Kemi Badenoch’s leadership on identity politics can ensure the UK stands up against the cynical exploitation of Africa | Hermann Pretorius - The Opinionist

Jul 11, 2022
11 July 2022 - It might hardly seem the place of a foreigner like me to venture too deeply into British politics, but for mostly better and sometimes worse, what happens in the political sphere of the United Kingdom affects the world in many, many ways – not least of all Africa, the continent Kemi Badenoch & I have shared as a home; she in Nigeria, and I, as a South African.

Hermann Pretorius

It might hardly seem the place of a foreigner like me to venture too deeply into British politics, but for mostly better and sometimes worse, what happens in the political sphere of the United Kingdom affects the world in many, many ways – not least of all Africa, the continent Kemi Badenoch & I have shared as a home; she in Nigeria, and I, as a South African. These two countries have long been among the most important countries in Africa, economically, socially, and politically, and serve as case studies for many of the most significant political questions of our time. One of these questions is that of racial identity politics. And on this issue, Kemi Badenoch has shown the most profound and unflinching leadership in global politics.

There is something stark, shocking, yet bracing about politics in Africa – here, the problems are made brutally real. In Africa, identity politics is not about hurt feelings or toppled statues, but about apartheid and genocide. Identity politics, in the brutal, honest context of this continent, is not about privilege, flags, online abuse or pronouns, but about real life. In Africa, we have seen the real effects of the rejection of judging not by the colour of skin, but rather the content of character.

It has been bizarre and disheartening to observe the scourge of racial identity politics flowing like sewage from the most extreme quarters of the Left, the Right, and the world of academia, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom. The irony of two great historical nations that, respectively, fought a civil war to end slavery and launched and funded a naval initiative to accomplish the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, is tragically lost on the champions of the new campaigns of racial division in the name of woke virtue.

Now, of course the United States and United Kingdom have no flawless record on racial matters – the injustices of the past still cast long shadows over Africa. No nation in history can claim a legacy of undefiled virtue. Similarly, no person can do the same. We are all descendants of fallible human beings.

Like Badenoch, I am the confluence of complex historical trends that weave the real life effects of Burke’s conservatism, Gladstone’s liberalism, and Disraeli’s imperialism together: a white South African able to trace my heritage in Africa to the seventeenth century, a descendant of those who suffered in the concentration camps of the Boer War, whose ancestors suffered under British imperialism. Yet, many of my direct ancestors became staunch supporters of the National Party and its racist apartheid policy. My position in the woke intersectional hierarchy is a bizarre one – like every single human being on earth, my bloodline has run through the veins of oppressors and oppressed, villains and victims.

This is an inconvenience to the identitarian Left and Right who crudely seek to categorise people into specific identity boxes of their choosing – and use state and government power to accomplish this. Once this is done, they seek state power to hand out the costs or gains we are to inherit from the complex people and times and ideas that culminated in who we are. The champions of identity politics have perversely taken upon themselves the right to inflict judgement upon the generations.

On the burning issue of racial identity politics, Kemi Badenoch has shown insight, wisdom, and leadership. While she, by the standards of the radical and influential identity hustlers, has the perfect identitarian, intersectional hand to play to cash in on the rising esteem and commercial industry of identity, she has chosen not to drive wedges, nor ignore injustices, but to seek rational and fair non-racial common ground. This speaks greatly to her credit, integrity, and leadership.

In a perverse way, Africa is being exploited once again. Not this time for slave labour, but for ideological ammunition resources for an industry that beneficiates African hardships into lucrative demands of shameless identity politics in the United States and United Kingdom. This is incredibly damaging. Instead of Africa’s history and present suffering forming a basis for constructive ideas to uplift people and resolve socio-economic problems, my continent’s history and hardships have become pawns in the parlour games of those who seek to sow racial division wherever possible.

Africa and its people need a United Kingdom that can show leadership in halting this exploitation of Africa and its people – like it did when its fleet took to the seas to right a wrong, even though it had championed that wrong for centuries. We need a United Kingdom that shows it still maintains that uniquely classically liberal capacity of self-reflection that flowers into a dedication to principle – in this regard, the principle of non-racialism. Only this can stop the weaponisation of race for cynical ideological ends.

Africa and its people need First World leaders to take our problems seriously, not exploit our history to further divisive agendas. Africa desperately needs trade, democracy, investment, skills – a truly global Britain, on economics, on opportunity, on compassionate values that place individual freedom, individual ambition, and individual accountability above petty grievances and divisions. The infantilisation of Africa, of my people, has gone on far too long, with the shameless advance of racial identity politics just its latest manifestation. The longer a Western grievance industry is built on the backs of Africa’s poor, the longer it will take for Africa to grow and develop to become a constructive commercial partner for a global Britain, championing responsible and fair free trade.

For the United Kingdom itself on this issue of identity politics, neutral or lukewarm leadership simply won’t do. The determination and vigour of the extremists pushing racial identity politics must be countered by an answering dedication and clarity of leadership. No-one exemplifies this more than Kemi Badenoch – not because of the colour of her skin, but because of her shown understanding of the issue, her displayed insights into how the world is and should be.

A Conservative Party in government under Kemi Badenoch’s leadership can set the course for a renewed global acceptance of freedom and non-racialism, unashamedly promoting the value of the individual leading and building in community, above the toxicity of perpetual division. Should the Conservative Party grasp this opportunity to elect Badenoch as leader and Prime Minister, it will rank among the greatest hours of British global leadership. The British spirit that took to sea to counter the exploiters of the Third World will sail again.

Pretorius is the Managing Director of the Freedom Advocacy Network and a researcher and analyst for the South African Institute of Race Relations.

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