Tag Archive: white privilege


Dom Helder Cavara quote

The past two weeks have been an incredible time.

Yes, some of the conversations on Social Media got a little aggro, but there were also some really incredible interactions, both online and off and it feels like the #FeesMustFall movement and events really got a lot of people thinking. And introduced many new people to some of the conversations we have been having on Privilege and Restitution and Racism and more.

There were a number of exciting “AHA!” moments i got to witness. Someone posted on my Facebook wall, “I finally get what white privilege is all about. Thanks for persevering.” and there were also a couple of moments within back and forth arguments where suddenly the light seemed to go on. I get it. Which is really encouraging for those of us who have been bravely soldiering on [And it is bravely sometimes as people who don’t yet ‘get it’ when it comes to privilege and race conversations tend to for the most part respond quite defensively and at times personally] calling on our white friends and acquaintances in particular to take a step towards Being a More Effective Ally and realising that as long as one suffers we all suffer.

BEFORE YOU RUSH IN

i attended a workshop run by Caroline Powell from the Warehouse the other day and found it extremely helpful.

She spoke about how we tend to rush towards formulas and yet where people and complicated situations are involved, formulas don’t often cut it.

She also pointed out that whenever there is an AWAKENING [that Aha! i finally get it moment] we usually want to jump to IMPLEMENTATION [What can i do? i need to do something. Let me do something. Surely doing anything is better than doing nothing? On that, no, doing something bad, hurtful, oppressive, damaging is not as good as doing nothing]. Then shared this chart, not as a formula that is always going to work neatly and comfortably from one space to the next, but that gives a helpful idea of some other steps that might be really helpful once the AWAKENING has occurred.

AWAKENING – AHA! moment – i finally get white privilege, see the racism in me, etc

LISTENING – before jumping to action, let me listen, to really try and hear what is being said

DISCERNMENT – i’ve noticed something, i’ve listened, let me try and understand the bigger picture of what is happening and what is necessary and perhaps what my place and role in this can be – this process will often happen with other people who better understand the context and situation and have more wisdom to offer

PLANNING – Instead of rushing in with some action, let me come up with a plan, and do the necessary and important groundwork to that will lead towards that plan being effectively achieved

IMPLEMENTATION – Do you see the difference? All of those steps between AWAKENING and IMPLEMENTATION which all increase the likelihood of my IMPLEMENTATION being effective and sustainable and relevant

REFLECTING – Follow IMPLEMENTATION with REFLECTION to ensure that what you did actually achieved the hope for results or was what was needed or helpful. This step may lead you towards more:

AWAKENING

As Caroline said to us, this is not necessarily a smooth one leads to two leads to three cycle. But the different steps there can be really powerful in terms of making sure that any involvement you have, is a positive and hopefully powerful thing.

If you were someone that had an AHA! moment in the last two weeks or so in terms of this conversation, please share it with us and give us a glimpse into what you think helped lead you to that point. Which of the steps above would you say is a current weakness of yours which you need to work a little harder at?

[For some Practical Suggestions on getting hands on involved in Restitution, click here] 

oscar

Oscar Romero

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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

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

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

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

game

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

change

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

iain

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

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

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

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

pencil2 pencil4 pencil6

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

wayne

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

xhosa

In August, i invited you all to Come and Xhosa with Me.

After two weeks i shared a post called Xhosa and Effect, highlighting some of the things i was thinking about as we were busy with the course. Continue reading

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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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] 

Do you speak Xhosa?

One of the signs of privilege in a country is the expectation that everyone else will address you in your mother tongue. This is typically true for white english-speakers in South Africa and not even remotely for black mother tongue Xhosa speakers. i would hate to find out the statistics for white people who can’t even say the basics of “Hello” “What is your name?” “My name is…” in an African language but fortunately this i can do.

But not much more. My isiXhosa is, how you say, ncinci.

And that is embarrassing. Or it should be. And is. And should be!

But the training wheels are going on this bike.

tricycle

As these beautiful words greeted me in my inbox this morning:

Many thanks for your booking and welcome on board!

You and Valerie are signed up for Course 1: Essential Social Xhosa starting on Tuesday evening, August 25th at 6pm. It runs for six consecutive weeks, ending on September 29th. Please arrive a few minutes early to settle in with a cup of tea or coffee before we begin!

The cost is R1380 per person. This amount includes tuition, materials (handbook, workbook, audio CD and pocket phrase book), weekly recap emails, refreshments and an attendance certificate, as long as you have attended a minimum of five out of the six lessons.

That’s right, tbV and i are going back to school. And the reason for this post is not so much to brag about it [because this does feel shamefully, horribly late – i think i have known for a long time this was necessary but really had the idea kicked into absolutely necessary on our recent trip to the states and then a mate from Durban had a conversation with me on Facebook that felt like the accountability needed to just kick it into gear – but the reason for this post is to invite you to join us]

WE NEED [or could really use] YOU!

Since writing this post, our friend Al Gardener has jumped in and so we have moved to the Tuesday one so we can do it together and there are still a couple of spaces…

So if any of you have had this gnawing at your minds, here is a boot-to-the-stomach wake up call and opportunity to put your hand up and come and learn with us. i honestly believe that if we are serious about reconciliation and restitution and unity in this country, then one of the very first steps we need to do is at least make an attempt to learn the African language that is most prevalent in the area we live.

i’m pretty nervous, i won’t lie. What if i suck? What if the words don’t stick? What if i don’t get it? But the importance and necessity outweighs the need and i am just RIDICULOUSLY SORRY AND ASHAMED that i have waited this long. Ndicela uxolo. But i am going to face my fear and will be going with Dwight on this one…

Old Dog can learn New Tricks

If you wanna come play with these Andersons, visit www.xhosafundis.co.za and sign up for the class starting in the evening on Tuesday 25th of August.

Overdue, but not too late… [With big thankx to Megan Furniss for the reference]

[For the next post written two weeks into the Xhosa learning, click here]

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rose

i somehow got into two Facebook argumersations yesterday at the same time. TWO! i can’t remember that happening before. i usually try pick my battles one at a time, but somehow, two different articles i shared, generated two different fairly strong push backs.

Which i love. i love it when people push back and are genuinely committed to the conversation and engaging and not simply being trolls or palookas. But sometimes [especially when it’s people i don’t know so well] it is hard to tell. So i continue to engage while i think there is some point to the conversation [and as i’ve probably written before, often i am writing more for those who are looking on at the conversation as they tend to be more likely to change their mind or be affected by what is shared] and for me it really is a deep search for truth. A truth i typically have a strong belief in [otherwise why bother engaging] but also one that is in the midst of being wrestled with and grown and adapted as it is challenged by what i read, experience and by what people say.

BUT IT CAN BE REALLY HARD. And lonely. And so when a second person joined in to the one conversation and said some things backing up what i was saying, it felt like the hugest breath of fresh air and after a few posts i actually jumped on her Facebook page and simply said – thank you.

But like i said, it can be really hard. Is this going to make any difference? Am i really right about the things i am arguing strongly for? Why doesn’t this person see that they are wrong [if they are]? Is this person being genuine or are they a troll or someone who doesn’t even really care about this stuff.

Both conversations yesterday related to Race and Privilege in South Africa, two topics i care so much about and which affect so many people i am in relationship with [well they affect everyone in South Africa but there are a lot of my friends that are deeply invested in this conversation and life going forwards] and i have put a whole lot of time into research and reading and listening and watching and trying to understand. Does that mean i’m the expert? Absolutely not. But it means i’m deeply invested in this stuff and quite often the person arguing has not put as much into this particular conversation’s journey. Also if i have five of these in one week [one per day plus the weekend off] then at the end of the week each of the people i have been chatting to have had one and probably feel completely fresh and yet i have invested in five and feel completely exhausted. Especially cos often it feels like i am alone or in the minority of people who are prepared to invest in this way.

A lot of people think i’m wasting my time engaging. Or engaging so often and so deeply. And so obviously that question constantly swirls around my head as well. What difference is this going to make?

Well, this morning i received an email from a friend who shared some thoughts about one of the conversations i have been involved in. They shared what it meant to them personally and they shared some insight into their personal friendships with white people and other spaces of wanting to and trying to engage with these kind of situations.

It was one of the most powerful emails i have received in my life. Both in terms of encouragement but also a lot of punch-in-the-face reality call about “life out there” for many people. More than anything it gave me the encouragement and the boldness to carry on.

i don’t always get it right. i am certainly not a Race, Reconciliation and Privilege expert in any way. But i believe this conversation is so vitally important in South Africa right now [Americaland has its own very similar conversation that white people seem hesitant to get involved in, possibly because of the potential cost involved there] and so i’m not going to stop any time soon.

But i do hope more people who feel the same kind of passion and heart for the topic will jump in more. And i do hope we will create more conversation spaces around meals, face to face, and within our friendship groups that there can be safe space to speak about uncomfortable and sometimes awkward topics such as these. We have a long walk to go before any kind of everyone-freedom is realised and the more of us that commit ourselves to the conversation and the ensuing action, the better…

Thank you thank you thank you, to my friend, for the most powerful, encouraging and inspiring email. i will fight another day.

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