1. What is Whites talking to Whites all about?
- While politicians fail to focus and deliver on the real problems of inequality, unemployment and poverty, the race card is pushed to the top of the political agenda. To such an extent that Justice Malala could say in a recent publication in the Herald that “we are sinking, every day now, into a racial morass. We are shouting. Not talking. We are insulting each other – not seeking solutions”.
- “Whites talking to Whites” is an ‘out of the box’ approach to assist Whites to deal with their own racial issues. It is to prepare them to participate in a conversation so that we can shape our future by understanding our past.
The framework is made up of three “hooks”. Firstly, what is the problem? Secondly, how did we get here? Finally, what are we going to do about it?
- According to a number of pastors who assisted me to develop this initiative a large percentage of Whites (90%) are in denial and oblivious of the past. According to F.W. de Klerk, Max du Preez and Mamphela Ramphele ‘whites need to be helped to understand what their black and brown brothers and sisters have experienced in the past’.
- The conversation aims to build social cohesion. We strive to build enough goodwill that will tip the scales from anger and hatred. The series is made up of eight modules: an overview of whites talking to whites about racism; what is the problem; important new concepts to understand; SA History: Black and White relationships (one A4 page) & Black/White conflict 1652-1994; shaping our future by understanding our past (one A4 page matrix); confessions of a racist; what can we do about racism in NM Bay from tomorrow morning and finally, the Way Forward.
2. What made you start on this journey?
- During the last quarter of 2015, political parties started their preparations for the 6 August 2016 local elections. They pushed “racism” to the top of the agenda. The DA decided to focus on discrediting Jacob Zuma, while the ANC responded by playing the race card.
- I became alarmed because I consider racism one of the biggest threats to our rainbow nation and the miracle of 1994.
- My greatest concern was the degree of ignorance on all sides and that nobody was doing anything about it. The exception was the politicians with their inciteful slogans and totally uninformed statements like “precolonial audits”, Black people never owned land etc.
- I felt in my spirit that the Lord was encouraging me to step forward and make myself available – to do something about it.
- During the December recess I read two interesting books. “What if there were NO Whites in SA” by Ferial Haffajee & “Run Racist Run” by Eusebius McKaiser. I did not agree with everything they said but started looking at SA through their glasses. I learnt about terms and concepts that I had never thought about i.e. whiteness, white supremacy, intergenerational privilege etc.
3. What did you learn and decide to do about it?
- The most important thing I learnt was that whites should stop asking other race groups to solve their racism issues.
- Whites should deal with their own racism issues.
- There are already many courses and toolkits on racism on google but why are we not seeing any improvement?
- I decided to try something different, something out of the box.
- I decided that I would start off with “Whites talking to Whites”
4. What did you do when you got back to Port Elizabeth?
- When I got back home I bounced this new approach off a number of knowledgeable and experienced colleagues. After receiving their support, I wrote to the Herald on 16 January 2016 inviting people to join a monthly “Whites to Whites” focus group at the South End Museum, Humewood (Significant venue).
- After meeting for the whole of 2016 and listening to different points of view we decided to focus on W2W and “What’s your Story” and roll programs out to churches, businesses, schools, universities and government departments.
5. Why just Whites talking to Whites – is that not racist and exclusive?
- Some people thought that W2W was racist and exclusive. Not so. Discussions were open to all and on many occasions coloured and / or black people joined our focus group.
- Our objective was to get people talking to each other.
- Firstly, my experience is that most whites are inclined to close up when other groups are present.
- Secondly, whites don’t even agree on their past. There has been very little formal reconciliation between the English and Afrikaans people in this country
- Thirdly, Max du Preez, F.W de Klerk and Mamphela Ramphele have recently stated that it is important that the whites in SA help each other to understand what our black and brown brothers and sisters experienced in the past.
- Fourthly, Haffajee and McKaiser feel whites should deal with their own racism.
- Fifthly, who are the authors of the history books being read by whites? Is it Sampie Terreblanche, Moeletsi Mbeki, Steve Hofmeyer, Jacob Zuma or Julius Malema?
6. What has been the reaction of your friends and people around you?
- I have come across five groups of whites in SA.
- Firstly, some people just “don’t want to talk” about racism – very aggressive, biased and prejudiced.
- Secondly, some people “just want to talk” about it but not get too serious.
- Thirdly, some people believe that we should pray about it and leave it to the Lord.
- Fourthly, people’s views around repentance, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation differ greatly.
- Finally, there are still those of us who believe that through understanding and acceptance of the past, we could set a common goal through which we could promote enough goodwill to tip the scales away from anger and hatred.
7. Racism is a most emotive and controversial topic! How are you going to do to handle it?
- We are not arguing about history.
- We are not blaming anybody. Black or White.
- We are embarking on a process to get South Africans to talk to each other by participating in the “What’s your Story” initiative (Heartlines).
- We are embarking on a nationwide “healing and reconciliation” movement.
8. What outcomes do you hope to achieve?
- We want to walk together on a journey of self-discovery.
- We want every South African to participate in the Heartlines “What’s your Story” initiative.
- We want to encourage people to think twice and do their homework before they make uninformed and/or inciteful statements.
- We want to build up a monumental reservoir of goodwill by reaching as many whites as possible in the shortest time.