There are many things that are wrong and need fixing in South Africa’s democracy. Bearing in mind that democracy is an idea or ideal, its primary requirement is of equal citizens with free minds. The majority of South Africans do not have free minds nor that sense of equality that is implied when talking about a democratic order. That sense of equality is not only noticeably absent, but most glaringly manifested by black women wearing straight-hair wigs.
Democracy is complicated. It therefore cannot be repaired -as ours needs to be - without a systematic approach. This approach must begin in the minds of citizens with a strong self-identity, which will always be lacking if, deep in our psyche, we do not accept who we are. A clear sign of a seriously damaged self-image is when we go to the extent of trying to look like someone else, usually a white person.
The problem is that the self-identity of blacks has not changed since diamonds and gold were discovered. We share a history as supplicants. Our identity was and still is that of people without roots, whose sole purpose is to be available to create wealth and comfort for the minority.
Being without roots is an unbearable burden. It leads to disorientation, a sense of intimidation, fear and ultimately shame about oneself. Shame always manifests itself, it cannot stay put. Ways it could manifest: as acts of despair, desperation, violence or it could lead to domination by materialism, alcohol and drugs. All things that we see today.
Yet actively rejecting one’s appearance is worse than enslavement. In fact most slaves resist their enslavement, even if it is by remaining only mentally free. Whereas habitually camouflaging one’s appearance is a rejection of oneself. This unbidden surrendering of identity is voluntary enslavement. It abandons that human search for identity, which is instinctive, active and lifelong. Therefore it abandons the most precious human possession.
When we reject who we are it is not possible to find our place in the harmonious order of creation. And everyday we see this self-rejection in our ‘fashionable’ black women with their straight hair wigs. What is alarming is that this headgear is now considered the standard measure of good grooming. What this means is our well-groomed black women balance a collective flag of surrender on their heads. This should be cause for alarm.
And alarmed we should be because we carry this flag of voluntary enslavement into all other areas of human activity, be it business, religion, politics, sport, you name it. Our message is that who we are is negotiable. We come with a starting position of pliancy. This happens before we do business battle or even have ordinary interactions with other humans. It is the mental framework with which we greet every new day.
Therefore it is what we should attend to before we attend to anything else. Nothing else we do can usher in the time of true human worth we all crave. But this duty is not the sole responsibility of black women.
Affirming humanity and self-worth cannot be the responsibility of one or other gender. It is the solemn duty of both men and women, indeed of all of humanity without even touching the colour issue. We must all add our voice to resonate the message that we are who we are. We cannot be anyone else. And black women must be themselves and show their hair.