Two very white whites are doing their bit to address past imbalances and make the world a better place.
As members of the previously advantaged, very light skinned, group of the population in South Africa, we are regularly confronted by and included in accusations that diversity and difference has not been adequately embraced by “us”. And rightly so, many of “us” have not done enough, choose to get defensive and demand that everybody “just get on with it – it’s over 20 years… blah, blah, blah…” Not good for nation building. Or community and connectedness.
Moves to shoe horn corrective measures into society serve to further separate and divide. You’re either too light, too dark, too few, too many, too able, not able enough. This is not to say that there shouldn’t be corrective measures, it’s the layers of positional narrative that surround these measures that serves to inflame sentiment. It does nothing for nation building or community and connectedness.
Two very white whites
It apparently makes for good copy, though. The media grabs every sound bite of diversive opinion and social networks spew uglier and uglier allegations. Mudslinging, pot stirring, finger pointing politicians really enjoy the spat and add their twenty (million?) rand to the public debate. If you had to believe what you read we are a divided nation of a few have’s and many have-nots at constant loggerheads.
Matthew and I are so pale you would lose us in the sands of a bright beach if we did not wear clothing. We were born slap bang in the middle of the apartheid era. The wrong age, the wrong race. Do we have blind spots about this? Sure we do. We have blind spots about our position in society, our privilege, access to education and the opportunities life has afforded us. When we go into under resourced spaces we stick out like, well, like two very white whites.
It could be misconstrued that we have come to rescue those less fortunate than ourselves with our white guilt and unguarded arrogance. It does look very typical. As easy as it is to feel prickly and sensitive about this, it serves no purpose for us and our experience has been so very different. And not only in the under resourced spaces. In fact we get more push back about our work and what we do from our fellow light skin brethren than our darker citizens.
Accepting what is
Our lovely hosts and fellow participants, of the Ubuntu.Lab hub* we are part of, none of whom are our hue, met us at a recent meeting with expressions of exhaustion and stress. Matthew’s offer of a group Shape of Emotion process was eagerly accepted. The feedback from one of the participants says it all:
“A blessed day Tuesday was – from sombre moods to uncontrollable laughter. We haven’t laughed like that in a while……it was all in good spirits as a result of the process. Thank you!!
You are such a wonderful contribution to this stressed out team of people that really needed an external perspective! Thank you for your sensitivity and generosity in sharing your process.”
Wellbeing in the workplace
We piloted our corporate offering in the same week – with a group from the financial department of Joburg city centre company. A more analytical group you could not get. If we are going to try something out we don’t go for soft targets. Most of the participants were younger and darker than we are. We were welcomed, challenged, and engaged with by human beings stressed out by the constant pressures of the South African business space.
Welcome and appreciation
Our experience to date has been one of welcome and appreciation. The engagements are generative and open. There is a focus on connectedness, community, possibility, wellbeing and equality. We all want to feel better and be better human beings.
Finally a completely unrelated event – rugby – where a late night game in a small smoky pub was cheered on the loudest by a muscular, ex-rugby player and very dark skinned, Verrai (yup, that really is his name and he is from Zimbabwe nogal!). He believed to the very end that we would win – and we did. He then lead all of us, black, white, coloured, indian, male, female, English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Tshwana and more, in a wall shaking rendition of the national anthem.
Great for nation building, community and connectedness.
*Ubuntu.Lab offers a practical response to the challenges confronting the African continent. It equally seeks to capitalise on the opportunities that the continent has. The ultimate aim of Ubuntu.Lab is transform Self, Organisation and Society.
About the author
5th Place offers specialised psychological services in the form of coaching and therapy for immediate relief from stress, anxiety, & other mental health challenges. It works fast, deep and quick. For individuals and groups, children, teens and adults.