Tag Archive: black and white

How to be a better ally text

i want to continue this series on trying to figure out as white people, how we can be better allies to our friends of colour and i guess people of colour in general. i would LOVE to have more of you contributing pieces to this series, so if you have an idea please get hold of me.

This is similar to the ‘Just say No’ post i did a while back, but i also want to take it a little bit further. Continue reading


This is a comment that ‘Jul’ posted on one of my blog posts the other day and deserved to be a blog post of its own [hope that’s okay, Jul?]:

For over 21 years, black South Africans have largely forgiven the majority of the white population who repeatedly voted in a racist government that dehumanised and denied them their most basic human rights. Continue reading



That is the refrain i hear quite a lot from many white people when it comes to issues of reconciliation and marches and freedom and South Africa:

Can we just please stop saying it’s about race?

So i thought let’s give that a try. And the way i want to do that is by telling a few stories. Now try and not get distracted by the kind of message you think i want to suggest with each story. First read it and respond just as a story. And then we’ll examine the responses. Continue reading

So today was The Day of Reconciliation in South Africa and as long as you stayed off the comments sections of anyone posting anything about any of the marches it felt a little bit just like that.

This was my Facebook status at the beginning of the day: Continue reading

Continuing my series looking at how white people can be more effective allies to their friends of colour as we seek reconciliation and restitution and try to see South Africa head more towards where it should be…

How to be a better ally text

The title of this post might seem like a bit of a contradiction having just written one called Move to the Back, but it’s not.

Last night i was lamenting to my wife, tbV, that life as an attempted white ally can feel a little lonely and confusing. i don’t believe it must be left to our black friends to lead the way in how we ally [as so many of them are tired of trying to explain to yet another white person the concepts of white privilege, restitution and so much more] but at the same time i don’t see many of my white friends engaging with these things in the same way [i am very grateful for friends at the Warehouse for example who engage with these things on really deep levels in other significant ways] so a lot of it feels like making it up on the spot and hoping i get it right. i believe that my black friends will feel the freedom and invitation to jump in and let me know when they think i get it wrong [yes Nkosi? Sindile? Felicity? Linde? Tsholo?] but it’s not fair to expect them to wage this battle.

Then today i jumped on and saw my friend Anne GOING OFF on this very topic and it gave me such a sense of relief. i’m not alone. Her post was a little more colourful and in your face than i think mine ever are [watch out Facebook!] and i have asked her to let me share some of it so hopefully we will get to see that later this week.

My point being that for other white people who understand white privilege and get the need to educate those who don’t and understand the need for us to be listening and learning more than we speak and try to lead, you need to step out of the shadows into the light. It is great when you favourite and like and even share, but we desperately need you to add your own words and voice to it [Thank you Alexa Matthews, Duncan Hobbs, Anne Katherine…] to show that these are not just the crazy ramblings of one or two libtards i think they call me these days.


i need it. And i imagine it would be a huge boost to the community of those we are allying ourselves to, to know they had more than one or two people they could count on. It is scary and confusing and it feels like there is a lot of pressure because of what is riding on this all to get it right. But we can’t let that stop us. We need to educate ourselves and make sure we get the facts and the stories right so that we can speak with conviction and authority. But we cannot stay silent any longer.

Too many did during apartheid.

Too many did during #RhodesMustFall

How many confrontations must happen before we decide we need to get in there and show what we are standing for?

Let’s do this.

[For the next part of this series on Just Saying No!, click here]

How to be a better ally text

We caught a glimpse of this in the #IAmStellenbosch campaign where a group of well-meaning students drew up some posters highlighting something about them that made them unique or different to the stereotype that their skin colour or background might typically suggest. It received a huge backlash from the media and people of all races across the country for a number of reasons. Possibly the biggest one was that once again we saw a race problem and we made it about us.

“But it wasn’t just white people doing it. It was people of all races.” That is true, although even a number of those people from other races were buying into the narrative by describing themselves as “non-white” as if “white” is the standard we compare everything to. That must have been heart-breaking for so many people to see.

This morning i was trying to think what post to write about trying to be an ally in the ongoing race conversation and journey and i had an idea of how it could have looked in Americaland around the time of setting slaves free:

“We realise we have been wrong. We should never have enslaved people. We have now freed them. We are getting it right now. How do we continue life now that the people who used to serve us are gone?”

Do you hear all the ‘we’ in there? The ‘I’ language? The ‘This-Is-Once-More-Still-About-Me’?

i am learning that this is one of the key pieces of moving forwards in South Africa. Realising that it CANNOT any longer be about me. About us. About white people. We dominated the narrative for so long. It is time the story was shifted to and told by someone else.

We need to learn to ACTIVELY LISTEN. 

Two of the ideas from the list of Ten Communication Commandments from the previous post i find particularly helpful in this:

Thou shalt listen actively, ask questions, and refrain from giving advice.

If you hear an idea that is new or strange, try it on for size.

For too long, white people were setting the pace, leading the way, creating the history [the one i learnt at school was a very biased one-sided affair] and in many ways attempting to be the standard [beauty magazines, television series, movies, sports stars] that we expected others to try and attain or adulate. It is long overdue time for us to let someone else have that space and to sincerely pay attention to what they may have to say.

As a white person we tend to egg-shell walk around these things and say them nicely because we don’t want to offend and we want to keep it all civil and YOU KNOW WHAT? We did offend. Apartheid was offensive. Wanting a Get-Out-Of-Apartheid-Free card that let’s us move forwards as if nothing happened and that that nothing had no consequences is offensive and unkind and oblivious, so to put it in more direct, less comfortable language we need to learn to SHUT UP!

“Ah, Brett man, that is unnecessarily harsh. You need to chill and go easy on us.”

No, i think the time for that may have passed. If you have not yet realised that there is still a need for some serious bridge-building in this country, then you need to catch up. But if you have and are there, then this is an aspect that must take centre stage. We need to learn to listen.

Which all feels a little bit like a paradox. Because in the #IAmStellenbosch post i was suggesting that white people need to speak up. And that is true. Here is how i see it:

# Where there are people not getting it and living in continued ignorance or misinformation, it is the role of us as white people to speak into that. As ‘Suits’ put it so eloquently last night, white people need to help our own “get their shit together”. Many of us are tired of trying to do this and frustrated with attempts at helping white people understand ‘white privilege’ and unpacking the absence of any kind of ‘white guilt’ and some have given up and decided only to continue working with those who get it and want to make a difference. But it should not be up to the oppressed or marginalised to have to explain this to us any more. Except where there is authentic relationship and they are holding us accountable.

# Where the conversation of moving forwards and what South Africa looks like and how reparation and restitution and reconciliation need to take place, that is an area where we need to be quiet and listen and follow people of colour in this area. i’m not saying we must not be a part of those conversations, but i am suggesting that we should not be the ones leading them. And that we need to err on keeping quiet.

Listen with the Intent to Understand

Thou shalt listen actively, ask questions, and refrain from giving advice.

If you hear an idea that is new or strange, try it on for size.

How does the idea of listening sit with you? Is this something you feel you do well or could do better at? What other ideas do you think could help make us a good ally in these conversations about race?

[For more ideas on How To Be An Ally, click here]

How to be a better ally text

When i was looking for an image to reflect the idea of becoming an Ally i found this poster and really liked it. Because the question that i am wrestling with at the moment is just that: How to Be a Better Ally, specifically when it comes to matters of Race.

And possibly one of the biggest pieces of this puzzle is that the answer should not have to come from people of colour. Continue reading

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