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"We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they have all learned to live together in the same box!"

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Discipleship within empire- a white woman's perspective

This is a talk I did at the Anabaptist Theological Forum. Thought it was relevant to share with you...



A Disclaimer to begin- I am not really a theologian so when Mzi emailed me with the topic using words like hermeneutics and even the topic "discipleship within empire" I was a bit thrown... Luckily he added in the definitions- and when i understood it was my perspective and experience I felt a little calmer. My perspective and experience I can understand...

I also just want to add that (as you probably all know) God is very good and knows us and what we need. While I was reading my bible this week I stumbled across a passage of scripture which really sums up what I want to say... I will share that with you just now.

I also just want to say I am not sure I have any new insights, or any answers but probably just more questions. But I hope this gives us some things to talk about.

Reconciliation has been on my heart for a long time. And at the risk of sounding too spiritual compared to my normal blog i do think it is something God is saying to me and ca
Long me too. Maybe it is because it is something he calls us all too.

So to begin with my experiences... I want to really focus on being a white woman in SA. SA is the empire I live in. And love! I am excited about our country- the usual clich├ęs of where we have come from and where we are going to and the potential and diversity. But I am not blind to the difficulties our country has, most of which can be attributed to our apartheid past.

For this reason I want to focus on being a white woman in SA. Cos I can obviously speak with authority about that but also cos I firmly believe talking about race is one of our first steps in dismantling all the hurts, hate and lies about different races.

I'd like to separate into 2 issues and then combine them...
Growing up: similar to many white SA 's born pre 94
White in a well off, privileged home
Domestic worker who wasn't white
Went to a school where there were only white children. When I was in std 4, grd 6 first non- white children came to my school. I am ashamed to say that I hadn't noticed before that there weren't non- white children in my school. I remember asking my mom about why there weren't non- white children in the school before that. If I remember her explanation correctly it was that it was the law.
My parents weren't and are still not racist but they are not particularly politically active and so I think issues of race, which in SA is partly a political issue where not addressed. But my parents did teach me to be respectful of people regardless of race, ses or background.
I am ashamed to say that I didn't recognize the lack of different coloured people in my life until they were there.
Occupational therapy- working at Bara. Exposure to different cultures and races. My first realization that my white ways were not necessarily best. The compassion and caring and being there for your family and even your neighbors was in stark contrast to the white independence and attitude of "look out for yourself" I knew well.
Fast forward a few years to more recent times... 2 and 1/2 years ago I married my wonderful hubby. Philippe. The reason I include this is because he is coloured and our relationship and people and society's reaction to our relationship have also made me think...
Just as a funny aside... We have a "stare rating". Because believe it or not people do stare at us. And depending on the city and place it increases or decreases. Our usual reaction to this is to really give them something to stare about- usually a big smoochy kiss!
So reactions to us- the most obvious was my grandmother warning me "that he was different from me". I told her, I had noticed!
Others are when either of our families, tends to be the extended family, are saying something racist about our respective race and then realize what they have said in front of us and you get this embarrassed silence and usually an accompanying silly grin...
Seriously though the biggest thing for me has been confronting my sense of privilege and presence that I think we, as white people have. Philosophy scholars call this concept whiteliness. I don't want to offend any white people here but I do think we as white people are privileged and act in a privileged way as a result. Things we take for granted- I am judged on my ability not my skin colour. I can do things like drive badly or be late without it being attributed to my race.
I think being in an interracial marriage has made me more aware of my privilege.

And being a woman...
I am the eldest of 3. And have 2 younger brothers.
Since I can remember I have struggled with a sense of injustice in the different ways I was treated as compared to my brothers. I think in a way my parents were protective of me as a girl and so I had a lot less freedom.
My experience and what I observed from my parents and people who interacted with my parents was also of men being respected and women not. My dad commands quite a lot of respect whereas my mom doesn't necessarily.
I was also often warned about the dangers of men, as lots of us are, again I think to protect us. But it did leave me quite wary of men.
And I think fearful of men...
I am also an occupational therapist. A female dominated profession and notoriously poorly paid. Whereas male dominated professions, such as accountancy (what my brothers are and are studying) are well paid.
These experiences left me with a deep sense of injustice and anger about the hierarchical arrangement where men seemed to tower over women in many aspects of life. Made me very independent, strongly opinionated.

But God has a special place for us women. His view of me is not the worlds view. As I struggled with what the world was subconsciously telling me about women, I was also struck by what God was telling me.
I am beloved. I am bought with a price (which is not less than a mans price!). I have a purpose (which is also not less than a mans) just different. He knows me. He understands me.
What God says and how he reacts to me as a woman is so different to what society says, isn't it?

So what about being a white woman in the SA empire?
I think I am privileged. Despite the inherited privilege of being white, as a woman I am not regarded as such a pariah as a white male.
Being a wife has taught me and is teaching me cos I don't think I have got it yet that it isn't about being white or coloured but about being a Godly woman and a Godly wife. A lesson that I think our society slams as being old fashioned but it is how God tells us to live. I think this is particularly hard as a white woman cos we are taught to be independent and think for ourselves and opinionated...
Also my culture or white ways are not necessarily right- as I mentioned earlier about coming to know diff cultures at Bara I have also had that experience in my marriage. Going into marriage I thought I knew best and I'd teach Philippe. But I am coming to learn I don't know best and my white ways are not necessarily right...

I want to read from Romans 12, MSG translation:
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: take your everyday, ordinary life- your sleeping, eating, going to work and walking around life- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity. God brings the best out of you, develops well formed maturity in you.

Like I said earlier God really knows how to reveal pertinent stuff to us at pertinent times, doesn't he?
I think this verse is great cos it reiterates that as Christians we shouldn't be so caught up in our culture but rather in Gods ways. I don't think God has ever asked me to stop being a woman or white! But he does say don't become well adjusted to it because it drags you down to its level of immaturity.

I had breakfast with a special friend of mine this morning and we were talking about reconciliation and she said she had been reading Ephesians 3 and was just struck again by how the whole gospel is about reconciliation. God calling us to reconcile with him and us with each other- men and women, different races, different backgrounds. What I love about reconciliation is it never about us becoming less of who we are but just getting to know the other better. And in getting to know the other better we have to lay down our culture and our preconceived ideas about other people.

Discipleship in this empire is i think following God in this country but free from our culture which "drags us down"...

So I guess in closing I just want to say that I don't really want to be defined as a white woman under the empire of SA but rather as Kathy, Gods daughter living in SA.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Whiteliness?!

So this is something I have meant to write for a while but haven't been 100% sure how to tackle...
It is a controversial so please comment and disagree and let's debate!

Whiteliness is a term coined by philosophers to describe a way of being and acting that can be quite separate from being white. As male and masculine are different. So being white and whiteliness are different.

A couple of months ago there was an afternoon seminar on "being white in SA" at Wits... So off I went (with 2 of my similarly pale colleagues). This is where I first heard the term whiteliness.

Basically whiteliness is an attitude of I am right, my way is right, my language is right and it is also a habit of expectation. Of being treated a certain way. It stems from an imbalance of power that has in history favored white people.

I don't know if I am making this clear... But it resonates with me! Despite the fact that I don't think I am pushy or in your face or racist or arrogant I know I have an expectation of how I should be treated.
I do think my language is best- of course it is, English is a universally accepted language.
I expect good service- but I should because we all deserve to be treated well.
I think having a tertiary education is how it should be done- but of course it is because it
gives people the best opportunities, doesn't it...

These seem innocuous things but it is an underlying, deeply ingrained attitude of being right. More and more I think that these typically accepted things are not necessarily best but are only thought to be best because of this previous history of power imbalances.

I guess practically... What do we do with this?
Firstly I would suggest examine our attitudes towards what is right... Just because it is generally accepted as best it may not be!
I again urge you to get to know people who are different- co our, religion, culture...find out what they think, deep down.
And as much as we embrace being white, let's step away from whiteliness.
Let's listen, let's be humble, let's learn.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Loud Americans!

Philippe and I just had a gorgeous dinner. For those of you who know us well, you can guess where! Yes- Doppio Zero. We sat outside. It is a magnificent evening in Joburg, hot and beautiful...
We had a table with 2 young couples and lots of kids on one side and a table of loud Americans on the other side. Both tables made the same amount of noise, the kids probably even more noise, but it was the loud Americans who grated on our nerves.

Why is this?

Is it because of our preconceived ideas that Americans are loud, opinionated and loud? I think it's a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy... We expect loud Americans and when they are it further entrenches our ideas. Never mind the 100's of quiet, shy, softly spoken Americans we've met in our life's!
And how many groups do we do that with? All afrikaners are racist? All English SA are entitled? All Indians drive fast? All coloreds have gold front teeth? All blacks are loud?

Not true is it? And when I say it like that it seems silly! But we do think like that and only remember our interactions that reinforce those preconceived ideas...

An idea I have already expressed but I think is relevant again is... We need to get to know individuals, hear their stories and break down these preconceived ideas we have about groups.

Hears to the Americans!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Julius

Been thinking lots about politics in SA following last weeks ANCYL march... To start, another disclaimer, I am not hugely political and don't really understand all aspects of SA politics. But here are a couple of thoughts...

Just before the municipal elections earlier this year one of the radio dj's said that SA's will still vote along racial lines. I was quite troubled by this statement. Is that true? Do we as SA vote along racial lines? Do us whiteys just vote DA and black people vote ANC, Indians minority front... Is that true? Do we rather vote for a similar racial group rather than a group whose policies we agree with?
How many of us even know what the different parties stand for?
Do i (do we) vote and just hope there wont be a two thirds majority that will upset our status quo?

Next thought... Julius...

He scares me! And I think most white people I speak to are scared of him. Partly because he can be so openly anti- white and because some of the things he says and advocates really challenge our pale status quo.
I also think some of the things he says are purely inflammatory and attention seeking.


But is that because i am white and if some of the things he says come to pass i will be out of a country?
I havent really heard black people criticising JuJu which makes me wonder... Is my objection to him purely on racial lines? I'd like to think its not because i get uncomfortable with far right wing rhetoric too...

In writing this i am really challenged though...
  1. i need to better understand my counties politics
  2. i need to really think and pray about who i vote for- they should be the best people for the job regardless of skin colour.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Been counted???

Census 2011 is on the go. Have you been counted yet?
Philippe was running ( or rather riding) to work when our counter (is that what we call them?)arrived.. She gave him the form and he said "don't worry... We'll fill it in" by which he actually meant my wife will!

While filling the form in I was struck by how privileged I am... I have all the " luxury amenities" listed on that form. I have running water, proper sewerage, electricity and a house with too many rooms for the 2 of us.

During the week of negotiating the census form I had to go to Diepsloot twice.

Diepsloot is an informal settlement, north of Joburg. It is close to Fourways and Dainfern. Estimates suggest about 20 000 families or households live here.


While here I noticed the census counters and many of the homes had stickers to show they'd been counted...

What did those forms show?

Diepsloot residents live in conditions desperately opposite to how I live.
There is no proper sewerage system.
Water supplies are generally outside of the homes.
Most of the homes are not formal homes- they are shacks made of an assortment of materials.
There are many people living in tiny spaces.
People are poor... Most of the residents are unemployed or informally employed.
People don't have luxuries like dstv, computers, iPads...


How do we reconcile these hugely different living conditions?
How do I go about my day knowing I live in such a privileged world when my neighbor doesn't and can barely afford food, let alone, things I take for granted, like electricity, water and a flushing toilet.

I don't know?
I honestly don't...

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Re: birthday thoughts...

It was my birthday this past weekend... I love my birthday!!!! I think i love it because pressies are definitely my love language and whats not to like about a whole day dedicated to me...Usually i do months of reminders and prepping of those around me so no one can (pretend to) forget! This year i was a bit slack on the reminders but i was still so spoiled and loved and remembered. Was a really good weekend...

On my birthday Philippe and i went for a ride. We both ride mountain bikes. Philippe- very well. Me, not so well and quite slowly.
Luckily because it was my birthday there were lots of phone calls so we had to stop and answer the phone. Perfect excuse for a breather!
While on our ride we stopped at the quickshop at the garage for some sustenance (Honestly tho- i needed sustenance, Philippe could probably have continued for another 100km's, especially at the pace we were going!) While Philippe was buying the sugar i was catching my breath. I watched as this man arrived. He must have been my age (and I AM NOT THAT OLD, despite what my brothers may say).He got out his car and greeted the petrol attendant as "my boy".
I started bristling (inside). Lucky for him i was too dead to move (I wish that was true...I am still too cowardly to confront people in situations like this. And should we???) Anyway back to the point...
Firstly... dont we love talking about other people as possessions... Since when do we own any other person? We speak particularly  like this about people who work for us. I do it all the time. I thought slavery ended a couple of 100 years ago.
Secondly...How can we call another grown up, adult a boy. It is so demeaning. And implies superiority. I realise it is a remnant of apartheid speech where we talked about garden boys and kitchen girls. But following on from what i said last time we need to watch how we speak as it givves us space in our heads to justify how we treat people. By calling black people in SA boys and girls didnt we just reinforce the thinking that "those people" needed governing, organising, and belittling because they were children.

I guess i'm just talking about more of the same... Watching what we say!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Relationships: starting small

·     Today I am borrowing a quote and pic from my cousin Carey (that she posted on facebook) because it really captures want i want to say...

On Sunday Philippe and I went back to visit my old church.
(Just as an aside... Visiting Hillside again was like revisiting my parents home! it still feels like home. i feel like i could dig in the fridge for a snack or put my feet on the couch while i'm watching TV! Although i'm not sure my dad or Wayne (pastor) would like that...)
Wayne was talking about that famous passage in revelations about being neither hot nor cold (and how we'll be spat out of Gods mouth if we are so insipid) and he related it to reconciliation. And how we can be so insipid about others and especially people different to ourselves... We say things like "i'm not racist" but we avoid making friends with black people or avoid the indian shopkeeper or teller. Lets take a stand and be radically switched on in our interactions with other people. He went on to say that the way to do this is relationally!

You cant break down huge stereotypical ideas about different people if you dont know any different people!
How do you change perceptions- relationships! Getting to know someone different from yourself. Hearing their story. Hearing their struggles, their joys, their history, their perceptions...

I think Wayne was 100% right- how do we do reconciliation PRACTICALLY!? By having relationships with people who are different from you... Different race, SES, gender, religious beliefs, nationality. Lets mix it up a bit! Lets break down our preconceived ideas about people by getting to know people.

  "We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world." -Howard Zinn-

I like this quote because it is exactly that- lets change our ideas, our behaviours, our habits one relationship at a time!



I  will!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Us and them... Watching what we say.

I think one of the issues in reconciliation is how we talk.

I was struck by a story of the genocide in Rwanda. During the genocide 800 000 Tutsi 's were killed by their countrymen. Part of the pre-genocide way of thinking and therefore talking was to dehumanise the Tutsi's by calling them names such as cockroach.

How often do we do that- in our thinking or talking?
I think one of the ways we do this is by talking about them...
How often do we use the term them without even thinking? And who is "them"?
Is them the people who are different from us? People we feel superior to? People we don't relate to? People we consider less than us?

We talk of "they did this" or "they do those things" or "they stole it"...
Again I ask- who is they?
I want to try for myself to be careful of how I think and therefore how I talk. Especially not falling into a trap of talking about them indiscriminately.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Reconciliation???

The cool thing (for me, maybe not so much for those reading it) about a blog is i get to air stuff i'm thinking about and grappling with...

Seeing as this blog is about reconciliation i think thats a good place to start! Reconciliation as a term is a hard thing to reconcile (haha) because it means lots of different things and i am not sure all of them are completely what i am looking for. I guess i want a term that will tell me how to do this difficult thing! How are we reconciled? How do we do reconciliation? (Even) Should we be doing reconciliation?

Wikipedia (the source of all wisdom according to our students!) defines Reconciliation as " reestablishing normal relations between belligerents" or " restoring mutual respect between individuals from different cultural backgrounds" while dictionary.com defines it as "to win over to friendliness" or "to compose or settle".

I guess my issue with the Wikipedia definitions are they dont really tell me how to do it and to confine reconciliation to only belligerent parties is, i think, a little short sighted. I might personally have never been pro- apartheid or overtly racist but that shouldnt preclude me from reconciliation with other south africans... As a white south african i have benefitted from apartheid and as a south african i have been influenced by history (just as we all have) and therefore i suggest that all south africans need to be reconciled to each other! And i think reconciliation isnt purely along racial lines- it needs to be between different cultural groups. English and Afrikaans. Zulu and Sotho. Different socioeconomic classes. Even different schooling systems!!!And different language groups and of course different racial groups (sorry- went off on a tangent there!)

So back to the definition of reconciliation...
Does reconciliation mean we have to be best of friends?
Or as Wikipedia suggests just have mutual respect?

I dont like the idea that it is purely about respect. i can be very respectful of a famous person but it involves distance! I propose that true reconciliation is about getting to know people as people. Having genuine relationships with people and then deciding on a human level because you know the person if you like them. i think truly getting to know people who are different may break down our preconceived ideas so that we can be reconciled.
is this too simplistic a view?

But i also dont think reconciliation means you'll be best of friends with everyone. Rather you'll be able to be friends with people based on charactor, not differences.

I think i have more answers than questions?

I like Desmond Tutu's take on Equality which is similiar to what i think reconciliation should look like...

Equality is essential to human life and well-being, and people were willing to make enormous sacrifices to achieve it in South Africa and in other nations. But as King and Gandhi remind us, God’s dream envisions more than mere equality. An equal you can acknowledge once and then forever thereafter ignore. God’s dream wants us to be brothers and sisters, wants us to be family.                                 Desmond Tutu

So like i said in the disclaimer at the beginning... Things i am grappling with and thinking about...
What do you think?


Saturday, 1 October 2011

Back to the beginning

I think I jumped into the blogging a bit prematurely. Probably was too excited that I'd finally got it started and so started blogging before really introducing myself and this blog properly. And so I want to take a quick step back...

I am Kathy. I am South African, proudly South African. I am white and a very pale white! I am married to philippe. He is an incredibly good, passionate, special guy. Must be, right?! And he is coloured. Philippe prefers to be called coloured, aka black (because of bee privileges)

It's impossible to live in SA and not be aware of race. And even more so when you are in an interracial relationship...

Since I can remember I have been passionate about SA and about our people. But I do recognize in myself that a grew up very privileged because of my paleness. I also think that means I have some preconceptions about other people. I don't think, I know!
But I am passionate about SA and our people and I want somehow to challenge how we think and as a result how we act.

So hopefully that clarifies some things and hopefully gets you thinking...

Friday, 30 September 2011

More on Coventry Cathedral...

As my hubby will tell you, i am a little obsessed with churches and cathedrals. I love them, i love walking through them marvelling at how people try to build something that will, in some small way, impress God. I love the atmosphere of churches and some of my favourite memories of different trips are the incredible churches i have seen...

When googling "reconciliation" the image i posted yesterday comes up.

What an incredible piece of art that is... It really touched me and i think it embodies reconciliation in a way my words struggle to...

It is set in the garden of coventry cathedral, UK.
Coventry cathedral was destroyed in 1940 by bombs dropped by the luftwaffe. The next morning the decision was made to rebuild the cathedral with the intention that it not be an act of defiance, but a sign of faith and hope for the future of the world. The provost at the time, Dick Howard, made a commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible. From this decision grew a reconciliation ministry.

See more about this at: http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/about-us/our-reconciliation-ministry.php

What an awesome response!

Dresden Cathedral, in Germany, was also destroyed during the war, but obviously by the Allied forces, not the Luftwaffe. As part of Coventry Cathedrals message of forgiveness and reconciliation they presented Dresden Cathedral with a cross in 2005.

Read the Coventry litany of reconciliation: http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/about-us/our-reconciliation-ministry/coventry-litany-of-reconciliation.php

Cool example of forgiveness and reconciliation!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Where to start?

Josefina de Vasconcellos, the statue of Reconciliation in St. Michaels cathedral in Coventry.
What feelings does this picture provoke in you?