My friend Dre, who shared some excellent feedback to Bob’s first email over here, responded to his latest response in a comment but i asked her if i could rather share it as a post cos everyone should read this, especially but not solely, Bob. Dre for president!:
Bob, you didn’t respond to MY post! *sniff sniff* I feel so left out! (kidding, I’ll be fine 😉 But seriously, I do appreciate your response to the discussions in general. I think that, based on this post, you definitely seem ‘further along the journey’ than you did in your original mail, which, intentionally or not, had a much more ranty, almost arrogant tone. Here, however, you show a willingness to listen and engage (despite a few ‘yes buts’ 😉 which is great.
However, I also respect Megan’s point of view – her original comment and the one above, in that I am also getting a little tired of ‘educating’ white South Africans on race. Mainly because I’m still reading, listening and learning too, and as Megan says, it’s up to us to do the work, not demand that others ‘help’ us. Read news articles and opinions from all sources (not just news24 or iol, people!) Go to public lectures at your nearest university. Have robust discussions with friends of all backgrounds. Read some books about South Africa (Brett has some good suggestions on this blog).
Sometimes I feel like some white South Africans are not truly asking questions to learn more, but rather to defend their current viewpoints. So I’d say to Bob and all those who are asking similar questions about race and their place in South Africa, just look at your motives. Are you prepared for hard answers? Are you prepared to be uncomfortable? (I’m not saying you’re not, Bob, just addressing this also to others who might have similar questions.)
Lastly, I feel like a lot of the points you mentioned in your previous post and this one have a lot to do with ‘big’ issues – foreign aid, government corruption, economic inequality etc. these are obviously important, and if we are in a position to do so, we can make a difference on that level too… but often that can be quite overwhelming. What I’d humbly suggest is, if you want to feel that you ‘belong’ in South Africa, start acting small rather than only debating big (and again, this is not just for Bob, and I need to do this more too!).
Get involved in something that brings you into contact with those from a different background and race, maybe even something that helps to alleviate suffering or just helps out those who haven’t had your advantages. If you’re involved in a church, that can be a good place to connect with ongoing projects that help the poor, for instance. Ask around. Use your skills and resources, even if it’s only your time.
Instead of asking: “where do I stand as a white South African”, ask “Who needs me to stand alongside them?” And in the process, your perspective on the country and your ‘belonging’ will change – not that it’ll be easy or comfortable or simple, but it will help.
Thanks for engaging, Bob and others – it’s been an important conversation, I think!