On 13 July, ten people gathered at Johannesburg Bible College in Soweto to dialogue around the topic of “Killing in schools”. Other themes included violence in home and society, rights and freedom vs. responsibility, and government’s failure – mainly in the education system, the unintended societal results of changes and laws, and the unintended results of institutions taking over responsibilities that were relational before.
On 18 May in Auckland Park, the topic chosen was “Family”. The dominant theme was the continuing influence of inequality
on our relationships within families. The underlying power struggle between inequality due to race (with different
shades represented within a family) and inequality due to gender (with a strong patriarchal dominance) was evident,
with strong voices representing both.
Looking back on the dialogue together, the following observations were made:
- The system is oppressive.
- I have a greater understanding of my own pain.
- Black women found it more difficult to represent anger and moved to expressing pain.
- People tend to shift from pain to anger. Anger is vocalised pain. If not vocalised, pain is internalised.
- Pain can assist us in finding a solution.
A big thank you to those who bravely sat in the uncomfortable voices of pain and anger and committed to growing for all of us!
Why is the current political climate so quiet ahead of the 2019 elections?
In Hatfield on 6 April 2019, the people in the room voted for the dialogue topic “Why is the current political climate so silent ahead of the 2019 elections?”
The challenges or concerns of the group included struggling against paralysis, feeling helpless or guilty, and a recurring questioning of ourselves “Are we making a difference? Am I being set up for failure?”
In Randburg on 16 March, the topic chosen was “Missing Men”.
It feels like this was a “holy ground” dialogue, and any words are going to do it a disservice …
There is so much pain around missing men. The picture that comes to mind, is of an onion, one layer gets peeled away at a time. We feel the effects of exposing this pain and underneath is yet another layer. The pain of the women and children they left. The pain of the missing men themselves – historical and as a result of their own actions, mixed with guilt and shame. The pain of those who are standing in the gap they left – who are having a positive impact but will never be able to replace the missing men in the hearts of their children. The relational and inter-generational pain that this vortex of pain produces. The questions that each person sits with – Am I enough? Am I seen?
On 16 February at the dialogue at Martin’s house, we had a diverse group of participants with the majority being men. After listening to and engaging with a talk about the Gospel and Blackness, the topic chosen was an “Appropriate sense of my own identity within my culture”.
During the dialogue it was apparent that our primary identifyer seems to be gender. It emerged that there is a lot of confusion around gender roles, dealing with stereotypes, how to adapt our roles so that it works within a partnership and our economic setting, how to still be accepted within our larger culture and not be othered as we experiment with our roles.
There were so many profound statements made – perhaps you will identify with one of the following …
- With the changes in technology and male-female roles there have been seismic shifts in our identity. We are trying to figure these things out. 50 years ago the idea of a man staying at home with the kids was not accepted in any culture. Now we have to adapt, but there is a lot of fear of the unknown. Why should I let go of what I know even if it is bad? I don’t think we should be pulling each other down but empower women upwards. We do not want to perpetuate the system of alternating the person that is on top, but we want to create a new system.
- I am beyond frustrated – they bunched us up here together, the angry black girls, and that is what happens in the world. Just put them there – I feel othered.
Who owns the land?
On Saturday 26 January, the topic chosen for our Diversity Dialogue was “Who owns the land?”
The dialogue began on an intellectual level with much reference to facts and articles written about the land issue. It became apparent that the facts were interpreted differently according to the framework people were coming from. People tend to expose themselves to the information that confirms their bias. As we continued, the underlying optimism or pessimism of people became apparent, with the majority sounding more pessimistic.
How do we manage inconsideration in community and how do we improve?
Inconsideration was the topic chosen by the group on 8 December 2018.
Here are some comments made at the end of the dialogue – perhaps not always answers to the question, but certainly food for thought …
- “I believe that bullies get supported, no-one wants to escalate the situation and to avoid conflict, so we support the bully. If that’s the way we do things interpersonally, we are not going to change the broader picture in our country.”
- “Most fear is coming from men. If men are secure in their position, they will be more considerate to women.”
- “We need to change selfishness, where people are concerned with themselves and don’t do anything even when they hear screaming.”
Colour-coded superiority and inferiority
On 3 November 2018 at Nokhupila, the topic chosen as a door-way to the conversation was “Colour-coded superiority and inferiority”. Significant voices in the dialogue included Fear, Anger, Pride and Denial.
What blocks progress?
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.