When this topic first came up, I chose not to get involved because I knew the controversy it would cause. People on all sides are generally exceptionally sensitive when it come to the topic of race. We can never just talk about our differences without an argument ensuing. Someone always has to overact out of offense and someone else will always have to pay by taking the blame. The conversation is almost not worth having because no one is ever willing to just listen and learn. Over and above that, I never considered myself a contender in the game. I was brought up differently, so I thought I had no say in the matter, but after reading the first post, I figured I could give it a shot.
I am a young black South African female who happened to be raised within the realms of the very popular western culture. Our parents wanted us to live and learn from the world without the restrictions and/or limitations of tradition. They wanted us to become who we were destined to be and not what culture dictated us to be. I was confused – but then again you would be too if you were expected to “hate” the enemy when they were the only friends you knew. While my sibling comfortably embraced some of our culture (speaking our mother tongue and befriending people of the same race), I chose to comfortably adopt the culture I was brought up in (white friends and speaking only English). It was tough because I never really knew where I fit in – when you have your feet in two different camps, there is always going to be a conflict of interest, but I’ll save you the sop story (and besides you’re already judging me)….
From my experience, I have realised that the question really shouldn’t be “What I Think A Specific Race Should Know” but rather “What I Think Everyone Should Know”. We’re all different and are influenced by our varying backgrounds, and it’s easy to just get angry and point fingers but it’s beneficial to learn and understand. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to know and/or relate to your past, your feelings or your point of view, so it’s your job to educate them. Instead of playing the oversensitive he said she said offense blame game, why not let curiosity be a teacher.
I have learnt through babysitting that kids will ask questions in order to gain understanding. Their intention is never to offend or hurt, but when they see something out of the ordinary; something they deem to be different, they want to know why and are brave enough to find out. And the answer you give them never changes their outlook or opinion of you. They don’t mock or tease you about it (well for the most part anyway), in fact, more often than not they leave having learnt something new and they respect you for it. You teach them what’s right and wrong and they will just go with it.
And so it should be with us adults, if someone is offending you or being uberly inquisitive, instead of pulling the race card or getting overly sensitive on the matter, why not respond by explaining why you don’t like it or why it makes you feel a specific way. There’s no point in getting angry and holding grudges over it – it helps no one and only creates more division among us. How will anyone ever know that something hurts you if you don’t explain it to them? There is nothing worse than having to walk on eggshells around a topic because we’re too scared of what the reaction might be… That’s just stupid!
We’ve got to put our fists down (stop being defensive) and have an open discussion about our differences. It’s time we learnt a little bit about each other in a safe non-threatening environment. Yes! Let’s discuss what my white friends should know and why, then turn the tables and discuss what my black, coloured, asian and indian friends should know and why. Let’s make it a group effort instead of a “them vs us” scenario; let’s get to know each other (what makes one person tick, may be a big fat joke for another – we’re ALL different like that), because the more you know the better you understand; and the better you understand, the more comfortable the interactions.
We won’t always get it right, but that’s why it’s so important to keep the lines of communication open, so we can continually learn along the way. It’s a never ending life lesson and we’ve got to see it as a journey, never a destination. It’s not a free ticket to be rude, judgmental and/or stereotypical… (try to see the bigger picture here) it’s an opportunity to gain knowledge and build relationship through understanding…
[To return to the start of this series and hear more thoughts and stories from other people, click here]