I received this fake Peanuts comic strip on a family WhatsApp group.
With only white members in the group, it was “ safe.” My eyes flicked over the three frames as I took them in. Then back again. Then again. Then I stopped. It was like a knock-out punch in the face from Mike Tyson. Gutted, I realised how far we must go before we start healing as a nation.
I paused and gazed into space contemplating how to respond. I thought how many white South Africans would send back a string of laughing face emojis. It would be easy to put aside how awkward I was feeling and simply not respond. I went back and read each frame again. What was it that offended me? Was it the use of something as iconic and innocent as Charlie Brown to hurt and harm?
The subtleness and seemingly harmless use of a comic strip are how we hide much of our discrimination. It’s because deep down, we know it is wrong. As if whispering will make my racism less hurtful. Yet regardless of how covertly we display our discrimination, the victim’s experience is real and overt.
I couldn’t think how best to use the situation to express my feelings. After much thought, I wrote back:
‘I like being black’…said no-one ever.
With white folks around, people of colour will be made to feel inferior. However subtle and “ micro-aggressive “ we want to paint it, ask the majority of South African black, coloured, Indian, Asian-anyone except most South African white folks-what their lived experience is, and you’ll begin to understand why I could say that. Every second of every day is a hurtful hell, repeated like groundhog day. With no end in sight of the pain caused to the innocent victims of historical prejudice.
It must end. It must stop. Not only here in South Africa but around the world.
As South Africans, we’ve come so far together, yet we’ve moved further apart since 1990, not closer. We seem to forget, in 1992 almost 70% of white South Africans voted “Yes” in a referendum to end apartheid. Did the almost 3 million voters believe that a whites-only party could run the country again? No. Did that bother them? No. Had “ they “-the majority whites of the previous era of apartheid-not handed the reigns of the country to a majority black population? Without the statistical possibility of ever winning a majority again, whites believed the next regime would do better.
Sure, some whites wear their pro-racism badge with honour. Many of my white friends and family fall into that category. But I can’t carry on denying I’m a racist almost down to my DNA and that it is wrong. It’s only when I can physically be in another man’s shoes that I can experience life as he does. And it’s only when I accept the amount of pain I’ve inflicted-overtly and covertly-that I can change the narrative in my head.
We’re starting a movement as a group of concerned South African citizens who want to see a significant change in our lifetime.
We want to do this by engaging in open and honest #Dialogue with each other.
Let’s have the conversations needed to address the glaring issues we have as a nation. We want this to be fruitful, open, helpful, honest-maybe sometimes hard to hear, but never hurtful-#dialogue.
The aim is to bring awareness and learning so that we can understand better, respond with more compassion, by being more generous and caring towards each other. We urge all South Africans to take ownership and responsibility for their role-regardless of how small-in hurting their fellow countrymen.
We intend to break down barriers and alter the negative perceptions we have of each other that’s, built up over centuries. We haven’t had a chance to heal and #dialogue is critical for change to happen. The Rainbow Nation is NOT a pipedream. Through stimulating healthy and necessary #dialogue at a ground level, we can create a groundswell of constructive conversations.
Please join us as we enter overdue #dialogue. Together we’re unsure but together we have hope and a deep desire to transform and find reconciliation. If we want the future all South Africans deserve, as many of us as possible must chase it. It starts with us, where we are, with the people we engage with daily. Let it spread nationwide to bring hope and belief that South Africa can be the jewel we all expected since 1994.
We look forward to hearing your opinion on how we can make the necessary changes to overcome our many challenges.
Are you onboard?
Please join our group #Dialogue — A Call to All South Africans and let’s get talking.
Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄
As always, thanks for reading 🙏
Originally published at https://www.leapfirst.co.za on September 3, 2021.