Category: people


disability

From my friend, Dalene Reyburn: So, I’m honoured to be hanging out with Brett in this bustling corner of the internet to introduce the next Taboo Topics series: people with special needs.

I think Brett’s a hero for having the courage to open up these sorts of topics – things that are often ignored or misunderstood or too fraught with pain to be voiced. This series will give parents and others a safe space to be honest about difficult – confusing – deflating – journeys. A chance to recapture big-picture perspective, and to glimpse God’s glory.

Our eldest son is visually impaired. My husband and I know the emotional exhaustion – fumbling prayer – making stuff up as we go along – of parenting a child with special needs. We’ve done the pointless projections of long-term scenarios. We know how it feels to carry the tension of uncertainty and the fear that our child’s heart will be hurt by life. We’ve experienced people’s kindly ignorance. Sometimes we feel side-lined and sometimes we feel conspicuous and sometimes we’re tired of feeling like That Family. We’ve done anger (where the hell was God?), doubt (does God even love us? Or love our kid?), and guilt (did we do something wrong?). And every day we know the terrifying joy of watching our hearts walking around in someone else’s body.

We’ve also experienced incredible compassion – the enormous warmth and sincere interest of friends and family and total strangers who love us. So many have held up our arms. And this series is about holding up yours. Alongside Brett, I’m praying that these posts will be comfort and relief for brave parents of braver kids. Please come. And know that you are not alone.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’ Daniel 10:19

Meet Lauren van Zyl and her son Noah [A.D.D., Learning Disabilities & Auditory Perception problems]

Meet Louise Bowley [Asperger’s Syndrome]

Meet Shaina Cilimberg [Aspergers Disorder]

Meet Susannah and Monrovia Prinz – [Deaf, from a mom’s perspective]

Meet Kashveera Chanderjith – [Deaf, from a grownup’s perspective]

Meet Rebecca Benn – [Dyslexia]

Meet Steph Mclennan [Mild Ataxia – Cerebral Palsy]

Meet Keith Slabbert [Quadriplegic – Broken neck]

Meet Michelle Botha – [Retinitis Pigmentosa – Degenerative Sight Condition]

Meet Helen Laas – [Soft Tissue Spinal Damage – Car accident]

Meet Lachlan Nicholson [Spastic Cerebral Palsy]

Meet Gabriella Del Fabbro [Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy]

Meet Uel Maree [Spinal Cord Injury – Unfortunate Diving Accident]

[If you are someone living with a disability  or a parent of a child with a disability or know someone who might be up to sharing their story, please contact me at brettfish@hotmail.com – have some stunning stories on the way, but always room for more]

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oh we Christians can be a hated bunch. and rightly so in way too many times and spaces [although almost always when we say or do things that aren’t particularly Christ-following in nature]

this week i was called a ‘reprobate’, told i have no spiritual teeth [i am not quite sure what that means but i think i was meant to be offended] , a ‘coward pastor’ and i think there was an insinuation that i am evil [when i said i was going to watch a movie with friends, the response that followed was ‘Even the evil love their friends and family.’ [and all this from someone who calls herself a ‘fellow believer’] all because i mentioned on facebook that i didn’t feel i had the authority to share effectively on the situation in Gaza because i am not up to speed on everything that is happening there.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13.34-35 New International Version]

this did not feel like that.

last nite, tbV and i attended a wedding of some friends of ours in Americaland… this is four days before we leave the country where we have been living and working in non-profits and return to South Africa… also about two months ago they weren’t even engaged… there was an engagement and then a sense of ‘You’re leaving when?’ and then a scurrying to make a wedding happen so that we could be there before we left for SA. i was invited to MC at the reception after the wedding and we just got to spend a fun and fondu-filled evening with church friends and especially be there for a significant life event for some friends we have gotten to know and love over here.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13.34-35 English Standard Version]

this felt a lot like that.

on the way home from the wedding, my beautiful wife Val told me a story of the way that some friends of ours really went above and beyond in terms of showing love to another friend of ours who was in a really bad place and feeling completely low. a welcome at the airport with some of her significant and favourite things and a week of just showering her with love and friendship and special attention. in a completely tired and shattered state, driving us home after the wedding and just so ready for bed, this story lifted my spirits immensely and gave me huge hope and was really not the hugest surprise knowing the people in question.

34 A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. [John 13.34-35 American Standard Version]

arrive home from the party and discover an envelope that a friend and someone who had worked alongside me in the youth ministry had slipped into my hand at Friday’s farewell party that other friends of ours [that we hadn’t even spent crazy time with] had offered to throw for us – open it and read amazing and encouraging words in a card but also an immensely generous gift from someone who had spent so much of last year out of a job… catch a glimpse of the photo/message book that another friend of ours [again, someone who we hadn’t spent a lot of time with] put together for us to map out significant parts of our journey in Oakland and remind us of the people we loved and who loved us along the way… close my hand around the wad of cash my bossman gave me towards buying a new computer when we get home [before this one completely catches fire and burns up from overheating] and smile again at the pics of our visit to a place called ‘Bacon Bacon’ which could only be the best place to take me to celebrate the end of working for him…

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” [The Message]

all of those things felt a lot like this.

don’t get me wrong. there are definitely times to call people out and to challenge people when they are not living up to the message they are proclaiming. Jesus had a field day with the Pharisees and the people in the temple and on many occasions even His own disciples. there is a time for harsh words and sometimes even harsh actions.

But the first 3 verses of 1 Corinthians 13, remind us of this important principle:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Which is followed by this reminder of the kind of choice Love that often takes a little bit more effort, and personal cost, and perseverance, to achieve:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If the person or the thing or the event, does not have love, then it is not of God.

The Love of God is the tattoo of the Christian. It is the mark by which we will be known and recognised.

It will hopefully do the job of helping attract other people towards God.

Who is the Source of all that is Love and Good and Right.

Thank you to all of those who have loved us well in the whole of life, but especially in these last few weeks and days… it has been muchly appreciated!

troll
today i happened to stumble upon this blog post titled, ‘Simple is the way’ announcing that we had been invited to move to Americaland to work with The Simple Way non-profit and live in Philly.

it’s not a particularly great blog post – more of an announcement for friends and family and just sharing the excitement at the time, but what was interesting, and what was again skimming through, was reading the comments [56 of them, including some responses] from people in South Africa who clearly didn’t think it was the greatest decision in the world:

Morne asked: Will you guys come back after getting a taste of the good life in America?

For Vanessa, it was the financial implications:

How are you going to get the money for the tickets as well as the Visas for such a long duration?

If a normal Christian wanted to go over to America, how would they go about it? Would people help any normal Christian out with cash? Or do you need to be quite high up in the Church in order to get the money?

Warren was on point with: People only have a certain amount of money. A certain amount that they can give. If they give to you, doesn’t it detract from giving to others more in need who are starving?

Joanne was worried about our family members, and the township children: Won’t you miss your friends and family here in SA? What about all the township children? But sounds like a fun opportunity to leave like the rest of the people. If others like doctors and whoever leave, then why not christians also.

And then returned with a statement that backed up the idea that when people use the phrase “Just Saying” they seldom just are: On your way to the airport, you’ll pass thousands of poor people in shacks…. just saying..

Joanne really seemed invested in our well-being, especially when she heard we were doing perilous transcription work to try and make enough money to set out: Why not get a job delivering pizza? Or a both of you work as waiters/ waitresses? This way you will interact with people instead of transcribing things all day which is quite boring I can imagine. You could save up quite quickly and get to go on your trip.

Joanne really did have a lot more to say but it seems like she really got to the heart of our leaving in this comment: If it was just for a change of scenery, then why not admit it. Why make out as if its about the poor in Philie? Are they then going to send people from Philie here and we shift people all over the world, costing millions when this money could just go directly to the poor. Or is it all about your experience, learning, your this, your that? Something like that.

Definitely something like that.

All the while these comments were interspersed with humour from a favourite commenter of ours at the time [Where are you now Brits?] who wrote to Joanne: You must leave that job of yours. Get a job as a bar lady! They pay well and you will be happy as you can suip [drink] and get paid and listen to music.

Filon was a lot more practical and helpful in his recommendations: Africa is a lost cause. Go to USA there are more opportunities.

While MJ was clearly swimming against the current: I like the bit where everyone got stoked for you and Val, and stopped trying to find something to complain about. That was my favourite part.

Jeff jumped in to question our quitting themness: I think what people are really saying is that we have poor here. We have poor there. Why there and not here? I understand that you’ve done much needed work here, but why quit us now? Surely we need more Americans coming to help Africa than the other way round?

[as a side note Jeff, Americaland in many ways could use more Africans of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds to come over here and help out – the grass seems to be of a very similiar hue in many ways over here]

troll2

Brits kept things light with his commentary [including some helpful suggestions for getting sufficient alcohol on the plane]:

Hi Brett I check your blog now and again. But lately not too much because I don’t know much about dating and that bell oke. Maybe some new age minister. I also slipped off the wagon again and took up my sport of drinking beer now I have gained kilos and moved to Aghulus for a holiday. I am starting exercise and am inspirated by your pushups. I am aiming for 20. Or maybe running is better, probably walking at first. must make a start of something.

It is funny to hear that whenever you argue with Christians, they reckons you’re the devil haha. I’m accused of this when I am too drunk and the bar lady says I am a wild devil for not paying the tab for 20 beers. I always come pay the next day or after. Besides she even drank 2 herself haha women are very bad with math. They very good at making shopping lists and spend cash.

I think it’s good that you go there as travel is an experience. I must not to a blog as Christians will moan at my beer drinking and say I must give to the bergies but I often give them beers they don’t understand. When I am more drunk I get generosity and buy takeout then buy for the guy outside also. So beer helps with that. Beer or sobeer haha you must not worry and soon you will be in Amerika.

Christians must not be boring. Traveling is fun and a good experience. The budweiser in Amerika not so good but whiskey is more cheaper than here. Are you going to Bronx. You must please be careful as there us gangsters there and pimps on the alert. Bruce Springsteen sings about the Bronx snd Philadelphia. Listen to that to get in the mode.

On the plane you must drink the wine and the beer. If you see an old lady or someone not drinking you must ask for their wine. They limit you to 2 or 3 drinks.

In Amerika you must tell on a map as they not very educated with geography. Do buy a good map to show them where you from.

But we must drink when I’m back from Aghulus. I will pay as you saving up now. I will try calm down before then. What day you flying?

To get donations you must put your account number up. Or maybe use paypal. You must open FNB account to do that here. Not sure exactly but I know it’s FNB. What amount do you need? I can help as well and leave out beer for a month.

To be Christian is not just misery, you must have fun aswell. I think Keanu reeves in little budda even said we must not just live on bird poo. We must have a balancing act of fun and hardness. The Bible also us sometimes too serious and they must have left out many fun times and jokes Jesus had. Christians must be more fun. We not living in old castles with dungeons and crazy priests.

Nobody wants to be a Christian who is miserable. It must be a fun thing or else people will not join up. Just out up photos on your site so we can check out where you are. Keep up the jokes. Your wife must blog more as she is slacking. But she must keep it easy to understand.

I am back next weekend and we can suip a bit or drink coffee. But ya put up an account or whatever. Check it out. Wish you guys good blessings.

And then a bunch of our family and friends ruined the whole thing by jumping on and saying nice things about us and reminding us that it was a good idea to go. Phew. What a fun walk slash sTROLL down memory lane… and looking back on three years, certainly NOT the easy option.

reading all those comments reminded me of the time i wrote a post on forgiveness [well shared an audio thort i had done] and got 59 comments of which i don’t think any related to forgiveness at all but were more focused on how christians like me hate animals and how i was personally going to be responsible for the closing down of the world of birds which you can read about over here – on the other hand, it has been a long time since i got anything like that as a response to anything i’ve written so i have to wonder if that means i’ve been writing too safe..?

well with under two weeks to go til we head home to South Africa, i expect that will change – last few months have been posting more of other peoples’ thoughts such as this marriage series we did, most of the posts on race [which i am looking to dive into a little deeper when we get home] and these recent series on Porn and Sex, because, well, you know.

if someone is not Troll’ing, are you really speaking the Truth? i don’t think writing to offend is particularly helpful, but writing knowing that it will more than likely offend is completely necessary, especially if you are writing Truth. so sometimes the amount of naysayers and virtual stone throwers can be as helpful, if not more so, than those who are clapping loudly and winking knowingly.

looking forward to a new phase of writing more from me as opposed to simply being a space where i share others thoughts and stories [although hoping to always be a place where that can happen]…

are you ready, world?

truth

A third extract from ‘Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion’ by Father Gregory Boyle, which you should clearly be able to gather by now i am adding to my ‘Books i would love for all my friends to read’ list so just do it already. So brief background to this short piece is that Father Boyle works predominantly with gangsters and ex-gangsters through a number of different businesses that fall under the banner of Homeboy Industries which means that guys [and sometimes girls] from rival gangs often end up working side by side:

‘No question gets asked of me more than, “What’s it like having enemies working together?”

The answer: it is almost always tense at first. A homie will beg for a job, and perhaps I have an opening at the Bakery. 

“But you’re gonna have to work with X, Y and Z,” naming enemies already working there. He thinks a bit, and invariably will say: “I’ll work with him, but I’m not gonna talk to him.”

In the early days, this would unsettle me. Until I discovered that it always becomes impossible to demonize someone you know.’

gregory boyle

‘I take two recently hired enemies, Artie and Danny to Oakland for a talk I am going to give. They will man the table in the front and sell Homeboy and Homegirl merchandise. The trip is excrutiating as they will not speak to each other. I carry the ball entirely in the conversation and only occasionally do they grunt assent or nod, “uh-huh.”

Before the talk, we’re standing on the terrace at our hotel, overlooking a boardwalk along the water, near Jack London Square in Oakland. [Brett: That is literally a block away from where tbV and i work!] We stand there in silence watching the people below. I give up trying to keep things conversational. 

Down below there is a sweet old couple, probably married well beyond fifty years. They are holding hands. Danny elbows Artie and points at the old couple. “That’s disgusting.”

Cómo que ‘disgusting’?” I turn on him. “It’ sweet. It’s an old couple.”

“Still,” Danny says, “it’s disgusting.”

“What are you talking about?” I press him.

“Well it’s only obvious.” Danny points one more time as the couple disappear from sight. “They’re under the influence of Viagra.”

A completely silly joke by anyone’s standards, but Artie and Danny collapse in howling and high fives. 

Some passage has been cleared, and they both choose to move through it. An artificially silly wall has divided them, only to be brought to rubble by an outrageously silly thing.

A footnote: Artie and Danny become great and enduring friends, whose friendship has to be kept secret always from their own homeboys.

Thomas Merton writes: “We discover our true selves in love.”

Nothing is more true than this in Artie and Danny. Love never fails. It will always find a way to have its way.’

[from the chapter ‘Jurisdiction’ in Father Gregory Boyle’s excellent book, ‘Tattoos on the Heart’]

quote

 

[To read the next passage titled, ‘Standing with the Least Likely to Succeed’ click here]

The phrase is off-putting and in some ways misleading [to someone who doesn’t understand what it means at any rate].

Tell a guy he is a part of the existing rape culture and he is most likely to react strongly against that:

“How dare you suggest I’m a rapist? Or put me in the same grouping as rapists as if I could be one of them.”

Well, sometimes that thing you think you’re against is not really the thing you’re against.

 

WELL, WHAT DOES IT MEAN THEN?

dont

Let me be really clear here – I am not an expert on this and so I am sharing what I [and others I am reading] understand the term to mean. I believe that being able to wrap our minds [yes guys, this is especially important to us, and if we can turn off our reaction responses for a few minutes and simply try read to understand, that will really be helpful] around this is so  very important if we are going to ever have any chance of seeing any kind of change take place. And we REALLY need to see a whole lot of change taking place.

So let’s see what some others have to say:

Rape culture is a concept which links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape. [wikipedia]

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. [Women’s Center, Marshall University]

In a rape culture, people are surrounded with images, language, laws, and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate, rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.” [from the article ‘Upsetting Rape Culture’ on Force]

Rape culture: a society where men take and women surrender and that’s the relatively unchallenged status quo [Leanne Meihuizen]

Rape Culture is about desensitization, says Lee Lakeman, spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres.

MY THOUGHTS ON WHY THIS IS SUCH A BIG DEAL

A lot of people have dismissed this as “a feminist thing” which is dismissed based largely on the loaded perception many people have with regards to the term ‘feminist’.

A lot of men have dismissed this conversation saying that “it is out to paint all men as rapists” or that “it is an unfair generalisation that is aimed at making all men look bad”.

I really think both of those views and others which simply dismiss without really taking time to simply listen and learn are unfair and detrimental. The message of ‘I am discounting what you are saying’ and ‘Your experiences and feelings in this regard are not valid or worth paying serious attention to’ actually end up adding proof or backing to what an increasing number of women across the world are trying to say.

My own personal journey into understanding the concept of ‘rape culture’ or at least that it even was a concept, began a few years ago when i read a number of articles and heard some different opinions being expressed about it. But recently when first the #YesAllWomen and later #EachEveryWoman tags became a growing phenomenon on Twitter i took some time reading a lot of the messages that were being shared and my heart broke again and again reading about some of the experiences and stories that were being shared.

My first response was to write this piece which is not definitive by any means, but was me, as a man, feeling that i needed to say something and add another male voice to the conversation:

https://brettfish.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/yesallmen-should-really-pay-attention-to-yesallwomen/

About a week later, while sitting outside our apartment, just letting my thoughts roam, i put this more poetic piece together which was also a response to #YesAllWomen, or more accurately, a lament:

https://brettfish.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/yesallwomen-a-lament/

I’m not exactly sure of the specifics of this story but i later heard [many times] that they had to change #YesAllWomen to #EachEveryWomen because the two women who started the original tag were being harrassed and threatened [as in receiving death threats].

HELP ME UNDERSTAND

I imagine that if you’re a woman, you already get this and so this whole piece is simply a lot of head nodding and ‘I wish [fill in name] would get this’. What you can do is be encouraged to keep sharing about this with your male friends. Help them to really see that you are not trying to paint them all as rapists and that this is not some ‘those people’ thing on the internet, but that this affects most if not all women across the planet each and every day. What you can do is normalise it in terms of the language you use, the stories you share, help avoid any kind of emotive shut-down response a guy might have when he comes across an article and just walk him through it.

If you’re a guy, the biggest help for me in this [and it was NOT fun!] was to read through the #YesAllWomen tags on Twitter. If you don’t have an account, you know someone who does. Spend ten minutes and read through them – there are some troll comments of course – but if you spend any amount of time there, not judging or trying to excuse or figure out – just listening – just reading – then you will start to understand what is really going on out there. Then take a minute [I would not recommend longer] and read through some comments on the #YesAllMen tag and find out just how messed up some men [and some women] can be – part parody, part aggressive, part complete hate speech – this tag that was set up as a response to the #YesAllWomen tag really made me angry, sad and disgusted. Then there is also #YesAllPeople which was very likely a well-intentioned middle-ground type piece, suggesting that this is something that affects everyone and because guys can be on the receiving end of sexual abuse and rape that we should rather look at it more holistically. Which does have some merit, but also, when the difference is between ‘some men’ and ‘almost all women’ it actually removes focus from where the focus needs to be. So while a man may be a victim of similiar experiences, a guy generally doesn’t have the same kind of fear walking down a street when a woman he doesn’t know is walking closely behind him, or when he steps into an elevator with only one other person in it and it’s a woman. Much of the idea of ‘rape culture’ is the fear many women have of men because of their experience of life so far.

Another thing you can do as a guy, especially if you are somehow still finding this hard to believe, is talk to ten of your female friends and ask them if they have any fear towards men [for example if they are walking down the street and a man is behind them] and listen to their stories.

Or read this article – Are Mass Media creating a culture of rape? – [which contains some disturbing content, but sometimes we need to be disturbed when the culture we are part of starts to look like this.] When people make jokes about rape, when rape has become a term we use to speak of sports matches or exams that went badly,  or facebook statuses that were hijacked, when advertisers use imagery suggesting rape to sell their products then Edmund Burke’s well-known quote starts to become chillingly true:

evil

Here are some more Examples of Rape Culture:

  • Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
  • Sexually explicit jokes
  • Tolerance of sexual harassment
  • Inflating false rape report statistics
  • Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
  • Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
  • Pressure on men to “score”
  • Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
  • Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
  • Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
  • Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape

And from the same source:

How can men and women combat Rape Culture?

  • Avoid using language that objectifies or degrades women
  • Speak out if you hear someone else making an offensive joke or trivializing rape
  • If a friend says she has been raped, take her seriously and be supportive
  • Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence
  • Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations
  • Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent
  • Define your own manhood or womanhood.  Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.
  • Get involved! Join a student or community group working to end violence against women.

[http://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture]

I also found this list of 25 every day examples of rape culture of which here are just four examples:

3. A judge who sentenced only 30 days in jail to a 50-year-old man who raped a 14-year-old girl (who later committed suicide), and defended that the girl was “older than her chronological age.”

9. Journalists who substitute the word “sex” for “rape” – as if they’re the same thing.

14. Rape jokes – and people who defend them.

22. Only 3% of rapists ever serving a day in jail.

 

rape stats

References

  1. Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2008-2012
  2. FBI, Uniform Crime Reports: 2006-2010
  3. National Center for Policy Analysis, Crime and Punishment in America, 1999
  4. Department of Justice, Felony Defendents in Large Urban Counties: average of 2002-2006
  5. Department of Justice, Felony Defendents in Large Urban Counties: average of 2002-2006

[https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates]

SO OVERWHELMING

And so what can we do to make any difference to something that is so deeply embedded in our global culture?

  • Start by being educated – realise this thing is a thing – stop being defensive about it and missing it altogether – take time and be uncomfortable while doing so but push through

 

  • Listen – if you’re a guy, then give some space for your female friends to share their thoughts and experiences on this and really just listen without defending/reacting/explaining away/saying things like “yes but not every man is like that” which is true but doesn’t validate their experience and story – just listen and try and really hear

 

  • Make a stand – every time someone uses the word ‘rape’ to mean something that is not rape, i challenge them on it. Usually quietly in their inbox or in a conversation, but it is not cool when people do that. Ever. When someone tells a rape joke in front of you, you don’t have to make a big scene but just tell them strongly that that is not okay. When someone is wearing clothing that promotes rape culture, speak up;  when you see an advertisement using aggressively sexualised imagery, boycott the product, write to the company and let them know it’s not okay.

What else? I firmly believe that this is a conversation and movement that women need to be leading and being the chief voices of… but in what is still largely a male-dominated society, that might not always be the thing that happens naturally and so as a man I can create space for them to speak [as @micahmurray did on his blog where he invited a number of women to share their stories] or at least shush the man crowd a little, so that their voices can be heard.

This also needs to be more than a one week Kony2010 video that we share and get excited about and deeply passionate towards and a week later we have completely forgotten and moved on to the next thing. This needs to be a lifestyle change and an ongoing conversation and battle. We need to be a louder, stronger and more hands-on involved part of the culture that we have chosen to live in.

which culture

 

 [I also really found this article titled ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Rape Culture’ really helpful in terms of understanding and action]

[An Article by Pamela Clark with 35 helpful tips – don’t agree with all of them but most are great – to help men improve in this area]

 

A short while ago i introduced this panel to you made up of friends of mine from South Africa who are from a variety of different race groups/backgrounds and then invited you to ask any race-related questions you might have. The opinions of the members of the panel are in no way expected to represent the thoughts, feelings and ideas of a whole race group or culture, nor are they anticipated to be complete expositions into the heart and soul and depth of every question asked. They are simply opinions, thoughts and feelings of that individual, who is someone i deeply respect and think is worth hearing from and collectively i hope they will bring a strong degree of variety and depth to answering every question we look at. Not every panel member will necessarily answer each question, but i am hoping to have a few different perspectives on each question we tackle.

Because the answers were slightly longer and worth thinking about a little more deeply, i decided to simply use the first question in this post and i may add some answers as more come in, but in the meantime:

QUESTION 1: [Dave Child]

 “As South Africans, in 2014, how do we begin to frame our identities (as whites, blacks, coloureds etc) in a young democracy with such a long and deep history of racial hatred and discrimination?”

Caley Daniels:

I think we’ve all experienced one or two human beings who are still caught up in the culture of discrimination. What’s sad to me is that it’s usually the opinion of the parents that has been passed on to the children – and I think that is where the problem lies: ignorance breeds ignorance (that’s what it boils down to – racism, sexism, homophobia, whatever). If there are still people of the previous generation whom we can’t rely on to lead us by example, then the change has to come from us. I take my stance from Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:12 (But this can apply to everyone in the context of the question) “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

I say this with the utmost respect for our parents’ and grandparents’ generations which includes individuals who have been through more than we could ever imagine! But we know better than to continue in those ways. We have better circumstances, and environment more peaceful than it was in their time. We should be building on that and using what’s in our hands right now: an opportunity to use acceptance to eradicate ignorance, discrimination and racial hatred.

Tony Nzanzah: 

That is an excellent question that will sadly be visited for thousands of years to come. The thing that is against us is that our past has been framed through the eyes of race and the reality is that some of these feelings are deeply entrenched.

All one has to do at times is to read one negative article about one of the politicians either from the left or right and follow the online comments. Some of the comments remind me how far we are to fully embrace diversity and celebrate it. I believe this journey of transformation takes root when I choose in my interactions to refrain from referring to “them” or “those people” to us and to see myself as part of the whole. It is probably easier said than done and the recent elections in South Africa were a good reminder. You see some of the racial profiling is sublimely entrenched in our society through the forms that we are forced to fill in that ask us to refer us to our racial tag.

We need to be comfortable with people with a different shade and as a Christian, I believe that we are all created equally. Yes, at times the access to resources plays a role in dividing us further. I need to learn to walk across the room and reach out to others and not feel that I have to be invited. It requires me to be comfortable first in my own skin before I can try to reach out to others. One of the influential post- apartheid presidents, Thabo Mbeki, penned the famous words, “I am an African.” In my own journey I tend to embrace my Africanness as a way to help bridge the huge cultural chasm that exists in South Africa. This to me is a new way of referring to who we are as people that see themselves better than just the pigmentation of their skin colour!

We need a new revolution of finding each other and identifying each other as an African. This is hard work that a lot of us refrain from embarking as this hard work comes with a sprinkling of pain and tears. I have cringed when I hear people from a different cultural group saying things as “I understand those people”; this comes out as condescending and out of touch with reality.

It is dangerous to believe that since one has tuned their taste buds to eat tripe or sheep heads this qualifies them to utter such patronising comments. We all need to undergo a cultural detox that removes preconceived ideologies that silently occupy our minds. The battle is really about how I free about myself as opposed to how others need to be freed. As Africans we need to divorce ourselves from victim mentality that only aims to imprison us in the past. The challenge is not out there in some leafy suburb or township but is in our minds. Fear is a powerful weapon that paralyses us as the unknown outcome can be more daunting. The Bible talks about ‘renewing our minds’ and this is a process that is needed to allow us to see each other beyond racial tags. This also speaks about our view of people.  

A utopia of a colourless society is a figment of our imagination but we need to learn to dance with each other to a new rhythm that celebrates our uniqueness as Africans. A perfect dance is only possible when dancers are willing to step on each other toes, laugh at their mistakes and be enriched by them. Come let’s go dancing!

John Scheepers:

 When it comes to identity our world has such a strong push to what I call unique conformity.  In a world drunk with the quest for individuality there exists somewhat paradoxically a co-dependant drive for conformity.  Somehow the uniqueness of racial identity is seen as an evil thing.  We must strive, we are often told, to “not see colour” anymore.  While this might be admirable when it comes to judging a person’s character or ability, it is not the whole picture when it comes to culture.  It is not wrong to understand, at least in part, your identity racially or culturally. But it is when you understand the values of your race or culture as the normalising values by which you may judge the value or worth of another culture that things go wrong.

The Bible celebrates both the unity (common humanity) and the diversity of our world.  The creation narrative displays both the unity of origin, of structure and of order as well as the diversity of animal and plant life.  Humanity is then given a cultural mandate to take up the raw materials of creation and to shape and use them to fill the earth with God’s glory.  Even sin cannot fully destroy that original intent with the result that in the picture language of Revelation the splendour of the nations are brought into the New Jerusalem.  The riches and beauty of every culture and every nation, I suspect, will somehow be redeemed and included into God’s new creation.  Note also that the picture of the redeemed people of God is not simply one homogeneous church service but a seething mass of diversity, people from every tribe, tongue and nation together under one King.  Equality and diversity are not mutually exclusive. 

As a Christian though, the ultimate thing is not my cultural identity but my identity in Christ.  For so many of us who call ourselves Christ followers, we have simply tacked our Christianity on to our cultural identity and values.  But the biblical picture is far more radical than that.  In Christ we have died to our old self riddled through with sin and self-interest and been raised to a new life of hope, joy and renewed identity.  My primary identity is now no longer rooted in my family, my culture or my race.  My primary identity is as a member of God’s new family, his new people through whom he is bringing hope and restoration to a broken and dying world. 

I do not stop being a white, English-speaking male but it is no longer that which primarily defines me.  I am now set free to, like Christ, lay down my life, my rights, my cultural markers, my skin colour, in service of those who are not like me.  I no longer define my brother by the colour of his skin or the language of his birth but by his inclusion into the people of God.  I have a new identity that both affirms the beauty of my culture or my people and yet sets me free to find my identity in a far bigger and more beautiful story than the shade of my skin.

Tasha Melissa Govender

Hi Dave, you know the question of identity is so tricky. There comes the process of defining identity and defining what constitutes as identity. As with everyone else, I can only give you my own opinion on what I believe it to be – it may be biased but I’ll try to be as honest as I possibly can. 

I identify myself first and foremost as a female and then as a South African. I always find there is a tendency to classifying ourselves by race and then nationality, I don’t necessarily agree with this – I simply see my Indian ethnicity as my heritage as opposed to my identity. 

Given our very young democracy, I feel the notion of identity falls into a very tricky arena. I think the crucial factor is that within a society that has so many different facets be it interracial relationships or individuals being adopted into families with different ethnicities than themselves there is a large arena in which the individual begins to define and determine their own identity. I may be simplifying it too much but I truly believe it depends on the individual and the space in which they feel comfortable calling home. At this point it now becomes the responsibilities of those the individual comes in contact with to be open to the possibility of this person identifying with something that may seem other than what they are. I really hope this made sense!
 

Do you have any thoughts, ideas or feelings to add? Please jump on to the comments section and voice them respectfully – we would LOVE to hear from you.

Did you find this question and answer helpful in any way? Well then please SHARE it across your social networks so more people can become a part of this conversation.

Is there a question you would like to ask the panel that relates to an aspect of race and culture? Pop it in an email and send it to me at brettfish@hotmail.com

[To continue to question 2 of the panel relating to ‘When will we be ‘over’ apartheid?, click here]

[To view other aspects of our race-related conversations on this blog, click here]

There’s a new hashtag in town. 

Followed by a yawn right? Cos who cares about hashtags? Aren’t they just like ‘groups’ on Facebook?

What is a group on Facebook? Someone starts a group based on some topic they feel passionate about such as interesting shapes of clouds, bonsai tree gardening or stuffed animals – you get an invite, you join the group and… NOTHING ELSE EVER HAPPENS. I dunno, maybe you’re in better groups than me, but for the most part they are a way of identifying that you have a particular interest, but not much else. However, the two groups that actually ever did anything, became incredible community spaces because people really got invested and engaged and those were great!

Same with hashtags on Twitter, for the most part. Occasionally you find something fun or interesting and are able to follow it to get more info or greater laughs.

#MeteorShower from Friday night was a classic example of that – huge exciting natural phenomenon of epic proportions prophecied by the people of science, but for the most part the experience of Meteor Shower Watching was a huge anticlimax and led to some classics such as:

and:

i even got into the act making some Hollywood adapted references to Meteor flavoured movies such as:

and my most popular:

Thus, in certain situations, hashtags have definitely had their uses, but not many of them as significant as #YesAllWomen which has hit the ground running and been gathering speed over the last 24 hours. 

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

Apparently the hashtag was created as a response to the tragic story of the shooting in Santa Barbara on Friday which took the lives of 6 people, as the shooter apparently had a lot of videos on You Tube where he vented his frustrations against women. You can read the article that speaks about the connection over here.

But #YesAllWomen is also part of a longer conversation that involves the rights and freedoms of women and includes topics like the much-misunderstood concept of ‘rape culture’ [the idea that the woman who experiences a rape is made to feel like a victim all over again by how she is treated/judged/looked at afterwards]. This feels like it has been gaining momentum in the last few years and #YesAllWomen is finally an opportunity for it to be brought to a wider audience.

I happened to stumble upon it by accident by following a link [ah so that’s what the hashtag is for] to #YesAllWomen from a tweet someone had retweeted which appeared on my wall. When i started reading, i was deeply moved by some of the messages that i read, such as these:

 

It was really great seeing some celebs come on board as clearly they have the kind of audience that will help get a message like this moving quicker. Here is one from Patton Oswalt, who hosted the recent Webby awards that celebrated all things internet:

I also found a link to a blog post by Gina Denny which helped explain the hashtag a little more clearly as many people were clearly misunderstanding it and a lot of them [typically men, nice one us!] were getting angry and seeing it as something that was being used against all men. Read this post! This excerpt from the blog piece sums it up well

Writer and comedian Sara Benincasa told The Daily Beast, “#YesAllWomen is important because a lot of very good guys just don’t know what it’s like to walk around in a female body. They don’t know what it’s like to live with the constant nagging threat of sexual violence every time we walk to our cars alone in a parking garage, or walk down the street at night to pick up food for our kids. They don’t know what it’s like to get grabbed, poked, and prodded in public by strangers who are bigger and stronger than we are. Being a woman can be really scary, and if more guys realized it, they might modify their own behavior or call their friends out on bad behavior.”

The hashtag, Benincasa said, has united women to share their stories online. “Seeing one woman share her story can give another woman the idea that it is safe to do so.”

COME ON MEN, WE CAN DO BETTER

Wow, so i thought it would be a good idea to check out the #YesAllMen tag before posting this and so literally just went on there now and am so completely bummed [and sadly not surprised at all] to see the typical response which has, for the most part, been a combination of parody or anger directed towards those taking part in the #YesAllWomen conversation.

At the same time, I have to cheer all the men [and there have been a lot] who have climbed on board, like Patton Oswalt and others, in terms of adding their voices to this tag which was created for women to be able to share their stories. One of the most powerful responses for me [which proved to me how valid and valuable this is] is women who commented that reading through the hashtag messages resonated with so much of what was said which combated the feelings many of them had of being alone. As with many of the Taboo Topics i share stories from on my blog [dealing with issues/experiences such as losing a child, abortion, infertility, even singleness] the power in them comes when a person who is struggling through something alone, finds that there is a larger community they are a part of, of people who at least in some way understand.

But reading through #YesAllMen [which i don’t even want to give a second of attention to by posting examples here or giving a link – some of the commentary there was pure filth] just backs up how important this conversation is and hopefully finding ways that we can make progress in that area, which is clearly the source of a lot of pain for many women.

CAN WE PLEASE STAY FOCUSED ON THE THING

And then there is also #YesAllPeople which i imagine may have been started by some well meaning person who thought that we should all be focusing on these issues together. Or very likely not – there seems to be a mix of comments on there ranging from sarcastic and well-meaning to aggressive and eye-rolling and more. But what it does is it takes the focus of a very real issue that has been raised and in some part says that it is not important or worth really listening to. This tweet sums it up so well:

So yes, there is probably a need for the idea of #YesAllPeople for a range of topics and issues and areas that need some focus and discussion. But this is not one of them. There is a need for men everywhere to be LISTENING and REALLY TRYING TO HEAR AND EMPATHISE AND UNDERSTAND what is being said. We will probably never ‘get it’ until the wolf whistles start happening to us and we can’t walk down a street with a woman following us and be in absolute fear or when we get judged by our clothing and treated in many ways like second rate citizens.

We won’t fully get it, but we can try to understand and we HAVE TO LISTEN!

I am a man. And i support #YesAllWomen. As the graphic at the top says, it should not have to be because she is someone’s sister or mother or daughter… but it should be enough that she is someone. And deserves our care and respect. Hopefully a day is coming when we don’t need to wear things like this:

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