Category: friends and enemas


hulisanik

 

Where on earth do I even start with this topic? “What I want my white friends to know” seems like such a direct attack to some of my closest friends and those who I am still to meet. I absolutely love my friends so how could I write this? Then I thought about how much I really want to say some things and I sat down to type this.

First of all I come from a lovely family. Two parents. Two kids. My brother and I are so different that you would think that we were not related. I am also a devoted friend and will try and move mountains to help a person that I care for.

There is just one issue that absolutely tortures me.

I am constantly called a coconut. For those who don’t know what that means it refers to being white on the inside even though the person’s skin is black.

That word is the most hurtful thing that at some point all of my friends have said to me. Some people don’t realise how much it bothers me and I scarcely say it out loud. When I do people brush it off and ask how many books I have read this week alone. (Three on average if you were wondering)

I mean, how is it that it’s okay for any other person to love reading, public speaking and just overall enjoy the English language but as soon as a black person does it they get labelled? I’m not white. I’m black. Every time you insinuate otherwise it hurts because with that one word you have discredited my whole heritage and culture.

With this whole coconut thing also comes the term that I don’t like which is “you speak soooo well”. What? I speak soooo well? As opposed to who? Another black person or just another person in general? Do you praise another person as much if they successfully master the English language?

I get it that each individual person does not mean harm but after a lifetime of these two things it gets frustrating.

When I go back to visit my grandmothers I am perfectly capable of cooking over a fire, speaking my mother tongue and helping pick fruits while it is 42 degrees Celsius with not a single cloud in the sky.

Is it so wrong for me to live between two cultures and not get called names about it?

There is this automatic assumption when you are called a coconut that you know nothing about your culture. I can’t say that I know everything about my culture but that is out of choice for not wanting to practice certain aspects because I am Christian.

This whole piece seems very accusing to a specific race but it isn’t meant to be. I get called a coconut by my black friends too. I remember one time in specific where I was walking into the office and there was a new person around. My friends both black and white stopped me from coming in. They then told me to talk to them as I stood outside for a while. I thought that was weird but did it anyway. When I walked in after about 5 minutes of conversation it was to the shock that they had asked the new person inside to guess if I was black or white. When the person guessed that I was white I was so ashamed of myself? And worse than that I was just overall embarrassed.

After nearly a week of beating myself up about being too white and convincing myself that I was black enough I got over. At what point is it okay to judge me because I embrace a culture?

So what I want my white friends to know (and black) is that coconut is not a nice word. I have never and will never like it.

[For the next post by Siki Dlanga focusing on the concept of 'the better black', click here]

tsholo

This is perhaps too long, but I’ve just been given a platform to vent out years and years worth of frustrations and I’m jumping in head first. But before I begin, let me say that I have way too many white friends to think that white people as a whole are racist, and I don’t know if all of what I’m about to say applies to my friends cos I think (or hope) my friends know some of this already…anywho…

Firstly, white privilege is real! You not being able to see it doesn’t mean you don’t benefit from it, it just means you’re blinded to the injustice others are experiencing. Having said that, white-adjacent (my own terminology) privilege is also a thing – the right accent, the right facial features, the right physical appearance (ie weave/wig vs Afro), listening to “white” music, etc – can also open doors for you that others might never get entry to.

When you’re black, it doesn’t matter how talented, skilled, or studied you are, you are always aware that the job you have is probably because of BEE. You are aware that, although you might be more qualified that a lot of the other people in the room, no one actually cares, you are just there to fill some quota. People hear that you’re in IT and you just see on their faces that they resent you for taking a job from some fictitious more well deserving white person…doesn’t matter how well deserving you are, there is probably a white person who deserved it more…what is more commonly known as “reverse racism”.

It might come across as if black people are always looking for racism, but it’s not. Black people see racism because we’ve dealt with it before. We know what it looks and feels like. You don’t see it because you don’t need to. You’re not aware of it because it won’t affect you anyway.

I hate it when someone (ie Helen Zille) says/does something offensive, then when black people call her out on it white people come to her defense and explain to black people why we are being over-sensitive, why we shouldn’t be feeling the way we are, why we are selfish for focusing on one small detail when there is so much wrong with this country…when white people make themselves arbiters of what is and isn’t worth getting worked up over.

I’m having a rough time reconciling Christianity and blackness. This is a new thing for me... this new found blackness or black consciousness, but it occurs to me that Christianity is very white/westernized…whiteness is close to godliness. Which is weird since, well, Jesus died for the world, not a culture or cultural norms. (The movie Noah has been getting a lot of flack for not being Biblically correct, the other day I read another article that criticized it for it’s all-white cast…which I hadn’t noticed…hmmm… )

It really doesn’t matter to me that there’s only a handful of white racists left…at the end of the day I only have to come across one on a bad day and I become another victim of an isolated hate crime. I think about this every time a white person casually drops the k-word, the n-word, or makes some racist joke.

Don’t say things like “blacks people do this” and “black people think that…” or “black people are like this and that…” and look to me for confirmation. I was not appointed to be the black representative in your group of friends. There are too many different tribes/cultures/subcultures within the black race in South Africa alone who do and say and behave differently, and within that there are individuals who choose to do their own thing, I have not been given permission to speak on behalf of anyone so please don’t ask me to…

And I really don’t like generalizations like black people can dance, black people are cool, etc…I know it’s meant as a compliment, but…black people are humans – individual humans, there are cool ones, there are uncool ones, there are even those who can’t dance…black people are individuals too.

I realize that it is never the intention, but when I’m the only black person in the room and race topics are brought up in whatever context (be it political – bee, or discussion on black culture, or a compliment – how “cool” black people are) it makes me very aware that I’m the only black person in the room. Makes me feel like I’m “the other”, the odd one out, the one that doesn’t belong. As I said, I realize that it is never the intention, and I’m not saying it should stop – I’m glad you are comfortable to discuss racial issues and not act like race isn’t a thing (SA is way too racialized for people to claim to be colorblind) I guess I just wanted you to be aware of it…*shrugs*

Blackface is never ok! “Black accents” when talking to black people sound patronizing…to me at least…

Yep, definitely too long…sorry about that.

*cue Intellectualize My Blackness by Skunk Anansie* Grinning face with smiling eyes

[To continue on to Tsholo part II, click here]

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

whitep

i don’t know if this is the right place to begin this conversation on race, but it is a place and so will hopefully get the ball rolling and then we can see where it goes from there.

i think we would be foolish to believe that this conversation will be easy or comfortable all the way through – i am hoping we will be able to get to a place where people can be really honest [maybe in a raw and rough and edgy in-your-face kind of way] even if it does not feel good to hear and i am desperately hoping that we will really make an effort to listen. much grace and love and forgiveness and patience is going to be needed and i believe i know some really quality people who will be able to bring all of that to the table.

the place i have chosen to start this conversation [well, this is my second go at this, my first attempt a few months ago was an epic fail and so hopefully this question will go down better] is by asking the question to my friends who are not white, ‘What would you like your white friends to know/hear/be aware of?’ and i am hoping that a number of you will email me at brettfish@hotmail.com if you have something to say on this…

Sarona Reddy shares one Indian woman’s perspective on some aspects of race

Tsholofelo Mpuru speaks into the issue of white privilege and more

Mhlengi Mpungose shares one black man’s perspective on some of the fears and prejudices black people face

Hulisani Khorombi’s shares some of her story and specifically her take on the term ‘Coconut’

 Siki Dlanga speaks about the idea of ‘the better black’ 

Tshego Motiang shares some incredible insights about the need for open communication

Tasha Melissa Govender speaks about Indian accents and why you shouldn’t ask her to cook you some spicy food and more

 

For some of you this will be a “best, most moving story I ever read, must forward to 100 friends” whereas for others, halfway through the first line will have you rolling your eyes and going, “Oh, one of those”

if you are the former, enjoy the story, it’s an inspiring story…

if you are the latter, jump down to the bottom and see the point i am trying to make about it, it’s a great point:

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As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners… he is a joy to be around..”

His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”

His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”

Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper That he got from a grocery bag Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.. But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets..”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling* her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer…. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you Mrs. Thompson for* believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”

(For you that don’t know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

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TRUTH OR FICTION

As well as being the recurring eternal optimist [usually in events involving sport and especially the south african cricket team] i have  side career as being the somewhat-irregular-skepticist and so i went straight to Uncle Google to see if the story was true. What is interesting is that there was a Teddy Stoddard at the Iowa Methodist hospital and it does indeed have the Stoddard Cancer Wing. That seems to be where the connection ends though – according to the internets, this beautiful story is just that – a story. You can see more at http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/t/teddy.htm

HOWEVER, just because this is not a true story, doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to learn from it.

I recently had a friend of mine email me the background story [current home situation] of some people I work with and it just changed everything around and helped make a lot of sense to certain other things that had been going on or attitudes presented. Hearing someone’s home story, relationship struggle or internal pain doesn’t always condone their actions, but often it at the very least helps explain them which often makes it easier for us to show, grace, patience and forgiveness.

But too often we don’t know the story. And so there is this:

pain2

i just heard what i thought was the most inspirationally thing on the book of facings today [i know, but it's true!] where a friend shared that a few months ago they were at Lake Merritt [which is this stunning lake where all sorts of beautiful crazy things are always happening. Some people sitting at a table offering people a dollar to hear their stories. That sounds like such a great thing, and I am super keen to try it.

I admit it is a little random and maybe we can get a little more creative about how we do that with people we know, creating a space or forum for them to share. But just starting to change our mindsets [especially when we are tempted to judge people or be impatient with them] and realising that the people around us are probably masking some pain or discomfort at the moment. And how we can perhaps choose to be a little kinder and more gentle with them.

Hewbrews 12. 1-2  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

I have occasionally run an activity when i have done a camp or church preach where before worship singing time i explain to everyone that, in the light of this verse from Hebrews, you are invited to write down your ‘everything that hinders’ or ‘the sin that so easily entangles’ you right at this moment. I also explain to them that before i start my speak i am going to read out what everyone wrote [so no surprises] but obviously without know who wrote what.

This has proved to be such a powerful exercise because as a church or camp community we get to have a glimpse of the struggles that the people around us are going through. Not many people arrive at church looking like they are struggling with adultery or losing their job or a serious health condition and so we tend to bury the story deep and put on our happy or neutral church face and then go and interact as if all is well before returning back home to whatever hidden pain or challenge[s] await us. But suddenly you hear about all of the crap that is being dealt with or faced by the people in the room and that can be so helpful as we start to realise what is really going on in the lives of the people around us.

WHERE DO I GET STARTED?

There is just so much that could be said on this, but maybe here are a few places to begin:

# When you hang out with your friends, do you tend towards superficial talk about movies, food, sports and music? Nothing wrong with any of these things per say, but if this the only way you spend time with your friends, why not consider creating some safe places to really just ask how people are doing, share your stories, listen to a point of pain.

# Relationships are an area that are often hugely under attack and pressure from all sides and we see how this plays out especially in the divorce rate. When last did you create a space for a couple you know well [can be dating, can be married, you can or can not be in a relationship] to invite them to share their story with you, to pay for them to have a date night, to offer to babysit their children for a day or a weekend so they can have some them time? 

# With someone not in a relationship there is the possibility for a lot of people that they don’t have ‘that person’ to share their stuff with. Why not invite someone out for a cup of coffee, a cycle, or over for a meal and give them a chance to just share how they are doing or if they have any points of pain at the moment [i imagine the closer your relationship is with them the more easily they will share]

i feel like a lot of this is just about creating the space or making the time. and if we get it right, this stuff can be revolutionary, it can be life-changing, it may even have the effect of preventing something like loneliness, addiction or even suicide.

story

Do any of you have a story to share about a time when someone showed interest in your story and what it meant to you?

Grief is such a huge and too often taboo topic, possibly because different people grieve in different ways and so it is often hard to know what to say or do when someone has lost someone they love.

We have already looked at some powerful stories from people who have lost a baby and those who have lost a child, but what about someone who has lost a person who has been in their life for even longer?

My friend, Catherine Rogers, asked me some questions on this recently:

I remember the first funeral I ever attended. A close friend’s father had committed suicide and a sadder occasion I have never experienced since. It was then that I first began to wonder: how does a person cope with such a loss. It’s devastating, it’s life altering and it’s absolutely incomprehensible to me. You see, I haven’t yet lost anyone close to me but I have watched as the people around me have, and every time I wonder, how do you do it? How on earth do you move on? I myself am not afraid to die and I accept that death is a part of life and everyone must face it in the end. But something which scares me deeply and rests heavily on my heart, is losing someone: being left behind. 

What happens when you lose someone who is such an integral part of your own existence? How do you deal with such an event? I feel this, for me at least, fits into your taboo topics easily. Do you ever find that you’re too afraid to mention aloud or even think about the death of someone you love just in case it might actually happen? I do because while I understand the undeniable eventuality of death, I do not understand what happens after: the coping, the acceptance, the moving on. Are these things really possible when an important part of your life is gone forever? 

So this is an invitation to those of you who might have lost a family member or a friend, someone who was close to you, to share your story with us and to maybe touch on some of these questions. How have you been able to cope and move on and continue with ‘normal life’ and is life ever ‘normal’ again?

I am hoping that for a lot of people, simple being able to put their story into words here might help to be some small part of the healing.

Meet Tarryn Patel – who lost her sister, Lauren Kirkwood

i don’t think we talk about Friendship enough.

in fact, i think too often, too many of us might take it for granted.

i don’t think i do. i am just so constantly made aware of how many incredible friends i have in and around my life – the term ‘best friend’ relates to at least 7 people i can think of straight away who are all ‘best friends’ in differing but equivalent ways.

and when i start listing quality friends, well i can just write a very long list without much thought at all.

those are the easy ones though – it is so easy to be friends with those people because what they bring to the party is immediately obvious and amazing and life-giving and so on. but then i read this comment about Eeyore the other day and it really struck me:

joinedeeyore

do i have any people like that in my life? do you?

and if not, is there someone who may be that person but we may not have invited them in to the group like Pooh and the gang above?

do our friends need to measure up to a certain level to earn the right and privilege of sticking around?

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a second thing when it comes to friendship is that as much as i LOVE to have fun and be silly and crazy and ridiculous with my friends [you know who you are!] i also very much like to think deeply and wrestle with faith and life and God and money and stuff and things. fortunately i have good mates that i can do both with. and for the most part find both of those things in a lot of my good friends which is great.

and in amongst a vomitarium of kitch and cheesy friendship quote posters on the Uncle Google, i managed to locate this gem, which i really like…

deepfriend

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the third thing i have mentioned a bunch of times, because i believe in it so strongly and i feel like these three pictures combinedly capture the essence of it:

mlk

 

wounds

 

woundsfromafriend

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What about you? What do you look for in a friend? In fact, if you think of your best friend, what is the one characteristic that stands out for you in terms of something you realy appreciate in them?

i would LOVE to hear some of those.

DAY 6

Task: Take a listen[s] to this song, ‘I will be blessed’ by Ben Howard and think about who the person it is singing about for you… and then find some time in this day to let them know just how much they mean to you.

“I Will Be Blessed” [Ben Howard]

Oh my ghost came by
Said who do you love the most
Who you wanna call before you dieOh my ghost came by here
Said who do you love the most
Who you gonna sing to ‘fore you’re gone

Oh hey heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
Oh hey, heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go

Oh my ghost came by here
Said who do you love the most
Who you gonna sing to ‘fore you go

Oh hey heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
Oh hey, heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go

Oh if you’re there
When the world comes to gather me in
Oh if you’re there
I will be blessed

Oh if you’re there
When the world comes to gather me in
Oh if you’re there
I will be blessed
Oh if you’re there
When the world comes to gather me in
I hear you’re there
I will be blessed
I will be blessedOh if you’re there
When the world comes to gather me in
Oh if you’re there
I will be blessed
I will be blessed

[For day 7 in our observance of Lent, click here]

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