Privilege 2

(A poem from the book “Dwelling in Dissonance)

Not an accusation
No verdict expected
Not an attack
Defense inappropriate

A historical fact
A present reality
Uncomfortable awareness
Given responsibility

Humble agency
Social leverage
Powerful potential
For participative change

I wrote this poem in 2016 in response to many conversations I had witnessed about privilege, where there was a lot of blaming and shaming going on, and the term “privilege” had become a heavily loaded label, which many people did not want to be associated with. Writing the poem was part of the process of grappling with my own privilege and what I could do with the privilege I have been given. In many ways, things have changed, and yet they have stayed the same.

Given the effects of the pandemic and world-wide lockdowns, and in light of the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, the division between privileged and disadvantaged has become even starker and I find myself exploring this idea of privilege once again.

I can count myself privileged if:

I am not re-traumatised by the videos that have been circulating for the last few weeks because I do not have previous experiences of racism or abuse

I think I can have an objective or intellectual discussion around Black Lives Matter because it does not emotionally trigger me

I have had the option to ignore these events because they did not directly connect with my world

I take certain things for granted – that others will have the same accessibility to things that I do – language, data, transport, networks, education

In the broader context, am I aware of the fact that my presence changes the atmosphere in a room (physical or virtual)? On a personal note, am I aware of the cost that a friendship with me might mean to a black person – do I know how my black friends’ families and other friends react to their friendship with me, a non-black person?

I may feel overwhelmed by the ongoing presence of systemic racism in South Africa and may think that I am not in a position to make much of a difference…but I (with whatever abilities, skills and personality I have) am placed in my specific setting with a number of people I come into regular contact with. How can I use my privilege in practical ways to move towards a more equal society here so that everyone can flourish more where our circles of influence intersect?

Read More

Preparing for the next work chapter…

Some of us are going to be returning to out-of-home work on level 3. After 2 months at home living with uncertainty, some of us may be surprised by our mixed feelings about this next step, with rising anxiety about going back to a daily workplace routine. Given the current circumstances, this is a fairly normal response. What can we do to make this transition as low-stress as possible?

What is the first thing that comes to mind – our biggest concern? If we can address that concern in a practical way, we will have come a long way in alleviating our anxiety. If your friend was telling you about this issue, what advice would you give him/her? I don’t know what your biggest worry is, but hopefully one of the possibilities below will spark some ideas that work for you.

Let’s think this through in a very practical way – what do we know about the circumstances we are going back to…and what changes to daily life can we make now that bring us closer to the daily work experience?

We know what work clothes we will be wearing. If practical, we could start wearing them during the day even now. Those of us who use make-up might want to start doing that again.

If we know what time we need to leave the house to get to work on time, we can set our alarms and practice our wake-up and go routine. This also means getting to bed on time. This may involve our children if they are in grades 12 or 7 (if they are willing to play along!) If we have children of other age groups, what will be happening to them  while we are at work? This may land up being a difficult question to navigate – we need to know they are safe.

Read More

Living in Limbo

In a coaching conversation this week, I was told “life is a series of limbo situations”. If this is your experience, it means you know that you have survived previous episodes of limbo. What did you lean on to get through then? How could that be useful now?

In the midst of this limbo we find ourselves in, where so much is uncertain, it may be helpful to focus on the truths we do know.

We do not know when the corona epidemic will be under control, but we know that this too shall pass. Uncertainty in whatever form is an unavoidable part of our lived experience. It is uncomfortable, but it ends eventually. Knowledge is given, wars and pandemics end, and we move on, all be it as changed people.

Worrying feels like you have some control but actually often reduces the energy you have to improve the situation. What is the likelihood that the worst outcome will happen? We’re not all statisticians but often we overestimate the worst scenario and underestimate the many other possibilities, and as a result spend a lot of energy imagining and preparing for the unlikely. If we focus on making good choices in the areas that we have some control over, it can increase our energy to broaden our circle of influence. What are your uncertainty triggers? Sometimes we find ourselves on an ever tightening thought spiral of worst-case what-if scenarios, but sometimes we are influenced by what we expose ourselves to – social media, negative focus of news stories, rumours, speculations, fake news, only communicating with anxious friends. Emotions are just as infectious as viruses! What triggers can you limit?

Let’s explore our emotions a little. We know that suppressing our emotions long-term can make the situation worse. Internalising anxiety and stress can make you physically and mentally ill. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is wiser to allow yourself to experience those difficult emotions and investigate what is going on beneath them. This is where you will find the clues to what it is you need to change. These may be uncomfortable growth points, but they have the potential of bringing you to a place of blossoming joy. But give yourself grace – it may feel quite overwhelming. Don’t isolate yourself in response, we are already distant enough from each other. Reach out to someone you trust to walk this road with you.

We know that when we are in the thick of the problem, we have a limited view of the situation. We cannot see all the possibilities there are, because our vision has become narrowed by uncertainty. A bird’s eye view can reveal a more hopeful perspective, but sometimes we need someone else to listen to us and help us zoom out. What would we think about our own situation if we were watching it on a screen happening to someone else?

Read More

A clean slate

Today, if possible, start your lock-down home off on a “clean germ slate”. Clean the surfaces you often touch – doorknobs, handles, drawer knobs, window fasteners, light switches, taps, counters, fridge and oven doors, stove top controls, electrical equipment, phones, remote controls, hairbrushes, tooth brushes, water jugs, dustbin lids etc.

And as you do this, think about the people you are going to be sharing your space with for the next few weeks. What is necessary to wipe the relational slate clean? What do you need to forgive so that it does not infect your interactions?

Wash the clothes you wore during the last few days, clean your shoes, wash kitchen towels, hand towels, bath towels, bedding, clean the floors.

And again, think about the people you are living with. Where do you need to repent, and ask them for forgiveness? What relational work do you need to do to socially draw close to those now physically closest to you?

Wash your body and hair thoroughly.

Read More

The Potential of Optimism

In a 2017 Ipsos MORI detailed survey of 26,489 people across 28 countries, South Africans scored high in pessimism and low in their knowledge of actual facts they based their pessimism on.[1] Most South Africans can share personal stories of expressing and experiencing this pessimism.

Max Roser explains “This pessimism about what is possible for the world matters politically. Those who don’t expect that things get better in the first place will be less likely to demand actions that can bring positive developments about. The few optimists on the other hand will want to see the necessary changes for the improvements they are expecting.” [2]

There is a definite need for optimism in South Africa if we want to see some progress in our ongoing battles with inequality, poverty, gender-based violence and crime.

Read More

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.

  

Read More

The Peacemaker

(A poem from the book Dwelling in Dissonance)

 

I see you

moving forward

to the frontline,

labelled traitor

by those who shield

behind you,

protecting others’ bodies,

absorbing attacks in your back

that are not aimed at you.

 

Read More

Graffiti

(I wrote this poem in 2016, it sadly seems just as appropriate now … )

Ugly

Stark

Hurtful

Words

Printed

On white wall

Magically

Erased

By the forgiving paintbrush

Of a required re-

painting

Read More

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.

Read More

White supremacy

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.

Read More

Events Calendar

« July 2020 » loading...
M T W T F S S
29
30
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
1
2
css.php