Tag Archive: racist


it’s not

so much

that you


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]


i received two sets of comments after the last post in this series and felt that both were worth sharing.

The first was from Sabrina and was really helpful in reminding me that racism can be localised. One strong example we came against when we were in the States is that the term ‘coloured’ there when referring to a person of colour, is very strongly racist, whereas in South Africa, for the most part, it refers to a particular group of people, who as far as i have been able to ascertain, do not take it offensively [although some prefer to refer to themselves as brown] but definitely doesn’t carry the strength it does in the USA. So Sabrina reminded me that the ‘girl’/’boy’ post was referring specifically to the South African context:

Sabrina: I totally hear what you are saying and totally agree that people should respect each other and use respectful terms to do so. But I think that you must also acknowledge that in this particular blog because you used specific terms you are speaking from an ethnocentric perspective and so what you say is culturally constrained and not a universal truth. So for example I live in Ireland and many women of all ages refer to each other as ‘girls’. I’m in my 50s and call myself a girl and refer to my friends as the girls. In fact I smart a little if someone refers to me as that ‘woman’ over there. For most women in our culture the term ‘girl’ would be considered endearing rather than insulting. For males in Ireland the word ‘boy’ would really only be used for prepubescent boys, then they become teenagers, young men or men but just like women use the word ‘girl’ men would tend to use words like ‘guys’ or ‘lads’. So my point is what is insulting in one country or culture might not be insulting in another country or culture. So I totally agree with your point that people should address each other respectfully in a way that is acceptable within that particular society. However to dictate particular words makes it only applicable to the the example society that you discuss here rather than universal to all societies. It is a little difficult to explain so I hope that you ‘get’ what I mean.

My good friend Nkosi [who is probably being way more gracious than he needs to be] weighed in with these very powerful words that really made me stop and think. Boom – punch to the face right there.

Nkosi: My difficulty with this series Brett is that I feel it is more based on individual experience which I always try to avoid. Individual experience leads to reactionary actions which are limited actions. The fact that in this status in particular we are talking about “boy and a girl” and we already know they are black shows the biggest problem of racism. The fact that a domestic worker is black and “must not be refered to be a boy or a girl” shows a problem. Why does the domestic worker have to be black? Now for me the solution to racism will come from asnwering that simple question! Racism won’t end as long as blacks are still the definition of a domestic workers in houses of white people, they are petrol attendants in cars of white people, they are tellers in shopping malls of white people etc. So I am just going to read other peoples responses on this!

Just a further input on this issue, in my culture it is boys who wakes up to clean up after dogs mess and the irony of it all is that the boys are normally wakened up by their fathers but the same fathers wakes up to clean the dogs mess of white people. The dignity of the white peoples gardener’s is what matters for me!

In our culture shacks were created for pigs but it is our fathers who find themselves in shacks (Dignity again).

So basically for me racism is the power that puts white people as a group on top (to be the domestic helped) and black people as a group at the bottom (to be the domestic helper)!

Nkosi makes some strongly helpful points. And i believe he is speaking of the bigger picture and the systems that need to be changed and there is a whole lot of ongoing conversation about that. [Which often feels helpless because it is so huge and so much needs to be done]. So maybe the best thing is to stop for a moment and just read what he said again and let that sink in a little. Maybe it will help emphasise the hecticness if i was to replace myself and my father in that story and then try tune into those emotions.

So i don’t want to remove focus from any of that. It is all true. We need to catch a wake up and really realise what is going on around us. And try to figure out together what can be done to bring change faster. BUT at the same time i do still feel that maybe it is a BOTH/AND thing rather than an EITHER/OR. When the Bible gives slaves advice on how to treat their masters, i don’t believe it was condoning slavery, but in the context of what was a bad and unjust thing, saying that ‘Since you find yourself in this [unjust – understood] place, here is a way to live that is kingdom.

And so while the present situation [with, for the most part, black people cleaning white peoples’ houses] is not a fair and good one, there is still, i believe, ways we can work within that broken system to live in the best way possible until it is fixed/better as a whole. So if you have someone older than 20 cleaning your house or garden or looking after your children, in South Africa, then calling them girl/boy feels unacceptable. As does paying them minimum wage over a living wage. And a whole lot more.

What do you think? Are we able to tackle the smaller subtler racist tendencies that we may not always notice in ourselves while still needing to take on the bigger systemic changes that need to happen? Or do you feel that we need to start at the top and move down? Is this a helpful series to invite people to share their thoughts on, or is it proving unhelpful? 

i would very much love to have your feedback on this before the continuation or decimation of this series…

[To jump back into the series and look at how we refer to people as ‘they’, click here]


One of the areas of racist behaviour that grates me the most is when a white person refers to the person working in their garden or looking after the upkeep of their house or perhaps watching their children as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.

Especially when the person they are referring to is often older then them, but i think it should be a standard rule that once someone hits what 20? 18? they are no longer young enough to be referred to as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’..

If you are someone who does that, you should STOPPIT, because it is RACIST!

Perhaps the easiest way to tell is if the races were reversed and you heard a 35 year old black person calling a 50 year old white person ‘boy’ – how does that sound to your ears?

Just stoppit. It’s racist. It feels like the smallest thing and yet it is also the biggest thing. It is rude and demeaning and condescending and just pretty rubbish. So quit. And more importantly, if you hear someone else do this, say something.

i think that one of the biggest ways we will start to move forwards well in this country is when people start refusing to let racism happen around them. A person who calls someone else ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ is not likely to just suddenly stop doing it. But if you call them on it they will. And it is likely going to be a friend or close family member. So you have the relationship capital. Risk the embarrassment and call them on it.

This is not good enough. And when we stop doing it and stop allowing other people around us to do it, then we will all be one bit less racist.

When was the last time you heard someone refer to someone of a different race as a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ when clearly their age dictates that they are not? Did you say anything?

[For a quick pause on the series and a reframing of the bigger questions, click here]


My friend, Megan Furniss had these questions to help us get thinking and self-examining on this…

If you are worried that you might be a little bit racist there are a few things you can do to check:

# Do you have a natural (and unreasonable) expectation that everyone should be able to communicate with you in English?

# Do you get irritated with Africa Time, because you haven’t taken public transport in a while (or in your life)?

# Do you say ‘they’ or ‘those people’ casually in conversation when talking about other races?

# Do you tell people to ‘get over apartheid’?

# Do you criticise black drivers even in your heart?

# Do you think people are poor because they are lazy?

If you answered yes to any of these you are a little bit racist.

[Megan blogs at Meganshead.co.za]

How about you? Any ideas or thoughts on one way someone can become one bit less racist? Let me know and we can add it to a future post…

[For the next post looking at calling someone ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ click here]


People can be cruel. Let’s face it. You innocently stumble upon a complete strangers blog, offer a genuinely flavoured racist slur and call them a name when they respond a little too defensively, and before you know it they are calling you “a Troll”. Ow, that hurts, people.

But what if it’s true? What if all these years you have been innocently Trolling on the internet and you just didn’t know? Well as a public service to you, i want to share with you Five Signs to Help you Realise that you Just Might be a Troll.

[1] If you live under a bridge, you may be a Troll. And by “live under a bridge” i mean in your mom’s house, and you’re over thirty-five, and your favourite food is take-away. From last night.


[2] If you have a difference of opinion with someone and attack them as a person aggressively in response, you may be a Troll. Someone not thinking the same way as you on an issue does not instantly make them an idiot [they may still be, though] and if your instant reaction is to insult or attack them rather than arguing the point, that is often a sign that your argument/belief is not strong enough to be backed and so you try to distract by moving the attention somewhere else.


[3] If, when someone refuses to share your link promoting the saving of Orangutans, you rant on about how they are a horrible human being, and then befriend their wife on social media and try to convince her that you are an evil, animal-hating neanderthal [this actually happened], you may be a Troll.

Sometimes someone refusing to share the link you want them to promote, might not even mean they actually hate Orangutans. Or any other animals. Maybe they simply get a hundred requests a day to promote things and they have chosen that your thing is one thing too many. Leave their poor wife alone, lady.


[4] If you choose any labels other than the person’s name you are arguing with to address them as, you may be a Troll. Surprisingly enough, while ‘Dick’ is the acceptable shortened form of the name Richard, it is not, in fact, also the shortened form of the name ‘Brett’, ‘Simon’, ‘Matthew’ or ‘Robert’. If you disagree with someone online and call them names rather than their name, there is a chance that you are it!


[5] When the name, picture or email address you are using does not correspond directly to your name, face, email address, you might just be a Troll. Let’s face it, if you can’t say the thing you want to say as yourself, then the alarm bells are going off. If you are having to create whole new email addresses and reroute them through the former Soviet Republic so that no-one can track down your ip address, you really might want to consider the probability.

Sometimes, you just have to concede, that maybe, just maybe, the dodgy oke or okess, is actually you. i will leave it to David Mitchell of That Mitchell and Webb look to lead you a little further down the path of self-discovery:

Please SHARE this with your people, if you enjoyed it at all [or maybe recognised some of them]

[You may likely appreciate some of these other FUNNY lists as well, click here]

Dear John…


…by the time you read this post, you’ll be gone…

So in response to my post directed at my white friends in South Africa and Americaland with regards to race-related things, i got a rather strong sounding response from a guy called John. Which i thought it might be quite fun to respond to:

The reason I write you off as another white “Arts-degree” imbecile: You compare the history and economics and politics and sociology of America to SA. They are NOTHING alike. And they NEVER were. You are painfully Anti-White and Pro-Black throughout. Why would you not only deny Whites their voice, but decide BEFOREHAND what your outcome in your head will be? “My white friends, my white family, white strangers who i don’t yet know, but who some reason have landed in this place, we are the unaffected ones [directly] and it is time for us to be outraged and informed and engaged.” The unaffected ones??? You are so, SO out of line bud. And you have effectively wished away with that limp wrist of yours the history, dreams, blood, prayers, sweat and tears of a nation that had it harder than most, and is AS entitled to the country as any other. I am outraged. By your type. Not only are you ignorant, racist, hateful, you are glib and biased. Do you have MSM each morning for breakfast, or do you choose ignorance and bias freely? What truly, truly angered me was this drivel: “As white people…hold the power for change in both situations”] … (whites) are …uninvolved and unengaged and let injustice go on around (them).” Just go home before you hurt yourself. You’re a six year old taking a tomy gun to an international arms trade. You are in so deep, and you have no clue. And as for proclaiming to be a Christian, that’s terribly hard to believe when all you seek to do is vilify, nullify and crucify a Nation you know NOTHING about, or simply care NOTHING for. [John]

hey John,

Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Some thoughts in response:

[1] What a pity – why would you ever write anyone off? That sounds so unoptimistic and as the self-proclaimed eternal optimist just completely outside of my life experience – there is always hope that people will stand in front of a mirror and see what is really there and choose to change. Always. As a follower of Jesus i believe that 100 fold as inviting God to come in and bring change just accelerates that in my experience.

[2] i feel like ‘Arts-degree’ imbecile is a step up – you see i am a 40 year old white guy with dreads and so usually get asked at traffic lights for weed or high fived by other drug takers because of wrongful assumptions made, so i will take Arts-degree imbecile – i actually got kicked out of art in high school for spending the year mixing paint colours [because they just expected us to do art and never taught us how to and i couldn’t do art] and officially i am a primary school teacher [by study] although have spent most of my life working with young people in the church

[3] “You compare the history and economics and politics and sociology of America to SA.” – not true, or not intended at least – in my most recent blog dealing with #Ferguson whiplash vs South African White Privilege vibes i maybe say it more clearly but the point is that in terms of the focus on race issues at the moment, there are similarities between what the two countries are presently facing and some huge differences [in USA white majority, in SA it is minority being a big one] and so very interesting to me keeping an eye on both and seeing what might be learned on either side of the ocean.

[4] Painfully anti-white and pro-black throughout? Hm, i don’t see that. i am white firstly and i kinda like myself, and most of my white friends. i AM pro-black in the same way that i am pro-white and Indian, coloured etc… Not one above the other. HOWEVER, that doesn’t for a second mean i overlook where we have made mistakes and as white people in South Africa we very much do need to stand in the front of the line with our hands raised and admit a few things. With apartheid having been officially turned over 20 years ago or so we can [and would love to] decide that racism is all done now in this country and let’s move on, but because a lot of black people [and possibly others] feel aggrieved still in terms of work of reparation and restitution that was not done, i think we have a way to go still. At the very least taking time to listen and try hear and then see if we can in fact do something about it. This conversation is probably heading from race towards social economic status, but while people still have racist thoughts and comments and behaviours [see white guy at university peeing on man of colour just a week or so ago and more] it seems like many people still have a bit of a way to go. Just because it is uncomfortable doesn’t mean the hard conversations shouldn’t happen. My heart is complete unity and togetherness and it is going to take a long and difficult journey to get there still.

i really honestly am not sure why you think i am anti-white – that is so far from the truth – i can be completely pro-white and still feel we have a responsibility to bear some of the cost of change. absolutely.

[5] Not sure how i have denied whites their voice – i have used the platform of this blog to give all voices a chance to be heard – because less whites seem to be engaged in this conversation there has been less of a pool to draw from but take a look at Michael Talbot’s piece at one example of hearing a white voice here.

[6] i am two weeks into the hundred week pushup challenge and we have added some weight exercises to that as well and so my wrists are anything but limp at the moment. My pushups need a lot of work though. Also not sure how this unaffected wrist has wished away the history [blood, sweat, tears etc] of this nation that has had it so rough – at the moment i am reading Robert Sobukwe: How Can Man Die Better to try and understand a different perspective of our story and learn a little more of the history especially the blood, tears and sweat side of things. i am not wishing it away at all but taking it into consideration and starting to understand more deeply about the people who shed blood, sweat and tears and now feel like they may have lost out in the process. Taking a bit of extra time to see if they might be right and if so, what can we do about it.

[7] “ignorant, racist, hateful, you are glib and biased” – a lot of things to call someone you don’t know, have never met, and i assume got all your information from one blog post one – ignorant? yes i can take that – i know a lot less than i would like and am doing all i can to join in some of the dots of the story including spending this last weekend on Robben Island hearing from people who were imprisoned and families that were affected by that. racist? i don’t think so, not overtly anyways – we all carry some prejudice and i definitely have some towards other races that needs to be worked out of me – and will as i grow friendships with people from other backgrounds and contexts. hateful? i don’t think that’s fair and am really not sure where you got that? i have so much love for people that i believe God filled me with – if anyone comes close to feeling unloved or hard done by me it is likely to be christians who don’t live out what they say they believe as that is when it is hardest for me to show grace and mercy but even then i think i do okay. Could always be better. Glib – embarrassed to say i need to go google that which does back up your ignorant comment – insincere and shallow? hm, no, i think you’re thinking of someone else – i say it as i see it which means i am open to being wrong on occasion or missing the mark but definitely not insincere and shallow. and biased? maybe, i work from what i have and so each story has a bias derived from the teller’s experience and sources and prejudices – definitely not intentionally biased but there is probably a little in there.

[8] Also had to look up Methylsulfonylmethane so clearly am not willingly taking it, although it is possible Megs slipped some into my porridge this morning, but that doesn’t seem like her style. And so no i don’t choose ignorance and bias freely – i am doing what i can to add knowledge and learn and am trying my best to not be biased but to give space for all sorts of voices and opinions. We will never get the perfect story but we can definitely work towards getting a more balanced and close to the truth one.

[9] And then there was the part that “truly angered” you, which was this – As white people [those who in many instances hold the power for change in both situations] it is not good enough for us to sit back and be uninvolved and unengaged and let injustice go on around us.

Although in your comment you changed it around to this: “As white people…hold the power for change in both situations”] … (whites) are …uninvolved and unengaged and let injustice go on around (them).”

So kinda like looking at me holding a banana and saying, “I hate your apple, bud!”

My point is that “it is not good enough” for us to sit around and be uninvolved – that is not suggesting that everyone is uninvolved [although a lot of people certainly seem to be] but it is rather a call to action and saying that given the circumstances around us, we really need to make sure that we are not allowing injustice to go on around us.

If it angered you because you don’t like the statement, does that mean we should sit back and be uninvolved and unengaged and let injustice go on around us? Or that you felt i was imposing a judgement on all white people. Again, the words “it is not good enough for” are really important as they speak to a situation that would not be favourable as opposed to declaring a situation that is.

[10] Then it got a little personal [although you did seem to be looking out for my safety when you suggested i go home before i hurt myself – although to be fair i wrote this at home and in the broader picture South Africa is my home so either way i am fully there and in not too much danger of hurting myself]

“You’re a six year old taking a tomy gun to an international arms trade. You are in so deep, and you have no clue. And as for proclaiming to be a Christian, that’s terribly hard to believe when all you seek to do is vilify, nullify and crucify a Nation you know NOTHING about, or simply care NOTHING for.”

i tend to dig it when people think i’m younger than the 40 year old i am but usually they go for mid twenties or maybe thirty and so it feels like you are a little off there. i am not a huge fan of guns and so that is unlikely in a non-metaphoric sense but interesting that the language used is that of violence which my hope and optimising and belief in the goodness of people [and of God] really believes we can avoid if we continue to have healthy and helpful and at times uncomfortable conversations so that we can move towards change which works for everyone. And your accusation of me villifying, nullifying and crucifying a nation i don’t care about and know nothing about feels so far from the truth – i imagine i have lived here longer than you and so quite possibly know a decent amount, i don’t know many people as passionate as i am about this country and you should perhaps go and read some of the Robben Island blogs i’ve been posting more recently to see that [i will fight for the right to be called an African cos this is my home – i am a man of this soil] and yes, basically just the opposite of what you said back there.

Finally, John, i don’t expect you to read this – i would love if it you did and i would really dig it if we could sit down over a drink and have a full on two way conversations and really get to hear a little bit of the other person’s story before we make snap judgements and think we know what the other person is about. I doubt this will happen though because you wrote me off right at the beginning, but i thought it would be fun to let you know what i would have written had you stuck around a bit to have some conversation.

May you have a most excellent week
Let’s build this nation together
love brett fish

[For a previous encounter with internet trolls, check this out]



Where on earth do I even start with this topic? “What I want my white friends to know” seems like such a direct attack to some of my closest friends and those who I am still to meet. I absolutely love my friends so how could I write this? Then I thought about how much I really want to say some things and I sat down to type this.

First of all I come from a lovely family. Two parents. Two kids. My brother and I are so different that you would think that we were not related. I am also a devoted friend and will try and move mountains to help a person that I care for.

There is just one issue that absolutely tortures me.

I am constantly called a coconut. For those who don’t know what that means it refers to being white on the inside even though the person’s skin is black.

That word is the most hurtful thing that at some point all of my friends have said to me. Some people don’t realise how much it bothers me and I scarcely say it out loud. When I do people brush it off and ask how many books I have read this week alone. (Three on average if you were wondering)

I mean, how is it that it’s okay for any other person to love reading, public speaking and just overall enjoy the English language but as soon as a black person does it they get labelled? I’m not white. I’m black. Every time you insinuate otherwise it hurts because with that one word you have discredited my whole heritage and culture.

With this whole coconut thing also comes the term that I don’t like which is “you speak soooo well”. What? I speak soooo well? As opposed to who? Another black person or just another person in general? Do you praise another person as much if they successfully master the English language?

I get it that each individual person does not mean harm but after a lifetime of these two things it gets frustrating.

When I go back to visit my grandmothers I am perfectly capable of cooking over a fire, speaking my mother tongue and helping pick fruits while it is 42 degrees Celsius with not a single cloud in the sky.

Is it so wrong for me to live between two cultures and not get called names about it?

There is this automatic assumption when you are called a coconut that you know nothing about your culture. I can’t say that I know everything about my culture but that is out of choice for not wanting to practice certain aspects because I am Christian.

This whole piece seems very accusing to a specific race but it isn’t meant to be. I get called a coconut by my black friends too. I remember one time in specific where I was walking into the office and there was a new person around. My friends both black and white stopped me from coming in. They then told me to talk to them as I stood outside for a while. I thought that was weird but did it anyway. When I walked in after about 5 minutes of conversation it was to the shock that they had asked the new person inside to guess if I was black or white. When the person guessed that I was white I was so ashamed of myself? And worse than that I was just overall embarrassed.

After nearly a week of beating myself up about being too white and convincing myself that I was black enough I got over. At what point is it okay to judge me because I embrace a culture?

So what I want my white friends to know (and black) is that coconut is not a nice word. I have never and will never like it.

[For the next post by Siki Dlanga focusing on the concept of ‘the better black’, click here]

%d bloggers like this: