The other day i wrote a poem titled ‘to them who have ears’ and just thinking about it a little more today, have dubbed it a choir poem – as in those who get what it’s about and who agree will totally be reading and nodding and cheering and liking and sharing… but those who don’t, are unlikely to even read it and if they somehow do, unlikely to understand the point trying to be made…
So i thought i would try this again in a more direct approach, realising that for the most part blog posts tend to go the way of metaphorical word pieces in that you tend to attract those who agree and distance those who disagree… which feels somewhat pointless in terms of how are you ever going to affect people who need to be affected and where will you find healthy debate from people who think differently from you who can help you challenge and test your own ideas… i guess there is the hope that there are some who think differently who are trying to challenge and check their own ideas as much as i am trying to with mine and so maybe we can meet somewhere in the middle…
The main point of the poem for me was to question why so many white people [and it has been largely white people because of the nature of the posts i have been sharing on race and reconciliation and privilege so has largely been addressed to us] disengage from the conversations around race/white privilege/restitution etc before seeming to really take a moment to listen and hear where the other person is coming from. My problem is not so much that there is disagreement, but that phrases like ‘white privilege’ seem to be like red cloths waved in front of a raging bull… and so excuses, denials, “But what about…”, “Reverse Racism”, “Not all white people…” and more are immediately thrown in, usually breaking up the conversation before it begins.
RESPONSE OVER REACTION
When it comes to conversations on race and other issues in South Africa, i would love to see people choosing to respond over simply reacting. The idea of a reaction is that it is usually a gut knee-jerk response [with the emphasis not on knee] whereas a response tends to include time for listening, thought, inner wrestling and composed feedback. This is something we could do a lot better as South Africans, or maybe just Facebookers and Bloggerists in general.
Take something like ‘White Privilege’ for example – i wrote some thoughts about this in a post titled ‘i’m not sure you’re against that thing you’re against’ simply because i believe the word has certain baggage which triggers a reaction, whereas if those who typically respond to seeing the words ‘white privilege’ by running/throwing/emoting could just take a deep breathe and listen and really hear what is being said/suggested, i think a lot more of them would agree. Take this picture for example:
i imagine most people would agree with this, right? If you see this and disagree then i would love to know why. Unless of course you would label the whole thing as Injustice simply by the very fact of it depicting three people who are watching a game for free without buying tickets, but that is kinda missing the point.
The point of the picture is that the tall guy starts off with an advantage whereas the short guy starts off at a disadvantage. Which means that if they are all treated equally, the short guys still ends up disadvantaged.
Whereas if the one who was most disadvantaged, is given the biggest assistance, there is a way for them to all end up with a level playing field, enjoying the same advantage.
Anyone have a problem with that? Because as far as i understand it, that IS the explanation of White Privilege.
There are certain advantages we start off with in this world [For me being white has some, being male in a largely patriarchally influenced society has others, being heterosexual and right-handed and able-bodied even more so] which doesn’t mean that i have to feel guilty for any of those things i start off with, but it does mean, that for the world to be more fair and balanced and equal, that certain boxes, boosts, advantages will be needed to be given to people of colour, women etc to give them the same opportunities that i have.
You with me? This feels so easy when it is broken down like this.
So i am not talking about white guilt or about hating white people [i get that one a lot!]. i am talking about the need to listen to and really hear from anyone who does not start off with the advantages i have started off with, to find out how best we can together work so that the field is more level for them. Collaboration is key. There may be some sacrifice involved and some loss of comfort or actively working against some of the privilege i have [so BEE being an example of this, realising that at times it really hasn’t been done well and at times it really has been helpful]
How about it South Africa? You ready to slow things down a little and really start listening and engaging and working together on making this relationally the beautiful country it is naturally?
Let’s do this…