There is a hashtag that reads #NotOnOurWatch – if you’ve been around for a bit you’ve probably seen me write it or heard me speak about it.
Well as heavy winds rip trees out and strong rains lash Cape Town far and wide, i am hopeful that more and more the movement is starting to take place.
My friend Joanne Peers [who is quite a legend when it comes to processing all kinds of issues with her family and then using social media well to being others into the conversations – thankx Jo!] started it off by posting this as her status;
Do you have a domestic worker? Give them the day off on Wednesday. This is a tiny but helpful way to make a difference. #everydayadvocacy
i saw it and shared it and then my share suddenly had a whole bunch of shares. tbV shared it as well and suddenly her post had 19 shares. People started responding by saying, “I’m doing this!” and some very positive peer pressure started to spread.
Joanne then commented on my share:
“Brett it took a few explanations and methods of convincing for Nosibu to fully understand that she didn’t have to come to work. She was soooooo concerned that she might lose her job. It was shameful to know that her experience of working relationships is one of doubt & uncertainty. Here I am at school and didn’t even consider my job security when I heard that schools are closed tomorrow. We have so much structural injustices to rescript in SA.”
Which is just such a good reminder that we still have a long way to walk together in this country. What saddens me deeply is so many people who refuse to even engage with race conversations or try to understand white privilege beyond their flawed idea that it means whites have all the stuff and didn’t do anything to earn it and need to fill up with white guilt. i am hoping that these videos will in some way draw new people in to the conversations so that they can see that it is really all about all of us working together to build a better country.
But i am excited that i am seeing more evidence that #NotOnOurWatch is growing in different places and ways. A movement of people who commit to interrupting racism and prejudice whenever they see it, whether online or off, in gentle or more firm ways. i remember telling the story of my first quite in-your-face encounter of taking a #NotOnOurWatch stand publicly which is one way this has to happen, but then seeing a status that makes a lot of sense and sharing it with your people and encouraging them to act justly is a much less confrontative but seriously as valuable way. This revolution needs to take place and small and wide scale fronts and we need to keep at it.
i had this conversation with my friend Trevor which looked at #NotOnOurWatch and his concerns that we might be alienating people with our approach and so we need to be mindful of that. There are definitely times we need to tread gently to encourage engagement, but there are other times when regardless of how the person bringing the offence responds, we need to let them know that is not okay.
One of the ways we can #NotOnOurWatch effectively is by learning how to say people’s names properly. And calling others to do the same. It is not okay to make someone else change their name so that you can pronounce it more easily. Do some work. Tame your tongue.
This is not a sprint.
This really doesn’t have to be a fight. But it does have to be intentional and ongoing. Constant.
What amazes me is how so many people expect that in 23 years [where there really is not a lot of evidence of movement from white people as a whole towards black, coloured and indian people as a whole – for most white people not a lot changed post ’94] the work of decades and then add in centuries of colonialism on top of that, would simply be wiped out.
Some laws changes. Hearts tend to move more slowly. We can see that in Americaland. It’s not a done deal. It’s waking up today and one more time committing to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Committing to facing what needs to be done instead of avoiding, denying or trying to justify it. It’s about not becoming defensive but being open to small ways of making a difference and on the lookout for bigger ways where systems and structures and the things in place that keep the status quo can be tackled and dismantled and protested and shut down.
And of course the biggest key in this whole thing [i honestly feel like fixing racism if we were all serious is such an easy win] is building and prioritising deep friendships with people who don’t look like you. That really is it. Like all of it. Because it naturally becomes the instigator of everything that follows from then on.
If there is an issue to solve i might care about it and i might try and make a difference and i might fight for it once in a while when i feel like it and i have the time or energy… but when my friend has an issue, when my friend is living in filth, when my friend has to change her name to make it more palatable for you, when my friend is refused access at a restaurant, then it becomes personal and i will do anything to make sure justice is done.
We need more friends who don’t look like us. Not so that we will have more friends who don’t look like us. But because we gain and learn and give and share so much when we develop intimacy with different people and not looking like us is one difference that brings a whole new aspect to story and lived experience and perspective and so much more.
Also i don’t know that i know anyone who genuinely has good friendships with someone of a different race who will ever refer to the collective group of that different race as “those people” – intimate friendships walk us away from othering. Not instantly. That too is a journey and it might be long and painful and include awkward and uncomfortable and tense moments. But that’s just relationship in any form right?
Let’s keep on doing better people. We got this.