This is not their battle…

All over South Africa, people have listened and watched with heavy hearts as videos of the events leading to the #blacklivesmatter demonstrations have circulated on social media. The complexity of emotions we are experiencing is too multi-layered for a short article like this. I can only mention a few thoughts, and yes, these are coming from a white South African. I have to own my come-from. Your perspective may be different.

Firstly, I am so aware of the fact that for many of my black friends/fellow South Africans watching these videos, reading people’s comments and listening to talk shows during the last 2 weeks has been re-traumatising. It has brought up pain, anger and feelings of helplessness from past experiences that feel like they happened today. Even in 2020, most black South Africans have their own list of very recent racism they were exposed to, some of verbal, some of physical abuse. Most of them without video evidence. Add to that the generational trauma of our racially-charged past. We stand on ground seeped in hurtful memories and traumas that have not all been honoured or worked through.

And maybe it is in this discomfort that we must stand a little longer. This is not “their” battle (the re-traumatised), it affects everyone, it is every South African’s battle…What could specifically white folk do here in this present moment? *

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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.

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