Black professionals need to be an epicenter for change in the economy. Hence, economic nationalism driven by black professionals for the entire black community is needed to avoid an apocalypse in South Africa.
Black professionals and their attitudes to matters concerning active participation in governance or building communities is a matter of concern, and we should worry about this because the fortunes of this country rest with them.
I have a bone to pick with ‘clever’ or ‘smart’ blacks, as they are sometimes called, and their lack of contribution to the development of society in general.
Yes, I am aware that systematic issues and conditions may be tough but the black educated classes only appear when they have something to complain about and when they feel that their comforts are threatened.
Just a few weeks ago, for instance, they created a little storm complaining that they were being purged in state-owned entities. But their ominous silence when it comes to the betterment of poor blacks is too loud to ignore.
Media would normally use different terms to define this clearly distinguishable group, e.g. ‘middle class’ or ‘black diamonds’ or even ‘LSM something’. Former president Jacob Zuma referred to them as ‘clever blacks’.
There is no universally accepted terminology for this group of people but those who survive in the streets would get a sense what is being discussed here.
Simple, this is a group that lacks social conscience and is consumed by its own self-importance, and is easy to spot in a crowd based on their language, attitude and behaviour.
I intentionally refrain from calling them ‘middle class’ or ‘black diamonds’ because I feel that the appropriate term would be the ‘black professional-managerial class’, or just black professionals.
Barbara & John Ehrenreich see this group as ‘salaried mental workers who do not own the means of production and whose major function in the social division of labor …(is)… the reproduction of capitalist culture and capitalist class relations’.
The professional-managerial class therefore ‘seeks higher rank status and salary, and tend to have above-average incomes for their country.’
The mythology of the existence of a significant black middle class in South Africa could be a grave mistake. What we have are better-salaried blacks compared to their parents, and the rest – or other blacks.
Black professionals are not really the ‘middle’ as we are often told because they are not positioned in such a way that someday they will ever become the upper class.
Perhaps this explains why the economy hasn’t really changed much from what it was, thirty- or forty-years ago. High unemployment and low economic growth are useful determinants to conclude that South Africa has a ‘missing middle’.
By Siyabonga P. Hadebe
Image: The Lazy Artist Gallery/Pexels