What If Different Was Good? Re-imagining Race

When black people give in to anger and choose to punish white people, neither wins. Your words or actions may destroy a white person but bitterness will kill you eventually.

When white people give into fear or intimidation, they alienate themselves even more. Denial, apathy or flight is not the answer. This problem is not ‘out there’, it is within you too.

Black people, we are prejudiced. Our prejudice cannot be justified because of our history. Our pain, yes. Our anger and suffering yes. But not our prejudice.

Racial prejudice only confirms the lie that the enemy spoke a long time ago, the lie that someone’s appearance is something of
significance when judging their character and value.

White people, we have a responsibility. “I wasn’t there.” can no longer fly. No, it’s not our fault. No, we don’t hate black people. But we are responsible because our reality today, sometimes for worse but usually for better, is the fruit of our forefathers doing. The privilege of the few, to the disadvantage of the many.

White people need to start asking questions, even stupid questions. We need to study people who are different to us. Not the way we study flowers or birds, as if black people were an alien species. Three things are needed: humility, respect and value for things that are different to us.

Black people need to start asking questions too and get the facts straight. We need to learn our history or we are in danger of repeating it. Injustices were committed by humans not a colour. White is not the enemy.

We were stabbed in the back but years later if we’re still walking around with that knife, we only have ourselves to blame for the rot.

I venture into this topic with great caution because I realise that the issues of ‘race’ and ‘racism’ are sensitive topics. I know that not all black people are the same. I realise that white people aren’t the same either.

However, I do think there are common threads of thought and experience that run through groups of people who share similar cultural backgrounds so generalisations aren’t completely false.

I want to acknowledge that not everyone is black or white. There’s a minority of people that fall through the cracks in these discussions. If you’re someone who wants to share your unique experience please email me on realmukoko[at]gmail[dot]com

I dislike and disagree with the terms ‘race’ and ‘racism’. The idea of race is not based on any form of truth; it’s based on wrong science and false philosophies. The term ‘racism’ is loaded and people go on the attack or the defensive with it. It’s not very helpful if you’re trying to have a constructive discussion.

I’m going to use them anyway because we use them in our conversations, don’t get bogged down on the terminology.

What if we stopped making assumptions and asked questions?

What if we let go of our fear and embraced curiosity?

Share this with your friends and look out for more posts like this!

This article was originally posted on http://www.realmukoko.wordpress.com. No copying, remixing or republishing without permission of the editor. Subscribe to the blog by email to get latest posts straight to your inbox!

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23 thoughts on “What If Different Was Good? Re-imagining Race

  1. Zula, I really enjoy reading your articles. Zula you write beautifully…Ladle is right you are a very talented and insightful lady. Zula you are an inspiration to all!😊x

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  2. Dear Zola, are you not on twitter, you are such a talented insightful lady and I would like to follow you. Respect!

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  3. Hi Sine, excellent observations regarding how the fear of the unknown underlies prejudice. I agree! I also think the love of money underlies prejudice sometimes. We’re very quick to find reasons why its okay to exploit someone. Often the go-to thing is “race”.

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  4. Hi askxyz! Thanks for your very kind words. I had a look at your blog, do keep writing, I think you have valuable insights to share! If you’d like to share my posts please email me on realmukoko[at]gmail[dot]com letting me know which of my articles you’d like to republish. Cheers, Zola

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  5. Kudos for venturing into this topic. I think talking and writing about our prejudices is so important, as it opens up your eyes to something you might just choose to ignore otherwise. Nevertheless, I’ve gotten some nasty comments when venturing in the area of race on my blog, just for asking questions and stating the times I’ve realized I was prejudiced. I think what underlies all prejudice and racism is fear. Fear of the unknown. And it is present on both sides. I remember when first arriving in South Africa how I was told never to venture into Alexandra, as a white person, or I’d be killed. Well, I went anyway (repeatedly – was helping Alexandra Baseball team). The one time I was there I had to laugh – I was telling a woman I met that I’d been to Diepsloot previously, helping in schools, and she looked at me as if I was absolutely bonkers. “I’d never go into Diepsloot, it’s such a dangerous place, you’ll get killed there!” To me, they were both equally scary before I’d ever set foot in either, and then they weren’t once I had been there and met people. And it was exactly the same for her – Alexandra was where she was at home, so it didn’t scare her, but Diepsloot was alien and unknown. It had nothing to do with race for her. I thought that was revealing. Like you say, celebrating our differences and reaching out to get to know others different from us is the best way to overcome prejudice and racism.

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  6. Hi Shula, just found your blog via 16 things black people wish … on SA People News. Just awesome. As a white Scotsman married to a white South African who have just emigrated/gone home to SA, this stuff is invaluable, and very funny.This post, What if different was good, is exactly what I have been saying/thinking for years. Go into politics. The world needs people with integrity like you in positions of authority. I would be so grateful if I could share some of your stuff at http://dunstravaigin.wordpress.com/

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  7. Very interesting article that’s let’s you stop & think for a second. You are very correct to say ‘The idea of race is not based on any form of truth; it’s based on wrong science and false philosophies.’ I definitely could not have said it better myself.

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  8. As others have commented before, I love the inclusive “we” employed by Shula to address people of both colors. So here’s Shula as a black person addressing white people using “we”. At least, this makes her a messenger navigating between the two groups with empathy, like saying “look, now that I’m here with your group, and trying to put myself into your shoes, this is what I’d like to share with you as a friend.” Think about it some more, and realize that the inclusive “we” makes perfect sense when we start to see ourselves as who we are, citizens of the same nation, Zimbabwe (regardless of color). Take it bit further and let’s talk “we” as who we are, world citizens sharing the same globe. Again, I just wish we had more people thinking like that…

    Ultimately, for those who believe, it’s “we” as in “us children of God”, the loving creator, who entrusted us with this world to share it and take good care of it, and play our part in advancing his kingdom, where all tears shall be dried and love and peace shall prevail. Where, according to Christian faith in the footsteps of Jesus, the kingdom of God is not some remote entity to come at the end of time; it’s has already begun and happens right here in the real world, e.g. with with positive and authentic dialogues on Shula’s blog (among others…). In fact, Jesus is a perfect example how to ignore all those artificial boundaries of cultural and ethnic groups and instead, look at the person in front of me with God’s eyes of love, and engage in positive and authentic dialogue. In fact, he wined and dined with the outcasts of society, the sick, the corrupt, the prostitutes, the sinners. He first sat down and listened to the story of their life. He did not condone their sins, but his main focus was to understand, encourage, and uplift. To Christians, he’s the icon who personifies those qualities from Shula’s advice to white people, “humility, respect and value for things [and people] that are different to us”.

    These are universal values if we want to live our lives in peace and prosperity. In fact, can we copy them over as an advice to black Zimbabweans, too, especially politicians: “humility, respect and value for things [and people] that are different to us”. Navatungamiri vave nenduramo. May leaders be exemplary. Here’s another one I’d like to copy over, with slight alteration, from the “advice to white Zimbabweans” section into the “advice to black Zimbabweans” section: “But we are responsible because our reality today, sometimes for better but usually for worse, is the fruit of our fathers and politicians’ doing. The privilege of the few, to the disadvantage of the many.” (quote morphed by me). It’s another issue where we need to remove our colored glasses, and face realities. Yes, we have had them in Zimbabwe (and elsewhere): People (white), in their individual and institutional capacities, exploiting other people (black). But we also have these: People (black; yellow), in their individual and institutional capacities, exploiting other people (black). Food for thought. How come we’re still bleeding with ever-more festering wounds while that back-stabbing history was supposed to end 34 years ago… Alas, the “privilege of the few, to the disadvantage of the many” pattern knows no color; it has been seen whereever humans form social groups since the beginnings of time; kings, emperors, masters and slaves, political leaders, you name it. Even some leaders who preached communism are no execption in having enriched themselves more than anything else. It’s the everlasting cancer of humanity that needs awareness, prayers, and action to be controlled and eradicated whereever it is spreading again. A good starting point is compassion for the poor. Think Jesus…

    Thank you, Shula, for enabling these discussions…

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  9. Shula, this is awesome! I wish Zimbabwe had leaders like you, who are able and willing to embrace and encourage meaningful dialogue for the common good instead of selfishly focusing on power, personal wealth and hatred against perceived enemies. Who are able to learn along their way and embrace new ways of thought while listening to, thinking about and integrating input from others into their own views. To look beyond color and value the contribution of each person towards building the nation. To re-imagine better things for the future instead of being stuck and obsessed with the past while losing and violating the present. Imagine, if we had leaders to fulfil that prayer in our National Anthem: “Navatungamiri vave nenduramo” / “Abakhokheli babe lobuqotho” / “May leaders be exemplary” (Shona/Ndbele/English)…

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  10. Great thought leadership. My takehome:
    ‘White people need to start asking questions, even stupid questions’
    ‘Black people need to start asking questions too and get the facts straight’

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  11. I like your posts, they are informative and makes one thinks. I for one do not hate white ppl, but I hate how the word seems to have placed us black ppl second after white. For one in a work place, I will not get the same treatment as a white person, thy would be place higher even when they are in a lower position than mine., With that being said,I think this not only happen with white ppl, even with indians and colored. We (I) as a black young women battles to get recognission in the business world, because of my color. Which than brings me to think about “racism”. So u see its not only because of what happened in the past, but also what is happening now. I was born in the 80s, I wasnt there during apartheid, infact I try and distance myself from Politics, because I feel I dont want all that emotional baggage,about who did what to who kind of hate.
    But I strongly feel resentment towards ppl who looks at me and see colour instead on my CV, with all the qualities needed for a job. I have missed great opportunites because of this. Now my “confusion” will be, am I racist, for feeling the way I do.
    My comment here is that the past /apartheid/politcs shldnt be the only reason we discuss, racism. Its what happens now, moving foward what realy worries me. We still have a long way to go..

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    1. Hi Spume, this was such a brilliant comment, thank you for sharing your thoughts! You have highlighted something important – what people like to call institutional racism – something that’s still there. Your comment wasn’t racist, it was honest! These are some of the things we need to bring out into the open. It’s reality. One thing encourages me – against all odds, God is able to lift is up. Even when it looks otherwise, our lives aren’t in the hands of any man, but in God’s.

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  12. Nice. I like how you say “White people, WE have a responsibility…” hehe, but besides the point there. This is good. These discussions need to be opened up without bitter attacks on white people otherwise most of us won’t listen, we’ll just attack back. White oblivion, white privilege is not something we as white people notice like other races do. The white world we live in doesn’t create obvious opportunities for us to understand these things. Without listening – really listening, not just by what people are saying, but also through deep thought and allowing ourselves to see the world from different perspectives – we’ll never see it. However if we are being attacked, we will be defensive and never hear. We need to know why it’s important for us to apologise for our ancestor’s mistakes instead of just being told to apologise without understanding that it’s needed. So sensitivity is key in discussing these things and I think you understand your audience and have introduced the topic well. I so hope and that the bitterness caused by racism will be healed and that racial ignorance will be removed.

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      1. Hi Zola, that was so beautifully written. I feel so sad when I see prejudice of any kind. I do not understand why people discriminate. Francis Matola was a very important part of my life for 16 years. Francis was my second mother and my best friend. Francis had such an important role in our home. Francis liked me telling people she was a “house keeper”. Francis took such pride in her work. Francis had a two bedroom unit on the property . It was renovated . The whole situation was not ideal. Her boyfriend lived with her . Francis said to me she loved me and said the most beautiful thing ” I am black and you are white but we both have the same heart which gives us life. ” Francis called me her Xhosasan. She said ”you are different to others you do not see colour you see me for who I am. ‘ The comment made me tearful because Francis deserved the very best in life. Francis had not ben given all the opportunities she should have been given. I hugged her told her I loved her. My mum built a house for her before we left. I miss Francis terribly. I have not been able to get in contact with her for four years. ..😞x

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      2. Thanks for sharing your story Kirsten. I’m glad Francis made such a profound impact on your life and even if you never see her again, what she gave you will remain with you forever.

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