Since i have started speaking and writing more about issues of Race in South Africa i have had a fair amount of [mostly black] people telling me from time to time how brave i am. i don’t believe that is true.
NOT ON MY WATCH
i began the daily #NotOnMyWatch tag statuses on Facebook with the hope that more of my white friends [and their white friends] will take up the anthem and that we would see a movement start to grow, of white people refusing to let racism happen in front of them – in word or deed or even in joke or social media form.
Let me explain to you why that makes me a coward, rather than a brave person:
i have a philosophy on interrupting racism: i am standing in a supermarket and notice that the big Afrikaans man in front of me is berating the cashier for some or other reason and it quickly becomes obvious to me that this is a race thing. i intervene and he beats the crap out of me.
There is a movement of white people with a growing lifestyle of interrupting racism: i am standing in a supermarket and notice that the big Afrikaans man in front of me is berating the cashier for some or other reason and it quickly becomes obvious to me that this is a race thing. i intervene and within seconds, eleven other white people step in and declare #NotOnMyWatch and the racist quietly slinks off into the distance. Eighteen other people are watching and decide in that moment that the next time they see something racist, they will step in and make a difference.
Make sense? i am simply trying to make life easier and safer for myself.
MY ACTIONS ARE NOT PRAISEWORTHY
Two comments from my friend Linde linked to a #NotOnMyWatch status of mine that she shared help bring this point home [and i have asked her to write a post on it!]
This is beautiful and the kind of activism against racism I expect from all my white friends. I don’t reward it or applause it, as racism shouldn’t exist in the first place but I acknowledge the personal effort to get others on board.
“I don’t reward it or applause it” is so key because when we choose not to be racist, that is us moving towards a base point of what should be normal and acceptable. In the same way that you should not praise your child for not throwing their poo at the wall [it is normal and right to not throw poo at walls so if you do it, you’re deviating from that and should be brought back by correction] white people should not be praised for being less racist. We should be glanced at with “What took you so long?” eyes…
As a person of colour with white friends I’m learning too. I also have to scrutinise the role I play in perpetuating racism. Many of us (black people) reward white people for liking black people, for showing compassion towards black, especially for being against racism. This perpetuates racism as being the norm and not being racist as something done only by saints. Obviously this leads to dehumanising of black people.
i imagine this year i will write [or have guests write] more about the dehumanising of black people and the other concept which struck me more deeply in a conversation we had this week was the idea of different areas of violence [how receiving an inferior education was violence, how a removing of one’s parents in terms of them having to travel long hours to work a menial job was violence etc] to consider…
There is much work to be done. But too much of it is sadly to get us to a base place of what should be normal. So please don’t be calling me brave or applauding my actions until we get there.
i am not brave. i certainly don’t do what i do out of fear, but out of a heart that seeks to love God and love people and treat others as i would love to be treated. But i am also deeply mindful of the danger that exists if we white people as a whole do not get more engaged and in touch and open to what is happening and needs to happen at a much faster pace than we have been doing and seeing.