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Continuing some really helpful conversations surrounding White Privilege and Racial Reconciliation, i was put into contact with Stephanie Ebert who has been doing some master’s research on a related topic.

stephanieebert

“I’m a target of crime. I have to leave the country in order to find work.  I do not have leaders in government who are my race. When I’m stopped by a cop, they most likely do not look like me. I’m not privileged, I’m a victim.” 

These are some of the sentiments that I’ve heard (explicitly or implicitly) and read as I’ve talked with people about the topic of my master’s research, which includes issues of white privilege. Peggy McIntosh wrote an article called “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” where she lists all the unrecognized benefits she has as a white person living in America. At first glance, it’s hard to tell if these benefits come from a history (and present reality) that systematically privileges white people, or if they come from being part of a racial numerical majority. (I mean, obviously she’d be able to find band-aids that match her skin colour, if the majority of people buying band-aids have white skin).

In South Africa, white people are a numerical minority, and this means that the way conversations about white privilege happen have to account for the unique situation this creates. When people bring up South African white privilege (like Gillian Schuute’s Mail and Guardian piece) it’s usually met with vehement denial and aggressiveness. Here are a few things I’ve learned this year, that are interesting pieces of the conversation I missed when I was just looking at white privilege in the USA.

White South Africans have experienced a loss in a way that white Americans haven’t. Black people in America got the vote, but white Americans still had/have the political power. They didn’t have to “give anything up” by letting black people vote (this is a complete over-simplification, but, you get the idea).

In South Africa, by giving everyone in the country a right to vote, white people were giving up political power forever—and at the time of the Mandela miracle, some white people didn’t even realize that’s what they were doing, because they thought there would always be a power-sharing/representative government.

So when white people woke up and realized that we’re probably never going to have a white president again, and that our history books, our street names, our monuments are being re-told and re-named, we don’t have the central place in the story anymore—that’s a lot to deal with. When you’re used to being the centre (whether that’s “right” or “wrong”) and suddenly you’re not—that’s  a loss. Jonathan Jansen, in his book “Knowledge in the Blood”, (which is about his years as the first black Dean of Education at University of Pretoria, a hard-core Afrikaans university) helped me to understand this. This loss needs to be dealt with. It needs to be acknowledged. It is hard for white people to realize that actually, they are still privileged largely because their feelings of loss are screaming louder than their ability to rationally look at the privilege they do still have.

White people don’t feel privileged because we hang out with white people: The institute for Justice and Reconciliation does a huge survey every year and one of the things they look at is standard of living. There are 10 groups/levels ranging from super poor to very wealthy.  In 2013, no white South Africans occupied the four lowest groups, and 73.3 are in the two highest groups. 95% of white South Africans are in the top four groups.

When people of different races were asked to describe their perceptions of how wealthy they are, middle-class black people were most likely to say, “well off’ or “Better than most”, and all white people were most likely to say, “Fairly middling” or “Just scraping by.” I assume this is because middle-class black people have connections with friends and family who are poor (or have recently come from poverty) whereas white South Africans compare themselves with their other white friends or those overseas.

Another one: Statistically, violent crime in South Africa affects poor black people the most, but doesn’t get reported on. So white people read the newspapers and feel that they are special targets of crime, when in fact we (along with other wealthy people in SA) are safer than the majority of South Africans. But, because we’re only talking with our white neighbours who have been hijacked or robbed, rather than our black neighbours in the township, we get this warped view of the world where we think we are special targets.

This makes it hard to talk about privilege, because people’s immediate, lived experience from which they form their understanding of the world is saying , “No, no, I’m a victim.” Because in their experience, they are. They just haven’t been exposed to the realities of other people in our country, so talking about white privilege just doesn’t make sense to them.

Globalization means we’ll probably always be privileged.  Let’s take apartheid out of the equation. I’m pretty much a born-free (born in 1990). My parents aren’t even from South Africa originally. So, I could tell people that my education and my place in life didn’t come from any white privilege and think I’m off the hook. But, what this doesn’t take into account is the way that whiteness is privileged world-wide because of the way Western culture gets exported all over the world. I’m a racial minority in this country, 90% of the people here don’t share my race. However:

- I can watch TV and movies and be confident that most of the actors will look like me (and will not be in a culturally stereotypical role).

- I can open a magazine for any major retail shop and the majority of people in the advertisements will look like me.

- I can be confident that my language (English) will be preferenced. I don’t have to bother to learn isiZulu (which is the mother-tongue of the majority of people in my province) because they all have to learn English for school and work.

-  I can easily find hair products and band-aids for my skin and hair. In fact, in major grocery chains, sometimes the hair products for black people are in a separate aisle marked “ethnic hair care”—white hair is set as the norm. (So weird?!)

- If I’m ever in situations where I feel like a spectacle because white person, (for example, township kids wanting to touch my hair) it’s not usually like, “Oh that’s so weird I have to check that out” it’s like, “Oh, I wish I could be like you”.

Never mind the privileges I still get that are left-overs from apartheid:

- Most of my professors at university look like me.

- It’s easier for me to book holiday accommodation (in a blind audit of South Coast holiday accommodation last year 1/3rd of the time black people were denied accommodation based on their race).

- I have networks and friends that I went to school with whose parents all own business or run businesses—I will always be able to get an internship or low-paying job through them.

- I can do weird things and people don’t put it down to my race (for example, I can dig through the recycling centre drop-off to get cardboard for projects, whereas my black friends would be chased away for loitering).

The Class thing: So, there is a growing black middle class, and many academics would argue that the biggest injustices in our country are against the poor (because they are poor, not because they’re black) and don’t have as much to do with race anymore. There is an argument that focusing on race “makes everything a race issue” and distracts us from mobilizing along class lines. This is true, and I get it. But I think the above examples show that there is still a racial element to the injustice that happens in South Africa, and we still need to talk about race and privilege because it’s there.

[For  more from Stephanie, make sure you check out her blog, Bridging Hope]

[For the piece i wrote on Whit Privilege, click here]

[For an excellent piece and maybe even better conversation in the comments on first steps white South Africans can make, click here]

 

 

 

 

stephan

i don’t know Stephan Pastis personally [although i did meet him once and introduce him to No_bob, the world's most famous dolphin and if we keep on harrassing him he will surely HAVE to include No_bob in a strip] but it is quite possible he is stalking me.

As is evidenced in these two strips i just saw on the best and worst of foods. It’s like he ‘gets’ me.

THE BEST:

PearlsBeforeMayoTHE WORSTish:

PearlsBeforeOysters

Well, not quite the worst. You need to rely on Garfield for that:

THE ABSOLUTE WORST:

garfield1

garfield2Whereas clearly Mr Pastis has some work to do on this one:

Pearls before RaiSINs

[For more great Pearls before Swineness, click here]

[The time i met Stephan and introduced him to No_bob] 

 

 

 

senzo

A death is always tragic.  South Africa as a nation and as individuals and families that i know have been reeling over the last few days over a number of tragic deaths.

The big focus has been on Senzo Meyiwa, though. Bafana Bafana goalkeeper and hero to many.

When you hear he died protecting his girlfriend, a little more so.

But when you hear that he also had a wife.

That does not make the story any less tragic. maybe more so.

i am reminded of the story of King David, a man after God’s own heart, and his affair with Bathsheba [a married woman] which ended in adultery, betrayal, murder and the death of their baby. all things which David could have avoided if at any point in the process he had owned up and taken responsibility for his actions. but interestingly enough, it all begins here:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. [2 Samuel 11.1]

David was the king. And at the time when kings go off to war, David sent someone else. He was not in the place where he was supposed to be.

From the sounds of things, Senzo started his affair with Kelly Khumalo within a year or so of being married and yet this is how his wife Mandisa describes him according to an article in Sundayworld, “He is a real believer and he reads the Bible at every chance he gets. I love his dedication and commitment. He is my hero, a real sweetheart.”

Sounds just like ‘a man after God’s own heart’.

Perhaps if Senzo Meyiwa had been in the place he was meant to be in, his death could have been avoided. [I am not suggesting that he was killed because he was cheating on his wife, just that circumstantially he happened to be in the place where he was killed as a result of it]

His death is a tragedy, yes.

The fact that we the public make him out to be a hero, when, just like the rest of us, he clearly had clay feet, is a tragedy.

I think the fact that because he is a celebrity [see Oscar Pistorius]his death gets special treatment and suddenly the police are going to do everything they can to catch the killer, is a tragedy for the families and friends of non-celebrity people who have been murdered this last week and year. When will we realise that celebrities are people like the rest of us, simply with a spotlight shining on them?

I think the fact that he read His bible every chance he got, and yet that doesn’t seem to have translated into transformative life-changing living, is a tragedy.

senzos

 

This was recorded at our Improguise: Players of TheatreSports show last nite and is quite possibly one of the best scenes i have ever been involved in.

The best part for me is there was absolutely no planning or pre-thought or idea of what was going to happen until the moment Anne was behind me and i just launched into it and like a true pro she followed and the rest is Improv history.

This is why we do this. [With Anne Hirsch and Carolyn Lewis]

We play shows every monday night at the Galloway theatre at 8pm [except this coming monday as we are doing a photo shoot to promo our venue] ending early December so make sure you book and come and watch really soon… although we will be back early next year…

For more info check out our page over here. Or like our Facebook page over here. Or you can even stalk us on the Twitterer @TheatresportsSA.

 

 

This feels like a psalm for old people [like me]. So if you’re not even partly old, maybe bookmark this and come back and read it in ten years or so…

And seriously go and read the whole psalm – i am not going to go through all of it here, but it really is a good one to read all the way through:

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
    turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
    to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.

i may just be putting my own oldness and tiredness on to this, but it feels like that is where the author is coming from. Looking back over a lot of years , which have not all been easy [see vs.20] it is the faith of his youth that he is raising up.

You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.

That line also speaks very much of a faith that has endured. I continue to believe. It may not always have been easy and clearly hasn’t been at times, but i am still holding on, i am still running this race. You continue to sustain me and keep me going and be enough for me God.

This is encouraging in a world where so many people seem to have given up on their relationship with God. Life and having a family and needing to be responsible and the pressures of conformity and the enticement of comfortability have all proved too strong and so a passionate run with God has either declined into a once-a-week religious meeting and an attempt to ‘be kinda good’ or at least as good as the next guy, or a snuffing out of the flame completely, and in some cases turning strongly against it [and how evil it always was]

But this psalmist knows. He knows God as the rock of refuge to whom he can always turn. He knows God is his deliverer and hope. And so continues to believe and hope and live for Him.

Clearly the temptation to walk away is here for him as well:

Do not cast me away when I am old;
    do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
    those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him;
    pursue him and seize him,
    for no one will rescue him.”
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
    come quickly, God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
    may those who want to harm me
    be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

But although he has no doubt witnessed it in others, he finishes this section with the powerful words, ‘as for me’ – others may arrive at a different place, but this is how it is going to be for me.

Very reminiscent of Joshua standing before the people in Joshua 24:

14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

You can do what you want. But AS FOR ME and my family, we will serve the Lord. 

And there is a whole lot more, but let’s just finish off with the opening lines of these last three paragraphs:

22 I will praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
    Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
    when I sing praise to you—
    I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
    all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
    have been put to shame and confusion.

I will praise you.

My lips will shout for joy.

My tongue will tell of your righteous acts.

Is this you?

[To take a look at any of the other Psalms i have walked through so far, click here]

tshego

Once I’ve fed; entertained; disciplined; played with; answered a billion and 1 questions and then finally put the kids to bed, I get to relax and watch some tv – I am exhausted.

I don’t do this everyday, only every so often, to give those who do a chance to enjoy their long lost freedom – I am the babysitter.

I’m a firm believer in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” and have chosen to avail myself, to a couple of good friends, as a helping hand to their adventurous child filled life. I love children; so much so, that I could not think of anything better than spending some good old time with them – everyone wins.

Now you’re probably thinking… “She’s crazy!” Or “it’s easy to be a part time parent, but she has no idea what it takes to be real parent” and you would be completely wrong. Yes, I may not understand the daily experiences of a 24/7 parent but, I’ve had my fair share of the ups and downs of the job and have learnt enough to understand the stressors associated with it.

I’ve been traumatised by the non-stop screams of a scared and confused toddler and awoken by the cries of a sick and uncomfortable child. I’ve been left defeated by the demands of an upset baby boy, who just refused to be put down because all he wanted was to sleep in MY arms until his mommy got home. I’ve been entertained by their excitement to many a discovery and amused by their unlimited boundary pushing tactics. I have been moved by their unconditional expressions of love and intrigued by their intentional acts of attention seeking. I’ve celebrated their applauded victories and consoled them through their misunderstood frustrations – I’m well aware that the task of parenthood is nowhere near easy…

Being a mom (or a dad for that fact of matter) is a roller coaster ride that often requires a lot of blood, sweat and salty flavoured water because…

To be a mom requires you to make some tough decisions, deal with temper tantrums and juggle a variety of life’s never ending tasks, simultaneously.

To be a mom requires you to overcome sleepless nights, overlook the chaos of clutter and face unimaginable criticism (from the people you’d think would be rooting you on because they’ve been there and done that), all while keeping your head held high.

To be a mom requires you to know it all, fix it all and carry it all.

To be a mom requires you to constantly support, encourage and counsel when and as it is demanded of you.

To be a mom requires you to put yourself aside, and learn to devise and conquer despite the overwhelming fear and persistent need to call quits.

To be a mom will require you to sacrifice every aspect of who YOU are, for the benefit of who THEY will become.

To be a mom requires you to love beyond, above and outside of yourself.

To be a mom requires you to be a superhero without any superpowers – your mission is to defeat, defend and deliver…. Good Luck!

To be a mom is a tough and exhausting job that requires more and more out of you each and every day.

And yet, in spite of all this, I have observed that…

To be a mom is the biggest and most rewarding yet underrated blessing, that is given to mere mortals such as you and I.

And if you really think about it…

To be a mom is an incredibly symbolic representation of our relationship with God.

[For more stories looking at the concept of 'To Be A Mom', click here]

OctLnow

One of my favourite weekends of the year, when i’ve been privileged enough to be a part of it [which is quite often!], is the weekend known as October Leadership.

i have been part of at least ten of them and spoken on about 8 of those and it has never failed to be a life [and hopefully school etc] transforming weekend.

Run by Scripture Union, the purpose of October Leadership has been gathering together the Christian Union committees from the various high school around Cape Town and training up the leaders to lead the Christian groups and impact their schools for the year to come.

The two pictures above are of October Leadership as i remember it to be, 7 to 10 years ago, when we had the campsite at close to full capacity with close to 20 different schools represented, and then camp this weekend which must have been about half the size.

[Apparently last year they only had about 30 people and only had to make use of the top half of the campsite]

With the theme of Live Out Loud [LOL, but not really] this year felt like another significant time of inspiration, challenge, opportunity to deal with the crap in our lives holding us back and being handed the question, “WHAT IF?”. Inviting the young people to start to imagine and dream and wonder – what if God pitched up* at your school? What would it look like if the kingdom of heaven really broke into your school in a big and real way?

[* where by 'pitched up' i am not suggesting for a second that God ever left but for me the idea of God doing some discernible and very noticeable work]

So i have no doubt that it was a significant weekend for a number of the people who attended. Hopefully everyone in different ways.

But, during worship on Friday night, i did something i really don’t do all that often. [We're talking once every ten years, if that, although i would be more than okay if it was more]

I started to cry. 

Looking around at the people who were there, it was almost more obvious to me who was not there. My old high school, Westerford, was one of the schools that was not there. S.A.C.S. and Bishops and i think Wynberg Boys were not there. Rondebosch boys was represented by one person. Most of the schools from the Stellenbosch and Somerset West side. Parel Vallei. Fish Hoek. Many more…

The worship session followed a time when the young people had gathered in their CU committee groups and written down a little bit of their current reality and they shared that with the big group. What added to my breakdown was hearing from some CU groups that used to be really huge and influential in their schools who now had more people on their committee than attending meetings. Listening to at least three schools that had to bribe people with biscuits or chips to come to their meetings. Schools represented that didn’t even have a Christian group of any kind.

It was quickly obvious to us that something had gone wrong. Someone somewhere had dropped the ball. Somewhere along the line, people had just started taking this camp for granted or had just not had a clue about the significance of it. And these poor kids [and many of those not represented and possibly a bunch of schools in the Western Cape who have struggling, dying or non-existent Christian groups] had been caught in the crossfire.

THIS IS NOT OKAY!

Val and i had a bunch of conversations about a lot of the reasons that may have led to this and hopefully i can tempt her into writing a post to express some of them more eloquently than i did. What resulted was that she ended up doing the last talk this morning and just hitting it out of the park in terms of confession and being able to name some of the things and being able to inspire, challenge, encourage and hopefully give these young people something to work with.

God showed up [as He does when you create space for Him and invite Him and step out of the way] but it should have been such a more significant weekend for a whole lot more individuals and schools represented and something needs to change to get us back there. Who in the Western Cape will stand in the gap to help Daryl Henning [old mate of mine who has just become the leader of the SU work in the Western Cape and who i am so grateful for and know has some great plans in mind to head things in the right direction] and others lead this thing back to a great place? i have heard that Schools United are doing some great vibes and there are some cool youth ministries and leaders around. But the legacy of strong schools ministry feels like something that should not be let go too easily.

The one passage that followed us around the weekend and is one of the inspiring pieces we held onto as we said our goodbyes and moved out was this passage from Ezekiel 37:

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

 

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