Tag Archive: racism


watch

Since i have started speaking and writing more about issues of Race in South Africa i have had a fair amount of [mostly black] people telling me from time to time how brave i am. i don’t believe that is true. Continue reading

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ally

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

comment

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

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

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

SOME IMPORTANT CONTEXT

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

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

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

AN ALLY IS SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T SIT BACK 

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

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

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

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

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

TRUE, RIGHT, HELPFUL, KIND

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

Is what i am about to say True?

Is this point i am trying to make Right?

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

Am i being Kind in this moment?

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

TRUE/RIGHT 

righttrue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HELPFUL

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

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

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

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

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

 KIND

kind

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

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

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

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

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

clearly

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

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

Picture of South African Flag

In a moment of brave-ity two night’s ago i decided to ask the South African internet a question. I was reading a book that pointed back to the idea of South Africa being renamed Azania and i didn’t think that was the worst idea. After all ‘South Africa’ is just a direction, right. What do you think? Who would be okay with a name change and why?

i also posted an article by Xolela Mangcu on News 24 titled ‘Spinach, Chips and Race’ talking about a negative experience he had had at a restaurant that he saw as directly linked to race and all the white people who jumped on and tried to defend as just being a restaurant/client incident. And many black friends jumping in to confirm that this has happened to them and people they know too many times for the coincidence monster to be invoked. And then more white people jumping on to say the story was not related.

Both of these got a lot of conversation going – some was heated and uncomfortable and absolutely beautiful and i include one of those exchanges below because of where it started and where it ended up. [flashbacks to the ‘What about Bob?’ series of conversations i ran a while back]. Some was just painful and demonstrated an all too typical white response to reflect and defend and misdirect and to refuse to LISTEN to what was really being said and to understand some of the HURT and COMPLEXITY that was attached.

Amidst a sea of frustration and stupidity, there are glimpses and islands of hope and i will continue to lash myself to those as i try to figure out how this ally thing works. Part of it seems to be to continue to invite white people to come to the table and to look inwards and try to recognise the change that still needs to happen without them getting too distracted with who owns the table and how they would prefer the lighting to be and why their particular cushion [you got a cushion?] is not quite as comfortable as they are used to.

Here are some comments and conversations that emerged from yesterday’s posts and shares, followed by some highlights pulled out of a really helpful Jonathan Jansen article [which you should go and read the rest of]:

Debbie: A dream I have is that we would eventually all be referred to as South Africans, because personally I think using terms of black, white, coloured just further entrenches the separation. There are some South Africans not willing to engage with other South Africans, but this does not include all. There are many making the effort and moving forward together.

Linde: I think it’s convenient for privileged white people particularly to use the desire for peace as a means of silencing those that speak about deep racial issues.There are many making an effort, but the social conversations we’re having prove that THEY are not enough. Issues such as Rhodes Must Fall,Open Stellenbosch should not need debating after 1976 and yet here we are.

Debbie: That was not a comment to silence anybody, just a dream for the future. Making broad statements using black and white terms makes me feel further separated from going forward. I then feel I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Help me understand then what Im saying that comes across as silencing voices. Genuine question, I really would like to know.

Linde: You do realise that this is not about making you feel comfortable Debbie? There is a majority out there that has been treated in a way no minority should be treated for many years and then we have privileged people such as yourself who are very concerned about their feelings and protecting those feelings. I appreciate that you spoke your mind but accept that others will do the same and they deserve to. Speaking of the reality of the current status of SA will not change things or create greater division as that’s the same as changing a country’s name without serious reform of the real issues that cause the racial divide.

Debbie: Not trying to feel comfortable nor am I so concerned about my feelings in what we are talking about. I used a lot of ‘I statements’ so as not to point fingers, that was the only reason. I really do want that social change and for the racial divide to go. I am all for people talking if they still need to talk, but surely there does need to come a time when moving forward together is important for all, even with conversations still happening along the way on topics that haven’t been properly addressed?

Linde: How do we move forward when you want to mask the truth selfishly at your own convenience? Moving forward can only happen when we talk and address issues frankly. Rhodes Must Fall & Open Stellenbosch are a consequence of the lack of honest dialogue as black people are muzzled by white people such as yourself and those you think you speak on behalf of who consider the absence of racial conversation as a step in the correct direction. Movements such as Rhodes Must Fall, Open Stellenbosch happened cos black people decided to talk regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you and the people you speak on behalf of. Rhodes Must Fall and Open Stellenbosch and many other movements and organisations are the beginning of change. They are the sign that South Africa is moving on and that we’re tackling these issues head on. Your definition of a South Africa that has moved on is a SA where you and the people you speak on behalf of are not challenged by the wrongs of the past and the WRONG that you are so ignorant of doing right now in this conversation. What you’re doing is the perfect example of white privilege at it’s best. You think you can define the terms of “SA moving on”. For you, continuing to discuss racial issues means we haven’t moved on, cos Debbie and the group she speaks on behalf of has said so. To you Black people who speak of race issues are not moving on. We will not keep quiet because the people you speak on behalf of are uncomfortable Debbie.

Debbie: ok this conversation obviously needs to happen in another place as it’s getting lost in translation here. I was trying to dialogue and not be attacking. am happy to talk inbox and that’s not because of being uncomfortable, but truly believing this will not be solved on a FB post with misunderstandings happening.

Linde: I don’t mean to sound dismissive Debbie but I’ve heard this rhetoric before. I can’t tell you how many times people have preferred to challenge ideas with me via inboxes – cos they’re being misunderstood. In SA white voices/opinions carry more authority and we hear them all the time on their terms. I think I’ve heard almost every argument possible about why talking about race is divisive. Surprise me and do something different – CHALLENGE YOUR OWN PERSONAL SENSE OF PRIVILEGE.

Debbie: Ok, a question, what would make you see that I have taken that step? What is the expectation of challenging privilege?

Linde: This Debbie is a 180 degree change of tone from your conversation. This is definitely something I don’t see often and I hope to see more of it from more people.

1. Don’t dictate to the oppressed how they should act. This is what you have been consistently doing in this conversation. The premise of your argument is based on telling the majority to move on as explicitly defined by you or the people you speak on behalf of..

2. Understand that discomfort is part of the process of acknowledging and letting go of prejudicial/racist behaviour. There’s nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable.

3. That discomfort however pales in comparison to what black people have gone through and what they go through every day today – in the NEW SOUTH AFRICA. Your discomfort is nothing compared to their pain and suffering and it continues – contrary to popular belief it didn’t end in 1994. Their pain trumps your discomfort. As long as one isn’t inciting violence, as you’re also entitled to a safe environment (even online), listen, make a contribution without dictating terms.

BUT THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
It’s been a pleasure.

Debbie: People always tell me to stay out of online conversations because they don’t go anywhere. I beg to differ most of the time, otherwise I would have missed this opportunity in meeting you and furthering my learning. I didn’t see myself as dictating, so I am sorry for that. I have learnt a lot from working with black people and teaching in a black school for the last few years. I hear about the tough life these kids live and it breaks my heart. I seek to help where I can and always want to see myself a learner, so thank you Linde.

Phumzile: Well Debbie, the long and the short is that we have been socialised for centuaries to think in terms of colour, so that’s not going away in this centuary at least, the slow pace of transformation (if there’s any) is not helping. Let’s accept colour cause to a large degree it shows off God’s creativity, colour is no mistake. There are practical things that can speed up finding our country’s identity besides a name change, eg. White people giving back land without compensation, having this conversation in an indeginous language cause it’s mandatory (not a nice to have in order to make black pps feel like u r a nice white person), etc etc. Perhaps then, a name change when what we see in this country is worth summing up in a word or two.

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

My friend Simon telling it like it is: You see, a lot of white people – myself included – unintentionally start falling into an unmerited positivity around race in our country, where we feel that apartheid is long behind us, and the hurt and leftover division is largely on the mend. And the only reason we think this is the majority of us still carry the privilege of not being majorly effected by it. We sort of forget it.

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

My Facebook status after two very long, draining, mostly painful conversations with white people being defensive and black people being [in my opinion] way too gracious and patient: “South Africa, it is okay to feel uncomfortable in conversations. Without that we will never move forwards. But when that happens do you stay and push through and listen harder and look more into your own heart and really try to hear and see and be honest about what is happening or do you bail? Don’t give up. There is a lot of hard work ahead but it is more than worth it and we need to be more than grateful that people of colour continue to engage with us at all as we try to figure this out. It is not their responsibility to help us figure it out – that is a gift!”

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

Lastly, this article written by Jonathan Jansen in the Rand Daily Mail which i have just pulled the key points out of, but click on the link and go and read it in full.

How to be White and Happy in South Africa 

IT HAS long fascinated me, the fact that some white young people fit so easily into the new South Africa but most struggle to live and learn and love alongside black youth.

First, get a grip on yourself. You are not better than the other person because of your skin.

Acknowledge that you are a child of privilege. If you start off with the idea that everything you have is a consequence of the hard work of your parents, you are probably from another planet. Yes they probably worked hard, but centuries of separation and privilege — white affirmative action, in essence — gave your family an emphatic advantage at the expense of black people; that is why you do not live in a shack or never attended a crappy school. Acknowledging this simple fact sets you free, big time. Denying it will make it difficult to ease into this new country since you would never understand how we came to be so unequal.

Learn to listen before you speak. As with any child of privilege, including the black middle classes, you have been subtly trained to think you know more and better than those of lower class or darker race. This I can assure you is bull. But learning to listen is hard, since you grew up hearing your parents bark orders and give instructions to lesser people (in their minds).

Do not listen to your parents when it comes to friendships…  Be better than us your parents; learn and love and live without borders for if your generation cannot make this society normal, we‘re screwed.

Always be on the lookout to learn from your friendships.

And learn to appreciate the traditions and expectations of your different friends and their families.

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

Anything jump out for you while reading this? Is there something you’ve noticed in your own life that needs to be worked on? If you’re a white person, what questions do you have with regards to figuring out white fragility or privilege or how to be a better ally to your friends of colour? 

[For more helpful posts on South African related things, click here] 

Sometimes as i am typing a comment on Facebook i pause for a moment to think of all the people going, “Oh man, there he goes again.” i imagine for a lot of people i am THAT GUY.

i found out years ago at church that there was a certain lady, who, anytime i opened my mouth at a meeting, switched off immediately because she knew i was going to rant about a certain thing. To her i was THAT GUY [and it’s been so interesting that 20 years later i now see her on Facebook occasionally liking some of the stuff i post and say].

While i do think there are many more occasions when many more of us should jump in and be THAT GUY [in the generic non-gender specific meaning of the word ‘guy’ so ‘person’] often the silence is relatively overwhelming and so once again i will tend to jump in and be THAT GUY and hope that others will jump in as well. [You might be amazed at how much i hold back from jumping in to things i’d like to].

And so i am quite happy to be THAT GUY if that means reacting to pictures like this shirt which i was tagged in with the words “So I think I found the perfect T-shirt for you”

Offensive slogan t-shirt

You clearly did not know me in even the slightest of ways if you thought i would be okay with this monstrosity sitting on my FB wall, let alone thinking somehow that this would be “the perfect shirt” for me. Firstly, themewise i’m not the biggest rugby fan at all – if it was cricket then there would have been the smallest amount of more possibility, but mostly because i am the hugest fan of marriage and i feel like the joke here undermines that. And while people will no doubt think i am overreacting, i feel like marriage is under pressure so much in the world today that even the smallest digs and jabs are completely unhelpful and unnecessary. There are worse things, but i can’t get my mind around how a wife would feel about her husband saying he wants to wear this as a joke even. [Or the other way around].

I am also quite okay with being THAT GUY when i share this picture on social media and people respond with absolutely no sense that what is being depicted could probably be true in any way:

racecard'

From Brad Kurth who chose sarcasm: I love analogy. It can have an emotional impact while being completely factual.

To Paul West who started with children’s literature: About as factual as a fairy story………… Once upon a time…….

Before continuing with: It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, I am oppressed therefore I am nothing……. What a crock…. Oh and by just being white, something I have no choice over, I am guilty, also guilty for the sins of my father. Life puts obstacles in ones way, it is how you tackle those obstacles that determines how your life comes out…… Slave shackles on the wrists have been broken… but the shackles on the mind hasn’t. It is a shame indeed

[In Paul’s defence, after a bunch of back and forth we are going to meet in two week’s time and hopefully get to chat over some of this stuff over a meal, which feels to me like the only way you are likely to really get any kind of serious progress in one of these online conversations/arguments.]

[Update – 5 minutes later – Out of Paul’s defence – nope, another race story arrives on my wall and he jumps straight on and gives himself away completely…]

To Cameron Olivier’s misdirection to what i imagine he thought was humour: have you ever tried to race someone wearing a suit?

To Jason DeZurik’s: This meme misses a very important point Or perhaps it’s your interpretation of the meme. IDK which it is but here’s something to think about: If parents and grand parents worked their tails off, made good choices to get where they are in life by taking risk’s in order to reap the benefits of said risk’s isn’t it logical that their children and grandchildren should absolutely reap the benefits of those decisions as well. Most parents and grand parents I know, made those decisions because of their children. And you will notice I am not the one bringing the color of ones skin into this.

And more. And it frustrates the crap out of my friend Megan that i take time engaging some of these people. And i have written about the primary reason i do so in a post titled ‘Why i Run With Trolls’ which in a nutshell is almost always for the sake of others reading and not commentating [and online arguments have often led to some incredible offline/behind the scenes chats with other people that no-one else gets to see] who are generally more likely to be influenced than someone who comes in with really strong arguments and doesn’t seem as open to engagement.

i will very likely always be THAT guy when someone online makes a joke about rape or uses it as a verb to describe something like a test or sports match that is so far removed from the reality and horror of what rape is [as written about briefly here]. In this case i don’t care if i know you or not, i will jump in and be THAT GUY cos that is NEVER OKAY!

And more. No, i am not the internet police. But i am involved in a fight against racism and sexism and various other things that inflict pain on people or cause heart-ache. i may not jump in on all the causes you want me to, which doesn’t necessarily make your cause any less important or vital. Believe me, this THAT GUY stuff can be tiring and it can be lonely. But if you can say or share things publically, then they can typically deserve some kind of public response.

WHAT LIGHT THROUGH YONDER WINDOW BREAKS

While i was in the midst of frustrating attempts at trying to get people to understand the reality of the uneven playing fields between black and white people [in both Americaland and South Africa cos by then our argument had gone international], my friend Linda Ndaba jumped in with a “brilliant” comment. [When one of my black friends jumps on and affirms a post trying to deal with inequality/injustice/racism it is often a helpful indicator to me that i may be on the right track], my friend Lester Pillay jumped in with some helpful commentary, an old youth friend of mine Amy Halliday initiated a chat conversation with me [she is busy taking a Public History class this semester which focuses on mass incarceration in the US (and includes work with activists, prisoners etc)] and encouraged me and finally another friend, Wendy Lewin jumped into the comments with an encouraging cheer.

That is what makes it easier. Hints that you may be on the right track, suggestion that other people are with you on this, affirmation that your words and stance are important and news that you are not alone. These are all strengthening and persevering-enhancement moments and i am so grateful any time those come my way.

My wife tbV shared this quote from the Spoken Word sessions she attended last night that helped sum up one of the ridiculous arguments that was given to the cartoon:

“Do not let me think I know what water means to you because I have also swum. We have different currents that brought us here” Pieter Odendaal @inzyncpoetry at the Open Book Festival tonight

And then finally i am okay with being THAT GUY when THAT GUY means i share immensely genius or horribly painful [depending on your perspective] puns on my wall. Someone has to and sometimes it has to be me. i do prefer ones that are a little cleverer, like this one:

achilles

Are you THAT GUY? Or THAT WOMAN PERSON? If so where [what are the things that cause you to jump on] and if not, is there perhaps some place where you could and maybe should be THAT PERSON? Strength in numbers… What are the things that you refuse to let pass without comment?

racist

it’s not

so much

that you

think

you’re better than

‘those people’

that causes my

blood to boil

as much as

it is that

you use

the words

‘those people’

[For more attempts at Micropoetry, click here]

amiracist

i have decided to resume the series on ‘How to be One bit Less Racist’ with this piece by my friend, Andy Vaughn. The interruption and focus on some of the bigger questions i though was completely important and necessary, but i also still see these seemingly tinier aspects as crucial to us starting to retrain our minds and thoughts and become less racist in the day to day interactions we have with people, while keeping in mind that the big issues still very much need to be dealt with. Here is Andy:

It took me a full four months before I realized what was actually being said. It was just four letters, yet it carried the social weight of a two ton Tessie.

“They”

Over and over I would hear a casual remark about the mysterious “They”. But who were these “They” that kept being dropped into casual conversation and snide remark?

I had just moved to beautiful South Africa and traveled around the countryside as a full time missionary. I stayed in homes and churches of every variety of home found in the Rainbow Nation. No matter where I stayed, I kept hearing about “They”, and as I stood over a lekker braai fire I finally pieced it all together.

“They” were the faceless, nameless murderers, thieves, skelm, and scallywags that were making South Africa hemorrhage fear and terror.

‘Did you hear “They” robbed another farm? Killed the boer, and then raped the wife.’

‘Eish, bout – not again’.

I wasn’t sure if “They” was a Soweto street gang or something else, because if I was tracking the tones and knowing looks correctly, everyone had a pretty good idea what was being said (or implied) by “They”.

“They” = “I want to blame the blacks, but don’t want to sound racist”

It wasn’t ever“Two boys stole my cousin’s bakkie”, it was always “THEY stole my cousin’s bakkie”.

One way we can become a tiny bit less racist, is to say the words we mean. This leads to accountability, which (hopefully) leads to some remorse. When we drop the linguistic gymnastics designed to get our all too racist point across without being held accountable, then we hear ourselves say things that should shock us into repentance.

Somewhere Martin Luther is still admonishing us to “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.”

When we see our hearts for what they truly are (whether it be racist, greedy, slothful, or even depressed) we can start finding the solution. We can get healed by the Master Healer. All the code talk and shifty language is just a dodgy way not deal with the real condition of our hearts and minds.

My commitment is to start saying what I really mean – and being accountable for what’s coming out of my heart and mouth. It won’t always be fun, but it’s much better than the alternative code talk so many of us have engaged in for far too long.

How about you? Is this something you’ve observed in your friends? Or maybe caught yourself being guilty of?

Maybe it’s a ‘they’ but it might also be a ‘those people’ or various other secret codes we might use to not have to say the very words we are thinking. Share your thoughts with us in the comments. 

[To catch the rest of this series, click here]

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