More than one day. A view on #BlackMondayRichard Lundie
Life in South Africa is not dull. In one week we have the passing of a struggle stalwart, the recall of the finance minister (and many others) and the disciplinary action against a provincial premier. And we can be left with a feeling of: what just happened?
A call has come to wear black today, and to ‘down tools’ on Friday 7 April. This social mobilisation is aimed at bringing people together to stand up against the decisions by the Executive over the last week. Sounds noble, right?
Not everyone agrees.
When you search #BlackMonday tag on twitter, you see a range of responses. One question is asked: why only now are people waking up to the injustice in our society?
And I don’t have an adequate response. Why aren’t there more calls for social mobilisation across colour lines around big issues like racism, land reform, inequality, poverty, access to education and white privilege?
These are things that will last beyond the next elective conference, national elections and presidents. Unless something changes. And that change is not only rooted in the presidency.
If you are passionate about change for our country – it is going to take a lot more than a particular colour T-shirt and not working on a day for the change that this country needs. Change needs to happen in our hearts and in the systems that sustain the inequality we experience.
There are multiple ways we can look at inequality. None of them are comfortable. According to the UN’s human development index (which looks at Income, Life Expectancy and Education level), South Africa is ranked 116th out of the 200 countries surveyed. Pretty bad, isn’t it? What is uncomfortable about this truth is that for the white population of this country, we are ranked 15th. This means white people are better off than citizens of France, and the same as Sweden and the UK. Wearing black for a day, protesting against a president alone is not going to change this. There has to be more.
Sharlene Swartz, wrote a book entitled “Another Country”, giving excellent input into social restitution. Her call this weekend is so powerful:
“… this is not the time for white people to be silent but I’d really like to hear them speaking about restitution and economic transformation and what they are willing to do about it rather than focus on black corruption or black consumption. I’d challenge white South Africans only to wear black tomorrow if they are committed to restitution and redistribution of wealth to black South Africans. #BlackMonday ”
White people (and I look in the mirror when I write this) – this is a time to listen. To engage. To discover and be reminded of the depth of despair, pain and frustration in our city and nation. To listen for what the real issues are. To be working beyond your own interests and seek to partner with others to address some of the broader, systemic issues that perpetuate injustice.
White people, can I ask you to speak up? Not just to the positions of power in mass mobilisation, but also to family members? To speak up when racial slurs are uttered? To speak up to unjust hiring practices? To speak up for staff being paid living wages, not minimum wages? To speak up where you are already? To join movements that are fighting for land reform?
Now, don’t think I am saying that white people have no place in shaping the future of this country. You do! The question is: how? How do white people position themselves in the fight for a just society? How do white people participate in lobbying for change? This is a loaded question, and one I have to continue to grapple with. White people, you have a part to play. But is it at the centre? Is it at the front? Christena Cleveland, an African-American author and thought leader in racial reconciliation eloquently addresses this tension. Have a look at her article here.
What does faith have to do with this? If you are a follower of Christ, you might be asking yourself: what is the unique thing that I can bring to this scenario? There are many, but I just want to land on one: Prayer. Engaging the omnipotent heavenly Father of our nation. But how should we pray? Let us take the lead from a Psalm – a prayer for the king. It is an example of intercession for a ruling power. Have a look at Psalm 72:1-2,4
“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!”
Right here is how we are to be praying for our president, our premier, our mayor, our ward councillors.
Before you don a black shirt, ask yourself: are you defending the cause of the poor of the people? Are you giving deliverance to the children of the needy? Before you call on political powers to do these things, have you held a mirror up to your heart to recognise the journey you are on?
Let this be a time that you are provoked to more. Tristan Pringle – a man I deeply admire titled his weekend blog: “If I had to wear black”. Read the full blog here. One powerful excerpt I have to share – that embedded itself in my brain:
“Lord have mercy on me if I ever wear black and did nothing else to act toward making good the destruction and terrorism wrought on the people of this country. Lord help me turn this keyboard courage into action that costs me more than putting on another colour t-shirt for the day.”
Do not let the success or failure of this campaign be the end of your journey of seeking a just society.
I love God (and, yes, the hard things he calls me to do), I love The Church, I love my country, I love my local church, I love my city. I love these things too much to be pre-occupied with protecting my self-interests, my privilege and my reputation to stay the way I am. Change for South Africa? Count me in. Changing my heart? Count me in. Fighting against personal racism and systemic racism? Count me in.
Are you in for the long journey towards building a new society?
By Richard Lundie | Common Good