Yesterday i shared a whole bunch of thoughts – mine and others – about the concept of #BlackMonday and wearing black to honour the lives of farmers who have died.
Two statuses i added later in the day, which many may not have seen, but which i think sum up some of my thoughts on the matter were this one:
People who have been murdered on farms is heart-breaking and horrific and i imagine that living on a farm right now might be quite a scary thing for many people, white and black.
People who have been murdered not on farms is heart-breaking and horrific and i imagine that living in some townships and some parts of the Cape Flats might be quite a scary thing for some people, black and coloured.
Neither of these deaths is more horrific to me than the other. Any thought, word or action that suggests one is, is as problematic and needs to be seriously reconsidered.
Followed by this one, more specifically to Christ followers who have not engaged with these things as deeply as maybe they should have:
As a person, i take all this murder, racism and nation-building stuff super seriously. But as a follower of Jesus it is all about taking “Love your neighbour as yourself” a lot more literally and seriously and realising i have a good ways to go.
What are people saying?
i received an email from a woman whose father was one of the farmers who has been killed on the farms asking me how she can respectfully honour her father with all the accusations of ‘white genocide myth’ that have challenged the whole idea of #BlackMonday. Which moved me deeply.
There can be a tendency to reduce situations like this to issues and be fighting on one side of the issue against people who are fighting on the other side of the issue. But we need to remember there are people involved. Families of people who have been murdered on a daily basis in South Africa, some who are linked to farms and many who are not.
i think what the people who are crying out – many in anger and frustration, some in confusion and despair – are saying… and i am talking on both sides of this argument… is “I want my pain to be acknowledged. I want my pain to count. I want the death of the person I love to matter.”
And i believe that if the people on either side of the debating, who can tend to be quite polarised by the fact that there is any debate at all, could hear the echo of their cry in the broken, trembling voice of “the other”, if they could truly realise that at the heart of it, the cry is the same, then we would be able to move towards each other and find a way to somehow grieve the injustice in this land together.
Do you see them?
What i hear a large number of angry black people saying is that when a death is black, say for example a township death, or when a death is coloured, say for example a gang-related death on the flats, then it doesn’t seem to matter as much as a white death.
What i hear a large number of angry white people saying [and while there are exceptions to this, predominantly the voices arguing for some kind of recognition of farm deaths have been white] is that the death of a farmer doesn’t seem to matter as much as a black or coloured death.
i think we have to take history into account as well and remember that for decades upon decades, black and coloured and indian lives were viewed as being less important than white lives and so black and coloured and indian deaths were viewed as less significant than white deaths.
But, are we able to hold all of those things together, as we look across at the person on the other side, can we drop our anger and our needing to be right and our comparing and our frustration and can we say. “I see you. I see the pain that is present in the death of your loved one. The murder of the person you love matters. I acknowledge that. I care about you in this moment.”
There is still a lot of work to be done in South Africa. There is still much balancing of privilege and wealth and opportunity and circumstance and so we recognise that and acknowledge that and will pick those things up again tomorrow and continue to fight together to see them dealt with. But is there a way to stop for a moment and just find each other in our mutual pain and fear and uncertainty about the future and even the present and say those words: “I see you. I see the pain that is present in the death of your loved one. The murder of the person you love matters. I acknowledge that. I care about you in this moment.”
Because maybe, just maybe, if we can find a space of sameness in the kind of pain that is brought about when we lose someone we love – because in that moment even if just for a moment nothing else really seems to matter as much or as deeply and can be forgotten about for a second – maybe, just maybe, when we have dried the tears and committed to move on, as the living have to do at some stage, then perhaps we can find each other beyond the pain and perhaps we can move towards seeing the present issues of disparity of incongruence of injustice and maybe through finding each other in the equality of importance of a death, we can start to move more genuinely into an equal appreciation of live and come to the conclusion that every life matters as well. And start making steps and plans and sacrifices and commitments to see that thought to its necessary conclusion.