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Identity Politics: ‘More than a Young Black Woman’

I imagine that this part of identity politics will be the least popular, and may evoke an angrier emotion.

Whether people want to be true to their emotions or not, the harsh reality is that identity politics extend beyond the demographic of race. Listening to the world around me, I have a problem when success is also contextualised in terms of age or gender.

Whether a person chooses to celebrate their youth or female success or not, it remains their right to do so as an individual. However, just as is the case with the demographic of race; pinning a success story to one’s demographical representation tends to sell the individual’s capacity a little short.

Also Read: An Enemy of a Capable State

South Africa, along with the rest of the world finds itself in the middle of an ‘identity crisis’. This identity crisis does not refer to one where has an issue knowing with who they are, but rather losing the essence of what is important in building a capable state.

The problem that is fast rising through the cracks is that while we are on a trajectory of appeasing various demographical identities, we risk failing to deliver a content that will improve lives. In South Africa’s case, we risk destroying the good we have already established throughout the years.

South Africa, along with the rest of the world finds itself in the middle of an ‘identity crisis’.

While balancing demographics in the diverse South African context, the problem comes when we’ve painted a beautiful ‘black’ picture that includes touches of youth and feminist appeal and we pet ourselves on the back for being ‘representative’. This creates a problem when in certain cases where the elected are not necessarily armed with content.

When I speak of content, I speak of the offer to the public. Questions such as the details of how through politics one plans to create an environment of sustainable economic growth. How the poor can be lifted out of poverty and what kind of environment are we looking to create in order of our sport, arts and culture to thrive.

As I think of prominent women in society, Margaret Thatcher, Lady Anne Barnard, Mother Theresa, Marie Currie, Helen Suzman, Helen Zille, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama; to name only a few; they had one attribute in common. Although they never questioned their gender and acknowledged the challenges they faced in piercing through perceptions they faced as women; they were focused on what they had to offer to the world as individuals first, then women.

Also Read: Manufactured Racism

One good example I am certain of is in the case of Helen Zille. Throughout her career as a politician, coupled with the many other achievements throughout her life; not once did she link her success to being a woman. If anything, Zille insisted that she be recognised as an individual who contributed immensely to society.

The issue with identity politics is that it thrives on populism, which sells click bate, social media trends and newspapers. While the positives of such is that it brings something to the fore and helps society take note of an idea, it fails the test of sustainability and promoting quality of life.

Once we deal with entitlement, we are deep in the dark shadows of killing any chance of a capable state.

Dear Young Black Woman, the world owes you nothing… if anything, you owe the world your ability to inspire through your resilience. When you rise above expectations and prove that you are more than a pair of great legs, that is what we will celebrate. You owe the world to show them who you are and not what you are.

I am in no way oblivious to the realities of patriarchy where women are expected to be subservient to the male or in other cases not capable of handling certain responsibilities. However, fighting the stigma should not create a level of entitlement on the base of gender.

As is the norm with identity politics, a culture of entitlement is created and in return, it obscures reality. Once we deal with entitlement, we are deep in the dark shadows of killing any chance of a capable state.

In reaching the point of living in a capable state, it remains crucial to be inclusive of all demographical representation, however, such representation should never be at the cost of promoting content that improves the livelihood of all residents, and puts South Africa at a place where it becomes a beacon of a capable African state.

How we get to that place is a story for yet another day.