#RedOctober :: how I discovered the racist in me


“I see no changes, all I see is racist faces.” 

Tupac Shakur

This post is unusual because I am sharing my deeply personal thoughts on a topic, I do not usually do that here and tend to focus on the topic rather than my opinion. I am going to be very honest and hopefully say some thought-provoking things. I want to invite you into a conversation, to agree and to disagree with me.

Have you heard about Red October? Here’s an excerpt from their website:

“People all over the World released RED Balloons into the skies, in protest against the inhumane Slaughter and Oppression of the White People of South Africa. This needs to stop and can no longer be ignored.” (Source: http://www.redoctober.co.za/about/)

My first thought was how ridiculous this was – the idea that white people are being ‘slaughtered’ and ‘oppressed’ in South Africa. I also wondered about the use of capitals for those two words as well as ‘World’, ‘White People’ and ‘RED Balloons’. As if that was not weird enough I then heard that Steve Hofmeyr was at the forefront of the protest in Pretoria and it was all I could do to keep my eyes from rolling. Was this a joke? When I eventually accepted that this was for real this thought crossed my mind:

“Who do these people think they are? Don’t they know that black people have a monopoly on words like ‘oppression’, ‘genocide’ and ‘discrimination’?”

This thought of mine disturbed me and made me wonder what was really going on under the hood of my heart. It worried me for three reasons:

 Firstly, in my mind these people referred not just to the founders or participants of Red October specifically, but to white people in general. At the risk of putting my foot in my mouth I am going to say: I am not racist, some of my best friends are white! And they are. So how could I think that way about people that I really love?

 Secondly, I have received almost five years of University education where I have been trained to believe in the equality of all people, every person’s entitlement to certain rights and fair treatment before the law. What kind of law graduate could still believe that ‘unfair discrimination’ was something only black people should be protected from?

Finally, and most importantly, my thoughts and feelings disturbed me because I am a Christian. I struggled to reconcile them with what I have always professed to believe about human beings, justice and Jesus Christ. WWJT-what would Jesus think??

A war of identities.

” “Identity” is presently used in two linked senses, which may be termed “social” and “personal.” In the former sense, an “identity” refers simply to a social category, a set of persons marked by a label and distinguished by rules deciding membership and (alleged) characteristic features or attributes. In the second sense of personal identity, an identity is some distinguishing characteristic (or characteristics) that a person takes a special pride in or views as socially consequential but more-or-less unchangeable.” (J Fearon “What is Identity (As We Now Use the Word)”, my emphasis. Available at: http://www.stanford.edu/~jfearon/papers/iden1v2.pdf)

When it comes to controversial issues, l seem to have multiple identities at war within me. On a subconscious level I have internal debates going on, trying to reconcile Me, Myself and I. Black- Intellectual – Christian. But how does one reach a compromise with oneself?

How do I handle my racism?

These issues are not black and white (see what I did there?). But there are answers. The answers are definite but nuanced. Never simple. The truth exists but is always hidden, those who seek it will find it.

Knowledge of the truth brings freedom.

Red October is only one of many news items that brings up issues of race, power and privilege, things that expose where society is at and therefore where our hearts are at. Things that make us feel like we have to choose sides and take it to the streets, or retreat into our gated communities.

What we think, feel and believe is important.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading.



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