Nothing could have prepared me for the backlash I received from my last deeply personal post, my account of how I had experienced the #ZumaMustFallMarch. For those of you who haven’t seen it and want to, it is the one before this post. Yes, I put it on Facebook and Twitter, and even on Reddit (my worst mistake of them all, since I was testing out that small, white and it turns out, conservative tech community). Nothing could have prepared me for the ‘reasonable argument’ from white people I call my friends.
It is important to spell out here, before I go any further, that I took none of the vitriol, rage, self righteous justification, excuses and rhetoric personally. I did take some of the name calling a little bit personally, but, who wouldn’t cringe, with a certain amount of self acknowledgement, at ‘whining bitch’ and ‘those tears were too much’.
But, after reading time and time again how I must get over my white guilt, and how it wasn’t the white people’s fault that black people didn’t take up the cause, and that it made no difference what colour the marchers were (what? what?) , suddenly I am in very, very deep water, with only a handful of likeminded white allies and white people who understand white privilege and how it differs from white guilt. And, to be perfectly honest, I am shocked. I am shocked to my core, and I am only now beginning to understand the trouble we are in. It is far, far worse than I could have imagined.
See, I understand for the very first time that most white people, even some of my friends and family, not understand at all what apartheid was, what it did, and what the consequences of it were, and are. For the first time I am beginning to see what black people see when they look at whites in general, and it is not a pretty picture at all. I am beginning to understand how it has gone beyond black people trying to explain, and that is probably why they don’t even try. Certainly, when they do there is a backlash as well. I take Siya Khumalo’s fantastic, simple and well penned article How Mainstream Media Unknowingly Helps The #ANC Use #Zuma As Its Racial Jesus as an example. White people got upset, angry and full of words, instead of hearing the article. It seems to me that #ZumaMustFall has given closet racists (remember, you only need to be a teeny, weeny little bit racist, deep in your little soul to be a racist) a wonderful opportunity to regurgitate the “I’m not racist but..” slogan, alongside the “why do you have to bring race into it?” whine. I am done with those apologists, now and forever.
I have no idea what my next step is. I have no idea how to take myself to a place where I can do good, be true and properly helpful. I am naive when I wake up deeply grateful for what I have and how I got it, and at what expense. I am as afraid of losing what little I have as the next person, but I know how relative that ‘little I have’ is. A great example is how much I happily spend on my second loves, my animals. And let me double explain, while you breathe in for the outrage, I am not for a moment suggesting I shouldn’t, I am just giving it all a bit of perspective.
I am nervous. I am panicking about how much listening I am going to have to do (I am much better at talking, and shouting) and how much extra work I am going to have to do to prove I really mean what I say. It is vitally important that the few black people I know and love can trust me. I am going to be gathering like minded people like precious jewels since I am discovering how few there are.
PS. I suddenly realised I wasn’t completely done with this post. I hope you don’t mind this post script. And it is aimed directly at white people. What have you done since the end of apartheid to make things right? What have you actually done?