry,” etc. Regardless, it is extremely important that as an African state and as people living in Africa, we oppose the notion that our society and our education system should be based solely off of Eurocentric ideas. Instead, we need to create an inclusive, open system that composes of African ideas, African education and African knowledge. The first university in the world, despite what ignorant individuals argue, was actually in Africa. The University of Karueein was founded in 859AD in Morocco, North Africa. Original, unique forms of medication and sciences have been developed in Africa and by Africans themselves such as the use of herbs and naturally grown plants to solve migraines, fevers and colds. Clever inventions and concepts have been created by Africans such as unique methods of navigating and mining. It is nonsensical to argue that there is nothing we can gain from integrating African knowledge and education.

To believe that there is nothing we can gain from Africa and the people of Africa is, in itself, white supremacist because this argument implies that Eurocentric, Western knowledge is more superior to African knowledge. This superiority argument can be seen as racist and dehumanising towards black Africans who, over the years, have developed and discovered knowledge that is as important, useful and insightful as that of white Europeans. In addition to this, it is extremely closed-minded and is the complete opposite of what academics are supposed to believe in. Academics are supposed to research and push themselves to discover new knowledge. By ignoring African knowledge, you are risking the opportunity to learn crucial, vital lessons and ideas that could assist you in your goals.

The move towards decolonisation is definitely an important one. Our society needs to deconstruct systems of white supremacy and instead, uplift and equalise the ideas, knowledge and sciences of both black and white people. A consensus needs to be reached as to the extent to which we are going to decolonise the system, involving all stakeholders who influence and determine the education systems and societal structures such as the government, universities, school representatives and students. As a result, they will need to determine what will be included in our education system and prioritised our society to ensure that African knowledge and wisdom are regarded as important, useful ideas the same way that Eurocentric knowledge and wisdom have been treated for centuries.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Daily Vox.

Luke Waltham is a law student and a social justice writer and blogger. Twitter: @lukewaltham

Featured image by Philip Owira

5 Comments
  1. muh white supremacy says

    I’m pretty sure most academics will be happy to learn African knowledge. So why not just include it in the curriculum? Why is it so important to always push the white supremacy / decolonise blah blah narrative?

  2. midnite-tequila says

    There’s a lot of things in this country that needs decolonisation – tertiary education is probably one of the least relevant ones.

  3. Tim Crowe says

    Let’s have a go at Mr Waltham.

    “If someone were to ask you for the name of a well-known black scientist, professor or academic, you would most probably find yourself stuck, unable to answer.”

    They can be found just by sampling at the University of Cape Town.

    Prof. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan is THE global expert on the microscopic structure of the bones of extinct and extant vertebrates – especially dinosaurs. She:

    1. burst on to the scene in the 1990s with an National Research Foundation P-rating (for outstanding young researchers);
    2. formed a highly productive research/post-graduate-educational team;
    3. resuscitated first-year biology teaching;
    4. served superbly as HoD of newly merged Zoology and Botany Departments;
    5. received multiple awards for constructively popularizing science;
    6. earned the prestigious National Research Foundation A-rating (for internationally competitive researchers); and
    7. is the architect and key presenter in the recently launched massive open online course (MOOC) Extinctions: Past and Present.

    Prof. Edmund ‘Ed’ February is a plant archaeologist/ecologist originally from the Iziko South African Museum. Ed’s main interests are in understanding where plants get their resources, how this affects vegetation structure and how humans have influenced the environment for many thousands of years. To foster these interests, he has collaborated with a range local and international students and colleagues, focusing on ecological and conservation/management research in the savannas of the Kruger National Park and the winter rainfall shrublands of the Cedarberg and Cape Peninsula. By the way, he is also a world-class mountain climber.

    Prof. Batmanathan Dayanand (Daya) Reddy is an internationally respected applied mathematician. He is: A-rated by the NRF, a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a Fellow of the University of Cape Town, a Member, Academy of Science of South Africa, a Fellow, South African Academy of Engineering, a Fellow, Academy of Sciences of the Developing World (TWAS), a Fellow, African Academy of Sciences, a Fellow, International Association for Computational Mechanics (IACM), and a Founding Fellow, Academy of Engineering and Technology of the Developing World (AETDEW). He has also been awarded the National Order of Mapungubwe (Bronze) bestowed by the President of the Republic of South Africa.
    He is a member of nine national and international mathematical societies and has supervised the post-graduate research of > 60 students.

    He has served as Dean of Science and currently is a Deputy Vice chancellor. He has 175 peer-reviewed publications including four monographs and three edited volumes of invited papers.

    Cardiology Professor Bongani Mayosi is the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. He was awarded South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver) and is an A-rated National Research Foundation researcher.

    Recently, the Black Management Forum in the Western Cape celebrated its Black Excellence Awards designed to showcase outstanding business owners, industry experts, professionals, students and entrepreneurial success stories in the Western Cape. Mayosi was the winner of the category of Thought Leader of the Year.

    He and a team from Health Sciences have been studying the inherited heart muscle disease called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy or ARVC. In this disease, the muscle of the right side of the heart is lost and replaced by scar or fat. As a result, the heart is prone to beating irregularly and fast, causing sudden death because blood is not being effectively pumped to the rest of the body.

    The importance of the team’s genetic discovery is twofold. It helps to clarify the genetic mechanisms underlying ARVC which will assist with future research to develop drugs which could prevent sudden death. On the other hand, it makes possible the early detection of many unsuspecting people who are affected by ARVC.

    I can provide more examples.

    “All the best inventions, discoveries and ideas have come from Europe and the West.”

    Also from UCT, we have Prof. Chris Barnard and Nobel Laureates Profs Max Theiler, Allan McLeod Cormack, Sir Aaron Klug, and J. M. Coetzee. Do they qualify as African?

    “What many do not realise is that Africa is rich in history, knowledge, education and ideas.”

    Why haven’t pro-decolonization academics written books and developed academic programmes to garner this knowledge so that it may be included in curricula?

    “Our society and our education system is based solely off of (sic) Eurocentric ideas.”

    It is not. All South African centres of tertiary education, the CSIR and many of its natural history museums and statutory conservation bodies have significant Afro-relevant entities that have falsified Eurocentric hypotheses and come up with new ones. At UCT, we have the Centre for African Studies and my FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology which rank with the best in the world. For example, in early July, Dr Tshifhiwa Mandiwana (University of Limpopo) and I presented research that demonstrated that the European Partridge Perdix perdix (perdix is Greek for partridge) is NOT a partridge, but a ‘pheasant’, and a newly discovered African gamebird, the Udzungwa Francolin, is not an African francolin (as its European discoverers thought). It is an African ‘partridge’ that is the evolutionary remnant of the ancestral lineage leading to virtually all Northern Hemisphere gamebirds: quails, pheasants, peafowls, grouse and turkeys. To put it lightly, without it, there would be no Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    “We need to create an inclusive, open system that composes (sic) of African ideas, African education and African knowledge.”

    Does this mean exclude ideas from elsewhere that are demonstrably academically superior?

    “Original, unique forms of medication and sciences have been developed in Africa and by Africans.”

    Many of these are already incorporated into modern medicine. But, should those that are demonstrably inferior, or are even harmful, be perpetuated and preferred to treatments from elsewhere?

    “To believe that there is nothing we can gain from Africa and the people of Africa is, in itself, white supremacist because this argument implies that Eurocentric, Western knowledge is more superior to African knowledge.”

    No, it’s just stupid. Please provide a list of powerful white supremacists who are undermining local research by pushing Eurocentric. Evidence to the contrary comes from UCT Prof. Tim Noakes who argues that his dietary research is superior because it more closely mimics that of our African ancestors.”

    “It [rejection of useful African-sourced knowledge and good research] is extremely closed-minded and is the complete opposite of what academics are supposed to believe in.”

    In my 40+ years as an academic biologist in Africa, the close-minded academics I’ve encountered are rarer than hen’s teeth. Please provide your list.

    “The move towards decolonisation is definitely an important one.”

    That depends on what is meant by “decolonization”. If it’s intended to be Soviet-like, Afro-exclusive academic ‘cleansing’ which allows politically correct ideas to predominate over ones that work better, it will be a suicidal move. If it is to be Afro-relevant, then it could improve the world rankings of South African universities.

    “Uplift and equalise the ideas, knowledge and sciences of both black and white people.”

    No! Let them compete with one another on the basis of their ability to withstand rigorous testing and make valid predictions.

    “A consensus needs to be reached as to the extent to which we are going to decolonise the system.”

    No! Consensus seeking too often results in mediocre compromises.
    “Involve all stakeholders who influence and determine the education systems and societal structures such as the government, universities, school representatives and students.”

    No! The last thing South African tertiary education needs is to be strongly influenced by politicians and populists. One, arguably unlikely(?) consequence of such a “determination” would be to replace evolution teaching/research with “creation science. Students should be involved to the extent that they express their ‘wants’. In the end, academics need to come up with curricula and pedagogies that produce quality graduates in the allotted time. If they fail, they should be replaced by ones who can deliver. Worse than the ”last thing”, is to ‘adapt’ education to allow educationally ‘disabled’ matriculants to become disabled university graduates.

    In short, academically unjustified decolonization will just add to the Fallist fires.

  4. Simon says

    I was going to post something about how poor an argument Mr Waltham has provided in favour of decolonisation yet it appears that Mr Crowe has already done so. And to great effect. All I can say with regard to this piece is that it highlights the ignorance of the Fallist movement and its adherents. It also leaves one bereft of any reasonable description of what decolonisation is other than what can be inferred, that being whatever ideology you lot end up deciding suits your narrative. The most obvious and only common thread is that it shouldn’t be eurocentric, yet anyone claiming that the academy is to this day eurocentric strikes me as someone either willfully or unwillfully ignorant.

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