Last Sunday was one of those
nights that I will revisit in my mind.
Our interracial group met again and as we walked into the room there was
a soft couch with a poster on it that read, “Whites only”. The rest of the room, and specifically
the floor were marked with “non-white” posters. This was a reality growing up for a lot of our friends.
My good friend Kutloano
(who needs to blog more) led our discussion and used two Steve Biko quotes as
the backbone for our discussion. He challenged us to do Frank Talk (the name
Biko wrote in). Today I will only
reflect on the first quote.
the South African white community is a homogeneous community. It is a community
of people who sit to enjoy a privileged position that they do not deserve, are
aware of this, and therefore spend their time trying to justify why they are
doing so.“ Kutloano noted that Biko wrote these words in the
The black guys in the group talked about how some
whites try to pretend as if they’re ignorant towards their privilege. They found this position untenable and
noted that they think that whites choose to ignore their undeserved privilege
[now I know some of my white friends will shudder at the word undeserved – but let it work on
One person noted that, “whites live with an attitude that says, ‘I will hold on to what my
father has left me’.” He noted that this attitude is passed on to the next
generation of children and so a group of people is privileged ad infinitum.
As some of you know, I have the privilege to be
busy with a master’s degree. John
Chrysostom is one of the early church fathers I’m studying. When he reflects on the rich and the
poor he says that,
“The rich have that which belongs to the poor, even though they may have
received it as an inheritance, no matter whence their money comes”.
For Chrysostom the logic is
simple. If someone is rich and
another poor then there was some injustice committed somewhere. This brought our group to discuss
another aspect of post-Apartheid South Africa.
The issue of land.[read
about the Land Act of 1913 and The natives’ Trust Land Act of 1936].
One of the members talked
about the fact that even though South Africa has a black president the whites
still have most of the land.
He said, “Most of the land
still belongs to the privileged rich”.
So there we sat, twelve
blacks and three whites – [an accurate representation of South African society would
have been 1 white person for every 8 blacks].
I got to sit in on a
conversation where people discussed white privileged in a respectful but Frank
manner. It was hard.
So what to do? One of the most practical things I can
think of is for people of my generation to give a large portion if not all of
our inheritance away. I also think that we as white people will have to engage
with our privilege. We have to face squarely all the ‘justifications’ Steve
Biko mentions in the quote above.
How do you think we can do this,
as followers of Jesus who are called to live divided no more?