Let me first say this: I am a black woman. A hard-working career woman; one who honestly believes that I've earned the role and responsibility that I have in society now.
When Mangwashi Phiyega was announced as police commissioner, I knew that she had no experience in the SAPS, but I also looked at her background as the Director of Tsa Rona Investments, Chairman of the Road Traffic Management Corporation, Board Member of the South African 2010 World Cup Bid Committee, Chairman of AllPay Consolidated Investment Holdings…
Hold up. Did you get through all those titles?
Because there are even more, and you can see them all here.
This is a woman who has, I believe worked hard to get where she is. And yet, in one harsh sketch, she's been depicted as nothing more than a domestic servant. Yes, I realise that maids (not politically correct? Well, that’s exactly what The Star gave me to work with!) work hard, but clearly Mangwashi Phiyega has beaten the odds to make strides into higher corporate levels.
As someone whose grandmother was a maid (and, yes, I heard her complain about it often); as someone who saw that same grandmother get angry and fight because she wanted better for her children; as someone who knows just how hard the struggle towards upward mobility is… And as someone who benefited from the grueling work and low pay that my grandmother put up with for her children to do better, I cannot even begin to explain what that feather duster makes me feel.
Is this the only way that black women will ever be seen? In spite of how hard we've worked? In spite of the experience and education we've garnered? In spite of the titles that we achieve? In spite of the relentless sweat and time that we put in? In spite of hoping that one day we'll be viewed, not as maids, but as people? In spite of beating the odds to hold one of the highest positions in our government?
Mangwashi hasn't even been given a chance to work yet! She hasn't even had the opportunity to do anything yet. How did she suddenly get depicted as a maid? Is it because she’s just a black woman and the only way that people know how to look at black women in South Africa is as maids?
I respect the cartoonist's right to depict people as he would like (heck, I love freedom of speech; that's why I'm a journalist and that's why I'm writing this). I'm just asking you to look at that feather duster and consider what it says about the stereotypes that have been plaguing us for years.
How do we move on?
Maybe I'm taking this too personally? Pop your thoughts below and let's discuss this.
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