i absolutely love the people in and around my life.
It really does feel like a gift and on top of any male or white or anything else privilege that i recognise and acknowledge, the privilege of quality people is one i am most grateful for.
The other night a new friend Mzi was visiting Cape Town from Joburg and we got to have dinner with him and spend an evening just chatting and reflecting on life and race and religion and how the word ‘hostility’ being so close to the word ‘hospitality’ can lead to hilarious outcomes when a guest uses the wrong word [hopefully!] in a parent’s guestbook after staying for a few days. It was just a completely incredible evening and i learnt a lot about the process of how a smiley goes from the market to the table [if you don’t know what a smiley is, you need to use the google, yo!] and how to navigate the process when he takes me to experience one next time he visits.
Earlier the day before i was sitting with an incredible group of friends, most of whom are part of BottomUp and who do some incredible work in some of the schools on the Cape Flats. We were putting together a plan for a Public Speaking group that they have started with the schools they work with that i am going to be helping out with. One of those friends is a guy called Ashley Visagie who is one of the most passionate people i know about education and South Africa and seeing a more equitable and just country for all. Ashley is one of the people i play board games with a lot but i don’t think it’s possible to spend time with him and not end up, at some point, having a deep and meaningful conversation about something [where likely the word ‘pedagogy’ is thrown into the mix and i once again nod and smile deliberately as if i know what’s going on at that point!].
During the week my good friend and birthday twin Mahlatse sends me a piece of a spoken word he is working on [“For Your Eyes Only”] for a talk he is preparing and the content and wordplay and delivery just blow me away and make me want to assume the foetus position and rock back and forth and not even attempt to speak my words in that way.
i mean, i could go on – my friend Rene, the fifty-year-old [you would never say] coloured priest who preached a message on Sunday crafting words and questions and reflections so well together that no one could just go home with a “nice message” and never think about it again or the responsibility it calls each one of us to in terms of connecting what we have with what the need around us is; my friend Keegan [who lets me call things ‘gran’ even when i barely ever use it right except that one time and if you don’t know what ‘gran’ is you need to look it up, yo!] who is busy running a theology and life academy [pretty much] whose students hosted an evening this week displaying how each of them have been able to take the same work and input and drastically differentiate it by incorporating it into their specific contexts and characters. While he sits in the background quite happy to let them have the mic and the attention and look good on the evening…
Who gets to sit at your table?
When i think of all the presence of colour in my life i am blown away. How did i get so lucky that these incredible people let me spend time with them and actually seem to like me and enjoy it? The last thing i want to pursue is this notion of ‘colourblindness’ that so many people call for [usually the “can’t we stop making everything about race?” crowd let’s be honest]. Firstly, because it is impossible and if not then i don’t know that i ever want to drive with you [if you can’t tell red from green i am not looking forward to that first traffic light we encounter].
But secondly, because the colour and the difference and the distinctness and the different flavours that accompany being colour-aware and colour-appreciative are what add so much life and adventure and nuance and flavour to the journey.
i LOVE the colour that surrounds me and encourages me and challenges me and calls me out and holds me accountable and just holds me sometimes.
This feels somewhat more significant for white people [who make up less than nine percent of the population] than black people although hopefully all of us are investing in relationships with people not like us [not just race but across the spectrum, although race is an important one]. For white people to only ever be sitting down with white people feels somewhat intentional, whereas obviously for black people it’s much less of a deal.
i wonder how you are doing on this one? If you had to think back to the last five people or families you had a meal with or the last five people you went out for coffee with, would that tell any kind of story? And if not, is there perhaps some work that you should be thinking about doing there?
When i look back at just this last week and who i have been around or interacted with or sat with a mind-blowing attention nearby i am so deeply saddened by some of the extreme levels of racism that still exist in this country [which is why we can’t “just move along already” – just because something is not real for you does not mean it is not real for countless other people in the same country who aren’t as well-shielded] but maybe even equally so, i am devastated by any comment or look or attitude from one person to a person of another race that suggests in any way that “I am better than you!” When it happens in family or friends or when it happens online or in an overheard conversation or an incident in the line in the supermarket, it just breaks me, because it is so so so untrue and just so completely unjust and malicious.
With racial comments or conversations there is usually this sense or often actual statement of “those people” that works itself into the words, which is a highly illuminating comment because it instantly creates an Us vs. Them divide or distinction and usually with a sense of condescension or superiority or arrogance or something that suggests a looking down on.
The moment you have relationship, or even the start of relationship, the “those people” disappears and suddenly you begin to have understanding and empathy and compassion and curiosity and interest and wonder and so much more.
So please keep your ‘colourblindness’ to yourself! Rather give me being colour aware or colour celebrationary or colour appreciative, because a world of only one colour is a world that i certainly do not want to be a part of.