Book review: ‘We are the Ones We Need’ by Sihle Bolani


If you’ve ever wondered whether the rumours about white privilege in corporate South Africa are real. I suggest you pick up this book and formulate your opinion.

As a black female professional working in the financial services sector, I’ve often wondered whether we build these theories up in our heads. This was until I discovered this book. 

After leaving the employment of a certain bank after 11 months, I really needed another black woman’s view to verify if the institutional racism I experienced was present in other financial institutions in the country. And boy did I find out!

Sihle gives her personal account of the victimisation she faced at the hands of white managers during a 3 year stint at one of SA’s largest retail banks. She recalls email by email, conversation by conversation how her efforts to progress business objectives and seek to develop her skills were stunted by malicious white superiors and how she watched her white colleagues and juniors float up the career ladder.

Of course Sihle’s situation is one of extreme conditions, but from what I read that is because she was victimised for being a black woman that spoke up to the subtle injustices. Most black people in these institutions prefer to smile and wave, too threatened by the possibility of being victimised or losing their jobs. Not only are there gross remuneration inconsistencies between black and white professionals, but those black professionals that do make it up the ranks do not foster an environment of dialogue, but rather perpetuate the culture of fear to a point where those of us who can’t deal just leave and others just live with the unfairness of it all.

Sihle’s story reminds us that apartheid didn’t die, it seeped into the corridors of corporate South Africa and its up to us to address it. Until we are paid the same and afforded the same opportunities for career advancement, we will forever be oppressed in the land of our forefathers- figuratively and financially.

Your in inspiration,

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