mike tMy name is Michael and I’m married to Deborah. We both grew up in the Cape Town southern suburbs where people are generally wealthy and generally white. We don’t really remember anything before 1994 and so we’ve basically grown up in the “New South Africa”. This year we’ve been living in rural Mpumalanga while Deborah does her community service as a dietitian. Although we’ve been involved in projects and work in Mfuleni, Heideveld, Nyanga, and other places around Cape Town, living in a mainly poor, mainly black community for the past 11 months has taught us a lot.

Over the last few months, there have been quite a few posts on Brett’s blog about race and trying to move forward into a better South Africa, free from racial prejudice. My previous discussions with people on the topic of race have been introductory at best, and so I decided to jump in and try and learn more about how different people think and what they struggle with.

Knowing that I’ve had almost no exposure to the non-white side of the race discussion, I’ve tried really hard to read posts and learn with humility. For me to join the discussion, push my ideas, and oppose people I disagree with would be of no value to anyone. When I have disagreed with people, I’ve tried to dig a bit deeper and ask why the writer holds that view, rather than just telling them they’re wrong. Asking questions is a powerful habit. Sometimes we discover something new from the answer and can adjust our thinking to be more truthful. Other times questions help the writer to see false assumptions they’ve held and they are able to adjust their views. Either way, questions are a great way to increase understanding.

Having said that, it can sometimes be frustrating trying to understand and work through an idea when it’s very different to how I see the world. The idea seems to stick in my head while I work through the person’s post and weigh up my own assumptions against theirs and try and reconcile both views of the world. When I can’t, I need to ask more questions.

Although this process can be frustrating, anything worthwhile requires effort, and growth is seldom easy. Some posts I’ve mainly agreed with, some I’ve mainly disagreed with, but both have resulted in me thinking a lot more about what I can do better. Engaging on this topic has also helped me realise that some people think very differently about the country we live in and how we should be moving forwards. Although not all views are equally good, my view is not the only one nor the best-informed and so I need to keep learning in humility.

[For some other ideas and thoughts on moving towards a truly new South Africa, click here]