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?

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Freedom

(A poem from the book Dwelling in Dissonance)

I wrote this poem after driving into Tembisa to facilitate a dialogue there…) 


Here

We live

in sanitized suburbia

Oblivious

to the many freedoms

we take for granted every day

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Poverty in South Africa

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?

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Dis-Union

(A poem from the book Dwelling in Dissonance)

Dream world

privileged world

everything ok world

people carrying on obliviously

with what they call normal life

in their urban utopia

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Events Calendar

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