blackandwhite

So, the other day i tried to take a few steps back in this ongoing Race and Reconciliation conversation we’ve been having over here with this post trying to see if we could all agree that the incredibly out-of-proportion extreme gap between rich and poor in our country [and the world at large] is not okay.

Most people stayed away from engaging at all [maybe it’s cos of the busy time of the year, but questions like that also suggest follow-up questions and if those are engaged with deeply enough then there could be a cost involved so safer to just stay out of it for sure] but those who did largely agreed that we could start at that point, and then there were a number of, ‘Yes, but…’s, which should probably be filed as ‘No’ because the question was, ‘Can we all agree that this is not okay?’

So the next question becomes that of race, with some people emphatically suggesting that the problems in South Africa are economic or socio-economic class problems and not race related.

i beg to differ.

ECONOMIC INEQUALITY IN SOUTH AFRICA IS STILL A RACE THING

Wait, but you said, i thought, that economic inequality in South Africa is not a race thing?

Well, yes and no. i typically don’t believe that economic inequality in and of itself is a race thing, and i do believe that South Africa is moving more towards a time and a place [although this is going to take a while still] where the issues become more economic and socio-economic than race…

BUT, because of the history of apartheid and the debilitating and damaging effect it had on so many people, and the lingering consequences thereof, the wealthy in our country for the most part continue to be white and the poor continue to be black [and completely realise there are coloured and indian as well as asian and other-african stories that make up this equation as well and am eager to hear from people who can adequately represent those stories] and so at the moment it remains a race thing.

As one of the young leaders said to me on our recent trip to Robben Island, Mandela helped bring the people of South Africa over the bridge of Reconciliation, but he didn’t bring the economy over that bridge. A great injustice was done to a huge percentage of the people in our country and while we can all be friends now [to simplify it completely], that doesn’t mean that there is not some outstanding justice to be done.

THE ‘HOW’ OF TRUE RESTITUTION AND REPARATION IS THE GHOST CALLING OUT TO US

If you steal a car from someone and they catch you and you say that you are sorry, then there may be a way for that person to forgive you and to refuse to press charges. But you have to give the car back.

This seems to be the point a lot of white people i know are stumbling over. We get that apartheid was bad. We are really sorry and we hope that you can forgive us. But we would like to keep the car.

Now, what i think makes it tricky, is that land was stolen a generation or two ago. Figuring out who took what from whom and trying to get it back to them feels like a ridiculously complicated thing. i have spoken to a small number of black people who feel very strongly about this issue, but am yet to find someone who has some kind of practical solution.

i imagine even those who would go the more extreme route and take the land using violent means, practically would not easily be able to say how that works in terms of who gets what.

So that does seem to be a very big and daunting HOW. But that doesn’t mean that we can simply just shrug it off and “Let bygones be bygones. That is an easier thing to feel and say when you are now the one with the car.

mandela

Yes? So please hear me loud and clear on this one when i say i have more questions than answers. i don’t know how this all plays out well. The issue definitely seems to be blurred or obstacled by the mess that is Nkandla and corrupt government officials seemingly wasting a whole lot of taxpayers money on a lot of occasions and the corruption that exists at the top. But i don’t think that is directly related to the issue at hand and if we raise that, then i feel like we are missing some of the conversations and actions that need to happen.

i would love to hear your thoughts on this:

[1] Comment on my statement that while we are heading towards a time when the issues are more socio-economically defined, at the moment at least, there is still a huge amount of race-relatedness to that conversation [as the way our system is divided socio-economically is still so much related to race issues past]

[2] Your ideas concerning reparation and restitution – Do you think we have done all that is necessary with regards to our apartheid past and we all need to just move on and make the best of a bad situation? Or do you feel, like me, that there is still some work to be done in terms of economically making amends for some of the travesties that were committed.

[3] Play nice. The moment you make it personal, you lose your audience. You can be passionate and respectful.

[For other South Africa related posts and conversations, click here]

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