This past week i was contacted by a Facebook friend who told me he had been following me since my Truth mag days [an amazing magazine i used to write for]. Which was a long, long time ago in a galaxy much like ours.
Him and his wife have been out of the country for three years [dejavu] and have returned and are living in Cape Town and trying to educate themselves around topics of race and poverty and inequality and so on. He read Sobukwe’s story in ‘How can man die better?’ [a must-read in my opinion] and really enjoyed it and was asking some questions about how to proceed further.
He was one of the people i invited to this land and the church panel conversation i attended last night. Which got a little [slash a LOT!] disrupted in the end and was, i imagine, quite an uncomfortable space for someone who has not been in those kinds of spaces before.
After the meeting he was chatting to me about it being the first meeting he had been in where he felt so uncomfortable and yet decided to stay. But after getting home he later sent me a list of questions that the meeting had brought up for him and his wife relating to them as white people in South Africa. Nothing that was particularly directly related to the meeting, but some really amazing questions.
Which is the point i want to get to here.
At the very least, ask questions
i tend to write/share a lot of challenging things on a range of topics and it is easy to see when people dismiss stuff straight away because the questions causes them conflict or fear or anger or whatever. But i have so much respect for someone who sees something i post and asks themselves the hard questions, even if nothing changes as a result of it.
Obviously it’s greater if things do change, but my opinions on things are not going to be right all the time [shock, gasp, forgot to put a spoiler alert on that one] but just the fact that you have interrogated the information and asked some questions and really wrestled a bit with the stuff is a great start.
Sometimes i have shared an analogy about white privilege and someone gets it straight away and their mindset is changed forever.
But there have also been times where i have shared 100 analogies or thoughts about white privilege and it is the 100th time that something somehow clicks and the person gets it. We are all on different journeys and different things are going to inspire or challenge or cause us to wrestle or move us along or cause us to unlearn or rethink or take a step and so on. There is no formula about how this stuff works.
So when you read/watch/hear something that is jarring or causes some kind of reaction in you, my strongest plea is to ask the questions:
Is this right? Is this partly right? Is there something in me that this is speaking to? Is there something i need to change? Is there something i can learn her? Is there a step of action i need to take? Is there a further conversation that will be helpful? Is the defensiveness i feel rising up within me because this message is wrong or because it challenges or calls out something in me that needs to shift? Is there a belief in me that is only there because my parents or school or church taught it to me but i’ve never really wrestled with it for myself or understand why it is there or perhaps even why it shouldn’t be there?
Stand in front of the mirror
There are lots more. The point is not so much what question you ask, but simply that you don’t dismiss things without giving them due diligence.
Let me encourage you with that this week. If someone posts something on social media that causes anger or the feeling of instant dismissiveness, try to give it a little more time. Ask yourself where those feelings are coming from and if they are legitimate. Sometimes they will be and then you can move on and that’s fine. But there may be some ideas out there that given some time and proper attention may have something to inform you about on how you can live better for yourself and all of those around you.
Let’s at the very least ask the questions. “What if?” – What if this IS true? What if i AM wrong about this? What if the way i live is not conducive to bridge-building but actually works to put up barriers between me and people of other races and cultures? What if i have too much money to simply spend on me and mine? What if i should be living/working/churching/gymning/walking somewhere else? And more…
Oh, but be warned…