The appearance of diversity means close to nothing if the voices at the mic, those making the decisions and the hands at the money bag continue to be white.

i have just seen another Conference line-up for a national denominational conference in South Africa in 2020 where out of five speakers, one of them is black and i believe he is the only one from South Africa.

In a country where white people make up 8% of the population, how is it possible that we are still taking 60 to 80% [or more!] of the speaking spots? As if what we say might have relevance to the 92% of the population who don’t look like us. Not to say that white people can not speak into a context that is not our own, but we definitely should not be the majority voice speaking into it. And what is this obsession with bringing western ideas to an African context? When will we get serious about changing up that narrative?

It’s on you and me

A year or two ago this same denomination was sharing posters of an all-white conference line-up. When challenged they responded very defensively.

And they are not alone in this. And that kind of response is sadly not unique.

This also can be seen in the leadership of many of the churches across the country. And companies. And schools. 

Which is irritating and frustrating and disappointing, especially in spaces that feel like they really should be doing so much better.

BUT… is not completely out of our hands. Particularly those who are part of those spaces where these things are happening. But even, i think, for those of us who are not.

We have to interrupt and let them know that “This is not okay!” Every time we see it. Every time it happens again. Until they hear and do something about it. The more of us who make noise when this happens, the quicker change is likely to happen. Hopefully the more often it is heard, the more seriously it will be taken.

In your spaces of faith and work and entertainment, please start asking these questions of the leadership:

  • Do we represent the area we are in? How representative are we of the country and is that realistic in this space and if not then how are we connecting with others in other areas in genuine connected ways?
  • Does our leadership reflect the people they are leading? In age and gender and race?
  • Who makes the decisions? Who gets the money?

It’s taken me so long to actually write this piece and post it, because i think i am being too nice. This is absolutely ridiculous and disgraceful and much stronger words and it blows my mind particularly when it’s in the church where ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is one of the driving theologies, but also in other key spaces and also that we do so little to change it.

At the very least, please be interrogating your spaces. Making yourselves unpopular. Not letting this nonsense remain unchallenged. We need new and better and more inclusive stories. Otherwise we just keep perpetuating the same old blindness.

What are your thoughts/experiences on this one?