Last week on the hockey field, a masters player [meaning over 35 years old although this guy was easily 50] called me a Fucking Imbecile after an incident between us.
Later, after i had had a drink with my team and was walking to my car he came up to me and said something along the lines of, “I apologise for losing my temper!” i kinda half shrugged it off with a “Sure, buddy, whatever” and then proceeded to have the conversation i should have had with him in the car by myself all the way home.
It looks something like this:
Him: I apologise for losing my temper.
Me: Losing your temper on a hockey field is fine. Speaking to me in that way with those words is not. There is a ripping away of dignity when you call someone a “Fucking imbecile” to their face that a simple “I apologise if I did something wrong” does not erase. If you are losing your temper in such a way that it ends up with you using that kind of language face to face with someone [no matter what they did or didn’t do!] then you need to go and stand in front of a mirror and evaluate your life decisions and whether or not you should be playing hockey any more.
i stand by that. There are apologies and there are apologies. “Sorry if i did something that you were offended by” is one example of a non-apology. His apology might on some level have been sincere or at least seemed sincere to him, but it didn’t address the fact, even slightly, that his behaviour was unacceptable.
Let me preface the rest of this piece by reminding you that i don’t think anyone in life is irredeemable. Part of why i strongly don’t believe in the death penalty is because i believe every single person was created in the image of God and that there is God spark or potential in them. i do believe our choice gets thrown into the mix and we can end up looking very unGodlike indeed. And that should have consequences for sure. But i do believe there is an apology [that must be combined with a change of heart, words and action] that is able to pull any person back from any situation. My faith journey says that in extreme cases only if God intervenes is this likely, but for the most part, i believe people can and do change and can be saved from dark and evil places. But there has to be a change of behaviour for this to be in effect.
Cape Town has a Race Problem
Today, i am so adjective angry with Cape Town. i am livid and deeply disturbed at an incident that happened with a friend of mine, Mahlatse Mashua as he was driving his car today. He shared this as a status on Facebook and the gist of the incident is that he was forced to swerve into the next lane to avoid an accident and when he tried to return to the lane he had come from, he endured hectic violent and aggressive racism from more than one driver. Here are some of his words:
This morning, a minibus taxi cut in dangerously in front of me. To avoid an accident, I swerved to the open right lane. While trying to get back to the left lane, I endured (out of this world) racial abuse from drivers who had not seen and understood the context of my actions.
Two of the drivers had kids in their cars. Life lesson for those kids from their papas this morning: it’s ok to call black people “k******” and “monkeys”.
Cape Town – THIS IS NOT OKAY!
South Africa – THIS IS NOT OKAY!
And the upshot of the incident is that my friend Mahlatse manages to find the grace in himself to find grace and forgiveness and the perpetrators of the violence [because yes, it was a violent act!] carry on with their day as if nothing has happened. This truth was expressed so painfully by two of the commenters on Mahlate’s post:
The black man chose the high road of forgiveness for a perpetrator that never asked for forgiveness, sad truth! [Mnotho Khuluse]
The thing is it’s us who were wronged and continue being abused and yet it’s us who are expected to apologise and forgive all the time! The perpetrators are so arrogant and unremorseful! [Liberty Quinton Masasa]
Today i am angry with acts of racism that affect people i know [and those i don’t!] and i am angry that Cape Town continues to have a deserved reputation of being unfriendly to black, coloured and indian people. i am particularly angry with any of my friends who have jumped online and debated this truth with comments like “Can’t we all just move along and embrace the rainbow nation” and “Can we stop making everything about race?” and i am at the point of considering unfriending anyone who tries to express those ideas on posts in future because it is aggressive and violent in itself, in the way it refuses to recognise or listen to the stories of people who are being victimised still on a daily basis.
Apartheid has ended but its legacy lives on in so many lives and behaviours and thoughts and mindsets and actions of people in South Africa and Cape Town really does seem to be among the worst of these.
Yet at the same time, the Christ follower in me, recognises with great joy and hope, the ability for my friend Mahlatse to see a bigger kingdom picture in all this and even as he has every right to be angry and lash out and respond in kind, to quietly get down on his knees and grab the bucket of water and wash the dirty smelly repugnant feet of those who are victims of their own cancerous prejudice and continue to dream and work towards a better South Africa for all.
Here is Mahlatse’s status in full:
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This morning, a minibus taxi cut in dangerously in front of me. To avoid an accident, I swerved to the open right lane. While trying to get back to the left lane, I endured (out of this world) racial abuse from drivers who had not seen and understood the context of my actions. They thought I was just another driver who was trying to cut in the line. Some raw thoughts:
– I wish more people would go about their day conscious of the fact that their perspectives might not be the sum total of all reality. Also, knowing that context is important.
– I wish people would stop using “justice” as an excuse to justify their hatred and prejudice. The ease and depth of the racially abusive terms that were used towards me are not justified by a perceived sense of wrong.
– Social tensions often escalate by a factor of powerlessness and unchecked privilege. Watch out for these if you are ever involved in the work of mediation, they often tone up the narratives.
– We need to deal with issues now, forget the “this generation needs to die…” argument. Two of the drivers had kids in their cars. Life lesson for those kids from their papas this morning: it’s ok to call black people “k******” and “monkeys”.
– Perhaps he usefulness of traffic is its ability to catalyze the uncritical and unguarded expression of our anger. Take a snapshot of that and we might map out some of our social imagery that theory fails to capture.
– I’m grateful for Christ, who in addition to the many other gifts, teaches me that I’m not just something that history happens to. I’m an agent of change, secure and empowered, participating in His work of restoring, fixing, bringing life… to His cosmos. This is why I will also stand for those who through various circumstances of injustice, don’t have my privileges and still experience South Africa through a profound sense of a loss of dignity.
– It took me a while to get here, but thanks to Christ, I bless those drivers, praying for circumstances that will lead to real change in their attitudes.
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Mahlatse is my friend. He is my birthday twin [20 January, yeah!]. But more importantly, he is my family and if you come for him you come for me and you do not want to be there when that happens.
So right now i am pissed off, i am devastated, i am heart-broken and i am so frustrated and angry and tired of all the entitlement and arrogance and superiority and pride of people in Cape Town and beyond who refuse to acknowledge the problem or face their own prejudice or leverage their own privilege to be a part of making this country the land we all need it to be.
Cape Town, you need to do better! All of us need to do better! White people, in particular, we are lagging behind! This is not okay. And i am not going to stop. i will not be silent on this one. Deal with that or get out of the way…