Thursday, February 18, 2016

Erace

I want to take the time right now to speak on a serious topic that's been particularly heartbreaking for me.

Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while know I grew up in Cape Town and, while I may not currently live there, I have many connections back home and so, I see a large amount of what goes on and what some of the key issues are.

South Africa and the US have a good number of similarities, as far as social dynamics go. One such similarity that's been building in my awareness is the disparity of perception and treatment based on the perception of wealth and degree of whiteness.

And that grieves me.

At the University of Cape Town, a number of events have occurred within the past couple weeks. I won't pretend to know the full thought and intention, but they prompt me to see that many people, students especially, are fed up with the non-progress of social equality in SA.

In the US, I see the federal neglect of water quality in Flint, where ~ 63% of the population is non-white and 42% of the population is below the poverty line. I see awards ceremonies where black artists are awarded in an "urban" category, but don't even really place in the grand running, or where black actors and actresses are only recognised if they make movies and shows appealing to a broader (read: white) audience.

We still live in a society where one's degree of whiteness or affluence affords an individual certain subconscious benefits and, let's be honest, we judge affluence by adhering to a white standard of dress and decorum.

Here's where it hits home for me: my children will not be afforded the same generosity of subconscious treatment that I have received. They will be born into a society in which even a drop of melanin darker than an Italian or body features more akin to Africa than Europe are sufficient to unconsciously define them as "lesser".

For over 50 years in the US and over 20 years in SA, racial equality has been the law, but as many conservatives are quick to point out on issues like gun legislation: you can't legislate behaviour.

White America, white South Africa, open your eyes. Your brothers and sisters, your countrymen are overlooked, underrepresented, and unseen. 
When someone with a different background and a little more melanin than you moves into your neighbourhood, how do you respond? Do you act differently if they speak, act, and dress like you? 
What about a new hire at your work, do you assume that he earned the position if he's white, but was given a position to help "diversify" the company if he's hispanic, black, or another such marginalised group?  
How do you talk about other people groups? Are you "Us" and the others "Them"? 
How do you react when you see some white teenagers walking down the street compared to black teenagers?

Church, what about you? Look within your walls. How many different colours can you see?
Are you monoracial or diverse?
Do you have an even spread across racial lines or only a token few not of the majority?
Are you reaching across racial boundaries to show Christ's love?
Are you stepping out in faith where you might be uncomfortable to take on the plight of another?

Take a look at James 1:27. Need I remind you, Church, that we are all one people under Christ, as Paul makes clear that there is no division like Jew or Greek? Why, then, do we allow this disparity of treatment by race to persist? 

If these things are troubling you, maybe striking a chord, I urge you to read a couple posts (The Passion of the Chris & Sodomy: A South African Love Story) from a pastor friend, Brett "Fish" Anderson.

Now, all that said, here's the thing: I'm not much better.

I don't want you thinking that I'm giving all my money to the poor or that I go every weekend to the run-down parts of town to do some kind of charity work. I don't.

I don't want you thinking that I am that amazing white man who understands the entirety of the racial struggle and can serve as cultural translator for both parties. Ask my wife - I've earned the right to ask her her thoughts on the modern race dynamics and have come to the point that I recognise I don't understand. And that's okay, because I'm willing to put in the hard work to be humble and ask.

~ ~ ~

Some of you may be wondering why I'm targeting everything at the white population. After all, there is racism perpetrated by other groups and negative attitudes and behaviours from other sides as well. To put it simply, I am white. I have no right to dictate patterns of behaviour to those not like me, especially when people like me have contributed to the problems currently in place