At the Diversity Dialogue at the beginning of September, the topic chosen was Love and Trust. When we asked ourselves, what was standing in the way of building love and trust, many voices emerged, including: masks, anger, selfishness, poor self-esteem, lack of respect, fear and patriarchy.
(I wrote this poem in 2016, it sadly seems just as appropriate now … )
On white wall
By the forgiving paintbrush
Of a required re-
This topic drew the most votes at our Diversity Dialogue on 4 August 2018 – “We have such potential as a country. Why are we stuck?” A long list of reasons was identified: Inequality & poverty, Labelling & discrimination, Poor leadership with no integrity, Broken people, families & communities, Fear, A culture of destruction & rage, Greed, Denialism, Right wingers, White supremacy, Patriarchy, Despondent & desperate youth … it seemed overwhelming – there was a general feeling of paralysis and fear in the room.
Anger moved the system out of this trapped overwhelming feeling at the beginning of our time together and it became a lively dialogue. This was illustrated by the movement of the person in the “Despondency” voice to join the new voice of “Young black (disadvantaged) women” that emerged. Other changes included that the voice of “Patriarchy” was heard speaking from “Poor Leadership” and the individual in “A culture of destruction” became a “Fix it” voice.
On 7 July at Christ Church Midrand, the topic chosen for our dialogue was “How to kill white supremacy” with the themes of “land restitution” and “dealing with anger” influencing the conversation.
Apartheid was described as “successful in meeting its goals”, because the structures it put in place largely remain and this outside structural racism has penetrated our insides. Our inner racism, even in those who don’t want to be racist, is pervasive. Often both white and black people think that white people are superior and black people inferior. Many black women feel they are at the bottom of the oppressive systemic racism pyramid. At the same time, black women spoke from the pain of being married to black men who feel trapped in their circumstances – they want to be strong for their women but feel they have to swallow racism to keep their jobs and survive financially.
(A poem from the book Dwelling in Dissonance)
We often talk about offering hospitality in our homes; I believe we extend true hospitality of time and space to people when we really listen to them in conversation with us. I have often been convicted in this area – How are my listening skills? Do I listen to understand the other person, or with a view to finding a gap to share my perceived wisdom?
This was a private Diversity Dialogue at Arcadia Christian Church with more than 25 people. The topic “The Struggle with Identity because of the Past” was chosen. As each voice made an opening statement it was evident that many voices expressed fear underlying their main points of view. “Shame”, “Fear”, “Stereotypes” and “Anger” were the main contributors to the conversation. Out of the voice of “History not dealt with”, a “Longing for accountability for the past” from all sides, “Disillusionment with reconciliation”, but also a strong “Hope in a new identity in Christ” emerged. “Being judged”, “Inner Brokenness”, and “Distrust” tended to observe rather than participate in the conversation.
Our diversity dialogue on 2 June at Nokuphila was a small group but this lent itself to a more intimate conversation – the participants chose to dialogue about the challenge of family relationships. In a small group the question I sometimes ask myself as a facilitator is “Where is the diversity?” but we had exactly the diversity needed for the topic.
(A poem from the book Dwelling in Dissonance)
I wrote this poem after driving into Tembisa to facilitate a dialogue there…)
in sanitized suburbia
to the many freedoms
we take for granted every day
At our Diversity Dialogue on 5 May, the topic chosen by the participants was Poverty in South Africa. The theme of conflicting values came up throughout the dialogue. We realised there is a conflict between the values we aspire to generally for our society and what we are aiming to achieve ourselves, e.g. we want poverty alleviated as long as we don’t have to sacrifice something ourselves, as women we want leadership positions for ourselves but we don’t necessarily want women in authority over us, we want to encourage black people to value themselves but we prefer white teachers or schools for our children, we say we value menial labour as much as university careers but we are not willing to pay the salary that reflects that value.
How do we live with this inner conflict?