I have a confession to make, most of my life I thought “exclusive” was a desirable thing. It has been marketed to me as something which is valuable and to be sought after. It has appealed to me. Phrases like “you deserve it”, “you’re worth it”, and “you have worked hard for it” are often associated with the concept to create the illusion that I am more worthy than others of special treatment.
Is it really OK for me to have special treatment?
Why do my children “deserve” a better education than most others? Why do I “deserve” a wider seat when I fly? Why do I “deserve” a private banker? Have I really worked harder than the woman who left home this morning at 4:30 only to return when it is dark, working as a domestic worker? Doesn’t she actually deserve it more?
The word “exclusive” deceptively appeals to something deep within. Ordinary people get treated so badly on a daily basis that when they get to be treated with dignity and respect, which is right, they often don’t question “why only me”? Is this pride? Is this selfishness?
It is shocking that when we are treated in this way we tend to stop asking why everyone should not be treated right anymore. It seems that the easiest way to get someone to stop fighting for justice for all is to treat them as special. Privilege seems to neuter us from advocacy for justice. While there are exceptions, white people generally don’t fight for racial equality; rich people generally don’t fight for economic justice; and the politically included generally don’t fight for the marginalised.
Tragically it is not only the included who fail to fight for justice, often the excluded, rather than seeking justice, seek fake inclusion. One only has to look at the abundance of fake brands littering our streets to see that many believe their fake Louis Vuitton handbag, fake Rolex watch or fake Mont Blanc pen will heal their wounded psyche and sense of alienation.
When we are told we deserve exclusive excellence, it often leaves us with the illusion that others have done something wrong. They are bad, not hard working enough, have bad attitudes. This in turn makes us feel superior in some ways. How insane!
I have to admit that the more I live among those who are excluded, the more I feel nauseated by the intentional practice of exclusion.
From now on I am #AntiExclusivity!
Our architects Urban Studio have taken a stab at what our reconciliation centre could look like… let us know in the comments what you think?
Here are just a few of our favorite news articles and television documentaries written/ made about our work over the last two years...
Daily Maverick: Hope in Hillbrow: ‘If Jesus lived anywhere, it would be here’
The Daily Maverick visits a white, Christian family who moved into the centre of white fear: Hillbrow in downtown Johannesburg. JESSICA EATON finds out why. (Photos by THAPELO LEKGOWA)
Read Article here
Oprah Magazine: In the Heart of Hillbrow (May 2013 Issue)
A family shares the sights and sounds that make Joburg’s gritty inner city the place they happily call home. By Norma Young
Read article here
France24: Interview with Nigel Branken (second story)
Watch it here
And a blog from one of our friends Sami Awad
Read it here
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