I have not met many people in life who do not want to be better. Everyone has some desire for themselves and their environment to improve and strengthen.
In a time when issues concerning racism and cultural tension are still flaring up, I believe that it is important to recognise this. There is an inherent longing for our world to be better that many people share. Everyone might have different ideas of how it can be better, but their intentions are sincere – no matter how displaced. In the same way, those who want to simply try and maintain “life as they know it” are to be pitied. In an emerging continent and world-leading nation, there is no way South Africans of any ethnicity, culture or income bracket should be settling or trying to find a norm. We are forging a new way of life, of cultural interaction, social reform: a godly nation that represents many tribes and cultures.
If you are a citizen of Africa, you are an activist. You have no choice. Whatever you say or believe, whether you are intentional or not, is affecting your sphere of influence (uni, school, work, family, friendships, church, or online).
Like it or not, our generation has arrived in the middle of one of the largest reconstructions of life as we know it. What we face is hard work. After Apartheid in South Africa, genocide would have been the easy option. Choosing to build towards peace is a decision we have to personally adopt and forge on with.
As a white male South African, I may not understand all of the dynamics that have resulted in the tension at universities right now. But I have sought to gain more understanding, and have a few things I want to request of all of us.
To the previously advantaged:
I ask that you stay open. Many of us have thought that due to the end of Apartheid, the white man’s role is over. Don’t fight for a way of life that is exclusive. We can play the “victim” card as much as those who are actually struggling. You can say, “I didn’t choose this way of life”, but the fact is that you have been given a certain level of blessing – whether it be financial, educational or social – that is not to be taken lightly. There is a Biblical principle that applies – we are blessed to be a blessing. What we have is not given to us to hold onto and fight for. It is for us to use for the good of many. Facing the reality of society may make you uncomfortable. You may feel tempted to react – to try and defend yourself and your way of life, but I ask that you rather listen and consider the new, better way of life that we can build. Caring costs, but that doesn’t mean it is avoidable.
To the previously disadvantaged:
I ask that you have grace. Not a blind, “everything is okay” grace, but an approach that informs while it also supports. I know there is deep pain. The wounds of racism are easily reopened and I have heard terrible stories that are absolutely sickening. I apologise for a system that has made you feel inferior. I apologise for “dragging my feet” out of a deep sense of guilt when it comes to engaging with your pain. As much as the racist man is (thankfully) a dying breed, racism is still present in many systems and social structures – and you are more aware of this than your lighter-skinned contemporaries.
Forgiveness may seem out of grasp right now. I know it is a big ask. But I am begging you to choose to believe that there are many who want better for you as much as for them. In a country and continent that is undergoing drastic change there are many factors that can throw us off the course of progress. I am only beginning to understand how frustrating it must be to see the possibilities of an equal society but be held back by petty, misguided, and ignorant perspectives. I hope this blog gives you some hope.
One thing I have learned when it comes to our present struggle (it is everyone’s struggle) is that social media is an unhelpful battleground where everyone can call “foul” because it is “fowl”. I have been disgusted by the things people are willing to post online, knowing very well that they would never say those things in person. There are so many people who have uninformed, emotionally charged opinions on both “sides” of our nation’s future about these issues that don’t truly address the issues themselves.
I think we are living in exciting times. I believe the hope in this nation of South Africa especially is going to be more contagious than the hatred of our past. Let’s not forget that we are building and all of us are part of, and affect, the speed and strength of the process.
I believe nothing of value will last if God is not involved. No true healing will take place without God’s hand in it. He made us all. In His image for His purpose. There is a reason you are alive at this point in history. If God wanted Nelson Mandela to be alive today, he would be. If God wanted Mother Theresa to be alive today, she would be. If God wanted Moses, Joshua, Peter or Paul to be alive today, they would be. The only one that has been alive throughout is Jesus Christ. He has the ultimate perspective – of the past and our future. Click on the link below to find out how your personal relationship with Him can change you and the world you live in.