Let's start a conversation...

"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!"

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


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...