There are some times in life when a clever-sounding statement can be deeply interrogated simply by asking the question, “But for who?”

Statement: Make America Great Again!

Assumption: America was great before.

Question: But for who? Was it great for black people during slavery? Was it great for African-Americans during the Jim Crow laws and lynchings? Was it great for refugees under the present and recent governments when they were locked up in cages and had their children stolen from them? Was it great for the First Nations people who every year still have to face the trauma of the country they live in and have always lived in celebrating Columbus Day – you know the day when Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America? And many more questions can be added to that.

Closer to Home

We see the same in South Africa when white people talk about “The good old days”.

Statement: Things were better in the good old days.

Assumption: There were days in the past that were good, even better than the days we face today.

Question: But for who? Who were those days good for? Were they good for black, coloured and indian people under apartheid? Were they good for black people during colonisation? Were they good for the indigenous people of South Africa – the Khoi and the San who, even today have little or no recognition or rights to the land they once freely occupied and moved around on? Just who were these good old days good for?

Who are you referring to?

i was watching an online conversation last night on anti-racism work and this quote came up:

“I will commit to never seeing the world as normal. I will always ask the question: Normal for who?”

Kerry-Barton Hobbs

That is a bit of a different spin on the quotes above but carries the same idea to an even more deeper level.

Many of us tend to think of ‘life as normal’ as that time when we return to when things were comfortable and easy. For so many people – the majority of the people in this country – it is never comfortable and easy. That’s a hard one to get our heads around even if we have read the numbers. Because it is not our reality. Hopefully awareness moves us to do something to help those around us for whom it is.

  • i never have to worry about clean water
  • i never have to worry about getting enough food and can even mess around with fancy diets and food choices
  • i don’t typically have to worry about whether we will have enough money and if we don’t i know that there is a network of people who will never let me go without eating, clothes, accommodation
  • i don’t really have to worry too deeply about disease and sickness because i have easy access to medical attention

And more.

This feels like an easy one to get our minds around. i want this to be a question that melds with my DNA. Every time i hear the “great again” phrase [Cape Secession Party have been playing with that one] or “The good old days” may i be quick to respond with the question, “But for who?”

[For a post on looking in the mirror and working on what you see, click here!]