Tag Archive: race

Turning the Tide

one white hand

calling to another

to tear itself away

from the clenched fist

it has become

accustomed to

to step away

and towards

the sea of black faces

looking on

exhibiting so much





but at the edges

one can start to see

the restlessness

is beginning to show

[For other poetry i have written this year, click here]

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

Back to the Future time date

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mumford and Fish

Mumford and Fish

These are three of my best friends: Dunc, Majay and Rob. And missing from that pic is Reegs who is also one of my longest life buddies. And of course my wife, the beautiful Val [aka tbV, which so many of you keep thinking stands for The Lovely Val because of, um, the B, obviously] who made this photo [taken at my 40th after these clowns performed a satirical rendition of one of my favourite Mumford songs complete with homemade pizza box guitar and changed up lyrics] possible, plus of course let’s not forget the boob cake. Continue reading

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]


My friends Alexa Russell Matthews and Nicole Joshua recently ran a workshop titled, “The ‘Colour’ Elephant in the Room” which you can read some of a participant’s experience of over here.

What stood out to me though was this list of what was referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments’ which was the basis of a commitment to engage well with each other. For those of us seeking to be positively involved in conversation and action in the hopes of seeing South Africa become a better place, these would be good to embrace and try out:

Ten Words on Communication

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

2. Thou shalt engage both thy heart and thy head, emotion and reason.

3, Thou shalt seek to like “the other”.

4. Thou shalt dance, not fight.

5. Thou shalt not blame, shame or demonise others, or victimise yourself.

6. Thou shalt play for win-win, not win-lose or lose-lose.

7. Thou shalt respectfully establish areas of disagreement.

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

9. If you tend to be quiet, “step up”. If you tend to dominate, ” step back”.

10. Speak from your heart and experience, and keep in confidence what others tell you.

[These “Ten Commandments” are accredited to Brian McLaren and fellow conversation partners at the Amahoro Africa Gatherings. It was part of the introductory sessions for first time conversation partners, and laid the foundation for those dialogues.]

“In the light of the anger we have seen expressed on campuses around the country, and the racial incidents in the news all the time, and the social media culture of racist intolerance, rudeness and insult, perhaps we should take a deep breath and try to have our conversations in this frame of mind?” [Renee Moodie]

Which one of these commandments, do you think would be hardest for you to obey? Which one of them would you see as being most helpful in a typical Facebook conversation on Race? Stick your answers in the comments section. 

[For the next piece on Handing Over The Mic, 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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