Tag Archive: apartheid


There have been a lot of words written this last week with regards to #FeesMustFall and it can be quite overwhelming to try and wade through them all.

Sometimes pictures can speak louder than words, so here is a post with some of the better pictures i have found that help to put this past week and some of the related issues into some kind of perspective.

Firstly the Ant vs Cricket scenario we witnessed so effectively in ‘A Bug’s Life’ – how less than 25% of this country managed to keep 75% or so of it in bondage for so long was always going to be a just-a-matter-of-time scenario.

game

This cartoon i feel sums up much of the white population in South Africa. i don’t know many people who drive past the township on the way to the airport and don’t think it would be great if all those people had better living conditions and a more comfortable way of life. But the moment it looks like i might have to give up some of my comfort or ease-of-life or money, resources or time, it can quickly become a whole different story…

change

This piece by Iain Thomas was shared across Facebook and i think puts into good words a lot of the sadness that many of us carry with some of the actions and responses [or lack of action and response] we have seen from various people and organisations this last week while #FeesMustFall was happening…

iain

The punchline of this is ‘Most Importantly Africa needs leadership’ which sums up so much of our present condition and obstacles i feel. As does the one statement i heard this past week which went: South Africa doesn’t have a money problem – South Africa has a money management problem’ – i cannot get my head around the numbers i saw posted about Zuma’s cabinet and some of the stats of what they earn and the houses and cars they have that tbV shared with me last night and how that has been allowed so easily to be a thing. Right there there are millions of rands that could be doing good.

But the other statements on this poster help give an eyesight into more of the White Privilege we have been talking about:privilege

This is a repost of one of the more powerful posters i saw which we saw play out in reality this past week which was incredible:anne

And finally this cartoon which i just realised i only posted the first four blocks of in one of my previous posts as i assumed the whole thing came together, which must have confused a whole lot of people, but having the whole cartoon will help give a comparative insight into how privilege can play out in two different life trajectories…cartoon

pencil2 pencil4 pencil6

Above all else, and thanks to Wayne Eaves for this one, take time to LISTEN, to do some RESEARCH, to really try and UNDERSTAND and if you do there will be so many people more than happy to engage with you and hep you to ‘get’ this thing. But above all else, try and not be one of these:

wayne

[If you are someone looking for more of the words from last week, there are some excellent links here]

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drum

i have read some REALLY helpful articles about privilege this week.

My fear is that the appearance of the word ‘privilege’ with the assumption of it being specifically ‘white privilege’ on my blog immediately drives the very people i am wanting to hear and engage with this stuff away.

But my hope, which is so much stronger than my fear, is that there are people like Bob [who a bunch of us had this long and helpful conversation with a while back] who genuinely are wanting to understand and be involved in the conversation and change where necessary, there are others who get or kinda get the need for change and just don’t know how to go about it and hopefully there are others sitting on the edge who will eventually at some point hear the proverbial penny dropping and let out a positive and helpful and transformative, “Ohhhhhhhhhhh!”

WHAT PRIVILEGE REALLY MEANS

The first one i read was titled ‘What Privilege Really Means’ by Maisha Z Johnson and doesn’t even use the word white, so maybe we’ll be okay here. She starts off like this:

I’m pretty fed up with privilege. But that doesn’t mean I hate privileged people.

When I write about the privilege that certain groups have, some people – usually those in the groups I’m writing about – get upset.

For example, I say how tired I am of how the system of white privilege excludes and harms non-white people, and some people accuse me of hating on white folks.

There’s only one problem: If you get upset when someone points out that you have privilege, that probably means you don’t fully understand what privilege is.

Because if you think having privilege means that you’re a bad person, or that you haven’t had struggles, or that you haven’t worked hard for what you have – then I can totally feel why you might be frustrated. If that were the case, then yes, it’d be completely unfair of me to claim that all white people or straight people or men or people of any other dominant group are living easy off their unearned privileges.

But having privilege doesn’t mean any of those things.

She lists 18 points which i found very helpful as many of them address specific things that people-who-have-issues-with-the-term-white-privilege are raising, some examples being:

# Having Privilege doesn’t mean you’re a bad person

# Having privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced oppression in other ways

# Having Privilege doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard or you should feel bad about your good fortune

As well as some of the positives, such as:

# Having Privilege means you can support the most vulnerable among us to strengthen your own fight

# Having Privilege means you have a choice about what to do with it

But go read the rest of that article because i found it so super helpful and i imagine if some of the people who have a reaction to the words ‘White Privilege” or “Privilege” in general got to read it, they would have their eyes opened a little bit more. Maybe if you’re a choir person and know someone this would really help, print out a copy and go through it with them and ask if they agree or disagree.

WHITE RACIST OR IN RECOVERY

Then Jordan Pickering wrote this piece on news 24 that contained some REALLY helpful points as well. Please go and read the whole thing.

It begins with a similar mantra that many of us could repeat from heart:

I was born into a system that I had no role in setting up or choosing. If asked, my family would have said that racism is an evil. When Mandela was released from prison, I was barely 11 and only followed the sports section of the news. If an apology needs to be given for Apartheid why would I need to give it? When it comes to taking responsibility for Apartheid, should that include me?

But then goes on to ask a series of challenging but helpful questions and makes some statements that dig more to the heart of the matter:

And this is really the main issue. The problem is not that whites haven’t apologised for our racism (after all, who would someone like me apologise to and what exactly would I be sorry for?). The problem is that we have never owned it at all. It was all someone else’s fault.

Apartheid may be dead, but it bequeathed to all of us those coloured contact lenses that make racism part of our way of seeing. Realising to what degree you see the world with Apartheid’s taint is the first step to owning the past, and taking nation-building forward into the future.

TWO OTHER EXCELLENT READS WORTH YOUR TIME

Hardly anyone read this latest extract i posted from the Steve Biko book, ‘I Write What I Like’ and yet it feels like an incredibly important one to take in as well. [Who would have thought solving all South Africa’s issues would actually take a bit of time and effort and energy and research? Seriously, these conversations are worth reading more deeply on. Make the time!] i was strongly convicted about my attitude of superiority when it comes to black people in general – wow, that is NOT a fun line to think, say or type out loud. Yet i see it in myself. i need help. And i imagine i am not alone in this…

And lastly there was this piece i wrote the other day in response to some of the pushbacks to White Privilege conversation [which continue in the comment section if you have time to engage] which was a response to a response to an article i posted on Facebook the other day.

You’re tired of me blogging about Race and Privilege and Hope for South Africa and more? Well i’m sure people of colour are tired of being racisted upon and so until that stops, there is a lot of work to do. i’m not the best person to do it, i don’t doubt that for a second. But i know some pretty good people who are helping me along, being gracious and sending me stuff to read and having conversations and writing for this blog and more.

The answer answer i’m convinced is RELATIONSHIPS – genuine, authentic, life-transforming friendships with people from other races and cultures and socio-economic groups who will continue to be gracious and loving and patient and more. If you don’t have those in your life and are arguing against any of this stuff, then you really need to shut up and go and make yourself some friends. This cannot be an isolated conversation in the mind space. This is real and has to be worked out and beaten out and wrestled and pushed-back upon and get-a-little-bit-out-of-control and fought over and repented about and confessed and loved and shared over meals and walked, but together. Come on, South Africa. i believe.

[To continue reading and engaging on topics relating to South Africa and beyond, click here]

flag

About two weeks ago i published an email from a friend of mine who is white, male, South African and presently living in the UK who had some thoughts, feelings, questions and frustrations about life in South Africa and some of the conversations we’d been having on here. i shared his email under the guise of ‘Bob’ and invited a few of my friends to respond, all of which you can catch up with over here [worth a read!]. Bob has taken it all in and had some time to think about it and compose some follow up thoughts, which you are again invited to respond to in the nicest of let’s-all-see-if-we-can-somehow-learn-from-this-and-be-transformed fashion in the comments section [or if you want to respond in a post, email me]. So here is some more from ‘Bob’:

It’s been a great discussion and I have learnt a lot from it. I think one of the main things learnt is that maybe a more humble less frustrated approach should have been taken.

I tend to take things as I see them, when it comes to a starting point and so the points I raised were points that I have read in other news, blogs and comments. These points struck a nerve with me and in order for me to get my head around things I thought it best to start by putting those points out there in order to get feedback and better understand the issues.

There have been so many great responses as blog posts and comments and these have given me a lot to think over. Some have been eye opening and given me a lot to think over and adjust my way of seeing things and others have prompted further questions, the “I see what you are saying, but…” type ones. My responses to these are not to say I disagree with you, but rather it is my way of eliminating things in order to come to a more balanced point of view. Its just how my mind works (rightly or wrongly). As an example there are many ways to join wood, however only one way is fit for the purpose that you need wood joined for. I generally will try multiple ways before giving in and using the right way, because only then does it make sense to me.

I thought the best way to respond would be to answer each person at a time, rather than jumping around posts and comments. I have not responded to all points raised, this is not to say that what was posted by various people was not taken notice of, it was.

I had also come up with a number of responses to various people and points. However following reading a link that Brett sent me (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-men-project/why-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism_b_7183710.html –  AN EXCELLENT READ!!!!!), some of my responses seemed very insignificant all of a sudden. So it was back to the drawing board and here is what I came up with.

I would like to say that, though I may not get everything right I am genuinely here looking to make sense of things, understand, learn and grow… so please bear with me and the way my mind works…

Megan – As my harshest critic I thought I would start with your post [Find comment in comments section here]

You had some pretty harsh words for me and at first I actually thought you were a troll and had to ask Brett. After your rant you said… “hate your pronouncements that are from the voice of knowing better, without doing a thing to engage, understand, imagine, talk and listen.”

I never claimed to know better and what you are criticising me for “without doing a thing to engage, understand, imagine, talk and listen”, is the very thing I am doing. I can’t listen or engage without asking the questions that I have. My questions are based on where I am at in my journey (which albeit is probably the very start of it). I genuinely want to understand and grow more and that was what I had to go on to start. They were questions based on initial observations and thoughts based on my point of view and by asking those questions I can listen and reshape my thoughts and points of view.

While I think that sometimes a direct “Hey brother catch a wake up” is needed. I do think that your approach does nothing for the conversation especially to encourage a white person to get involved. Your comment is more likely to drive people back to square one and not engage for fear of being berated for wanting to engage.

ChevsLife [Find comment in comments section here]

I really liked your comment and it really got what I was thinking with regards to (amongst other points) government exploiting the poor and apartheid, to maintain power and serve their own interests. I think that is where a lot of my frustration lies, in that I see (at the moment and I am not saying I am right) government using race to divide us in order to distract people from the issues that government isnt dealing with.

Alexa [Read blog post response here]

You made an excellent point about recognising the past issues but not needing to feel guilty about it. I think a lot of people white/better- well-off do feel guilty about the past or (from a non racial point) their better lot in life versus those less well off. This means that they don’t want to be engaged with people who aren’t as lucky as they are, more often than not because they don’t know and don’t have the tools to deal with the uncomfortableness of the situation. Even those who started from a point of disadvantage and worked dam hard to get to that “middle class”/wealthier state feel guilty and are then seen as turning their back on where they came from. It’s a difficult one and if people don’t realise that they have nothing to feel guilty about, when it comes to the actions of others, they will be more defensive. By removing guilt but recognising someones plight and seeing them as people, we can form strong real honest relationships.

I also agree that engagement without fear of condemnation is important. I am not saying that this will be any less uncomfortable or that it’s about the white perspective, but many post apartheid whites were brought up with a way of thinking. This way of thinking in most cases misses out key information and life experiences, so I think that it is about working with white people to alter their way of thinking to include histories, life experiences and understanding of others points of view without condemnation, as condemnation breeds guilt and guilt breeds defensiveness and no interest to engage.

I think associating with people unlike us when we are the odd one out (no matter the group make up, 1 person from a race group with a bunch of people from another or a poorer person in amongst a group of wealthy people) will always be uncomfortable and that person will be mistrusted by the group. Why? Because that one person is different and the group as a whole doesn’t know that persons motivations for being there.

I have spent a number of nights, spending time with friends in Langa at shebeens (not the mainstream ones) and in Manenberg. i felt massively uncomfortable because those that didn’t know me, didn’t trust me. Cops (1 coloured 1 black) pulled me over when leaving Manenberg wanting to know what I was doing there, was I buying drugs? The same for entering Langa, we were told by our friends that they would meet us at a certain point and escort us in… not something my black friends needed to do when they came to visit me.

I think you were spot on about us celebrating together but not healing together.

I am wanting to engage and I don’t see myself as losing power as I don’t have that much power and wealth anyway, but yes I do see what you are saying, especially from those whites who have IMMENSE wealth. I do though have a follow on question from this though. What about the black leadership of the country and the black super wealthy, they don’t want change either because that will mean possibly losing their power and wealth?

Stephan [Find comment in comment section here]

I don’t think it’s about giving up what we have worked hard for, it’s about doing our bit to help lift up our brother or sister. I think it’s a shift that humanity needs to do as whole and its not unique to South Africa or even Africa and I don’t think that it has anything to do with race (although in Africa the wealth gap is clearly defined by race because of the past). So many of us live beyond our needs or have more than enough to provide for our family and secure their future. I also think that we should enjoy the finer things in life, especially if we have worked hard to achieve them. But do we NEED everything? Should our success mean paying people poorly so we make a better profit? I don’t think so.

Marlyn [Read blog response here] 

I am not trying to play victim, I am though wanting to understand things from a different perspective. I am not a victim but I am confused about where I stand in South Africa.

I make no argument that I haven’t benefitted from the past. I have.

Yes, I have visited Langa and Manenberg and felt uncomfortable and treated suspiciously as an outsider.

I agree totally, I need to acknowledge the suffering of the past, but what I don’t understand and what frustrates me is that the suffering continues from the very people who fought the suffering of the past.

I think there is also a difference between someone saying “Get over it” and saying “move forward”. Structures remain in place because those in power allow them to. I am not saying go to opposite extremes, but they do need to be addressed in a balanced and methodical way.

I genuinely don’t see race, I see people. But yes the apartheid government did engineer things, which the effects of are still present today, so with that said my outlook may differ or be skewed but that is what I am wanting to work on.

I totally agree UCT (and others) do need more black (female) professors, deans and so on. So why then isn’t there this change? Especially as the chancellor is a black women. Surely she has that power to employ a more balanced faculty?

You raise an excellent point about invisible privilege factors and a lot of whites do need further education about this, because it doesn’t even appear on our day to day radar.

I totally agree with you about the conditions the vast majority of South Africans had to live and grow up in during apartheid. But what about now…It was the current government who disbanded the specialised anti gang and drug police units, the current government who is not building or upgrading schools, it is the current government who is leaving tens of thousands of school books in warehouses and not delivering them to schools in need, it’s the current government whose ward councillors are charging people for the keys to their free home in poor communities and it’s the current government who hasn’t significantly increased minimum wage or put proper HR regulations in place.

You also mention the opportunities of White people in the suburbs getting in decent schools and having a better start in life. On the whole I agree with this, but it’s not entirely accurate. If I were to live in the same house that I grew up in, firstly there is no way I could afford to buy there and secondly they would struggle to get into Rondebosch or SACS as we would be outside the catchment area, even though I went to Rondebosch. These catchment areas have been reduced to accommodate pupils for poorer more disadvantaged areas, who have just as much right to that eduction. I agree that the balance is still not there, but it is getting there and should get there faster.

Looking at ANC corruption and business, I hear what you are saying, but…

  • ANC corruption is what we hear about pretty much all the time, by what I hope is a balanced unbiased media
  • Why hasn’t the government increased minimum wage?
  • Why are HR regulations and hiring processes so poor? My wife, who is in HR is constantly amazed and shocked that people need to attached a photo to their application, or questions about disabilities are asked or job adverts are placed “Seeking experienced 20-30 female”.
  • Labourers and domestic workers need better wages and more fairer wages

I would like to also point out that I was referring to small white owned businesses (the ones that operate fairly). It’s only the big multinationals who have the money for the legal clout to skirt around things to maintain power. I now source work for the business from the UK and we try to use bright people who have started life from a disadvantaged point for contracts. We then work with them to help them develop as self employed individuals and going on to find and manage other contracts from within SA and the rest of the world.

With regards to your point on donations. Yes the west offers (and in some cases assumes that Africa needs it), but if South Africa doesn’t want it they are free to make the choice to say no thanks. Not sure if you are aware but the UK has committed £170 million (I may be off by a couple of million) of its regional aid budget to South Africa for 2015/16 with a yearly top up of £80 million each year thereafter with no plans to cap that. If SA doesn’t want it then tell the UK, there are plenty of impoverished areas in the UK (to the same extent as South Africa) that could REALLY do with it.

Of course there are strings attached, same goes for the aid/investment from China (or the aid from SA to other African countries), but once again it’s our leaders who accept the terms. What confuses is that on the one hand the west is called on for this that and the other and then they are told not to interfere and get out of Africa. It’s the swapping of one imperialistic agenda for another (western for eastern – china tells SA not to give the Dalai Lama visa or small mineral mining, carried out by Chinese miners and not employing local people)

I agree my humanity may be damaged, which is why I am on this path to change that. Its not easy when it comes to self reflection and imbedded unaware thoughts.

Tsholo [Read blog response here]

Thanks for calling me on my statement of “moving in reverse”. That was very much a point of vent first, think later. I totally agree with you regarding white privilege and still working to try get my head around it there is a lot to breakthrough and fully understand and not having the opportunity to experience it from the other side does not make it any easier to grasp… but I continue to try.

Thank you for your perspective of the statue issue. I have never seen them as a celebration but as markers of points in history. I can see now how they are used to celebrate and that in so doing continue to cause upset. point taken view changed.

I found your perspective on “What Colonialism brought to SA” really great and never thought about it in that way in that Africa’s progress was interrupted, but surely the same could be said for other nations, countries and people across history, what makes Africa so special in this regard? Is it because in terms of history it’s relatively fresh still?. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that Africans were sitting on their thumbs waiting to be rescued and I apologise if that’s how it came out. The question was very much based on other arguments I have heard from “one-sided-ness” and want to understand more from a more balanced perspective.

On your aid to Africa with strings attached point, I covered this in my response to Marlyn.

Yes I am well aware that black people donate and do humanitarian things, apologies if you thought that was a point of criticism. I guess what I was interested in was when you donate and so on, is it view with skepticism or if a wealthy black person donates is it seen as a guilt payment?

When I give, I do so because I want to give back and help where I can, but then I am told by some that whites don’t belong. So my humanity is based on me being white.

Conclusion – Sorry If I didnt get to respond to you all… 

…as you can see I have written a small book and there is loads more that is swimming around in mind. I guess the point is that I have taken everything that has been said on board and am now able to start to see things from a more informed perspective.

I will continue to listen and digest. I am now able to have those conversations with people and better understand where they are coming from.

I think the thing for a lot of whites is that they dont understand or see the difference between racial acceptance and racism. If you havent yet read http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-men-project/why-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism_b_7183710.htm read it.

I have a long way to go and I am sure that my comments, questions and reflections above are probably not totally there yet. I am though asking the questions to change my perspective and outlook.

I won’t be responding further, I will though be reading any further responses with interest, listening hard and trying to correct areas that need correction in my life.

Sorry Megan if I am not quite as far along as you might like, but every journey needs to start somewhere.

[for Andrea’s response to this piece, click here]

[To return to the original mail by Bob and a link to all the responses that have followed, click here]

chik

i love love love this piece on Christians not being saved to relax and enjoy the Kingdom of God while living in the midst of chaos in the world:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

To be a Christian…

We need to be alive to the reality that Jesus could not have established the church without dying on the cross and being raised again. Thus, the church was born in a struggle of life and death and is plunged into this struggle to work for the Kingdom of God. To be Christian is not to relax and enjoy the Kingdom of God in the midst of sin, corruption, oppression and death. To be Christian means to engage in the struggle for righteousness against unrighteousness, the struggle for justice against injustice, the struggle to save the world. Any view of Christian life without engaging in struggle cannot be compatible with the work of the Lord on the cross. Our mission as Christians is to engage in acts of salvation for the world in the name of Him who died for it. We are called to proclaim the good news of salvation to the world.

[page 84]

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

So as followers of Jesus, we can’t not be involved in the societal woes that surround us and yet far too often we choose to ‘protect ourselves’ in the bubble of religious life and activity and keep an active distance from the often overwhelming struggles that are taking place outside our doors.

A little bit later in the book Frank takes it further with this:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

This brings us to an expression quoted by one of the participants at a workshop on the Kairos document in Zurich, Switzerland, in the process of grappling  with the kairos of the Western Church, of Western Christians. The statement was expressed in the following way:

… our problem is that we are stuck with love and charity in our response to the evils of this world rather than justice. We in the West are compelled by love, Christian love and concern about the brutality of some of the systems in the Third World, we are moved by the hunger and poverty to give charity. But we never go beyond charity to justice.

The implications of this statement became very clear to the group. Giving charity was seen as necessary to save lives in these devastated areas of oppression and exploitation and to alleviate pain and suffering. But it was noted that this good, generous activity on its own cannot resolve the fundamental problem. It remains an ‘ambulance’ ministry to help save the victims of a vicious system. To participate in the ministry of addressing the fundamental problem, Christians in the West must engage in the struggle to uproot the foundations of this problem, which are mainly based in their countries. They must have a deliberate programme of action as part of their confession and their commitment to the gospel. To put it in crude terms, terms that are threatening to some people, they too must engage in a liberation struggle to redeem and free themselves of this subtle system which benefits them, directly or indirectly making them partners in this primary sin.

Churches need to begin to challenge the bankers at their home base. They need to challenge business people, corporations, governments and para-state institutions at their home base. They need to challenge their membership and raise their consciousness about this sin and equip them with better, more critical theological tools to detect it. Christians and committed people at grassroots also need to undertake campaigns to mobilise their people to deal with this problem from below. It seems to me that this is going to become increasingly the most effective way of expressing solidarity in action and struggle, rather than necessarily stopping the attack of apartheid at the frontline of the battleground (i.e. South Africa itself). Our solidarity, our sharing of the same body of Christ, our ecumenism, will be expressed in this common action of faith on all fronts of this war (struggle) against evil and injustice in the world. Our unity in Christ can only be unity in action, united action in struggle; it cannot be a unity that leaves the very structures of oppression intact.

[page 176-178]

[For the next passage dealing with Violence Avoided, click here]

[For some thoughts and shares from Antjie Krog’s ‘Begging to the Black’, click here]

chik

My wife, tbV, has a thing about having a thing about buying me presents, maintaining that i am the hardest person to buy for [mostly cos if i want or need something i often just go and buy it myself]. But for my birthday this year she got it spot on – two books about South Africa by South Africans. The first one i read was Better to be Black by Antjie Krog which i wrote a number of posts about which are well worth taking in if you haven’t yet. i took a break in between [of sorts] and read ‘The Lemon Tree’ by Sandy Tolan to try and educate myself on the Palestinian/Israeli conversation/journey. Then i moved on to Frank Chikane’s revised and updated edition of his autobiography, ‘No Life of My Own’ which was initially published in 1988 during the final throes of apartheid.

The main reason for wanting to read books about South Africa by South Africans is that i was fed a largely one-sided history while at school and grew up in a not-very-political family, and so i have a lot to learn and as someone who is wanting to have an impact in South Africa, learning a more accurate story about our country seems like the best place to start. Next up is ‘I write what I Like’ by Steve Biko which i am waiting for a friend to drop off and always open to more suggestions.

‘No Life Of My Own’ was an interesting book to read because the author ‘Frank Chikane’ feels like a name i know quite well, but on reflection, realised i didn’t know much about him at all. It was also really helpful reading a book, where at the time of writing, the author didn’t know how the story was going to progress.

Let me let his back cover tell you what it’s about: ‘Beginning with his childhood growing up black under an oppressive system, and continuing through to his call to the Christian ministry, Frank Chikane tells of his family’s increasing involvement in the struggle against apartheid, the disapproval and suspension he faced from his own church, and the harrowing detention, harassment, torture and exile he endured. Chikane relates his return to South Africa, despite the threat of further detention and death, to continue the fight for freedom. Through it all one thing remains clear: this is a man whose faith compels and sustains him in a courageous and selfless journey towards freedom.’ 

Not as many folded corner pages, which is usually the sign of a book that has deeply affected me, but then this was largely story and so it was more about listening and trying to really hear than being inspired by teachable thoughts. Definitely worth a read though and have one or two extracts i do want to share in the next while… One of the most interesting parts of Frank’s story is the part where the apartheid government actually put poison into his clothes during a flight [via his luggage] which almost killed him – to the point where a priest in the US was brought in to administer last rites, and yet he made a miraculous recovery and was given the chance of continuing his life journey.

For white friends in South Africa in particular, who might be trying to broaden the hue of written thought they are exposed to, No Life of My Own is a worthwhile read in that regard.

QUESTION 2:  [Graeme Broster]

I don’t believe we can even begin to discuss issues of race, reconciliation etc before we begin to discuss and answer the issue of identity. Not sure if it’s clear but give it some thought

Race panel question: When, if ever, will it be OK to be “over” apartheid? If possible put a number of years to your answer.

[Brett: Hot question i know but i followed it up with Graeme to get some clarity]

Graeme: When, if ever will the issues we have with race become class issues instead?

Brett: That one may not go down well but a great question – can you define a little more closely what you mean by “over apartheid”?

Graeme: In the sense that the white privilege set say “it was 20 yrs ago, I didn’t vote for it, etc, why can’t we just see people #nocolour and so on”

There must come a day when the enforced inequalities of apartheid are soooooo distant that they cease to be relevant?

Brett: One would hope…

As I was typing thus it occurred to me that there may be a parallel with the grief journey where some linger on their loss much longer than others. When does it (if ever) become OK to say “let it go”?

And now some answers, thoughts and ideas from our panel:

Caley Daniels:

I don’t think anyone is in a position to put a number of years to forgiveness and healing because everyone is different and has experienced hurt differently, and perhaps some have been through too much to ever truly be “over” it. I firmly believe in the power a testimony has to inspire life change. Melody Beattie said, “Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls.” If we mourn forever the horrors of the past would have been in vain.

Busi Ledibane:

I understand why people get frustrated and say that we should let it go. Letting go is good, letting go is freeing but we should be careful to say let it go with things like apartheid. Because really, what do we mean?

I think that people who are still harbouring anger over apartheid need to let it go because it’s crippling but I also think we should take a minute to remember that apartheid was forty years long and twenty years later, its legacy lives on. You still see evidence of the Group Areas Act. We still have white areas, black areas, coloured areas… It’s in our faces everyday. The poverty of the majority of the country is a result of having been denied quality education and fair opportunities by the oppressive system that was apartheid.

The question we should be asking is how do we move forward? And the answer cannot be as simple as letting go because the scars of something like apartheid need a while to heal. It was a big deal and it’s not something that we can just let go but we can learn from it and swear to never let it or anything similar happen again. But that kind of thing doesn’t just take a few people, it takes the effort of every South African. It requires mind sets/attitudes to be transformed. 

We think we have talked enough but we haven’t and that’s why it still hasn’t been let go. As long as we are afraid to talk about what happened and race in general, we will never truly let it go.

John Scheepers:

To be able to declare that we are over apartheid would firstly require that we are able to define what it would look like for us to “over apartheid.” I am not confident that we are yet able, if ever, to do this. One could argue in a technical aspect that the law books are clean and that apartheid is gone, as do the “twenty years already” squad.  But apartheid was so much more than a legal system designed to favour whites.  Apartheid was a total system targeting everything from geography, to education, to romance to economic ability to religion.  Just a cursory glance at the geography of most South African cities should be enough to tell you that the spirit of apartheid is far from dead. The lines of legal code that have successfully been removed from our law books are but the formal implementation of a bigger system of oppression and racial control, which has a far longer history than 1948 and I sadly foresee having a far more extensive future than twenty years.  

If, however, there ever does come a time when we are “over” apartheid, it will not be the place of us white people to decide when that is. Does an adulterer get to decide when the spouse should be “over it”?  Does the rapist get to decide how long is enough for healing to have taken place?  Does the extortionist get to decide how far reaching the consequences of his greed are in the lives of his victims?  Why does it work differently when the perpetrators are privileged white people? 

When will race issues become class issues instead?  The nuances in our society between these two are infinite and we must recognise them as both intricately intertwined and yet not synonymous.  So while a middle-class black woman might face the same set of racial prejudices that a poor black woman from a township might experience, she will probably have greater access to economic assets than her counterpart will.  Both have deep roots in apartheid policies and apartheid mindsets.  I am not sure we will ever be able to separate race and class in South Africa.  In truth, I am not convinced there are many, if any, other places where the two are wholly separate.  The only difference is that in most other places, it is the minority groupings that often occupy the poorer classes.  In South Africa it is the minority white populace who mainly consist of the middle to upper classes.

Tasha Melissa Govender:

I think we need to remember that our democracy is still young. We’re still learning to cope with this new found freedom to be who we want and live how we want. And like a child with no defined boundaries I think at times it’s simple to go overboard. Having said that I don’t believe reconciliation is a fantasy, it’s an amazing ideal that we should all work hard to strive for, daily. I do acknowledge that there have been many who have been hurt amidst apartheid and within the years of freedom that has followed.

The one thing I feel we should strive to move away from is generalization. As much as it can be said “the blacks control and the whites still suffer…” we must remember that the majority of the ‘black’ population live below the poverty line and whilst BEE may be seen as reverse racism it really is a system, if implemented the way it was intended, that works well.

The only way we will be able to move past the hurt is to forgive. I’ve heard horror stories from my parents and grandparents concerning things that happened to them during apartheid- friends of my parents going into exile, many we’re killed and my mother being arrested whilst she was pregnant for me purely because she wore a shirt that held an image of the Black Panthers. My family has adopted the stance of forgiveness, it is a core pillar of our faith and I believe it is the only way for us to move forward and find a way to be released from the sins of the past.

[To return to question one that the panel looked at, click here]

[To read the post where i introduced the members of the panel, click here]

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]

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