Having received your marching hors d’oeuvre…

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Having received your marching hors d’oeuvre…

If this last week was the first time you ever did anything in terms of protest then THAT IS AMAZING.

Well done. Good for you. That’s really great. At the same time it is very possible that it also sucks that it took you so long. i fall into that category. For the last two and a half years i have been going on about this stuff in terms of writing and engaging with people on social media and attending a number of different marches and hosting dinners and more. But before we left for Americaland for three years, for a period of thirty or so years, i did relatively nothing.

i’m not proud of that. But i also don’t carry around shame for that. While i can’t go back further in time to start campaigning for equal rights and living  and working conditions for all South Africans, i HAVE to do my best to make sure i make the most of all the opportunities i have to do so now.

This goes for you as well. If you only got around to doing something this week for the first time, you can’t go back and join a #FeesMustFall march, you can’t say or do more about Marikana in terms of reacting to it as it happened, and you can’t go and spend time with 19-year-old Sinoxolo Mafevuka’s family in the aftermath of her body being discovered in a Khayelitsha toilet.

But there will be more you can do with regards to education… and there will be opportunities to point back to Marikana as it relates to present day situations [something like Napoleon Webster being wrongfully detained in prison] and there is definitely a lot to be done with regards to sanitation in townships. You probably can’t do everything – none of us can- but you have to do something.

…the most crucial thing for everyone who moved a little bit out of their comfort zones last week is WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! 

Consistency quote

There has been A LOT said on and off social media this last week about the way we protest or don’t protest or should we or are we even allowed to if we never have before… and while there are some valid questions in all of that, what’s going to be key for the sake of your integrity is what you do – or don’t do – next.

If you were someone who wore black on Monday or who did decide to march or be part of the human hand-holding-chain on Friday and you never protest again or change your behaviour or engage in conversation or do anything different from how you lived before, then chances are good that you wasted your time [besides all the pictures you might have to show for it].

What IS going to be next for you? i would love to hear some of the things some of you plan to do. One example was shared by my sister-in-law Shana in this post of reflections from march day.

One thing i am going to be doing is heading to Durban tomorrow for two weeks to engage with 200 or more different people on various aspects of race. We will be hosting three Deep Dive Conversation Dinners as well as one Generosity Dinner. Val and i will also be co-hosting a 50-70 people lunch workshop around matters of race, i will be doing some Improv training and conversation with some students who perform Justice Productions as well as one or two informal conversations.

i am also busy working on a book about race for white people and hoping to be able to focus more deeply on that when we get home from Durban and see if we can bring that together as quickly as possible.

Part of the giving that tbV and i do is very much Justice related. So finding an individual or family or organisation or combination of them that you can give towards, that you know is working towards justice, or where your giving can become a small form of restitution or empowering.

i am committed to continuing to read books written by people who look different to me, whether that is people of colour or women or people from different faith or culture backgrounds. And specifically making books from or about South Africa a priority.

i would love to suggest that if you are serious about change in South Africa, that you get hold of Robert Sobukwe ‘How can man die better?’ and Steve Biko ‘I write what I want’. i would also like to strongly encourage you to grab a bunch of friends and go and watch Kalushi, which is showing at the Labia this week, as well as other cinemas around the country i believe. 

kalushi movie poster

Embody the idea of #NotOnOurWatch which is a commitment to refusing to allow racism to pass by unchallenged in front of you, whether online or offline. Speak up. Insert yourself. Let everyone know that THAT IS NOT OKAY. It can be done gently or calmly. Or sometimes it might need to be done loudly and angrily. But it has to become a culture we develop as all South Africans. That when people speak or act in ways that are belittling or dehumanising or harmful to others, they will be challenged.

We will refuse to stand by and let these things be experienced as normal. Especially on whatsapp neighbourhood watch groups. If you are someone wanting to defend neighbourhood watch groups, don’t even bother – i have heard too many stories – no it’s not all of them, but it is a LOT of them. Don’t let them get away with it.

Some maybe harder things for some of us, but worthwhile things to consider doing include the following:

# Learn about your privilege. That word scares a lot of people off. But it doesn’t have to. You are not blamed for having privilege, because most of the time it happens just by the luck of who you are. [So for me each aspect of me being male, white, able-bodied, Christian and heterosexual grant me different forms of privilege]. When it comes to race, check out this post and the related articles. i find the cartoons in particular super helpful. When it comes to privilege i firmly believe the three stages to pursue, which may overlap are – Recognising Privilege, Acknowledging Privilege and then Levering that Privilege to benefit those who don’t have it.

# Lose the Defensiveness. If you are truly wanting to make and be a difference in South Africa, then you will put yourself in places [online and off] where someone is going to say something offensive to you. Sometimes that will be because there is something in them that needs to change and sometimes it will be because there is something in you that needs to change. When you read/hear something that offends you, try and train yourself to pause… ask yourself: Was that true?

If the answer is No, then ask yourself: No wait, really, was that true? Am I the problem here? If the answer remains no, then choose to engage with the statement, rather than reacting to it. It would be helpful for a lot of people on social media – myself included – if we had a ‘Don’t respond for two hours’ policy in place. So if something offends you, save it for later, chew on it for a bit and then come back and respond later. Even if the thing is still offensive to you, you might be able to better manage some of the emotion around it if you give it some time.

# Learn and Repeat the mantra: THIS. IS. NOT. ABOUT. ME. 

If we could all get this one right, we would immediately halve all the issues on social media and be more open to learning from each other. Phrases like White Fragility and White Tears are there because of our tendency [maybe as people in general, but definitely with white people] to make every issue, statement, post about ourselves and then throw in the defensiveness from above, usually missing any points that may in fact have something to do with us changing or unlearning or shifting perspective. This thing is much bigger than you.

Again, if a statement doesn’t relate to you, instead of firing off a “Not all whites” or “Not all men” response – issues and generalisations tend to go hand in hand because they are generally true, not because they are true in all cases, so the “Not all” goes without saying – take a moment to see who is does relate to, and whether it might be true or not for them.

# Create or find physical spaces to dialogue and debate these things around meals or activities where you can intentionally spend a lot of time diving deeply into these topics with a variety of people. If you’re a parent, start engaging with your children around justice and race issues – you may be surprised at how much you will learn.

# If you employ people in your home or garden, work towards paying a living wage where possible and not merely a minimum, this translates directly into improving people’s ability to survive and advance themselves and their family.

# Learn a South African language besides English or Afrikaans. This may not be an act of anti-racism itself, yet the importance of language cannot be stated enough. Ubuntu Bridge, Xhosa Fundis, Funda Isifundo are all great groups, even apps are available. Organise to do courses with a group of friends to stay committed and make practice easier.  

# Volunteer. Find a group near you that is serving justice and not simply degrading charity, and volunteer some of your time, money or skills. Give some thought and conversation engagement to the possible differences between Charity and Justice.

# Lastly, if you are a follower of Jesus and part of a church congregation, i would love for you to speak to your leaders about Jesus and Justice – look out for some of the messages that are going to come out of the recent Justice Conference soon. Speak to me if you want to find out how you can maybe get some Deep Dive Race Conversations happening at your church. Ask your leaders what Jesus and the bible have to say to the current situation in South Africa, particularly with regards to the poor and marginalised. If they refuse to engage with you on these things, you may want to consider going somewhere where they won’t.

Consistency is key. If this last week was a once off for you, you have wasted your time. If you got it wrong this last week in any way at all, there are more than enough opportunities in the day to day and also in the long term to get it a little bit more right. The level of engagement of South Africans this past week was for me higher than i have seen since 1994 probably and that excites me. As long as we keep moving forwards.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika!

Consistency quote

Equality Equity Reality

By | 2017-04-10T10:30:48+00:00 April 10th, 2017|activities, inspire-ations, South Africa, things to wrestle with|13 Comments

About the Author:

Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.


  1. Jodi April 11, 2017 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    I have a few questions:

    1. What do you mean by equality? Must everyone live in the same sized house and eat the same foods even if one is working 20 hours a day as a doctor and another is on a sassa grant? If thats the case the doctor would also just quit and live off the dole. So can you explain what you mean by this and how you see it in the end. I don’t really think its realistic even with good intentions. THere will always be rich and poor.

    2. You talk alot about crime in the poor squatter communities. I can understand there would be theft and that sort of thing, but why murders and rapes? These are not poor-related, but rather evil related.

    • brettfish April 12, 2017 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Jodi, thanks for stopping by. i think you will note that i used equality and equity and the cartoon at the bottom gives some idea of what i mean – each person having the same sized box [equality] doesn’t help if the one guy is really small and the one guy really tall so making sure everyone has at least the bare minimum they need to live well would be a good start…”

      i don’t know that i’m suggesting full on communism/socialism where each person has one room, one shirt and one apple but i am definitely suggesting that where one person has a five bedroom mansion and a pool and helicopter and gourmet meals and trips overseas in business class and another person lives in a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin that something needs to be done – and there is a lot of extreme disparity in South Africa which i would love to see addressed – maybe we could figure out some extreme minimals [like a flush toilet for every person within the structure they live in] and access to enough food and perhaps some extreme maximums – can’t have more cars than people, can’t have more toilets than people in your house, don’t get to have a holiday house while someone has to sleep outside…

      So there can be wealthy and less wealthy but at the moment with situations of extreme poverty and injustice there is much work to be done. Some people live with ridiculous wealth and comfort and i don’t know the steps towards changing that but i just know it has to happen.

      Your second question would need a dinner conversation at least and a lot of research cos it is so multi-layered – it is not as if people born in townships are evil so they rape and people born with wealth are not and so they don’t [you find that rappens in all areas of society – how did a movie like 50 Shades of Grey which encourages stalking and sexual predatory behaviour become such a big hit worldwide? Because of messed up people, not messed up poor people] – there are just so many layers and it’s unhelpful to break it down so simply… but if the people in the townships had access to good sanitation and decent food and jobs that recognised dignity and helped them look after their children, their would be less being drawn to negative behaviours caused by the offset of all those previous things…

      We need to keep engaging and wrestling with these things.

  2. Jodi April 12, 2017 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Okay, I agree that the rapist part could be debated as there is date rape among all races. Now regarding the poverty thing, if one guy saves up his money, spends it wisely and lives conservatively, then say he is never married and by the time he is 50, he has say R2 million, a paid for house in say Tableview or an area not too upmarket, a car, say a BMW or R300 000 car. So lets call this guy Joe – he can be any race. He will be living in quite good comfort and looking to retire at 60 with say R3 million or R4 million.

    Now on the other hand there is a woman who can be white or black, but she has say 3 kids by the time she is 24 and then by the time she is 50, her kids have 3 kids each, now this is her plus 3 kids plus 9 kids. This is 13 people. So these 13 will be living in poorer conditions generally as resources are used for daily food, expenses.

    I think you get the idea of the above, its hypothetical, but in many countries its something we must think about. Yes, apartheid could have made them uneducated or not know about saving and all, or it could be cultural. It could be a lot of factors, but does this mean that the guy who saved and never had a family (no kids to look after him either which is risky), must give up his car, house and money and sit in a government RDP house worth R500 000 and drive a 3rd hand VW which needs lots of attention?

    So to what extent can the woman blame social injustice on her predicament? Is the man also not a product of the system (no kids, no wife, lonely)?

    If one looks only at housing, money, food in isolation then its easy to say, “hey lets all have toilets”. But if the man as one toilet, then for the other 13 people, toilets are also needed – you’d need to take a lot from the man to provide these 13 toilets, even if they share toilets 2 per person. Then the woman will also have that security of a family which the man doesn’t have. Its hard to explain, but I think you can work out what I mean here. If one has kids, then most of the time its a choice with consequences.

    So 13 people vs 1, that 1 guy will need to give up plenty to make sure the other 13 have toilets. THe 13 could all be rocket scientists and making billions, but almost all of the time they would tend towards poverty (especially in SA if you are a black person, or even poor white).

    So my question is, with an increasing population, how does inequality ever get fixed if there are 9 percent white beneficiaries of apartheid but an ever increasing black population who are victims of apartheid? Even with all good intentions, how would 1 person fix the problems of 10? In general i mean as there are many successful blacks, and poor whites too. Is it even possible? Its starting to look like to have inequality, a white person needs to be living in a one bedroom flat with one toilet (I don’t need more than one lol), and driving a VW at 60 with nothing set aside for old age. This though is enough to make people retire at an early age as there is no incentive to work to get a house, more reliable car, retirement etc…

    For yourself, what are you planning on doing for retirement? When you reach 60, which could be in say 25 years time, what are your plans? Will you rely on government medication, housing or would you hope to have money saved? So it would be nice to fix everything, but is it even doable with a growing population? What happens when the 3 kids have 3 more then its 1 guy and a lady with 3 kids, 9 grandkids and 27 great you get the picture. Is it not a choice between money and family for us all? Whites included? So these are things on my mind.

    I agree that apartheid caused a lot of problems, but just don’t see solutions other than starting over in another country.

  3. Jodi April 12, 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    If its just me and I have 10 000 rands and 2 toilets, I’d gladly make sure that another guy has a toilet and I only have 1.

    But what do I do if there is just me and 10 others? I cannot afford for them to all have toilets.

    So I then just give up you see. So I think that is where most white people are at these days.

    Yes, Oppenheimer, Motsepe, Rhamaposa and Wiese etc.. and the super rich could buy us all toilets!

    Maybe this is where we need to look. Not the average Joe soap, but these guys with billions.

    • brettfish April 12, 2017 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Maybe it’s a kind of both/and rather than either/or – systems and structures that make it harder for people to get out of poverty need to be dismantled while we need to figure out what each of us can do to help improve the lives of others – your comments smack of US vs THEM mentality which is not helpful at all. My suggestion would be to seek out some deep friendships with people of colour who are different to you and then these will no longer be issues or projects but real relationship opportunities… you wouldn’t let your family member or good friend squat over a bucket so make some new friends…

  4. Jodi April 13, 2017 at 11:47 am - Reply

    I do have black friends from highschool, and I have helped them (their families) in the past. It is an US vs/and/or THEM mentality as that is what most of your blog is about if I read many of your posts. The words “black” and “white” are all over your blog pages. I know its to highlight inequality, so there is a US and THEM mentality for most of the country from all races it seems.

    I have say 3 black friends and yes I’ve helped 2 of them. I have maybe 5 white friends and helped one of them. So I like to consider myself as non-racist but I am advantaged as I have an education which most do not have. So I agree with you there that we are advantaged.

    I just don’t understand how we can fix things if its such a huge amount that dont have toilets (lets use this as an example). For every one have, there are 8 have-nots. So that one can maybe help 3 others, but what about the other 5? Then as years go by it will be say 1 to 12 or…. 1 to 20? Who knows. So my question is can we help them all? How? It is also not just about a toilet, its plumbing, piping, infrastructure, sewage disposal that needs to be considered. So maybe it costs more than we think.

    You presumed that I do not have friends of colour. So you should maybe apologize for this incorrect assumption. Now I ask what you do to help provide toilets? How much sacrifice do you make?

    If you look at those cartoons above, it should actually be one guy standing on 50 crates. 10 guys standing on 2,3,4,5 crates, 20 guys standing normally and maybe 300 guys standing in holes. This would give a more accurate depiction. 🙂

  5. Jodi April 13, 2017 at 11:48 am - Reply

    So what I’m saying is there are not enough crates to go around among the middle class (you and I). I can maybe give a crate or two, but then I am on my own two feet.

    We need to look at the guys with 50 crates.

    • brettfish April 15, 2017 at 10:27 am - Reply

      It is a terrible stance to arrive at a place and say, ‘Because i cannot help everyone, i will help no-one’ – sure it looks overwhelming but let’s look at it from a different perspective. If 50 people are without toilets and we help two people to have toilets then 48 people are without toilets and so we have ended up in a better space than we started.

      We definitely need to look at the people with 50 crates but we don’t have to wait to give up our second crate before they start giving up theirs, especially if they may never give up their crates. Once we have four people on one crate then maybe together the four of us can think more creatively about how to get crates for the others… BOTH/AND not EITHER/OR…

  6. Jodi April 13, 2017 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Bill Gates is worth around 100 billion dollars. This is R1 400 000 000 000. A lot of zeros. He could give everyone in SA, about R30 000! Crazy hey. But thats Bill gates. What is more crazy is the super rich in SA considering the difference in richest and poorest – Rhamaposa, Motsepe, Murdock, Oppenheimer, Wiese.

  7. Jodi April 13, 2017 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Inequality. Sometimes difficult as many in rural areas don’t want hitech gadgets, modern cars. They just want shelter, food, toilets, some tv and braaing with friends. They don’t want more education as they don’t desire more.

    Some in the cities want all the trappings of modern western culture.

    I think we as humans need to look at what we want. I agree basic rights are important. But even that is difficult to get right if one guy has to pay for 10 others basic rights.

    Although western trappings are not good, they do drive the economy and create desire and motivation which in turn allows for basic needs to be met for most.

    You should consult with an economics professor and try to work out the above in a scientific way.

    • brettfish April 18, 2017 at 6:19 am - Reply

      i would be interested to hear why you think people in rural areas want only the things you mention here – is that from experience or relationship, or is that merely your perception?

  8. Anatomy of a march - Brett Fish April 15, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

    […] [For a focus and some ideas of what to do now after last week, click here] […]

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