I’m thrilled to welcome Brettfish to the blog space for the next little while to share his story of wrestling with the concept of privilege as a white South African guy. Brett is someone who is helping the white community in SA start to have conversations about race and privilege, and does a great job sharing his platform with thoughtful South Africans of all races in discussing this topic. I’ve learned so much from his posts, and even had the chance to do a guest post for him at one stage. With all that’s going on in SA right now with the #feesmustfall campaigns, there have been a lot of questions and conversations about privilege springing up. I think Brett’s story is a great place to start if you have questions about all this “privilege” stuff.
But before we jump into Brett’s posts, I want you to hear this. Because I think you won’t be able to hear anything unless you know this, and know it deep, deep in your soul:
You are loved.
You are treasured. God rescued you from the kingdom of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the son he loves, and this was no small, or cheap, or quick thing. This was as costly as Christ’s torn flesh and his wine-red blood. This was extraordinarily expensive. We’re brought into the circle of grace in which we now stand, and we are set free. He wanted to do it. It was worth it to him. He loved this knobble-kneed, messed up, sin-sick world so much that he wanted to see it put right again, no matter the cost.
You’re a child of the king. That’s who you are. Wrap your fingers around that truth and cling to it hard. Whenever things get scary, whenever you feel your defenses rising, I want you to reach deep down to the pockets of your soul and cling to this truth: I am loved. I am Christ’s. That’s who I am.
All these other labels we use for ourselves- girl, boy, old, young, middle class, working class, black, white, Afrikaans, Sotho, Texan, cricket-fan—all of them are a part of us, yes, but they are a superficial part. They are not the inner core of who we are. When we think they’re our core, we block our ears and close ourselves off to truth, because to hear anything upsetting about one of those groups is to have our identity attacked and maimed.
We’re funny about this, especially when it comes to race. Us white people like to say we don’t see race, it isn’t an important part of who we are…but if that’s true and it really doesn’t matter all that much, then why do we jump in to defend whiteness when people start poking at it? Why do we dismiss people who want to talk to us about racism, or privilege, why do we say it’s all trumped up politics?
I think it’s because we’re afraid. We’re afraid, because we are white. And it’s difficult to sit still and be told that white people have done some pretty bad stuff in history, or white people have some pretty big advantages today, because to us it sounds like: You’re a despicable human because you’re white. There’s something wrong with who you are.
And we feel helpless and horrible and so of course we silence those voices and avoid the issue. I don’t want to be told that who I am is oppressive to people. I can’t change who I am.
I’ve grown up between worlds–Zulu, English, American—and one thing I’m learning is that if we’re going to move forward in reconciliation we have to remember who we really are. If we know who we really are, we are free to listen to uncomfortable truths. We are free to learn, because we’re not forced to defend our position.
So keep this truth, keep it like a worn pebble in the pocket of your soul and cling to it. Whenever you encounter something new, it’s uncomfortable. But I hope we’ll be willing to step into the discomfort and grow.
One thought on “On Labels & Learning”
I am super excited that you are going to be sharing on these topics so thank you for the space and for using some of my words – i am not expert by any means but this is stuff which is close to my heart and which i have been talking and reading about and listening to over the last few years especially and feel like i have started to learn some things – mostly that there is still so much to learn…
One of the series i am busy writing at the moment and hoping others will help me write is one on how to be a better ally to people of colour – this seems to be an area where a lot of black people have grown frustrated as if white people expect them to tell us how we should act etc when actually we need to figure it out – https://brettfish.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/how-to-be-an-ally-intro
Look forward to what you’re going to post and hope to see your readers wrestling with the stuff – this is complicated and time-consuming and frustrating but oh so necessary and important and i believe vital in terms of living out the kingdom of God.
Wishing you an excellent time of it
love brett fish