It is obvious there is a problem, that does not need to be proved [and if you still think it does, please head down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of ‘Racism for Dummies’] but the question facing us all [and more especially those of us on the privilege side of things as we have the power and resources to do so, but we had definitely be listening to and following the voices and lives of those on the prejudiced against side as this is their long walk to freedom] is what can we do about it? 

Interestingly enough, this is a blog post that has been waiting in my draft box to be written [enter the Trayvon/Zimmerman court ruling debacle] and so timely that I get to it now. I really hope this will spark a discussion because I am really wanting to figure out some answers here so if you have an opinion or even a thought towards one, please leave your comments at the end of this.

Thought number 1:

# I don’t know that white people are more racist than black people – I think we just profited from it. Black people had to be racist for free.

Right? Having come from an apartheid-past South Africa [legalised racism for the unaware] which still almost 20 years later is filled with the residue and leftovers of our racist past I know there is no easy fix. The excitement of watching sporting events such as the 1995 Rugby World cup victory [with Nelson Mandela playing the hugest part in wearing a Francois Pienaar jersey and presenting the cup] and the recent 2010 Soccer World cup [both hosted by South Africa] and their effect on bringing races and cultures together. Balanced negatively by the racist ideas and ideologies sadly still held by so many and the comments so dismissively thrown out that make an event ‘a racist event’ in seconds.

Conclusions that I have come to from living in South Africa:

Conclusion #1: Racist white people are racist

Conclusion #2: Racist black people are racist

…and so on.

So where does that leave me? What can I effectively do to make a difference?

Reality: I can’t do a whole lot about racist black people except shine – I have no voice there. Only my actions of demonstrating a different reality to the one they have known is likely to make any difference at all. The starting point here is not being listened to. For the most part this is going to have to come from other black people who will at least be able to get a word or example in before being dismissed.

When it comes to white racists, I do have more of a voice, but the reality is probably not to the extremes. Again I can model something different, something diverse and full of working unity, but those in whom it is entrenched are going to take a miracle to get through to [fortunately I do believe in One whose business is miracles].

I think where I have the largest impact potential is in the lives and minds and voices of those who embrace subtle racism [starting with me, always easier to notice this crap in other people – who are the friends of colour I am inviting to point out racist thoughts, ideas and attitudes in my own life? Good start!] So those who don’t think they are racist but say or do racist things in my presence, particularly those I have relationship with [whose lives I have perhaps earned the right to speak into]

An example of a subtle [in a South African context at least] – calling the 60 year old man who works in your garden ‘boy’ – maybe a way to figure out if it is racist or not is to reverse the races of the individuals in the example and so now you have a 20 or 30 year old black man calling a 60 year old white man “boy” – how does that go down for you?

Maybe it’s even taking it one step further – maybe a subtle is even making a 60 year old man work in your garden?

Not knowing the names of the children of the woman who has cleaned your house every week for the last two years? Not being invested in their education and wellbeing? [Surely if her family life is worse somehow as a result of her working for you there are some serious questions to consider?]

Perhaps it requires asking a higher grade of question with regards to the people who work for you, as evidenced in this Living Wage vs Minimjum Wage article on Twocents.co?

If your friends make a racist joke or comment in your presence, doing something about it or at the very least walking away to show you are not up for that. [Although I think it requires some form of direct confrontation, if maybe a private one later, for the thing to ever be actively dealt with]. Refusing to allow racism in any form to be allowed to safely pass by in your presence?

What else? Where do you see subtle ways in which racism is evidenced around you? What solutions would you recommend for those of us who are really wanting to be a part of the change but don’t really know where to start? 

In terms of people of other races who exhibit subtle racism, I think we have a part to play with them as well. That of friendship. It is a lot easier to be racist towards people you don’t know – towards “the other”, “them” or “those people” but once relationship has formed… once there is a name and family members and a shared story… well then suddenly it becomes a lot different. So I definitely think a huge key in this is for white people [in particular] to listen. To learn names and invite stories and really listen. Not to justify or to be defensive or talk about how we inherited this and it’s really not our crap. It’s the crap we are in and it is our reality and we have to own that. And start working together to move beyond that.