Dear South Africa:
I wanted to write you a love letter, but it does not feel like a good idea right now. I want to write about hope but it just doesn’t feel like the right time. We keep talking about how far we have come and so many are saying we have not come far at all.
We are stuck, not simply because we can’t admit how deep in the shit we are, but because we are not sure how to explain or get ourselves out of this mess. We need to talk about race and class, we need to talk. I must confess though that I am beginning to believe that we have left the call to talk for too long, a collective amnesia of apartheid that allows so many white people to roll out that trope of “I was liberal during apartheid’ and “you don’t know what my family did / lost” while 20km’s down the road a child falls into a pit latrine and dies from asphyxiation.
The realities of South Africa and the extensive spatial dynamics (read apartheid if you are willing to) means that in Cape Town you can spend your days avoiding the grinding poverty that surrounds us based on the routes you choose to drive. I do not know that we have the time to talk, yet I still believe that we must.
A few years ago I remember Alan Storey, the Methodist minister, attending an anti-corruption march brandishing a banner that read: Keeping quiet about inequality is corruption. Those words burned into me, they challenged me, and that in and of itself is maybe the what I want to write to South Africa about: Dear South Africa please give your people the courage to challenge one another and to listen, to lament and critique and in doing this give us the courage to take that lament and to use that to re-energise. May we have the wisdom and the courage in 2018 to talk about race and land and fees and the excessive consumption and crass economic practices of the elite, may white people listen better and rather than ask for forgiveness may we live forgiveness.
In the words of the wisest of the Jedi: Dear South Africa, in 2018 do or do not, there is no try.