i have decided to resume the series on ‘How to be One bit Less Racist’ with this piece by my friend, Andy Vaughn. The interruption and focus on some of the bigger questions i though was completely important and necessary, but i also still see these seemingly tinier aspects as crucial to us starting to retrain our minds and thoughts and become less racist in the day to day interactions we have with people, while keeping in mind that the big issues still very much need to be dealt with. Here is Andy:
It took me a full four months before I realized what was actually being said. It was just four letters, yet it carried the social weight of a two ton Tessie.
Over and over I would hear a casual remark about the mysterious “They”. But who were these “They” that kept being dropped into casual conversation and snide remark?
I had just moved to beautiful South Africa and traveled around the countryside as a full time missionary. I stayed in homes and churches of every variety of home found in the Rainbow Nation. No matter where I stayed, I kept hearing about “They”, and as I stood over a lekker braai fire I finally pieced it all together.
“They” were the faceless, nameless murderers, thieves, skelm, and scallywags that were making South Africa hemorrhage fear and terror.
‘Did you hear “They” robbed another farm? Killed the boer, and then raped the wife.’
‘Eish, bout – not again’.
I wasn’t sure if “They” was a Soweto street gang or something else, because if I was tracking the tones and knowing looks correctly, everyone had a pretty good idea what was being said (or implied) by “They”.
“They” = “I want to blame the blacks, but don’t want to sound racist”
It wasn’t ever“Two boys stole my cousin’s bakkie”, it was always “THEY stole my cousin’s bakkie”.
One way we can become a tiny bit less racist, is to say the words we mean. This leads to accountability, which (hopefully) leads to some remorse. When we drop the linguistic gymnastics designed to get our all too racist point across without being held accountable, then we hear ourselves say things that should shock us into repentance.
Somewhere Martin Luther is still admonishing us to “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”
When we see our hearts for what they truly are (whether it be racist, greedy, slothful, or even depressed) we can start finding the solution. We can get healed by the Master Healer. All the code talk and shifty language is just a dodgy way not deal with the real condition of our hearts and minds.
My commitment is to start saying what I really mean – and being accountable for what’s coming out of my heart and mouth. It won’t always be fun, but it’s much better than the alternative code talk so many of us have engaged in for far too long.
How about you? Is this something you’ve observed in your friends? Or maybe caught yourself being guilty of?
Maybe it’s a ‘they’ but it might also be a ‘those people’ or various other secret codes we might use to not have to say the very words we are thinking. Share your thoughts with us in the comments.