Light on the Dark Continent
Gedahlia Braun, Racism, Guilt and Self-Deceit, (Self-Published), newly revised in 2007, 231 pp., delivered as a PDF download.
Fascinating observations of an American who has lived in Africa for nearly 30 years.
Reviewed by Jared Taylor
“Almost no one, black or white, left or right, ever says anything but rubbish about race.” So writes Gedahlia Braun in a remarkable book that is anything but rubbish. Racism, Guilt and Self-Deceit is one of those rare books so full of insight and good sense that they are a pleasure to write about. Since the subject is race, this book has not found a commercial publisher, but it can be ordered directly from the author.
Dr. Braun has lived in Africa with only brief interruptions since 1976 and in South Africa since 1988. This book, in the form of a chronological journal, describes how contact with the dark continent quickly dispelled his liberal views and led to startling but plausible conclusions that most Americans—even readers of AR—are likely to find surprising.
Dr. Braun draws on his years of intimacy with Africans to support two main conclusions. The first is that virtually all Africans take it for granted that whites are smarter than blacks. They haven’t the slightest illusion that they could have invented computers or built airplanes, and they recognize that blacks and whites differ in moral and psychological characteristics as well.
What is more, Africans are not the least offended by these realizations. Unlike whites, they do not see any inherent immorality in acknowledging racial differences. Some clever, westernized Africans have discovered—just as American blacks have—that whites are terrified at the thought of racial differences, and have learned to manipulate this terror to their own advantage. But they, too, Dr. Braun finds, can almost always be persuaded to acknowledge the inherent limitations of Africans.
Dr. Braun’s second thesis follows from the first: The vast majority of South African blacks do not want black rule. They know from their own experiences with black policemen and black bureaucrats that when Africans are in positions of power they are corrupt, despotic, and oppressive. Many blacks mouth the slogans of “liberation” but have unrealistic, often ludicrous notions of what “liberation” is likely to mean. Some, when pressed, will even admit that although they know black rule would be a catastrophe for South Africa they pretend to support it because they know that is what whites expect them to do.
Ultimately, as Dr. Braun recognizes, his observations illuminate the terrible flaws in the white man. Without constant urging from liberal whites, virtually all Africans would be content to put their fate in the hands of a race that they recognize as smarter and more fair-minded than their own. Dr. Braun puts it this way:
“(1) Blacks cannot manage a modern industrial democratic society; (2) blacks know this and would never think of denying it were it not for white liberals insisting otherwise; (3) except for those black elites who hope to take power, black rule is in no one’s interest, especially not blacks; (4) blacks know this better than anyone and are terrified of black rule.”
On what does Dr. Braun base these heretical conclusions? After several years in Africa, he began to realize that many blacks do not think the way white liberals keep telling us they do. He then systematically started asking Africans—even virtual strangers—what they thought about racial differences and whether they were in favor of black rule.
Unlike most whites, who would be ashamed to ask such questions, Dr. Braun is utterly uninhibited. He discovered that most blacks are eager to talk frankly; most have never had an honest conversation with a white about race and are charmed to find one who is not blinded by the usual cliches. Just as interestingly, he quickly learned that even whites who have lived all their lives in Africa—including journalists and other liberals who claim to speak for Africans—have never had an honest conversation with a black about race.
For the most part, blacks fear majority rule because they know they are much more likely to be cheated, robbed or brutalized by other blacks than by whites. Many Africans believe, in so many words, that “Whites respect one another but we don’t.” One woman put it this way: “The white man knows the difference between right and wrong and will usually do the right thing. The black man also knows the difference but will usually do the wrong thing.” It is their own experiences that confirm many blacks in their preference that their country be governed by whites.
Educated, highly politicized blacks sometimes have a slightly different political view. When pressed, they agree that black rule is likely to produce the chaos and mismanagement common in the rest of Africa. They recognize that a black government would permit democratic elections only once, and then institute tyranny. Somehow, though, this disaster is worth striving for because, as Dr. Braun explains, they think “it is all right for blacks to oppress other blacks yet absolutely wrong for whites to treat them well—but without suffrage.” That they should happily anticipate black rule is, in Dr. Braun’s view, “a profound tribute to the capacity of human beings to deceive themselves.”
Perhaps most common, though, is a fatalistic acceptance of the inevitability of political change and ensuing chaos. As one middle-class colored [mixed-race] man said to Dr. Braun about majority rule: “When that day comes I will kill myself.”
How the vast majority of uneducated South Africans view the future must be understood in light of how poorly they understand how the world works. Dr. Braun reminds us that belief in magic is deeply rooted among Africans. For example, he reports that when a European magician came to Ibadan, Nigeria and “sawed a woman in half,” the audience assumed he had actually cut her in two. After all, if African witch doctors can fly through the air and turn people into alligators, the least a white man can do is cut people up and put them back together.
Likewise, when Zambia had one of its yes-no “elections” in 1988, the Secretary of State for Defense and Security warned that people had better vote “yes” because the government would find out if anyone voted “no.” How would it find out? Through magic.
Dr. Braun reports that many Africans see Western technology and high standards of living as a kind of magic. Many think that a college diploma is not an indication of a certain level of knowledge but a talisman that can make a big house and a Mercedes appear. Even the blacks who run African schools have superstitious beliefs in the forms of education; if white schools have a study period at 2:00 p.m., black schools must have one at the same time even if it is inconvenient. Many blacks think that whites get their money simply by going to banks, the benefits of which they have selfishly denied to Africans.
In this context, it is no surprise that many black South Africans think that black rule will somehow divert the magic of wealth and prosperity from whites to blacks. The African National Congress encourages this view. For example, its members have told blacks who work for whites as maids and houseboys that if they contribute money to the ANC for a certain number of years the house they work in will become theirs. Many black servants have therefore astonished their employers—and been dismissed—by suddenly claiming to own the house.
Dr. Braun quotes extensively from a brilliant article that likens the African attitude towards economic development to the cargo cults of the Pacific islanders. Some of these islands had been largely ignored by the modern world until the Second World War, during which the Allies used them as staging areas. To the wonderment of the natives, the guardian spirits sent giant metal birds down from the sky, in response to various ceremonies such as the building of long flat clearings in the jungle. Out of the bellies of the giant metal birds came marvelous things like flash lights and round metal boxes full of food.
When the war was over and the Allies left, the islanders decided to cultivate the guardian spirits themselves. They built their own flat clearings in the jungle, and set upon them giant birds made of boxes and coconut trees so as to coax their great metal cousins down from the sky. They marched in formation around the flat clearings and waved strips of cloth stuck on sticks. Somehow it did not work; the giant birds never came back.
As Dr. Braun quotes from the article, in Africa the equivalent of the cargo cults “is a mysterious process called development; the industrial countries of the North are the gods and spirit agents; the magico-religious rites are those of development planning, infrastructure building and foreign investment… .
“… men of business make much of company letterheads, business suits, briefcases, elaborate business cards, and of boardroom titles.
“When the first spurt of national infrastructure building failed to produce the desired cargo of development, additional rituals were invented. A ritual of North-South dialogue was started to persuade the guardian spirits of development to bring aid, to transfer technology, and to grant better terms of trade. When this ritual also failed, Third World spokesmen resorted to blaming the West for holding up Third World development.”
Just as the cargo cultists believed that by manipulating some of the forms of 20th century commerce they could reap 20th century rewards, Africans believe that a paved highway here and a cement factory there will bring the magical cargo of development. It is in this fashion that many South Africans expect black rule to bring prosperity. Often, it is only when Dr. Braun explains that black rule means that hospitals, libraries, police stations, and government offices will be run by blacks—and consequently go to ruin—that some Africans first begin to understand the real implications of what they think they support.
Those who take for granted the idea that black South Africans want majority rule often point to the fact that when the ANC “comrades” call for a strike, the vast majority of blacks do as they are told. As Dr. Braun explains, this is because the “comrades” rule black townships through terror and no one dares disobey. People who go to work during a strike may be “necklaced” or have their houses burnt down. “Comrades” may cut off their ears “because you didn’t listen to us.” Women may be stripped naked in the streets. The Western press occasionally mentions ANC exuberance of this kind, but never recognizes that it produces an artificial appearance of unanimity.
As Dr. Braun points out, it is folly to expect democracy to develop in the townships: “The idea of free and fair elections in such a context is nonsense.”
Racism, Guilt, and Self-Deceit is one of the few contemporary books to make a rational case for apartheid, the South African system of separateness. As Dr. Braun makes clear, the question that both the United States and South Africa must answer is how to establish a fair and workable system for populations with vastly differing abilities.
The problem is much more urgent for South Africa than for the United States for two reasons: Whites are an 18 percent minority and will be swamped by majority rule. Also, though Dr. Braun does not mention this, because of miscegenation with whites, the average IQ of American blacks is 10 to 15 points higher than that of African blacks. Therefore, when white South Africans voted last year to hand over power to blacks, they agreed to submit to the will of a majority people with an average mental age of twelve.
Influx Control and Pass Laws, which were at the heart of apartheid, were recognition that European civilization could not survive without them. Dr. Braun argues that there is nothing surprising or immoral about white resistance to racial integration. It is true that the first blacks to move into an all-white neighborhood or to attend an all-white school are usually intelligent and well-behaved. However, as the population of a school or neighborhood becomes blacker it inevitably deteriorates and everyone—black and white—knows this.
Naturally, blacks want to go to white schools and live among whites because all people benefit from improved surroundings. However, they also know that if blacks keep pushing into what were formerly white enclaves they will cease to be either white or desirable. Ironically, it is whites who, because they are unwilling to accept racial differences, pretend that integration need not destroy whatever has been integrated.
One of the other important effects of apartheid was to keep blacks from congregating in cities. Dr. Braun speculates that the whites of previous generations understood instinctively that large numbers of detribalized, urban blacks would subside into barbaric squalor. The filth, crime and chaos in the townships—as well as in other African cities—proves how right they were.
Today’s whites, on the other hand, have accepted the same preposterous racial orthodoxies that rule America. The press now gamely argues that unfortunate black behavior is a result of apartheid whereas Dr. Braun explains that the policy of separateness was necessary because of black behavior. He does not, however, have any illusions about separateness:
“There is no point in pretending that separateness will be equal. It can only be equal if the groups are equal. But if they were equal there would be much less reason for separateness in the first place.”
Another consequence of the wrong-headed view that apartheid causes Africans to behave like Africans has been an astoundingly stupid wages policy:
“It was assumed, a priori and courtesy of Western Liberal Ideology, that blacks were unproductive because they were underpaid. In reality, just the opposite was true [blacks were paid low wages because they were unproductive], and rather than increasing productivity, paying them more decreased it, by showing the shrewd black man just how foolish the white man really is.”
Any employer knows that nothing is more stupid than to raise a poor worker’s wages in the hope that he will therefore become more productive. Higher wages are a reward for better work, but as Dr. Braun observes, “only when our behavior is ruled by pandering white guilt do we ignore such obvious truths.”
Another idea that has been accepted among liberal whites is that South Africa’s wealth was created by the hard work of blacks and that whites have profited from it illegitimately. This is similar to saying that America is rich because of black slavery, and Dr. Braun is amazed that anyone can swallow such nonsense:
“To argue that it was black labor that ‘really’ created this wealth is like saying that the riveters are the ones who ‘really’ built the space shuttle! If blacks ‘really’ created the wealth of South Africa, why don’t they create it anywhere else? Whites can create wealth without black labor, but blacks on their own create no such wealth.”
Dr. Braun has concluded that blacks and whites differ as much morally as they do mentally, and that these differences made economic development impossible. He wonders whether one of the reasons large-scale cooperative enterprise is nearly impossible throughout Africa is that blacks do not trust each other and cannot be counted on to work together for the benefit of all. He advances the provocative view that Africans may not have an internalized moral sense but depend instead on tribal authority to set rules of conduct:
“Hence, when they were detribalized (by colonialism, etc.), these external constraints disappeared; and since there never were any internal constraints, we witness rampant lack of self-control amongst detribalized blacks (crime, drugs, promiscuity, etc.). Where there has been some substitute for tribal control—as in white-dominated South Africa or the segregated American South—this behaviour was kept within tolerable limits. But when such controls vanish (as in present-day South Africa and in large U.S. cities), you get this phenomenon of widespread unrestrained violence.”
Dr. Braun has found that like American whites, most South African whites are incapable of talking sensibly about race. Like American whites, they now even take a perverse joy in applauding their own dispossession. He describes the tempestuous enthusiasm of white audiences for the anti-white South African movie “Cry Freedom,” and writes, “the positive joy with which they cheer their own demise is quite amazing, isn’t it?” He speculates that this joy stems from “a fatal flaw in the white race: the capacity for self-flagellating, exaggerated and unwarranted guilt and the self-hatred that seems to underlie it.”
This self-hatred is at the heart of the white man’s increasing insistence that he is a miserable racist who is to blame for the black man’s failures:
“Once blacks learn that whites think blacks have reason to hate them, many will be happy to oblige, instinctively realizing their psychological advantage as the injured party … . All in all a tremendous con game, in which the white man is both instigator and willing victim.”
An Affection for Africans
From this review of Racism, Guilt and Self-Deceit one might conclude that its author dislikes Africans. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. Braun obviously likes them very much, and it is because he likes them and has spent so much time with them that he has learned what so many of them really think.
Along the way, he learned a great deal about Africa and Dr. Braun leavens his political observations with fascinating asides. For example, in Nairobi, two African friends were astonished to learn that he had a dictionary of the English language. After he got over his astonishment at their astonishment, he realized that same-language dictionaries are needed only for written languages. Kikuyu, the language his friends spoke, has no literature and therefore needs no dictionaries. It exists only in the minds of the people who speak it, and all Kikuyu speakers know all the words in the language.
An unwritten language is likely to be very limited. Dr. Braun learned from students in Nigeria that their native language cannot express degrees. It is impossible, for example, to say that the coconut is half-way up the tree or that it is near the top; it is possible only to say that it is “up.”
Dr. Braun writes with particular admiration for African women, who have children, suckle them, and carry them about on their backs with a nonchalance that could not be in greater contrast to the self-absorbed fuss white women make over birth and breast feeding. He has “gone native” in a manner possible only for a bachelor, and makes a number of piquant observations from this unusual vantage point.
In short, this is a most unusual and illuminating book. It is unnecessarily repetitive in making some of its more important points, but this is a small price to pay for such a refreshingly candid and level-headed report from a continent most of us will never visit. In a better world, a book like this would be distributed by a major publishing house. In the mean time, it is our pleasure to introduce Racism, Guilt, and Self-Deceit to the readers of AR.