If the only black and brown people you interact with in your life are those who are in positions of service to you, you have work to do.
[Not to say that if you have black and brown people in leadership over you or as equals in the spaces you inhabit that you are not racist – just like being married to a black or brown person or having children who are not the same colour as you does not automatically magically make all the racism disappear – but it is a lot more likely if none of your lived experiences echo the changes you might be working on in your mind.]
We need to do away with Racial Isolation
The idea is not new to me but this phrase which i encountered in this article [White Folks as Collateral Damage – exploring the irony of racial inequalit by Tim Wise] helps make it even more clear.
Think about it – if the only black and brown people are those in service to you [fill your car with petrol, pack your groceries, clean your house, tend your garden] then you will likely end up with feelings of Superiority. Because your environment screams that message at you every day. The fact that those – and other – much needed jobs are looked down upon as “less than” in our weird hierarchy of structure simply adds to this problem. And if you introduce children to that environment, then they won’t need to be taught a word of racism as it is being modeled to them, day in and day out.
One of the most strangest parts of apartheid, to me, was how many white people saw black people as less than human and yet had no problem entrusting them with the raising of their children. Talk about an oxy-moron [with the emphasis on the moron part]. Surely that speaks of a disconnect between the mental and physical space?
It may be time to move
If you, as a white person, are serious at all about seeing South Africa move forward as a country, then this has to become a priority.
i mentioned it in this list of 40 tips for white people who are asking, ‘But what can I do?’ and it needs to be said again.
There are some easier moves we can make, without thinking too much about it. Where we choose to shop, what gym we choose to go to, where we choose to go for walks, where we get our entertainment and where we watch our World Cup and other high profile sports games.
There are some moves that we have to be a little more intentional about, such as who do we invite to eat dinner with us, where we go to church [if that’s a thing!], where our children go to school, and who we holiday with [if that’s a thing!].
Then there are some bigger ones that really start to suggest you are serious, such as where you choose to live. This one can be particularly tricky once we start to bring things like Gentrification into the equation. Who you choose to do money with can also be a big one: Val and i are part of two Common Change groups where we pool money with a diverse group of friends and then work together to help meet some of the needs of people we know. You can read more about that over here.
Geography played a huge part in setting up and maintaining the mess that was apartheid. So we are going to have to be very intentional about geography when we are working to dismantle the ongoing effects of it.
Greater than Diversity
i used to speak a lot about Diversity as the end goal, until a conversation connected to this diagram helped me see that is not enough.
Diversity here, would be similar to the Integration diagram, where the one group has been brought into the other group but is still seen as its own thing. Whereas inclusion is finally arriving at a space where everyone is a part of it and can belong and contribute and lead together. So we are definitely not talking about Colourblindness here which is not helpful to anyone. But we also are not talking about something that looks diverse but isn’t really transformed [so one group still making all the decisions and so on].
It’s about Racial Inclusion. Which needs to be everywhere, but in reality the place where i have the most opportunity for change is in the places and spaces i inhabit.
Start small, with the ones that are a little easier to flip the switch on. But commit to asking the bigger questions and making the moves where it will count more effectively.
And invite people who do not look like you to come and eat with you around your dinner table. Listen to their stories. Share some of yours. Ask questions. Don’t expect them to do the work of helping you away from your racism [you can start that over here if you haven’t!]
Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.