Tag Archive: white


apartheid

 

 

 

a short while ago two South Africans sparked an international discussion about racism, guilt and responsibility when they printed and distributed forty t-shirts with the slogan ‘I benefited from apartheid’ written on them:

 

 

 

 

 

zapiro

 

 

well-known political satirist Jonathan Shapiro [aka Zapiro] came up with this minimalistic but powerful cartoon which expressed his take on the matter:

 

 

 

are they right? yes, for sure, i definitely had [and still have] benefits from apartheid – they were not as a result of my choosing, or even my parents choosing, but they are real.

so in a nutshell i have to feel guilty for being white.

i also have to feel guilty for being male. women have been oppressed in this country and around the world for who knows how many decades, centuries even. have i benefited from that? surely i have. i may not have chosen my penis but it has served me well, just by being there.

what else is there?

english-speaking? because surely as one of the dominant languages that worldwide communication and media have been presented in, this has forced some kind of pain and trauma on those who have been forced to speak it?

christian? while i prefer the term ‘Christ-follower personally’ i know that being grouped in this group racks up the score column for guilt and shame [no-one expected the Spanish Inquisition…]

how about heterosexual? [because heaven knows we’ve treated the gays badly]

i imagine there are probably more, but it seems as if there is enough data to suggest that i am part of the most privileged demographic imaginable – white male heterosexual english-speaking christian… and therefore the most guilty.

i think i get it. to a large extent. having benefited from apartheid etc etc i need to own that and take responsibility and be involved in reconciliation and reparation where possible as well as doing what i can do to address the various imbalances that now exist as a result of the past.

at the same time, is there a time when it ends? when i can stop feeling the need to feel guilty because i am white, because i am a man, because i…

because, to be very honest, i did not have a lot of say in the whiteness of my white, i wasn’t all that involved in the maleness of my maleity, i was born into english, i am attracted to women [and one very beautiful one in particular]

the only thing on my list that i can see that i had any part in choosing to be a part of is the christian one and even there i have chosen to align myself to a Christ-following which i hope looks a LOT different from the majority of wrongs and perversions that the typical historical christian [those who profess one thing but live another] has gotten horribly wrong.

in terms of the apartheid debris in South Africa, i will continue to do what i can to make amends and take responsibility for the past i largely inherited, but will there be a time when i am allowed to ask questions of the post-apartheid government who continue to be a hive of corruption, mismanagement, greed and nepotism and spend/waste/party this country into the ground?

because, to be honest, it’s been 18 years now. you’re practically legal new democracy. Mandela showed you the way you could choose to live – with grace, forgiveness, honour, invitation, integrity… and it is up to you at some stage to embrace that.

to be honest, i don’t actively carry any guilt for any of who i am, no matter how much the pressure is exerted to do so. i know that i’m far from perfect and i try to live better, day to day, than how i lived the day before. i try to take responsibility when i mess up and make things right with the people i have hurt or wronged. and i believe this is something that needs to be embraced by every one of us, so that we can really turn this country around and make it the incredible place it should be.

so when do we stop blaming apartheid? when do we start taking responsibility together?

unity.

ubuntu.

you and me. let’s do this.

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two days ago my bossman Darin told me about this story where a dad had picked up his young kid in the laundromat and stuffed him in a washing machine and closed the door [presumably as a joke or to teach him a lesson] but once the door locked the washing machine jumped into life and they couldn’t stop it or get him out until someone who worked at the place ran up and unplugged it and eventually managed to save the child. The child was apparently mostly fine [except maybe for the trauma suffered by your dad almost killing you in a washing machine]…

then yesterday i was at the gym, running on the treadmill in front of a wall of tvs and the incident came on two different channels which were showing news. sure enough the dad stuffed the kid into the machine and it suddenly starts and both parents frenetically try to stop the machine and the guy comes and stops it. it happened just as i had been told, except one thing really took me by surprise.

i decided to test out my theory on two people as we walked to the office yesterday and so i mentioned that i had seen the story on the tv and asked what colour the parents were. without hesitation they both answered “white” which is exactly what i had imagined. only thing is i had been wrong. what surprised me about the video was that it looked like a so-called african-american family [athough definitely a family of colour] and what surprised me was that in my head only a white family would be stupid enough to do something like that.

does that make me racist? it definitely would if it had gone the other way… but that made me think along with a lot of this Brett Murray ‘The Spear’ painting stuff that has been going on in South Africa and this amazing article which called a lot of it for what it was.

Four lines from that article carry the heart of where this whole racism-calling thing has gotten a little bit out of control:

I’m not shouting at you because you’re black, I’m shouting because you’re a maniac on the roads who is a danger to society.

I’m not complaining to your manager because you’re black. I’m complaining because you’re an incompetent moron who is incapable of doing her job properly.

I’m not firing you because you’re black. I’m firing you because you’re a thief.

I’m not confronting you because your black, I’m shouting at you because you’re a messy pig who expects other people to clean up your mess.

Each of those incidents [maniac on road, incompetent at job, thief, litterer] if they had occurred with someone of the same race calling out someone of the same race it would have been an incident of whatever is in brackets [parenthesis to the americanese] but because it was a white person calling a black person that [and i’m guessing vice versa] it suddenly becomes a race thing.

there is a lot more to say on this issue but hopefully this incident has at least got people thinking about it. are stereotypes racism or do they exist, much like cliches, because they are true a lot of the time? and while it is unfair to generalise with a stereotype or cliche and judge everyone as that thing, it is maybe not necessarily racist to be aware of or mention them.

i don’t think it was a big deal that i assumed the washing machine dad was white. i think it just was what it was. we could progress a lot further in this world, life, country if we started looking a lot more at what is as opposed to what could be suggested/read into/taken as…

your thoughts?

[late add: found out today that it was a babysitter and her boyfriend and not the kids parents who put the baby into the machine – story is here]

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