Who are your ‘my people’?
i was watching a typical exchange about some race issue on the book of face-offs yesterday when something struck me…
The man commenting – who happened to be an afrikaner – said something about “my people” – and the light bulb went on and started pulsating to a disco beat.
There is a very real problem for me when your “my people” all look the same or speak the same language or even would be grouped into the same economic class…
Who are your ‘My People’?
When South Africans start using the phrase “my people” to mean ‘the people of South Africa’ which includes Zulu and Xhosa and Indian and Coloured and Young and Old and Men and Women and Disabled and Deaf and and and… then we will be showing signs of having moved away from the Us vs. Them mentality that continues to occupy so much of our troubled online conversations and offline attitudes and actions.
What if the people of South Africa became your ‘my people’? Because they are mine. My people are Valerie Anderson. My people are Mahlatse and Lusanda Mashua and definitely Maisha, Amani and Rorisang Mashua. My people are Ashley Visagie and Helene Rossouw. My people are Jo Holroyd and Sam Mahlawe and Jess Basson and Ntobeko Mzolo. My people are Duncan Houston and Regan Didloff and Mike and Nancy Strauss and Mary Twin Enslin. My people are Debbie and Barry Austwick. My people are Keegan and Lindsay Davids and Garth Thomas and Dean George. My people are Zach Stewart and Bruce Collins and Megan Furniss and Shelley Finch and Jacqui Tooke and Rudzani Thangoane and Claudia Klaase and Ashley Brownlee and Philomène Luyindula Lasoen and Zamaswazi Hlope. My people are Andries Du Toit and Uel Maree and Alvin Fredericks and Kent-Leigh Davids. My people are Thandi Gamedze and Siphesihle Nopotwa and Thandi Refilwe-Rose Nkomo. And i’m not even getting to the end of getting started. But black and white and indian and coloured and young and old and Christ-following and not and refugee and teacher and lawyer and mom and musician and poet and introvert and extrovert and loud and soft and gentle and ragey and and and…
My people are South Africans… and beyond. i definitely have space for those outside our human-constructed boundaries. But the people where i am [currently South Africa] are at the very least the people who i will call ‘my people’. Anything less than that is divisive and unhelpful.
A room full of Bretts gets boring pretty quickly. As does a room full of sounds-like-Bretts or even looks-like-Bretts. But once you throw someone with a different sounding voice into the mix and add someone who has a strongly different opinion; once you mix in someone with mad guitar skills and have a Zach on the side converting the whole scene into a fantastic art piece; once you invite the smells of the food that comes from the indian family and let them blend with what the coloured couple brought; once you have the spectrum of shades of children mingling with each other on the floor and once you hear the laughter of the different cultural group representatives ringing out… then you have life and vibrance and diversity and opportunity for learning and sharing and listening and encountering and stepping towards and offering a shoulder and joining in the song and it all just becomes so incredibly beautiful and alive and wild and breath-taking.
Anything less is less.
It might be time to grow your people.
Shift up and create some space at the table.
Don’t see this as anything else but a good good thing.
A little messy perhaps, but we’ll get past that. Especially if we are working together.