I have been following your #WhatCanIdo campaign with distanced interest. I have dipped in and out of the discourse without committing to it thoroughly for a number of reasons. I’ll explain some of them briefly.
1. It may be arrogant of me, but I think I am out of the starting blocks in regard to #WhatCanIdo. I acknowledge my whiteness, try to be an ally and I am vocal in calling out racism and pseudo-liberal rainbow-nationism. I am still learning isiXhosa but have stopped virtue signalling about it.
2. I hate repeating myself, and I find some of the people who engage with you irritatingly naïve and whiny. I leave them to you to deal with kindly. I have no patience to go over some of the most obvious things, particularly since most of the more combative people seem to be trying to ‘catch you out’, instead of having a genuine question. I can’t do the work for them.
3. Facebook, especially but not exclusively, often loses nuance. Irony, sarcasm, and even wit can be forsaken. The danger here is that everything becomes triggeringly earnest and white teary. (I have the same problem with vegans on Facebook.) Also, armchair activism is vital but it does allow for the deviant side tracker to take centre stage. An example is the despised #notall movement.
One of the other things I have noticed about your #WhatCanIdo campaign is that most of the suggestions (other than the social one, which I did interact with) are about changing thoughts rather than behaviour. This is great on paper, but doesn’t necessarily translate into doing.
Here is what I would like to suggest. If white people are genuine in their ask, then I would like them to go to their place of work and motivate for me and you to come and run a Being White workshop in their company. This is exclusively for white people. Black people do not need these workshops and shouldn’t have to explain to white people what they need. I want white bosses, HR managers, CEO’s MD’s and even team leaders to literally put their money where their mouths are and commit to doing these workshops which will teach them what to do and how to do it in the workplace, at home and in this country, where the minority still holds the power and still demands answers from the victims of racism, disenfranchisement, and poverty. White people have the power, money, time and space to do this work, but they aren’t doing it. This is the answer. Do it.
I look forward to many responses.
Let’s do the work.
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Megan Furniss is a South African born playwright, actor, writer, director, teacher, facilitator and improviser. She has spent her life involved in theatre and make-believe.
Megan graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1986 and worked as an actress and director before starting her own improvisation troupe in Cape Town.
She has written and co-written numerous plays and musicals, performed and directed theatre and she improvises and teaches improv. She has self published a novel, and writes short stories for competitions.
For the past twenty-five years Megan has headed up an industrial theatre company Improvision, creating bespoke theatre for all sorts of clients, to deliver a range of important live messaging. Clients include Engen, ABSA, BP, NSFAS, Indigo, Portnet, and SAB, to name a few.
However, it is Megan’s level of expertise and passion for improvisation that has taken her into the world of facilitation, working with many companies to shift thinking and feeling. She has partnered with Aephoria to work with Engen, Anglo Gold Ashanti, done diversity role playing for BAT, led improvisation workshops for Kaos Pilots, Vodacom, and Mandela Rhodes Place, and she trains actors and ‘regular people’ on an ongoing basis.
Brett graduated from The Cape Town Teacher’s Training College in 1996 with a Teacher’s Diploma and has spent many years since then working with youth and students in various churches and non-profit organisations while doing freelance writing and speaking and self-published his book in 2015.
Brett is currently working with an organisation called Heartlines and his job is facilitating story-telling around race in South Africa, bringing diverse groups of people together to listen and share personal stories and learn from each other. He has been a member of the Improguise Improv team since 1999 and enjoys collaborating in both long and short-form shows making it all up in front of mesmerised audiences.
He has written for three different national magazines. He blogs at brettfish.co.za where he tackles issues of race and injustice and is deeply passionate about helping people to become better versions of themselves as they start to live out what they say they believe.