The Retardation of Black Youth and How We Can Save Ourselves

As one looks at the Black youth of this generation especially in townships it is not difficult at all to notice that something is not right, not with them as people but the circumstances they are subjected to which ultimately affects and effects them as a people. Youth is the mirror of a nation and crystal ball to its’ future. Traditionally for a wrong to be recognized and justified a number of comparisons have to be made.

In order to begin our discussion on ‘good foot’ and mutual understanding it is best we describe this rather disturbing title above particularly the word “retardation” which stems from the word “retard”, before we even go any further. Retard or retardation is in our society is generally confused with “madness”, “craziness” or “insanity” when in fact it is “slowness” or “lateness” in development or progress; it could be physical, emotional, mental, or educational development.

But how do we know that something is slow or late? How do we arrive to a concrete conclusion that something or someone is indeed retarded? There are multiple conventional and unconventional measures to discovering facts to this theory. I will not go through all of them for that is futile to this discussion. Firstly; comparisons, as we have already pointed out above. One is compelled to compare one generation to another, one ethnic group to another, and all generations are deeply influenced by politics of their time which in turn influences their work ethics, their music, fashion, and arts from in which they exhibit their culture, hopes and sometimes, their lack of hope.

Secondly we look at chronological age in relation to ones’ mental age, or supposed mental age. But who determines how a 15-year-old from a predominantly Black neighborhood should behave? To arrive safely to this answer we ask ourselves what social stage is a 15-year-old in and of course what academic stage. You see, societies are shaped by systems they live under and this is why it is critical to get rid of this neo-liberal white-engineered socio-political system our children are born into. Socially teenagers in this age group still lives with a parent or guardian, they have no authority of their own and academically too they are in high school under the authority of teachers.

Under both social and academic conditions they are deprived full control of their lives. However, there is another side of the 15-year-old, the one whose parents are nothing more than a source of provision for food, clothes and money, and the one whose school authorities have no authority over, if they go to school at all. The teenager in the former is expected to excel at least in one of these three fields; scientific, academic, artistic, or athletic activities.

But given the neighborhood one lives in can he/she excel? Is he allowed to? Is he expected to? Can one expect a flower to bloom from a cave? Do we have platforms laid down in our townships for the slightest of possibilities for excellence to be achieved? Is the retardation of South Afrikas’ Black youth a systematically perpetuated remanence of this country’s Apartheid past? Is Apart-Hate really a past or we just don’t see it as vividly as we used to? In the pre-democratic era our communities were flooded with NGOs and other self-help initiatives which most of, if not all, were shut down by the ANC leadership leading to 1994 elections with the impression that with the incoming ‘messianic figure’ we will be safely led out of ‘Egypt’ and into the ‘promise land’ of milk and honey.

It was a land of milk and honey alright, just not for all but a selected few. This is when Black people developed the culture of “waiting for the government” and therefore terrible retardation illness from which we are still to recover. Without playing a sarcastic rhetorician, we all know that “our” government is only ours by ethnical association and not by its socio-economical policies—especially not by its socio-economic policies! And this is a clear indication of one thing; Black people have no government, and any nation without delegates that monitors its’ socio-political and socio-economical affairs is doomed to be a retarded nation; it cannot achieve what other nations can achieve in a parallel time frame. Such a nation should establish an autonomist culture, but first this nation must be able to identity its own political leeches masquerading as people’s representatives and learn to do away with them.

Truth is we live in glorious times; glorious in digital sophistication and glorious in its sophistication of lies and deceit. Our youth is practically raised by television. Is it not “the box” that tell them who to admire and aspire to so they would dress like them, talk like them, do things they do no matter how absurd it seem? Are our youths’ aspirations not motivated by what is so-called trending? The illusions sold to our people, Black youth especially are those of “individualism of success” and “unification of races”. White people do not see themselves as totally individualist, they know that ultimately they are a white race, their leaders taught them this way and it worked wonders; but so are Chinese, Japanese and Indians. These peoples’ dreams are directly linked to race and while television preaches ‘colorlessness’ it is the Black population that falls into this filthy lie and therefore remains falling far behind. Even those Black individuals who do thrive career-wise carry with them a peculiar idea of success. Let us look, hypothetically at the one who excels academically and fortunately manages to enroll into university and fortunately manages to complete his studies without a huge debt, (I’m trying to paint an incredible story here). Now he is a qualified engineer of some sort and the story takes a turn, the story can no longer look incredible; so he starts by seeking employment, traditionally from a Caucasian-owned company that might just pay him good enough to pay off whatever debt he has.

He can now afford a nice car and a decent house in a safe neighborhood (by “safe” I mean white). But is he now successful? Either ways the answer to this question remains subjective, instead let us direct this question to a large group of Black youth—is this what success mean to us? What is success without possibility of investing in your own People; a timeless legacy? This flaw idea retards our growth and collective progress. The system may be against us but when are we organizing and mobilizing on going back to the hood, not to hand out food parcels and blankets for winter but to convert the hood into an industrial complex so that even generations after us flourishes as well. I was told once, “If you want a helping hand look at the end of your arm” and the mighty savior of Black youth in the townships today is not President Zuma, it’s not Malema or some social justice commentator, not even Patrice Motsepe or some Black business genius but the mighty Messiah is the collective Black youth in the townships themselves. Only we can free ourselves from the destitution we are in and moreover lay down a solid foundation for those coming behind us. Only we can save our own selves!