It has been a heart-breaking day…
i’ve known Sindile for close to a year and a half now i think. Known as in i’ve never met him in real life [yet – hopefully remedy that in the next ten days!] but he has guest posted on my blog a number of times and he has this way of blogging within his Facebook status which inspires and challenge and calls to action and pauses and so much more on so many occasions.
i think i can honestly say that he inspires me more regularly and more deeply via his regular status updates more often than anyone i know. He may also be the one person in the Universe who is more prolific on social media than me. Maybe.
But this Penny Sparrow incident happened and the internet exploded – and rightly so – and two posts in particular from Sindile stood out for me:
The first was a really short but deeply profound one which came out soon after the debris started flying:
People are issuing death threats against Penny Sparrow and her family and some have even shown up at her daughter’s workplace along with publishing her address online.
We ought to condemn this criminality and violence. This woman’s disgusting racism is no excuse for violence and criminality.
But the one that affected me on a much more deeper level and i wanted to stick it on my blog so that it would be around for longer and more people could be exposed to it, was this piece which broke me and caused me to think long and hard and i will include my response to it that i added when i shared it on FB:
I’m going to tell all of you a simple story of what happened 2 days ago.
I have a point in mind in telling the story…… And then I’ll be done with Penny Sparrow and Justin Van Vuuren and #whiteprivilege for today, because I’m heartsore. I tried to keep my composure today, but…… Ya.
I was at KFC 2 days ago in Margate buying my mom a streetwise 5. It was jam-packed inside and so when I’d finished ordering I went to go wait outside and as I was outside I spied a little boy probably no older than 6 or 7(around my oldest niece’s age) with sand all over him, including all in his hair, licking a vanilla cone ice-cream looking as pleased with life as I’d seen any little person be.
As I write this I’m fighting back tears of anger, because after today, it’s dawned on me(you’d think it would have been obvious) that is the little boy’s happiest time of the year; Going to the beach, having a vanilla ice-cream cone, having his hair full of sand and just taking in all the ‘niceness’ of the seaside makes for a stark difference compared to his often dreary surroundings.
Thousands of black children each year make joyous plans(at least their families do), black people who often don’t have enough money to visit the beach regularly(even though they live relatively near to it) or eat luxuries like ice-cream cones or just get a chance to roll around in the sand and have a day of very real, soaring and unrestrained joy……..
What has been most upsetting about today is that white people on FB, even the ‘good ones’ missed the fact that this isn’t really about just the racism or how disgusting Penny Sparrow is, It is about the dehumanisation of black people and in particular, poor black people. I saw a lot of angry posts from white people, but I don’t think I saw a single post about just how heart-breaking today has been, because that is the insidious power of #whiteprivilege, that even the most caring, compassionate and sensitive white people around could barely wrap their heads around the dehumanisation; the lessening, the othering and the diminishing of other human beings.
I’m heartsore because, if even the good white people can barely wrap their heads around just how deeply marginalised and oppressed the black body is, what of all the truly racist and evil white people?
I’m heartsore because of the realisation of just how far we have to go, I’m heartsore because that little boy’s joy was taken, subjugated, mocked, scorned and finally fought over(dehumanised) and I know that that is what will happen to him in the future………..
We all have some basic lessons in humanity to learn.
My response when i shared his status:
I have never met Sindile Mlingo Vabaza in person but his words of wisdom and pain and understanding and grace and insight resonate often with the core of who I am and this is another post that is such a smash to the temple but just so so true and it breaks me. I want to respond and say, “No, no, Sindile, i am one of the good ones, I get it. Not me.” But I’m not convinced that is as true as I would like it to be. When I see it in his words here I get it, but the point is I need to get it more deeply without having to have it spelled out for me so much. For this I am ashamed and know I still have so far to go. Thank you Sindile for refusing to just let us be okay with where we are or think we have got it when we have not. Thank you for calling is on it. Thank you for raising the bar (which sadly is just trying to raise it toward what should be normal, not even anything above or special). I will keep on listening and learning and hearing stories and trying to understand the underlying black pain and dehumanisation that occurs far too frequently in this country of ours. And calling others towards that as well. This completely needs to be a NOT ON MY WATCH call for all of us but especially for those of us who have been far too oblivious for far too long.
Having sat with this response for a couple of hours, i would love to see not a hashtag, but a movement of #NotOnMyWatch rise up in South Africs, where those of us learning to be better Allies draw people around us to rise up against the racism we observe around us – in day to day encounters or “I’m not racist, but…” statements [which usually prove that you ARE a racist butt!] or in the media or in the stories that our friends of colour share with us. We need to step in and speak up and boycott and challenge and push back and speak and live out NOT ON MY WATCH! This happens no more!
Thank you Sindile for speaking up and refusing to go easy on us [although you have been so gracious]. Please don’t stop. i know we need to figure out how to be good allies and how to stop being racist and how to stop those around us from unacceptable views and behaviour, but we desperately need your wisdom and guidance and that of others like you along the way. Thank you.
You can find Sindile on Facebook over here and you would do well to follow him and take in the words that he shares on a regular basis.