James Dostoyevsky: Goodbye, Africa. I am FIFA, and you do as I say

In a speech delivered at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, on 23 January 1963, Malcom X spoke about the House Negro and the Field Negro. He said:

“So you have two types of Negro. The old type and the new type. Most of you know the old type. When you read about him in history during slavery he was called “Uncle Tom.” He was the house Negro. And during slavery you had two Negroes. You had the house Negro and the field Negro.”

The house Negro usually lived close to his master. He dressed like his master. He wore his master’s second-hand clothes. He ate food that his master left on the table. And he lived in his master’s house–probably in the basement or the attic–but he still lived in the master’s house.


But then you had another Negro out in the field. The house Negro was in the minority. The masses–the field Negroes were the masses. They were in the majority. When the master got sick, they prayed that he’d die. [Laughter] If his house caught on fire, they’d pray for a wind to come along and fan the breeze.

If someone came to the house Negro and said, “Let’s go, let’s separate,” naturally that Uncle Tom would say, “Go where? What could I do without boss? Where would I live? How would I dress? Who would look out for me?” That’s the house Negro. But if you went to the field Negro and said, “Let’s go, let’s separate,” he wouldn’t even ask you where or how. He’d say, “Yes, let’s go.” And that one ended right there.

So now you have a twentieth-century-type of house Negro. A twentieth-century Uncle Tom. He’s just as much an Uncle Tom today as Uncle Tom was 100 and 200 years ago. Only he’s a modern Uncle Tom. That Uncle Tom wore a handkerchief around his head. This Uncle Tom wears a top hat. He’s sharp. He dresses just like you do. He speaks the same phraseology, the same language. He tries to speak it better than you do. He speaks with the same accents, same diction. And when you say, “your army,” he says, “our army.” He hasn’t got anybody to defend him, but anytime you say “we” he says “we.” “Our president,” “our government,” “our Senate,” “our congressmen,” “our this and our that.” And he hasn’t even got a seat in that “our” even at the end of the line. So this is the twentieth-century Negro. Whenever you say “you,” the personal pronoun in the singular or in the plural, he uses it right along with you. When you say you’re in trouble, he says, “Yes, we’re in trouble.”

But there’s another kind of Black man on the scene. If you say you’re in trouble, he says, “Yes, you’re in trouble.” [Laughter] He doesn’t identify himself with your plight whatsoever.”

One would imagine that the world has moved on, since 1963. We no longer live in the 20th century. So things must have changed. Because today, we live in an altogether different century. We live in the 21st century. Things have changed. And thank you, Deity, that they have changed. Malcolm’s fight was not in vain. Because things have changed, haven’t they?

Today, we live in an educated world. In a world of equal opportunity where gender, race, creed and sexual preference don’t matter anymore. We have created a world full of racial harmony, sexual understanding, religious tolerance and multitudes of gender preferences.

We live in a world where there are no more Masters. And no slaves. Where there are no disadvantaged minorities, no lower and upper classes. We live in a world where no race is predominant and no Master calls on a house Negro nor commands an army of field negroes.

All of that is the Brave New World we live in. All of that is a world we are proud of. We have finally managed to accept one another as equals. As brothers and sisters. As equal partners in business, politics and sports.

Or have we?

FIFA’s most recent antics, the most inappropriate acts of raw post-colonial conduct, raise not merely eyebrows. World Football’s arrogant attempts at taking over not one country’s but an entire continent’s (football) affairs are a harsh reminder of who’s a have and who’s a have-not.

For centuries, the smiles and the welcoming words of African tribal nations and tribal nation states were conveniently “misunderstood” by their colonisers as stupidity and underdevelopment. They arrived with technology that was new in Africa’s sensationally beautiful lands and they exploited, raped and pillaged those who had welcomed them with a smile and with kindness.

Only centuries later, when the entire continent of Africa had been properly robbed blind, when artificial borders and states had been created by the white man so as to keep the savages in check and under proper control, Africa started to wake up and rebel against its oppressors who had sold hundreds of thousands into slavery, only to build empires on their backs.

But Africa was no longer having any of this.

One revolution after the other against the Masters shattered the continent and slowly but surely new nation states took shape who made first steps towards self-governance and independence from what many of us call the white trash that subjugated Africa for too long.

Throughout this process of struggles for independence, there were some who had forgotten that what nobody should be able to take from them was their pride. They obliged, got corrupted and started to exploit their own without remorse and much to the pleasure of the former colonial gangsters. They were complicit in the further exploitation of the richest continent in the world where the hundreds of millions who have always lived there, could live in abundance and luxury, were it not for the white man, the Chinese man and other non-African men who had returned, again with a vengeance, to further exploit, maim and pillage.

But not all were ready to take the humiliation again.

Not all were ready to lie down and give away what is legally theirs to the highest bidder.

Not all are prepared to allow history repeat itself where the Black Man is the house Negro at best, and the exploited underling at worst.

But there are some.

They now use sport, and in particular football, to play the dirty neo-colonial game, where the allegedly incompetent black man must be helped along, taught and guided by the oh-so-intelligent and sophisticate white man. Aided and abetted by archetypes that Malcolm describes so accurately.

All we can say, those of us who have not slept for 200 years, those of us who were around when Malcolm was, those of us who lived through 1968, those of us who witnessed Idi Amin, Jean-Bédel Bokassa and their horrific madness, and those of us who have suffered with Mandela and – unlike Stanley Rous – fought against apartheid and for the freedom of Africa, those of us who have long understood that the maxim cannot be “my way or the highway” – all of us who respect the self-determination of those in particular who were oppressed, abused, exploited, raped and pillaged for centuries, we all must decry, condemn and reject FIFA’s neo-colonialism as it is now, once again, on stark display, 45 years after Rous and with a new Emperor in very old clothes.

Because what else is it that is going on?

‘I have come to take your rights because you are incompetent and corrupt and I can do better than you. I will give you some of the proceeds as I see fit but my decisions is irrevocable as is the fact that I now control your future ad infinitum. Or, until I change my mind.’ 

It is sick enough that a FIFA leadership has the nerve to apply this rotten policy. But even more unacceptable to observe who the players are.

But let me tell you this: it is just as sick – and in the eyes of Malcom X it would be much worse – if a black man succumbed to all sorts of lies and gobbled them up to the detriment of his/her own people, and does as he/she is told. Out of fear? Out of corruption? Out of servitude?

What Malcolm would despise is what is going on in Africa today.

I think FIFA should think long and hard whether its interventionist politics in Africa are still the flavour of the day or whether its conduct should have been buried in the sixties of the last century – or at the latest with the passing of Stanley Rous in 1986. Instead, they have re-invented the vicious circle of exploitation and oppression by dangling a golden carrot in front of greedy eyes that will soon become the poisoned apple that it really is.

The FIFA snake has arrived in paradise.

James Dostoyevsky was a Washington based author until the end of 2018, where he reported on sports politics and socio-cultural topics. He returned to Europe in 2019 and continues to follow football politics – presently with an emphasis on the Middle East, Europe and Africa.