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Sometimes good intentions aren’t enough.

Take the New York Police Department, who in an attempt to foster better relations with the public decided on this great plan:

“Do you have a photo with a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook,” the department posted on its NYPD News Twitter feed, hoping to fuel a feel-good, low-cost public relations campaign.

Or how about that time in 1986 when:

The whole crazy scheme – known as Balloonfest ’86 – was a fundraising effort organised by the United Way, an attempt to break the world record for simultaneous launch. Disneyland’s 30th Birthday, the year before in Anaheim, was the previous champion. 

 

What could possibly go wrong, right?

Except maybe THIS…

New York police Tuesday were eating extra helpings of humble pie after asking people to post images of themselves and NYPD officers on Twitter – only to face a deluge of pictures of alleged police brutality.[You can read the rest of the article and see some of the unfortunate pictures over here  in what has overnight become a PR nightmare of epic proportions].

Or perhaps THIS…

Then the “asteroid field” of airborne debris clouded the sky, shut down a runway at a local airport, interrupted the Coast Guard attempts to rescue a pair of fisherman, spooked some prize-winning horses, and generally made a mess of un-biodegradable [edit: apparently the balloons were biodegradable, for what it's worth] garbage on land. [You can read and see more about this one over here,  including video of a news report from the following day].

Great ideas, but possibly not well thought through. This is an area that non-profits and churches involved in short-term mission trips could well learn from.

Books like ‘When Helping Hurts’ [Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert] and ‘Toxic Charity’ [Bob Lupton] have started to open up the conversation that some of the well-intentioned activities we take part in may not always benefit those we are attempting to help, and at times may even cause more harm than good.

“Give a man to fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. But at some point we also need to ask why the fishing licences are so expensive, who owns the fences around the pond and who has been polluting the pond.”

Great words, if lived out. But too often we get caught up in simply giving people fish [why? because it is easier, brings instant gratification and doesn't require much personal cost and also everyone likes us when we give them fish and so it feels like we're doing something helpful]

Jesus had some helpful words to say about this one:

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Something about counting the cost.

Something about sharing ideas with other people because ‘You might not be the one with the most knowledge when it comes to this particular situation’.

Something huge about relationships and the importance of knowing, listening to and having some measure of understanding the people you are going to be working with.

Something about working with those who you might be doing outreach to as opposed to working at.

Something about long term investment, even if you are doing short term trips, possibly choosing an area and group you connect with on a recurring basis so that you can start to know, listen to better and understand the people and the context you are working with.

Something about possibly building relationship first [and possibly for a long period of time] before rushing in with help, assistance, things.

Something about good intentions being a great start, but sometimes, not enough, and sometimes not by a lot…

Let’s crank this thing up a notch. Two articles that have caught my attention recently [Thankx Tsholofelo for the first one] and have a lot to say in this Race conversation that we’ve started and are engaging with each other on [although am still hoping to see more of that].

These feel like they could be part of the ‘can of worms’ and ‘Pandora’s Box’ i was promised [threatened with?] when i said that i was going to start a conversation about Race on my blog, which thus far feels like it hasn’t happened. But i have this idea that a lot of people who are a greater part of the problem, if i could even get them to read these two articles, would easily dismiss them.

The only problem is that there is so much truth in each one. And it is truth that white people [who have traditionally or historically been the dominant race group in both Americaland and South Africa] really could do well with hearing, and trying to understand.

I have only included snippets from each article in this post, so do yourselves a favour and go and read the whole article and then come back here and share your thoughts, whatever they may be.

The first is an article titled, Racism 2.0: Living in a post-racial America by Zach Freshley [the lines i have quoted are not one section but rather different thoughts i have pulled out from different places in the article]

If I had a dime for every time I’ve been called “the whitest black guy I know”, I could pay off the national debt. Ok, not really, but you get the point.

That HAS to be one of the most offensive things someone can say to a black person i imagine? Black friends help me out? And the worst is, i have this strong inherent feeling whispering to me from some distant memory that i have probably said that to someone before. Completely not meant offensively. i dunno, am i over-reacting? today it just feels really unkind…

Wrong. Racism is sneaky nowadays. It lurks in our conversations. It slips its way into the way we interact with people of different races. It embeds itself into the way we think. It’s not blatant and it’s not obvious. And most times, it’s not even intentional. But its subtlety is exactly what makes it so dangerous.

People say things like this all the time and it drives me crazy. You take one look at the amount of melanin in my skin and assume that you know everything about me. You assume you know the type of music I listen to. You assume you know how I should dress. You think you know all these things because you don’t see me as a unique human being. You see me as a category. You see me as a box to be checked on the census form.

And while I don’t apologize for anything I’ve said, I don’t want you to read this as a white person and feel like I’m attacking you. Because I’m not. I just want to let you know how we as minorities feel. I wanted to give you a small taste of what I go through on a daily basis. Not to elicit sympathy. Not to make you feel like a terrible person. I just want you to think. I want you to think about the way you treat people you don’t even know simply because they have a different shade of skin than you do. I don’t want you to treat me any differently as a person because I’m black. I don’t want you to see the color of my skin and make judgment calls on who I am because of it. I don’t want to be Black Zach. I want to be Zach who happens to be black. And if I can get you thinking about that distinction and how it applies in your life, then I’ve succeeded.

the second article is one that has been doing the round on the book of facements and it is titled 18 things white people seem to not understand [because, White Privilege by Macy Sto. Domingo and i think there was maybe one i didn't agree with, but the rest are so true [and i only came to realise, see or believe a bunch of them since living in Philly and now Oakland where we have witnessed them first and second hand to be true]. Again, go and read the full list, but here is a taste…

2. White Privilege is being able to watch a movie, read a book and open the front page of a newspaper and see yourself and your race widely represented and spoken for.

4 White Privilege is living in a world where you are taught that people with your skin tone hold the standard for beauty.

9 White Privilege is not having your name turned into an easier-to-say Anglo-Saxon name.

10. White Privilege is being able to fight racism one day, then ignore it the next.

14. White Privilege is being pulled over or taken aside and knowing that you are not being singled out because of your race/colour.

15. White Privilege is not having to teach your children to be aware of systematic racism for their own protection.

It is quite easy and maybe tempting to dismiss some of these things, either by denying that they are true at all or by throwing out a ‘Can’t we just be done with this all and move on?’ statement which refuses to admit and own up to the reality that some people face. White privilege for the most part, with people i know at least, is not something we necessarily have chosen, but rather something we need to realise we have simply by having been born white in the country we were born in. I encourage you to read through both of these articles with fresh eyes, really seeking to hear the truths that are being shared. The come back here and let’s engage in some conversation.

How does reading that make you feel? 

mymind[To jump back to the start of this conversation on Race, click here]

Tasha

Having a read through a post on this blog and having a little chat about it on Facebook, I got offered a chance to offer my opinion. And since I love talking, not race relations, but people relations I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Please know that the little irks below are meant to help and enhance not bring down or hurt. So dearest non-melanin-having folk, here are a few little tips to help you enjoy a beautiful relationship with your fellow browner South Africans.

Being a 27 year old South African I started life at the end of apartheid and therefore missed a large amount of the trauma, having said that, remnants of a previous life always have a way of finding a little path into the present.

Growing up I was addicted to movies, old, new, fantasy- well pretty much every genre. Memorising favourite lines in its particular accent! It was and is something I still do, think Forest Gump and the shrimp scene.

Accents and varying dialects are a truly beautiful way of finding and understanding the truth of a culture and people within the spoken word. Which brings me to my first little irk, dear white people; please don’t imitate an ‘Indian’ accent.

I, like many others of my age who have been through a similar type of life experience, have a fairly anglicized accent, something I’d like to deem a South African accent (see how I made it my own)- all because of the people I’ve connected with, the institutions I’ve studied at and the home life I’ve had. Having said that, when I hear a supposed ‘Indian’ accent being used along with words such as ‘organise’ and ‘my connections’, I feel quite aggravated. Please note, whilst some of your tanner friends may laugh when you do that, they by no means enjoy it. It is truly patronising and to be honest, quite hurtful.  Those phrases are stereotypes I fight every day in the work place, so that people will see me for my worth and not as ‘the little Indian girl who has connections’. Whilst the accent may be an interpretation of what you hear, that dialect is the one that is heard throughout my family, my aunts, uncles and my grandmother. My grandmother, a barely educated woman who worked 50 hours a week in a clothing factory trying to scrap together enough money to send my mother to a university, efforts which eventually led to the liberated life I lead. When you use that accent you mock the sacrifices that were made by her and so many others.

So next up on my list is my golden brown-ness. Just because I am a woman of the brown persuasion doesn’t mean that I eat spicy food, or will cook said spicy food for you. Dear readers, there have been countless times in which a friend or colleague has asked me to cook them a pot of briyani or curry. My answer each time went something along the lines of this, “If you feel like eating a curry, you should definitely try one from the take-away down the road.” To connect or find a common denominator with each other does not mean you should bond with me based on the food you think I consume, you can chat about movies, books or even the weather. Also guys, I don’t ask you to make me a Sunday roast, so let’s just be friends by common interests even if that interest includes the love of food. If you’re confused, allow me to clarify, by those colleagues asking me to cook a random Asian dish, you have negated the value I have added to our little ecosystem and reduced my person to a purveyor of foods as opposed to one of thoughts and ideas.

And finally, please let us no longer make an assumption about my faith based on the way I look. Whilst I may be cocoa, I like many others, practise a faith that is particular to me and what my soul finds its peace with. So during Diwali, please don’t ask me for sweetmeats or assume I’m about to ill-treat my pets with use of fireworks. I am of the Christian faith and do not condone the use of fireworks. Please remember, we are all different, like snowflakes- but in my case the brown kind.

You’ll notice I keep referring to myself as South African and not as an Indian, it’s intentional. I truly believe that the moment we begin to see ourselves as the same, our physical differences will disappear and all that’ll be left is a fellow human trying to make their way through the world with the help of a few good souls. This land is our home. You and I come from its soil. Its heart, tears, triumphs and history has been tattooed on our skin.

So, dear potential Caucasian friends, hey there! Remember these few tips and we can be buddies- well that’s if you’re kind and a genuinely good human that laughs at bad jokes. If so, let’s do this, lets snort together. And remember, we’re individuals too. Don’t strip me of my nuisances and idiosyncrasies just because I have golden skin. I like Weird Al and Taylor Swift too. Let’s celebrate our differences, recognize the individual within and we can totes be homies!

For more from Tasha, take a look at her blog: http://youllmissthehumourousconclusion.blogspot.com

[To return to the start of this series and hear some amazing thoughts and stories from other people, click here]

brettfish:

Bruce Collins is one of my best friends in the category of ‘people i have hardly spent any time with at all’ – our spirits seem to connect strongly when it comes to God and life and relationships and things and i just love his passion and wrestling and honesty… he has a great gift for writing too which is why i am reblogging this post of his which feels like something i could have written… so much doubt and wrestling combined with so much of knowing…

i believe… help me overcome my unbelief…

Originally posted on Barista Bruce's Brews:

I’ve read so much lately that challenges the central tenets of what I believe: mostly articles and posts ranging from the horrors perpetuated in the name of “Christianity” to the rational short falling of what we hold to be true a followers of Jesus.

I must contextualise this post a little, too: on a purely cerebral level, there are many things that potentially bother me about faith in Jesus. There are many “so-called logical” arguments that challenge Christianity that seem to make perfect sense to me; when viewed in isolation, of course. Furthermore, I don’t believe that the church has always allowed us to engage with our doubt. Doubt, in my experience, has always been frowned upon. Guilt has ensued. I think, however, that doubt is an integral part of authentic belief.

I digress.

Despite all this, I believe now more than ever before in the reality of Jesus: God…

View original 229 more words

Changing tack a little bit on this whole race conversation as we bring a little humour into it.

Comedian Hari Kondabolu appears on the David Letterman show and shares some race-related humour which becomes deeply insightful when you take a moment to realise some of the truths that the comedy is bases on and especially as he dives into the highly insulting idea of group of people from different races or cultures being classified simply as ‘Other’:

 

 

Have you ever been referred to as ‘Other’ in any context? 

 

[To return to the beginning of this series looking at different aspects of Race, click here]

 

DAY 40ish

Wow! Day 40. We made it… ish. Easter is still a few days away so may still add a post or two but it has been fun [and only slightly overwhelming] to do this journey with those few of you who have joined with me.

The Bible mentions seven things that Jesus says while hanging on the cross. I found this online site that looks at each statement [calling each one a 'word'] and thought it would be a great resource for us as we head towards Easter.

Task: Meditate and reflect on ‘The sixth word of Jesus.’

The sixth word is based on Jesus’ words in John 19. 30 “It is finished!”

I have also heard “It is accomplished.”

Spend some time reflecting on the words of this Powerpoint presentation looking at these words of Jesus.

finished

[To return to the beginning of this series, click here]

tshego

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…

[For the next post, this time by Tasha Melissa Govender, click here]

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