Category: challenging thorts


A wise teacher once told the story of a man who was on a journey, who was mugged and beaten up, robbed of all his possessions and left on the side of the street to die. Continue reading


This week i was hanging out with my friend Susan and she told me a story that happened recently about standing up to racism. Continue reading


i did my best to compile some helpful resources linked to the #FeesMustFall movement in this post i did ‘From a Number of Different Eyes and Mouths’ and this second post which shared more thoughts as well as first-hand experiences of others. But i knew that to really get a feel for what was happening and to be a more active part of it, we needed to get on the ground and so we did that today for 5 and a half hours.

My Facebook status after i got home read like this: Continue reading

How to be a better ally text

Continuing the search on how to be a more effective ally when it comes to my black, coloured and indian friends in South Africa. While it was not specifically an Ally Series post, this piece i did yesterday titled, ‘Before I Comment’ is one we would all do well to pay attention to. Thinking before we rush in to an argument with an opinion or to try and take control is a definite way we can be an Ally.

This one feels like a bit of a tricky one Continue reading


Yesterday i wrote a post titled, ‘Before you favourite, RT, forward…’ which started with Back to the Future memes [not serious at all] and ended with alleged swimming lesson racism [very serious]. The focus being on people on various social media platforms sharing stories that arrive as ‘Breaking News’ or are sensational or emotionally-charged, before they have bothered to check whether they are authentic or not.

i want to take it a little bit further today, while continuing to emphasise yesterday’s point.

And i want to address it through the lens of the ‘swimming lessons’ debacle in Cape Town where, in a nutshell, a woman with a black African sounding surname tried to enrol her children in swimming lessons with an organisation and they told her there was no space. Then she created a new email address with a very white sounding surname and they were instantly accepted. The emails were shared and it looked like a case of obvious racism.


In terms of establishing context, i want to share a comment my friend Linde wrote which is so crucial:

Linde: This is what the minority of business owners in Cape Town who insist on alienating black clientele have created. Even I have created a white alias e-mail profile to ensure that I get treated fairly on every occasion. Unless this rise of discrimination towards black people ends or at least lowers to the same level as in other parts of SA black people will continue being on edge and since it’s difficult to get the law to act on such cases social media is the only recourse. I get that innocent people’s businesses are getting hurt – this is unfortunate, but I hope that instead of getting defensive these businesses realise the reality of the situation for black people and consider ways of ensuring that their procedures are as transparent as possible.

Cape Town has a recent, let’s say present and completely unacceptable history of racism. i have heard that from a number of black people who live in Joburg and have visited or come here for work, and i am aware of it from a number of incidents involving restaurants, people looking to rent and neighbourhood watch incidents. We seem to be doing worse than the rest of the country. And anyone committed to being an Ally, as i most definitely am, has to has to has to be aware of this and take this deathly seriously and be prepared to stand up against it any time it raises its head. Our starting point needs to be that this stuff is real, it happens and it has caused a lot of hurt for a lot of people and the kinds of experiences that i as a white person have never had to face.


So the moment someone posted this story on my page i sprung into action, emailing Virgin Active who i heard were linked to this school. I received some information from them suggesting that we did not have the full story [apparently not all the emails were shared which can completely be used to change the flavour of the story] as well as testimony from a friend of mine who uses the school and told me the accusations had taken her completely by surprise as she has used the school for a number of years and it is completely diverse.

Now this is where events got a little unfortunate. My personal context was that i was in the middle of a busy day and i caught a whiff of this when i popped into Facebook and didn’t have sufficient time to respond more extensively and so i jumped on, on my phone, and typed a quick status update asking people to pause until we had more story and this is where i got it wrong.

Brett: Okay everybody with the Virgin Active messaging and the swimming lesson panic I have a friend there who is on it and the investigation is happening but we need to slow down a little now and not get crazy before we have the full story. Good people are checking it out. As they should.

i realise now that i made a poor choice of words and despite the rush i was in i should have done better. Ncumisa, Linde and Sindile tackled me on my comments and rightly so. When many black people have spoken about incidents such as these or being refused entrance at a restaurant etc they have been labelled ‘crazy’ and so that word in itself was a bad choice. i’m not sure that i know how i could have conveyed what i needed to [some of the information i received was behind the scenes and in confidence and so while i had some extra info i was not able to share it all, which put me in a very tricky place] but i do have a good idea that this statement came across as many others have done in terms of deligitimising the concerns and making it seem like i was trying to explain away or defend something that had come across as clearly racist.

i get it. i completely do. i messed up.


When we look at any comment we make via social media and possible any article we share or joke we ‘like’ i think these four words can serve as a helpful guide for us.

Is what i am about to say True?

Is this point i am trying to make Right?

Is me expressing this thought or opinion going to be Helpful?

Am i being Kind in this moment?

A 5th one i thought of as i was writing these out was, ‘Is this Clear?’ which relates to word usage, context, language and more – are people going to receive the message i am trying to give?



i think these two overlap and my previous post deals with a lot of that.

Some comments relating to the swimming pool incident but which can relate to other online shares:

Dave: It gets so ugly. People don’t have all the facts, but then get horrifically personal and aggressive. it becomes anti-social media. ordinary moms, dads, people we know, MDs who lead companies, respected (if not respectable) radio presenters all go on a venomous tirade of filthy vitriol. I spent the weekend unfriending and blocking a lot of people who should know better, and who I don’t need to add negativity to my life.
Joanne: “Cock-ups and misunderstandings are better resolved directly than via social media.” – yes, yes and YES. I am totally over people coming straight to SM with everything. If they haven’t had an immediate response, if things don’t go 100% their way, if ALL their dreams don’t come true: go straight to social media and totally obliterate someone’s life or business. Which basically makes such a person, at best, a spoilt brat or, at worst, a bully. I’d like someone to show it to me. What? The written warranty they received at birth guaranteeing them total happiness at all times. If you can’t produce it, then get into the queue with the rest of us and listen to the boring music while waiting for an agent to attend to your call.
Lisa: My heart sank reading the mudstorm that met Aimee’s allegations. Mainly because I’ve dealt with that company for about four years, and could tell here from experience that it’s much more a case of #everydayincompetence than #everydayracism. Honestly, when I want to reschedule my kids’ time slots, the admin lady always says ‘waiting list’ and doesn’t get back to me. I suspect they partly run quite an old-fashioned paper-based business where it’s quite tricky to figure out the schedules. When you nag and ask the swimming teachers, who know better what slots are open or not, you can eventually get things moved around in under a week or so. I’ve had similar experiences with preschool and primary school waiting lists, where one staff member is more helpful or informed than another, or you kind of need to rattle their cage to remind them who you are. I find the witchhunt response on FB (“just close your business now you racists!”) a bit hard to stomach.
Linde: It’s funny how we live in a society that loves Whistle Blowers. Whistle blowers rarely have concrete evidence – their very act of whistle blowing is the catalyst for investigations being initiated. It’s funny how everyone disapproves of the whistle blowing in this instance but not even one person has suggested of a better more transparent way of doing business in Cape Town. Is this because people don’t value the contribution black people make to white businesses or the SA economy?
Claire: It’s the whole idea of Internet Mob Justice… People rant, other people share, and before you know it, with very few facts at hand, people are shutting down businesses or destroying people. I’m not saying Cape Town is innocent in the race problem. Far from it. But like they said, it’s more incompetence and bad admin skills in this instance. Mob justice… If it’s not okay on the streets, why is it okay online?

i don’t think it is undermining our quest to root out racism at all to ask that we do our due diligence when it comes to the facts of a story before we start handing out pitchforks and lighting torches. i do get that ‘questioning the validity of stories of racism in Cape Town’ has become a huge source of pain for those who have lived them and so there is a fine line [and many people in this case believed that the emails shared constituted enough proof to proceed] and we need to be sure that we are not trying to make excuses or defend the guilty by asking for proof. We also need to be committed to seeking out those answers if we are not sure.

My first response [before i shared the story] was to try and verify the story by emailing Virgin. i imagine that not everyone that had something to say to/about me did that much. Which is typical of the kind of slacktivism social media encourages – getting heated up and vocal and sharing, retweeting, liking, but not necessarily doing anything practical. If we are going to call for truth and rightness in terms of dealing with issues that are raised then we have to be prepared to go that extra mile and make sure we do the necessary research as far as possible and don’t simply use the line as a means of backing up our inaction.

My friend Jez shared this story of  a palestinian boy killed by Israel during the First Intifada. With the Israel/Palestine situation being a hugely volatile one, this photo immediately rocketted through social media spheres evoking huge emotion and anger and passion for the cause. Until a reporter did a little bit of digging and found that the image was actually taken from a movie called ‘The Kingdom of the Ants’.

Seen the movie ‘Wag the Dog?’ A fictitious war is created for televisions across America to cover up an infidelity of the president. The scary thing is that it is not just a movie any more and we have to be more and more careful about the ‘news’ we so easily trust. With anyone able to jump onto Photoshop these days as well as more high profile digital manipulation, seeing is definitely not believing any more.

While we may not always be able to establish absolute truth because of things like that, we can and should be responsible in doing as much as we can to corroborate the authenticity of anything significant that we share before rushing to click.


Next up, a helpful thing to ask before we post, share, comment, is the question: Is this Helpful?

It may be right and true, but sometimes the thing we have to add may not be all that helpful. It may distract from the real issue at hand, it may cause people to go off on a tangent, it may unnecessarily invoke anger [like my use of the word ‘crazy’ – while i understand what i meant and was trying to get across it was a very unhelpful word to use and i should have done better!] and more.

Is this adding to the present discussion? Is this going to be useful in moving us forwards?

If we can get into the habit of asking this question our social media presence will be enhanced hugely.

Different Dave: We all need to be careful of that hair-trigger that develops on our social media weapons of mass destruction. And when someone stands up and challenges the reaction to an event like this, that same hair-trigger goes off in their direction too.



Lastly, is it Kind? It may be Truthful and Right, and it may even be Helpful, but is this thing that i am about to share, Kind?

The Bible talks about ‘Speaking the Truth in Love’ which doesn’t mean the same thing as ‘Speaking the Truth in Nice’ and we see Jesus get hardcore with both the religious leaders of the day [Pharisees, Sadducees] and His own followers when they are being hypocritical or misrepresenting the Truth.

But sometimes asking the question, ‘Is this Kind?’ will help us to make good decisions, and more often than not it will help us choose relationship over being right [a great choice to err towards].

Will this mean we never get it wrong? Probably not. Life can be quite complicated and a tone-free environment is not the easiest place to always communicate what you think, feel and mean and even if you do it perfectly, someone else’s day, frame of mind and context may come into play against them. There is much space and need for grace, forgiveness and love. BUT i do think that if we ask the question – Is what i am about to share True, Right, Help, Kind and Clear? – more often before our fingers vomit their words upon the keyboard and out onto the screen, that we may be well on our way.

For the sake of building community and working towards reconciliation and building both a better province, nation and world, let’s commit ourselves to trying a little bit harder on this one.


This feels like a post which will be helpful for a lot of people to read, so if you agree please take a moment to share this via your social media channels – that is, if you feel like it is right, true, helpful, kind and clear…

[To read the Before you Favourite, RT, Forward post, click here]

On the 11th of July 2012 this popular meme illustrating the day Marty McFly [from the classic movie, ‘Back to the Future’] arrived in the future started flying its way around the internet. You know, cos look out for Marty McFly or something.

Back to the Future time date

The only problem being, that it was not true. Back to the Future was released in 1985 and in the movie Marty Mcfly travels 30 years into the future [making it 2015, October 21, my sister’s birthday, to be exact] and this picture [and many others like it] was simply displaying the benefits of an adequate knowledge of Photoshop.


“But it’s on the internet” is surprisingly not a synonym for “But it’s true”.

R.I.P. Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, Avril Lavigne and more…

In September 2010, thousands of people were shocked with the news that Morgan Freeman had passed away.

“RT @CNN: Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home,”

None, more so than Morgan Freeman, who upon hearing the news quickly assured people that he was not.

Celebrity death hoaxes have become quite common in the age of Facebook and Twitter, because people like you [yes?] see something newsworthy and dramatic and want to be the first to get the news out to their friends. Usually without any kind of research whatsoever. This article refers to 16 different celebrities who were assumed dead [many by the same hoaxes – fell off cliff while filming in New Zealand, snowboarding to name two].

One of them was completely accidental as when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died, the hashtag #nowthatcherisdead became a worldwide trend, fooling many in to believing that singer Cher was dead as the tag could be read both ways – Now Thatcher Is Dead – Now That Cher Is Dead. Thousands of people in the States , including some celebrities, jumped into mourning and retweeting mode for Cher, assuming she had passed on.


Have you, or someone you know, posted this statement, to protect your information on Facebook?

“As of September 28th , 2015 at 10:50p.m. Eastern standard time, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates.”

Another hoax. Firstly, what do you have that you think is so valuable anyways that anyone would want to take it? And secondly, if you saw this and forwarded it without checking up on its validity, then maybe other people deserve your stuff. In an unrelated note, Jesus will not be sad if you don’t share that other cheesy religious guilt-enducing post.

But more seriously, when there is something that seems too good to be true, or maybe too bad to be true, or more importantly too dangerous to be shared without checking if it’s true to be true, then a quick and quite reliable and responsible action to do is to check it out first.

Any time i see something and want to share it but want to first check on its validity i usually just type the heading or key phrase and the word ‘hoax’ or ‘scam’ into the Google and it usually sorts it out straight away. Another good way when it’s a story you’re not sure of [like was today REALLY the day Marty McFly set off for?] is to go to [and various other sites like it] that help weed out scams and mistruths as well as other urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.


There are a number of reasons why we need to get better at this stuff. At its best it can be annoying or misleading, but at its worst it can be hurtful and potentially dangerous.

Imagine you were a relative of a celebrity and learnt about their ‘death’ on social media and it took you more than 24 hours to track them down and figure out that the story was a hoax. Imagine you are the mother or the husband. It is completely irresponsible to be someone who shares misinformation because it feels like a breaking news moment and you want to be first on it. Doing a quick check will not always save you the embarrassment and help stop rumours in their tracks, but it will at least give you a greater chance of getting it right.

A couple of weeks ago in the informal residence of Masiphumelele, a rape and a murder of a young boy took place. A local mob was formed looking to execute ‘justice’ they felt the authorities weren’t providing and a man who was thought to be guilty of the offence was killed. This is wrong and dangerous in itself, except that the news that followed a few hours later was that they got hold of the wrong person. THIS is the kind of thing that indiscriminate Facebook and Twitter sharing can be a part of creating – witch hunts, violence, shaming and loss of reputation – which as mob justice is wrong in and of itself, but how much more so when the wrong person is targeted.


# This whole post came directly out of an incident that hit social media in the last day or so involving an alleged racist incident with a woman [with a black-sounding surname] who tried to get her children into a class for swimming lessons but was told it was full – when she changed her name to a white sounding name, she was told there was room for her children.

What was interesting with this event [and i will be writing more on this, especially as i get to know and hear more of the full story] was that i quickly found out that i knew someone on both sides and so was given a different perspective than most people saw [some of which i am unable to comment on because it is personal information that was shared in confidence] and with the response to both the alleged victim and the perpetrator being slander/threats of violence and more, realised that maybe this is one incident that is not as clear cut as it seems. The response i got when i messaged Virgin:

Yes, we have been in touch with both Aimee and Swim4Life and are conducting a full investigation to gather all the facts, and will take the appropriate action. Unfortunately as with many such incidents, there is an intense trial by social media happening, targeting Aimee, Swim4Life and Virgin Active, and I urge you and those you engage with to consider the humans on all sides, and respect their dignity, while we look into and help resolve the matter. Thanks for getting in touch.

It’s a very tricky situation and unfortunately a lot of people are commenting without all the facts on hand. We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind, and we want to be absolutely sure of the full story as it is a) the dignity of Aimee and the swim school, as well as the livelihood of a family business on the line. We cannot make rash judgements until all the facts are in. Thanks for understanding, Brett.

From a message to a guy called Andrew who wrote to them: Virgin Active does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We have been in contact with both parties since we were alerted to this on Saturday 10 October, are conducting a full investigation and will take appropriate action.

Also my friend Lisa posted on Facebook about her experience with the school:

Sorry, I have no idea of the context of this, but it sounds totally weird. My kids both swim with this squad; I’m at their pool roughly three times a week, (often at different times if they have catch-up sessions for missed lessons) and frequently see swimming students of all races, and all ages (from babies to adults) in their classes, both one on one lessons and group sessions. The teachers are warm, professional and fantastic – to all their students. The admin of the swim school is, however, scatty at best; they are managing hundreds of swimmers and time slots. They’re better at teaching swimming than at admin. I can’t comment on the original post as I’m not connected to her on FB, but I’d urge her to send the complainant directly to the company to question the situation and call them on it. Cock-ups and misunderstandings are better resolved directly than via social media.

So while it looks [from the emails that were shared with us, which may not have been all the ones there were] like a racist incident which must be fully investigated and dealt with accordingly, there is also some evidence to suggest that maybe it’s not the school that is racist and maybe there is a story different to the one that we were fed. And we have to give is due diligence.

# tbV and i have different ideas when it comes to the idea of public shaming and both for very good reason i think and maybe i will see if i can get her to share some of her thoughts and i will do the same sometime soon.

Have you ever shared something on Social Media that you later found out was a hoax or mistake? Has it taught you in any way to be more vigilant before clicking like, favourite, retweet or send?

[For my related post on a few things to think through as we comment, click here]

Continuing with the conversation about ‘How to be an Ally’ with my friend Alexa Matthews who has a huge heart for this kind of thing and the humility to understand that we are trying to figure it out as we go along:Alexa

I have sat with this for a little while – and was hoping to send it off before leaving South Africa for a holiday. I am still wrestling with whether I as a non-black person should be writing this. Simply as part of me knows that this is something that some days I get horribly wrong rather than just right.

Being an ally, for me, doesn’t mean simply choosing to mindlessly go along with the loudest voices shouting about what is happening in the black community – that is not being an ally.

It’s about being willing to listen, hear and acknowledge that on my own, or only surrounded by people who think like me I have an incomplete story or picture of what is happening in our country and being willing to hear why people think the way that they do – whether it is the same or different to me. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: