In Part I titled ‘Ways in which white people are better than black people [part I]’ i drew up a list of all the ways i think white people are better than black people.
Or rather i left a big chunk of empty space.
Because we are not better. We are different.
Although you wouldn’t think so if you read many of the comments in my blog or generally online. There is a fairly significant portion of the population of South Africa [and i believe the world] who really believe that they [as white people] are better in some way.
In some ways i guess this explains the kind of Entitlement so many white people feel, which i alluded to in these two posts. If i think i’m better than someone else then naturally i will think i deserve more in some way.
The absolute worst part of it all is, that to be completely honest, i think that in some ways i think like that too. How could i not? i was trained to think that i am better than black people, and anyone else who doesn’t look like me.
In my schooling – in the way stories were told, particularly history – the white people were always viewed as the saviours, the liberators [strange how even in that narrative the liberators left people of colour as slaves and servants somehow], those who brought higher western influence [you know like greed, more efficient ways of killing people and an individualistic society for starters, and don’t get me started on Crocs] and so much more.
But also in the media – if i went to watch a movie as a child [and let’s be honest, still most of the time today although it is slowly changing] – black people would be the bad guy, the third token-black-friend-guy killed in the teen slasher movie or the help which ranged from cleaner or nanny to servant or slave. But white people? Well we would be emperors and kings, rocket scientists and leaders of expeditions, we would be the love interest or the archaeologist, the hunter or the astronaut, the captain of the ship, the hero of the story , the wealthy businessman or the doctor. When i watched movies as a child we could even be Jesus… you know, guy born in the middle east to middle eastern parents [i remember one time we showed the Jesus movie in Malawi and this bright white Jesus of a man emerged from the waters of baptism and the crowd burst into laughter… because white people]. How could i not emerge from years and years of that not thinking that white was somehow better. It’s called conditioning and i have to admit it has been so completely successful.
Even when a white guy was the bad guy we managed to find ways of making him black:
And when a dark-skinned Greek European became leader of Egypt we naturally went pale:
People love to quote the IQ test thing on my blog as if that means anything even if it is true. But an IQ test [as someone who passed the MENSA test and is technically within the top X percent of the world blah blah blah – whole thing felt like a complete money scam to me to get me to join their club] tests one specific set of skills and scoring well on that means you are good at that particular thing, just as a baking test would show that you are the best at baking that particular thing on that particular day. IQ is not a sign of intelligence and you can go and do the research on that one.
The lists go on. We tend to like to compare different things. So we will look at a young white high school student from the suburbs and compare their marks/attitude/behaviour/sporting prowess and so on to a young black high school student who grew up in a township. There are just SO many factors of difference between the two things [access to knowledge, privacy to study, cultural experiences, parent proximity, connection to the internet, sufficient and healthy food…] that you really have to look a lot deeper before you compare them at all. If you find that you have a young white suburb student and a black township student arriving at the same place academically or in any of those other ways, then greater praise should be given to the black student as he has likely overcome a lot more.
i could go on. But the point is made.
To walk forwards confidently and healthily in South Africa today, i need to UNLEARN this racism that is in me. Which is one of the reasons why i see myself as a recovering racist. Not because i ever hated black people or actively was racist towards people of other races. But because in me there are things that i have been conditioned to think and actions i have learned from the society i grew up in [which, at age 42, started as an apartheid-embracing society] that are not true, that are not healthy and that are damaging to people of other races, and more significantly which are damaging to me.
UNLEARNing is the way to learn. And it is something i have to constantly be aware of and constantly be speaking to in myself, whenever i catch myself thinking a prejudiced thought or taking a prejudiced action. Whenever i find myself thinking i am better than someone else because i am white and they are not. Or expecting better treatment or anything else like that.
i do think it is important to say emphatically that i don’t think white people and black people are the same [if you look carefully you’ll notice that black people typically have a darker skin than white people who typically have a lighter skin so that’s a clue!] and how absolutely boring and uninteresting the world would be if we were. We are different, but we need to be equal. This is not the reality right now but it is what we are walking towards. And more and more of us need to be actively walking in that way. We have so much to learn and celebrate and experience to and with and from each other that the more bridges we manage to build the better. The more walls we are able to break down the better. The more UNLEARNing we are able to do the better.
i imagine that black people who have grown up in a world that constantly in so many ways told them that they were less than, need to UNLEARN the inferiority complexes that have been conditioned into so many of them. The inherent belief that was fed to them that white is better and that black is less than.
Hopefully i can find someone who can write something on that…