MORAL APATHY: Why Black Optimism Might Be Futile

‘There are days when you wonder what your role is in this country, and what your future is in it’

As a twenty-something, formerly naive student on the cusp of adulthood, it may come to surprise many that I do not share the optimism for the future found amongst many of my peers. It becomes difficult to do so when you realise that your existence, and that of those like you, is compromised by the very institutions you help build. It becomes even more difficult to partake in this joy when you are presented with the task of finding yourself in a society whose institutions claim to be for all, yet not you. The very act of finding oneself is sabotaged as you think you know who you are, until you are confronted by the overwhelming forces of what society says you are, and should be.

This perpetual cycle does nothing but break the spirit. Of course, there has been progress, but frankly, with colonialism (and the like) as a starting point, anything would be. Progress, itself, serves as a buzzword for those who attempt to dismiss your experience as one of the disenfranchised, often pointing to the lack of shackles at your feet and wrists. Ignoring the remnants of more than a lifetime of subjugation which manifests itself as a psychological scar; the kind passed on from generation to generation, one which leads you to detest the darkness of your own skin and crave the fairer for its ‘appeal’.


With contemplative eyes reflecting subtle angst, Baldwin speaks of a moral dilemma which resonates today. Clearly, there is still a ‘death of the heart’ if the privileged can confidently assert that the Empire was beneficial to the suppressed, due to the few schools it left behind. As someone who experienced the lingering effects of colonial education, it saddens me to see how deluded we still are as a society. Some of the privileged have always been, and continue to be, incapable of seeing beyond the surface or physical. As such, it does not come as a surprise if they are unable (or chose not) to fathom the mental scar on a generation, caused by acts like, prohibiting a child from speaking his mother tongue in a classroom, to the extent of whipping them if they deviated from English to speak ‘vernacular’.

It is from this disconnect that a pessimistic outlook on the future arises. Because to the privileged we are now free, the last settler has left, our years of subjugation are over. To them, all we must do is stare at our collective mirrors, dust ourselves off, and move on. But we know it is not so simple, surely, they know this too. Yet the denial of this shows moral monsters exist today, and moral apathy, ever more so.





2 thoughts on “MORAL APATHY: Why Black Optimism Might Be Futile

  1. Empire isn’t strictly a western European phenomenon, and not a “racial” phenomenon at all. The first recorded empire was Babylonian and they were Black, so we’re the Egyptians, the Mongols were Asian and and the Moors were Black and they may have permanently changed the blood line of the Iberian peninsula forever. It’s true that western European empires, like all, subjugated and tried to impose their culture, it’s what imperialists have done from the beginning, white on black and black on white so to see this purely from a racial perspective ignores the many other reasons that motivate empires to expand, things like resources, geography, military capability etc. All rises would have motivated the conquerors regardless of the race of the inhabitants.
    This in no way detracts from the trauma of being conquered but a wider historical view does allow a perspective that can facilitate healing.
    I think there is racial reasons to be disheartened if you live in sub Saharan countries because corruption is endemic. This is largely due to tribal thinking which prevents the establishment of working institutions necessary for a country to function for all its citizens fairly. Tribal thinking also contributes to the natural recourse rape perpetrated by any one country’s leaders as the partisan nature of such thinking justified leaving those either not in the tribe or of lesser stature within the tribe destitute.
    Therefore while there is reason to feel a sense of hopelessness when looking at these situations, blaming colonialism is counterproductive as there’s nothing you can do about that now. Sub Saharan countries now must look to thier own history and culture and build sustainable institutions based on that so those countries can move forward and partake of their own national wealth for the benefit of all their citizens.


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