This morning i was browsing Facebook and i came upon a status from my friend Nkosivumile Gola [who has written a number of posts for this blog] that read like this:
The land question is very personal, the land includes my whole being it is the very me. The land question is very emotional its not an intellectual talk. I don’t have a nice way of saying we want the land, I can’t smile when I’m talking about land.
Followed by 50 or so comments [and still going on] of which i think i was the only white person engaging. Trying to listen and really hear and understand.
Having opened my blog up somewhat to conversations about Race-related themes and issues over the last few months, and having connected with some new friends and been talking about race i have come to realise that for many black people in South Africa, land reform and restitutional justice are huge topics. I don’t know of many of my white friends that even have an opinion or understanding of this. Or how deep the hurt related to this topic lies
As far as Americaland goes, it is becoming difficult to keep up. Last week it was the news that Darren Wilson [the white police officer who was responsible for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson] was not going to be indicted. Today it is the somehow more surprising news that Daniel Pantaleo [the white police officer who allegedly put an illegal choke hold on Eric Garner which led to his subsequent death] was also not going to be indicted, despite there being quite clear video footage of the incident [that to my reckoning shows a blatant choke hold].
#Ferguson, #MikeBrown,#BlackLivesMatter, #EricGarner, how many hashtags do we need before significant change starts to happen?
As i have been following Ferguson pretty closely, and especially the Christian voices on it, I have noticed that the black voices are very vocal, where for the most part [and there are some incredible exceptions], the white voices are remaining silent.
Austin Channing, who is one of the people i have a lot of respect for in this conversation, tweeted this a couple of hours ago:
I need this to matter. What use have I for a Church that doesn’t believe I am worthy of justice, love and humility? [@austonchanning]
South Africa… Americaland… i imagine these conversations need to be had elsewhere, but these are the countries i have spend time in the last couple of years and so they are forefront in my mind and heart.
The contexts are quite different in some ways [Majority Oppression vs Minority Oppression, Restitution vs Present Day Justice] but there are some eerie similarities:
# For the most part a lack of white interest, engagement, outrage, action. There are white people who are involved and are making waves and using their platforms and showing up, but they are way too much the exception.
# A seeming lack of joining the dots of what is happening in the country politically being linked in any way to what we, as the church, believe, or should believe based on
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.
And then Jesus aiming this at the religious ones of His day, in Matthew 23:
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides!You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
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.
In terms of the land reform conversations that need to take place in South Africa, i do not even come close to knowing the answers, but i do know that i am not informed enough, and so one thing i can do is this action based on this status i stuck on to Facebook a few hours ago:
Have decided if i truly am for unity, reconciliation and justice in my beloved South Africa, that i have a bit of reading to do. There is a lot i need to hear and understand from different voices to the ones that informed me growing up. So i could use some suggestions of good books to start with and interested to know if any of my white friends would be up to journeying this journey with me and maybe we could book club it [even if we’re in different parts of the country] so that we can share the costs of a big pile of books. My first recommendation was ‘Sobukwe led the road to Robben Island’ by Dr. Motsoko Pheko – what else do you think would be helpful?
I was reminded of this great quote which sums up the work ahead.
‘Freedom is not free. The price of freedom is selfless service, suffering and sacrifice.’ [Dr. Motsoko Pheko]
Getting involved, putting your hand up, being informed and taking action are not easy or comfortable or free things. There is a cost and it will require effort and time and buy-in and some form of sacrifice along the way. It requires us to get intentional about how we do or don’t engage with this much needed conversation.
In Americaland, the church at large needs to get involved. We need to hear outrage from white people [the black people are already there and have been for so long and are dying for us to pitch up and listen and hear and feel and cry out alongside them – they are not needing you to lead this revolution, they just need you to show up!]
Here are some more tweets from Austin Channing, which i found devastating, more so because of how true they are:
Are you really okay that policing for black lives is different than policing for your life?
Is it okay that our sunday school children have to split up by race to receive different lessons on what to expect from police?
Show us. Show us that its not ok. Stand with us. Let us mourn. Hell, why aren’t you mourning? Let us be angry. You should be angry too.
The cycle of systemic racism and interpersonal racism are robbing the lives of black people and robbing the humanity of white people.
Either you believe we are all created in the Image of God and should be treated accordingly or you do not.
Don’t you see, we all lose? Don’t you see why the Church cant ignore this issue? Cant you see why being “apolitical” is not an option?
Because that’s really the point isn’t it? “Oh no, church and politics shouldn’t mix.” What verse was that from again? While there might be a place where church and politics mixing is not the heathiest of ideas, this goes beyond that.
This is about justice. This should concern all of us, but especially for people who call themselves followers of Jesus, this stuff should be in our D.N.A. This is what we’re about.
Kimberley Brusk just nailed it – this is the point – what is your response going to be?
Justice won’t be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are. BE OUTRAGED
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.
Or may God have mercy on us.