Are there more white people like you?

In the past few weeks I have been faced with my ‘privilege’.
My white privilege.
Yes mine.

I have been faced with the fact that as much as I am surrounded by amazing people, doing things to see communities shift and healed, that there is not enough contact between different (colour)people happening to make people realise that actually there are many(white)who are seeking this change. Who think that justice matters, who think that restitution matters.

How do I know this?

Simply because too often, it’s the same people in contact with the same circles –regardless of what the circles look like. I know this because a friend boldly told me this. He heard me say that my heart was sore because in 2 days I had two friends of colour (from different contexts) voice this sentiment:

Are there more? Maybe there are more but we don’t see or hear them?

Then I got thinking about how do we make these circles bigger? How do we mix them up more?

The next challenge then got thrown at me by someone whose dreams I respect and support, whose voice is loud, whose passion for community, for people and for South Africa is being refined and yet I know that these dreams seem to belong to someone else at times for this friend, as he has other responsibilities in life that stop the pursuit of these dreams.

Why do I think that his dreams matters?
• I believe that we need more young leaders and men like my friend in communities speaking, advocating and encouraging people.

• I believe that we need to relook at how we understand supporting education in this country – for some of us it is about equipping teachers, advocating for bursaries – but I was recently challenged to think beyond that to what does it mean for someone whose very BASIC income is needed to support their family (with basics – regardless of the nature of their work) to how do we support big hearts and brilliant minds out of relationship to be able to study further. We all know that education matters, in this instance though – relationship matters too.

• I was privileged in having parents, who still had to sacrifice, but were able to put me through Varsity with no study debt. My friend’s starting point is not this but it could be if we stood next to him in this. If we acknowledged our privilege – our connections, our contexts, our means – and used it to support him. Then maybe there would be more – more people with privilege being seen as people who are there, who truly are committed to seeing things change.

I want to stand beside a friend to see his dreams come true while his family still live and eat and can celebrate his dreams too. So I am talking with others (yes more of us & mixed racial circles), and praying and seeking other people to stand alongside him. Not out of charity. Out of relationship. This is what family does. This is what we do when we are in relationship and see and hear and acknowledge each other’s dreams.

We help find ways of seeing them happen. I have had people doing this with me. And still do. I want to be a part of someone else’s story too.

This was written with the knowledge of my friend whose story challenged mine – I am grateful that he shared his story with me. In doing so it made me a part of his story as much as he became a part of mine.

10 thoughts on “Are there more white people like you?

  1. this is great, Alexa. for me the pain is seeing the same six people engage with my blog posts on race and reconciliation and be frustrated that more people are not [seemingly at least] asking the questions and wrestling and at least trying to engage. i say this because as much as i am wanting change and to be a part of it a lot of this feels like flailing blindly in the dark and making it up as we go along… i am hoping that when we are settled soon in our new place that we will start to see the dream begin to come alive of engaging around mealtimes and conversations there that will head towards a direction of hope and change and significance… i want to be a white people like you!

    keep on
    love brett fish

    • So with you Brett….we so need to be making the circles bigger…and think that we need to be engaging more with the people who are asking the questions of ‘where are the others’ as to how we do this? Looking forward seeing your new home become the hub of hospitality, hope and lots of fun too that you and Val seek it to be!

  2. Pingback: Will the real [white] South Africans please stand up! | Irresistibly Fish

  3. Hello 🙂 I am a friend of Brett’s!
    To be fair we’re outnumbered… there’s only like 10% white and 80% black people not to mention the other 10% of everyone-else… and not all the white people are “like you”… maybe 2% of the population? and lots of white people are doing things quietly and humbly and “don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing”.
    Problem with that is:
    – the white people who are doing something feel isolated and get discouraged
    – the good example is not being displayed widely enough, and too few people get to learn from those who are doing things so that they can build on strengths and learn from mistakes together
    – the people of other races think there’s very few of us out there.

    I think Brett made another important point which is, just because you’re sold out on the idea that South Africa’s problems require our action, doesn’t mean you think you have the solution or that you’re at all sure and proud of the tiny efforts you are making. So I think there are a lot of unsure people out there.

    We (white people who are engaging and doing stuff, however small) must encourage each other to talk about it. And the scores of white people who feel compassion but mixed with depression and hopelessness and mistrust, we need to sensitively encourage them and help them seek places where they can contribute.

    • Hi Cara,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment (it still amazes me that people actually read my blog!). I so agree that within the white community there are many doing things, under the radar and do see the validity in the points you and Brett make. My bigger issue though is that the people who asked me these questions are people who are in contact with social justice circles – which is how i met them – which in theory means that there shoud be much more exposure to ‘whites like me’ (hate this language use, but we have to use it in this context).

      However, from the point of view of some of my friends of colour, they struggle with the fact that lots of ‘us whites’ do talk about these things or are wanting to see changes- and yet our friendship circles or circles of influence socially don’t always reflect the relational aspect of what it means to be engaging with depth of relationships with people who are different.
      I am also becoming more aware of the fall down that is happening between what we see as valid reasons for this and what some of my friends (coloured/ black) question as being excuses for why things aren’t shifting in this space and in this regard and when i listen to their stories I can understand why they are asking these questions. I think for me this goes beyond the ‘doing stuff’ though and more into how and what are we doing to build intentional friendships which have meaning with others?
      I don’t have a formula or an answer for that- and as you said above – there isn’t just one way – but i do know that if we don’t start with ways of finding the relational space, the disconnect that i have been hearing will stay there 😦 Looking forward to meeting you in person sometime!

  4. Wow guys you know as much as this is so frustrating and so overwhelming but I must say that there is hope. On Bretts concerns, I think that is a universal crisis because even in our black communities we have that as a problem. But in our communities we face it as a problem of a system that blinds peoples eyes in seeing this as a reality. I guess same goes for white communities, this has been made to be a norm. Now as Brett calls it, it gets to be “taboo” when this is raised and is shown to be abnormal and inhumane. Now it is in this point when it is raised where one makes a choice wheather to accept and do something about or because of one’s searing of their conscience by a hot iron one gets to ignore it or be defensive or angry. And being angry/defensiveness must be expected because this must disturb ones comfortability.
    Also this is a very Spiritual mission as a result only seven men “filled with the Spirit” were chosen amongst a whole lot of more than 3000 to take care of this, so I guess the number is not in question. The question becomes is God doing something about this? If He is the let’s join in what He is already doing, how? I don’t know! Lol

    • But also this god who is in a certain box must be distroyed! The god who is a western concept because I think the reason why christianity has failed in this is because we have a boxed god who favours this and tickles it. That is the god who is deaf to the cry of the oppressed, dead to the cries of the poor.

  5. Great discussion Lex. I particularly enjoyed Brett’s and Nkosi’s response on the question of “too few” people involved or it’s the same people talking about the same thing. For some of us, we were lonely voices with no one to talk these matters with so we are thankful for the 6 who have appeared. After a while there may be another 6 and there will be 12. Before we know it there will be a movement. Also the more ideas are put out there the more others learn from a distance and they start to think, whichever direction those thoughts may go but it is providing thought. As Nkosi speaks about the 7 people there are many times in scripture where God uses a few to affect the majority. So let us not yet weep about the numbers though it would be great to have more. Like my mother said “perhaps there are others”. One day they may emerge and we will wonder how they became so many.

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