Roots of Black Oppression

Take, for instance, the common structural discourse trap that many often fall into, the misconception of beginning analyses on Uganda’s land, from around 120 years ago, when the territory now known as Uganda was declared a protectorate by the British.

The territory that the British annexed and named Uganda, was originally occupied by the first nations of that territory – peoples of African descent.  How then, will such analyses, that begin 120 years ago, foster discourse on the restoration of the rights of the territory’s first nations to their lands that were annexed from them by the colonialists? 

If one agrees, as I do, that the declaration of ownership of Uganda by the British, and their subsequent ‘return’ of ownership of Uganda to the Sate, was and remains problematic, then this is a major issue that needs to be resolved. 

For one, the British returned ownership not to those from whom they grabbed the land, in the first place, but to the State; a State that was borne in Lancaster House in London and without genuine representation of all of the territory’s first nations.

The boundaries claimed by the British were not in the interests of the diverse first nations that previously occupied and owned the territory, before the British came. So, why are we stuck with those boundaries? Where is the justice in that? 

Where is the justice for the territory’s first nations, the:

  • Iteso, my people, who are the fifth largest and largest non-bantu first nation.
  • Baganda, the largest.
  • Banyankole, the second largest.
  • Basoga, the third largest.
  • Bakiga, the fourth largest.
  • All the other 50 plus first nations.

By starting 120 years ago, such analyses, inadvertently normalises the colonial period, by subconsciously endorsing the ‘let-us-forget-the-colonial-past’ smokescreen. The colonial past is not relevant now, let us instead ‘modernise’ and catch-up to be like our colonisers, so goes the logic of that smokescreen.

By subconsciously endorsing that smokescreen, the culturally imperialistic interpretation of John Locke’s Second Treatise is normalised, perhaps unintentionally. In the version published by The University of Chicago, in his Second Treatise (1689), Locke argued thus (underline emphasis is mine):

God gave the world to men in common; but since he gave it them for their benefit, and the greatest conveniences of life they were capable to draw from it, it cannot be supposed he meant it should always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational… For I ask whether in the wild woods uncultivated wast (waste) of America left to nature, without any improvement, tillage or husbandry, a thousand acres will yield the need and wretched inhabitants as many conveniences of life as ten acres of equally fertile land doe (does) in Devonshire where they are well cultivated?”

John Locke

A culturally imperialistic interpretation of Locke’s Second Treatise, indeed, forms the basis and the justification of colonialism. The colonialists, in the context of Uganda the British, elevated themselves to be the ones “industrious and rational”; while dehumanising those that they colonised, in Uganda’s context, African first nations, as “wretched inhabitants.”

Sadly, the popular view is that the current President of the United States of America is seemingly persuaded by that culturally imperialistic interpretation of Locke’s Second Treatise. He is persuaded by it and he actively promotes the idea of white America as supreme and the more “industrious and rational.”

Yes, in order to justify their racist interpretation, they employed colour. They coloured Africans black and themselves white. And they created a narrative so negative and toxic for their creation “the blacks” to the extent that Steve Biko famously asserted:

“Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

Steve Biko

I digress, back to the point. Because of greed, the British who colonised Uganda circumvented the idea that “God gave the world to men in common”, as in the world is for us all and we humans should use it for the greater good of us all.

They classified humans and argued that one class of humans, the “wretched inhabitants”, the African first nations, were irresponsible anyway, for letting the land “remain common and uncultivated… wild woods uncultivated… left to nature, without any improvement, tillage or husbandry.”

Ironically, the wisdom of the “wretched inhabitants”, now forms the popular central logic of the premise for the fight against environmental pollution and degradation that has resulted from the very systems prior considered “industrious and rational”.

Image credit: OfficeHolidays

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