An evaluation of our work - The Ethics of Whiteness: Race, Religion, and Social Transformation in South Africa
It is not every day that you have a person come and do their doctoral research scrutinizing your work and in particular your attitudes, beliefs and practices about race and racial transformation. Rachel Schneider did just that in chapter 4 of her dissertation entitles "Embracing the Struggle: Urban Relocation, Solidarity, and Truth-Telling". The chapter looks in particular at our own efforts to tackle racism in South Africa and provides a glimpse of us on that journey in 2014. We have learned a lot since then and are still learning. This piece of work is critical at times and encouraging at others.
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!