The birds, the BEEs and the social butterflies of Joburg’s north

Rhodes>Perspective>2014 Archive

The arena of “love” among the rich black kids of northern Joburg is thrilling and tumultuous, pompous and poetic.

Typically defined as having a romantic relationship with a particular individual, “bae-ism” and its social implications have revolutionised the way relationships are entered into, developed and engaged in.

In observing this “bae-ism” culture among these kids of the north, you can deduce three things.

The first is the power of appearance and association, which seems to be the basis of the social dynamic in the north.

The quintessential Joburg girl is a social overachiever by virtue of her sex appeal and the circles she moves in. She is desired and envied by all.

Young women like these make it fashionable to be seen partying at homecoming picnics and posing for fashion photographers on the streets of the now trendy Braamfontein.

Their faces are flaunted across Tumblr and Instagram feeds. It is difficult for these girls to live their lives ignorant of their influence and appeal.

But it is precisely this influence and appeal that obliges these girls to maintain such norms that are often carried into their intimate relationships.

Hedonism is closely tied to status among the black ‘in’ crowd. Picture: Grant Payne

Their typical male equivalent is one who is usually well off and has a reputation for behaving badly. In the north, there is a false novelty in females engaging in romantic relationships with such males.

It will be difficult for these girls to have romantic interactions outside their typical northern male equivalents.

Second is the way these girls prioritise their male partners, especially if they originate from the north, or have financial or social prominence.

In the north, many girls make the mistake of involving themselves in relationships with the dangerously ambitious intention of treating their partners as husbands, regardless of their abusive behaviour.

Many of these young women engage in relationships with these males because they box their ideas of authentic love in the shallow social standards of the north.

It is one of the main reasons they engage and stay in physically, emotionally and spiritually abusive relationships for long periods.

Such relationships possess a supposed social prestige and are by and large unhealthy for these young women.

These relationships are romanticised even more by the fact that public knowledge of a tumultuous relationship is lauded among the north’s young elite.

There is a false novelty that comes with being in a dysfunctional relationship and having everyone who is socially associated with the north knowing about it.

In other words, there’s celebrity that comes with the story of the gorgeous, popular girl who tries to turn the bad boy into a saint. Such relationships reduce her dignity and self-worth, and diminish her identity as a developing woman.

The third and equally important deduction is the dangerous misconception that throwing money and unfacilitated freedom at your children will provide them with a sense of responsibility and autonomy.

For many black South Africans, financial materialism is the first point of reference when talking about their freedom. Money is not the only way, but is a pertinent tool blacks use to communicate, interpret and express their freedom in this country.

The black elite are examples of this very expression. The generation of blacks who came into wealth and formed the black bourgeoisie have passed on the moral burden of coming from “nothing into something” to their children.

Black parents typically come from struggle into freedom, while their children are born directly into freedom. Each generation requires its own set of principles for these generations to thrive.

A black parent whose values and principles are typically based on a struggle mind-set cannot successfully pass on important lessons to a child who is born into freedom, especially when money is the embodiment of this freedom.

Generational values change but the money stays the same. This is where the conversation about pairing principles and pennies to the black elite and their children fails.

Many rich black parents make the mistake of associating their hard-earned economic freedom with their children’s supposedly unquestioned entitlement to it.

This misconception becomes dangerous when elite black individuals raise their children, particularly their boys, with traditional ideas of gender functions, coupled with the constant supply of money.

This is why rich, black, male adolescents of the north carry the emotional entitlement of “true manhood”, yet are not able to conduct themselves as true men because the consistent and easy availability of their parent’s wealth diminishes that ethic.

What is more tragic about these kinds of relationships the elite black parents have with their children is that it paralyses them – particularly their male children – from establishing their own strong ethics in terms of work, the self, and healthy financial and sentimental legacies.

So many young, rich, black adolescents exert their supposed power through abusing their parents’ wealth, abusing the women in their lives and, most tragically, abusing themselves.

Many young, elite, black male adolescents of Joburg’s northern suburbs are gradually being paralysed by the burden of privilege.

These romantic pain- and passion-filled relationships are the realities of unaddressed socioeconomic and sociocultural pathologies.

Although these are phenomena not exclusive to northern Joburg, there is value in exploring our own local discourse – the South African black elite reality – for this.

So tell me … who’s your bae?

By: Mpumelelo Macheke

Macheke is studying towards his degree in English and law at Rhodes University in Grahamstown

Article Source: City Press