This is a follow on from yesterday’s All Lives Smatter post so if you haven’t read that yet, start over there…
Some key thoughts from part I:
# It would have taken an absolute miracle for someone to grow up in apartheid South Africa and be completely not affected or indoctrinated by racism in some shape or form, hence my resonance with other white people who refer to themselves as Recovering Racist – not because we ever overtly hated people of colour but because in smaller and not so small ways we bought into the ideology that white was better or deserved more in some way…
# The #NotOnOurWatch tag and movement is the invitation to fellow white people in particular [but ultimately everyone] to commit ourselves daily to step into moments of racism that play out in front of us [whether online or in real life] in word, thought or deed and say “That is not okay!” gently but boldly [or just boldly, depending on the situation]. To refuse to ever again let something happen in the space we inhabit without at least attempting to interrupt it or draw attention to it in some way.
# The idea that those of us who are fighting against our own prejudice and trying to help others to see the truth can fall into believing these fallacies even if only subtly:
All black people have been equally wronged and are innocent and are right in everything and have no elements of racism [or prejudice in them].
All white people have been equally guilty of wrong and are wrong in everything and are overtly racist [and prejudiced].
# The Smattering concept which is that within any race or people group in South Africa [or any country] there is a sliding scale of where people are in terms of racism and prejudice where you get people of all colours who are mostly racist, mediumly racist and hardly racist.
With the last point in mind, we have to be very careful of broadstrokes statements that begin with words like “All black people…” and “All white people…” cos they very likely are not completely true, which just brings the whole statement into disrepute.
i think it’s important and helpful to look a little deeper at the BOTH/AND vs EITHER/OR philosophy because i suspect that trips us up a lot.
# The idea that someone can both have a black friend and still be inherently racist [Thus proving that “I have a black friend” is in no way a helpful response to someone suggesting that you are racist or are sharing a racist viewpoint, ideology or acting out in a way that can be viewed as racist].
# The idea that we can completely celebrate the work of the ANC in terms of helping destroy apartheid [at least as a legal entity] while still feeling aggrieved at some of the present leadership, government corruption and in particular holding Jacob Zuma to account.
# The idea that Nelson Mandela did some great good but not all good for this country – this is a huge one as there seem to be two extreme camps on this – the ‘Nelson Mandela can do no wrong’ camp and the ‘Nelson Mandela did all wrong’ camp and i’m not sure that either of those is helpful or even truthful. Is it possible for us to recognise the good that he did do [which was largely relational, international and helped prevent bloodloss on all sides during what were considered to be potentially violent elections in 1994] as well as hold up where he fell short [economic restitution, the question of land and perhaps some other areas], thus leaving him with a significant but flawed legacy which we can learn from [where it was helpful] and unlearn [where it was counter to what was needed] and move forwards from.
These are just three examples of choosing a BOTH/AND over an EITHER/OR – i do think there are times when it has to be EITHER/OR but more often than not one extreme does not hold the monopoly on truth. We need to be people who are constantly on the look out for where the truth we hold to might have a gap and how we can learn even from people we fundamentally disagree with.
REIGN IN YOUR OWN PEOPLE
My friend Walter Pike reminded us of this:
I take my lead from Biko who says white people should be educating white people, and some white people can only hear from white people.
As a white person this feels like my major responsibility. Well it should always start with me having a long stare in the mirror and then asking others who are journeying along with me to help point out my blind spots. Because i am definitely on a journey and have a lot to learn and unlearn and put into practice and i must never think i have ‘made it’ – i may never make it in my lifetime.
But then the onus is for me to speak to white people. i learnt this early on when a person of colour said that they have had to live with the causes and effects of racism their whole life and now they are expected to educate white people as well? That brought it home to me quite strongly. It is not fair to expect people of colour to have to educate us and others like us how not to be racist.
What has been hard in this conversation for me is when a black person steps out of line and any question of that or accountability is pushed back on those questioning as racist or problematic… from Jacob Zuma [Nkandla, corruption etc] to someone like Xola Skosana [a former pastor who has made statements that sound very much like advocating for violence and even death on white people]. i think my current thinking on the matter [and this is definitely a work in progress and i am asking for help on this so please comment] is that the best case scenario is for white people to speak to white people and people of colour to people of colour [when it comes to challenge/accountability/calling out etc].
i think it is likely to be heard better. i think the chance of distractionary elements is fewer [a white person calling out a black person, there always will be the question of is it a race thing, which you won’t have when black person calls out black person]. i think there is some element of ‘let’s all take care of our own first’ when it comes to challenge and accountability and calling out.
However, what happens when it is not there? So Xola Skosana making some very direct and dangerous statements [back when he was still a pastor and now] and not seeing a lot of black people stepping in and saying, “You have crossed the line. That is not helpful.” Is there a time and space for me as a white person to step in and interject [although in that specific case, there are white friends of mine who have/had relationship with Xola who would have been better people in the circumstances to step in and say something, and some did]?
A key point in all that i think, is that relationship is key. So Relationship First can be a rule we look at. i am far more likely to listen to my wife Val or my mate Duncan than i am to listen to some random stranger of Facebook chastising me. Because they have earned the right to speak into my life. If we are not cultivating the relationships we have with people of colour [for the purpose of being friends, not for the purpose of being up to date with race conversations] then we can’t hope to understand or be able to speak into them with authority.
i have to say that my friend Sindile Vabaza on Facebook is the one person i know who somehow has managed to circumvent this whole issue and i really wish we could bottle what he has. Perhaps it because he is black and therefore speaking as a person who has been oppressed that allows him to speak up against the oppressors while at the same time, because he is black it comes easier to him [probably not easy at all – he has his share of push back and yet somehow still manages to keep on at it] to be open and honest about black people.
i know some white people who speak to white people really well [those who do it gently and those who do it quite forcefully] and have learned a lot from them.
i know some black people who speak to black people really well [those who do it gently and those who do it quite forcefully] and have learned a lot from them.
But Sindile somehow manages to speak to both groups, with authority, with truth, with directness and with passion. i don’t always agree with everything he says but i have found the majority of what he says to be super helpful and hopeful and instructive.
Let me stop there. This all feels a little jumbled, but hopefully some of what i am trying to get across is making sense. Any thoughts/questions/agreements or disagreements? Please let’s engage in the comments…