Reading Corridors of Death was saddening. It is truly embarrassing and sad that black children in South Africa are faced with the trauma of having to navigate white-owned and controlled spaces that constantly reject their blackness, unless they conform or bow down to whiteness. And that is because whites still own most of the resources in post-democratic SA, and have seemingly captured the current black-led regime.
Lesego Samora Mahlatsi also known as Malaika Wa Azania grew up in abject poverty in Soweto, specifically, Meadowlands, Dobsonville, and then Braamfisherville. In her first book, Memoirs of a Born Free; Reflections on the Rainbow Nation (2014), She related of her experiences of growing up in an apartheid reserve.
A product of model C schooling and a cum laude graduate of Rhodes University. Lesego is currently in the employ of the Ekurhuleni executive mayor’s office. She is doing well for herself and recently purchased her own property in the North of Joburg. A columnist, public speaker, avid reader and a book reviewer of note. Malaika’s politics have always resonated with me. She refuses to be a cheerleader of an economic system whose main objective is to have a few wealthy individuals riding on the backs of a marginalized majority.
She has never deemed it necessary to trivialise or dismiss lived experiences of the less fortunate just because she is making it. She opines that we can not begin to want to fix the present, without going back into history to interrogate the deep-rooted origin of our socio-economic woes.
While structures of colonialization and apartheid remain, meaningful progress moving at a snail pace, a few feed on crumbs discarded by the handful who own our national resources.
Through the 16 thought-provoking and evocative essays, Malaika argues that historically white institutions of higher learning are the death of many a black child. They are the cause of compounded strife, mental illness, and death by suicide, and by extension also black academics.
In support of her statements, she draws from her real-life experiences and that of others, from research, and from one on one interviews. Racism and microaggressions are difficult for recipients thereof to articulate. They are unique, personal experiences that are informed by past and present events. They are about feelings, the psychological and physical. The added complication is the fact that perpetrators of such acts deem themselves spokespeoples for the victims.
They would instruct people to move on and to get over it, while they cling to generational wealth that they are not keen to let go of or move away from. Through the analysis of English, Afrikaans and Black universities in South Africa, Malaika argues that overt racism is not better than covert racism visa versa.
She asserts that it is problematic and divisive for students’ urgency in liberal institutions to be prioritized and afforded hierarchy in the general student struggle. The struggle of a TUT student is equally important, and serious, in the same way as that of a Wits or Rhodes university student.
I highly recommend the book to all black parents of school-going children, even those whose children are still in creches. Parents should be cognizant of the dangers of sending their kids to schools that are owned and run by persons who religiously voted for the racist National Party and are still advocates of discrimination based on race.
If our children report that their teachers or a school behave in a racists manner, parents should believe them, and address it. We should refrain from alienating utterances that youngsters are attention-seeking and spoilt. That we are paying high fees is a non-issue compared to the mental well being of our kids.
Even though Malaika clearly stated that she is done speaking to racists about race, I would recommend that racists too, read the book, they might just realise that black children are people too.
Black university staff, domestic and professional, should read the book. It is a tribute to them, for empathising and parenting black students who go through the most.
Apartheid was a series of laws that can effectively be undone with counter laws. Institutions that remain unreformed should be policed, regulated and penalized. Shut down in need. Racism and racists must stop, or be made to stop. More importantly, black students should read the book, as confirmation that their issues are valid in order for them to reach out and to seek assistance.
Malaika’s knowledge and research of the subject matter make for a comprehensible and powerful read.
Corridors of death is a necessary book that documents the political nature of black existence. Our young, also those born in the 2000s have significant stories to tell. I hope they emulate Malaika and pen their experiences. They should totally refuse to be as complacent and readily forgive people who never apologized nor showed remorse. They are the future and iAfrika ilizwe lethu!