I once was white, but now I see.

dictionary

dɪkʃ(ə)n(ə)ri
noun

– a book or electronic resource that lists the words of a language (typically in alphabetical order) and gives their meaning, or gives the equivalent words in a different language, often also providing information about pronunciation, origin, and usage.

We live in a world where truth is clouded, perhaps even elusive. Where meaning has been twisted. Where language has been used to divide. A world where truth is absent. Where understanding is limited, optional and avoidable. Truth is rare. Lies, hatred, and misunderstanding are our verbal currency.

I’ve always found dictionaries interesting.

other

ˈʌðə
adjective & pronoun

– used to refer to a person or thing that is different or distinct from one already mentioned or known about.

– alternative of two.

synonyms: alternative, different, dissimilar, disparate, distinct, separate, contrasting, unlike, variant.

PHILOSOPHY/SOCIOLOGY

– that which is distinct from, different from, or opposite to something or oneself.

“she needs to escape the tyranny of the Other”

verb

– view or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself.

Language is subtle and beautiful – an insightful instrument.

another

əˈnʌðə/
determiner & pronoun

– used to refer to an additional person or thing of the same type as one already mentioned or known about; one more; a further.

synonyms: one more, a further, an additional, a second

– used with a proper name to indicate someone or something’s similarity to the person or event specified.

I’m trying to find truth – I know that, as a white person, what I’ve been fed thus far is lies.

truth

truːθ
noun

– the quality or state of being true.

synonyms: veracity, truthfulness, verity, sincerity, candour, honesty, genuineness

– that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

– fact(s), reality, real life, actuality

Truth is precious to me.

time

tʌɪm
noun

– the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.

As humans we are not outside of time. We do not function independent of historical space and place. We function in relation to the past, it is something that intrinsically defines us – whether we like it or not. Our identity revolves around the time and place into which we are born and the historical past we have followed. It is this very context that shapes our understanding of life and our existence in it.

privilege

ˈprɪvɪlɪdʒ/
noun

– a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

synonyms: advantage, right, benefit, prerogative, entitlement, birthright, due; concession, freedom, liberty

grant a privilege or privileges to.Verb

– exempt (someone) from a liability or obligation to which others are subject.

For white South Africans this means being born into a context that exists off the back of centuries of white supremacy and black inferiority. We have to ask ourselves what this means for us? The space we live in has a contextual reality that is tied to the past. It is not a separate “then and now” situation, or an innocent “floating-around-in-a-bubble” set of fortunate circumstances. It is a reading of history and it’s effects on the present.
Privilege is a comfortable place – it’s an easy existence. It means things like: presumed greater social status, affirmation of worth, freedom to move in your space, to work, to play, to gain access to wealth and resources, to speak freely, to be yourself, to be unquestioned, to be the status quo,  etc. All this is just a given, it’s like a birthright.

ignorance

ˈɪɡn(ə)r(ə)ns/
noun

lack of knowledge or information.

synonyms: incomprehension, unawareness, unconsciousness, inexperience, innocence; unfamiliarity with, lack of enlightenment about, lack of knowledge about, lack of information about; informal cluelessness; literary nescience, unenlightenment, benightedness; lack of intelligence, unintelligence, stupidity, foolishness, idiocy, denseness, brainlessness, mindlessness, slow-wittedness; informal thickness, dimness, dumbness, dopiness, doziness

“their attitudes are based on ignorance and fear.”

The world as a whole ascribes to a global narrative of the supremacy of whiteness which makes being white the norm, the standard to reach. We’re born into this and we never have to lay down our whiteness and our very identity is never challenged. It truly is a nice and comfortable existence. Everything that is “ideal” is “you”. And our privilege leads to ignorance because of this easy existence. And ignorance is bliss, so we carry on happily. Our narrative continues, but it’s on the back of another narrative, and that narrative is black pain.

narrative

ˈnarətɪv
noun

– a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

synonyms: account of a story, tale, chronicle, history, description, record, portrayal, sketch, portrait, statement, report, rehearsal, recital, rendering.

Our comfort is built off of the “discomfort” of black people. Our wealth is built off of the poverty of black people, our standard of whiteness is built off of the de-standardising of blackness, our superiority complex of whiteness is built off of the inferiority complex of blackness. Our peace off of the back of fear, our joy off of woe. Our freedom off of slavery.

Our present off of the past.

pride

Prʌɪd
noun

– a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

– a feeling that you are more important or better than other people.

– proud or disdainful behavior or treatment.

synonyms: pleasure, joy, delight, gratification, fulfilment, satisfaction, sense of achievement; comfort, content, contentment

e.g. “he swallowed his pride and asked for help

Hostility towards even questioning our position reinforces exactly what such ideas are saying. We don’t have to question, because it’s not our narrative that’s being questioned. We don’t “have to change” because what we represent is the unchangeable standard. But that’s exactly where it’s all wrong – our minds are captive. Captive to our own white pride and superiority, and it’s a shameful place.

This is not about “doing right”, this is about emancipating ourselves from our own small mindset of being superior to the other – a mindset that is utterly heinous and detrimental to the very concept of humanity. Yes, today’s concept of whiteness is inhumane. Hear that and seriously contemplate it. It’s way of thinking that is backward. But more than that it’s an existence we live in daily. We must not be lulled into a false thinking that we are free of this perverse system of inequality and that somehow we are not tarnished by it.

disrupt

Dɪsˈrʌpt
verb

– interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem.

synonyms: throw into confusion, throw into disorder, throw into disarray, cause confusion/turmoil in, play havoc with, derange, turn upside-down, make a mess of; more drastically alter or destroy the structure of.

This is more than a journey. A journey is something that takes awhile – and even though journeys do in fact take awhile and change is never instant – to call it “just a journey” is an extremely privileged thing to say. We can sit in our fancy houses, taking our time “learning how to love black people” (because apparently that’s what white people have to?), but during all that time we take to figure it out, others are still being oppressed, and those who are victims of inequality continue to experience injustice.

innocence

ˈɪnəsəns
noun

– the state, quality, or fact of being innocent of a crime or offence.

“they must prove their innocence”

synonyms: guiltlessness, blamelessness, freedom from guilt, freedom from blame, irreproachability, clean hands

– lack of guile or corruption; purity.

synonyms: harmlessness, innocuousness, lack of malice, inoffensiveness

“they questioned the innocence of our motives”

The way in which we act within a system either perpetuates it, or challenges so as to change it. Doing nothing is as bad as enforcing injustice. It makes us guilty of the sin of omission. Either we just don’t care or we don’t know – both of which require a moral investigation of rigorous nature. They are simply pathetic excuses. This is not a passive contemplation, but it is an active fight.

individualistic

ˌɪndɪvɪdjʊəˈlɪstɪk
adjective

– more interested in individual people than in society as a whole.

synonyms: unconventional, unorthodox, uncommon, atypical, singular, unique, original, off-centre, nonconformist, independent, freethinking, liberated, unconstrained, unfettered, untrammelled, free-spirited, pioneering, groundbreaking.

This is not the time to turn a blind eye to all the talking. There’s a lot of talk about how the narrative, the systematic, and the individual are all connected because narrative is in itself an act of identity creation. This is a search for a new story and a new direction that can take us beyond the limit of our own racist minds. This is a search for human truth. And as people of privilege this has to be an urgent and robust conversation. Change must happen, and it will be “uncomfortable” because it will challenge the small, selfish and individualistic world we’ve created for ourselves.

This is not a time for white tears. This is a time for white people to square up to an injustice that has been far too comfortable and beneficial for us for far too many years.

systematic

Sɪstəˈmatɪk
adjective

done or acting according to a fixed plan or system; methodical.

– done at large, a complex whole, an organized scheme or method.

synonyms: structured, methodical, organized, orderly, well ordered, planned, systematized, regular, routine, standardized, standard, formal, logical, coherent, consistent, efficient, businesslike, practical, careful, fastidious, meticulous; informal, joined-up.

This is not something you are unfortunately involved in from an arms length. This is something that you are tied to within your very being. There’s something important about pointing out whiteness just as it calls out from it’s centrality and reveals itself in its invisibility.

This is not an attack on “the person” or the “individual”, but it is an attack on a rhetorical construction of values and beliefs. A fight for our own emancipation and the emancipation of others…

blind

blʌɪnd
adjective

– unable to see because of injury, disease, or a congenital condition.

synonyms: visually impaired, unsighted, sightless, visionless, unseeing, stone blind, eyeless, lacking perception, awareness, or judgement.

“a blind acceptance of the status quo”

synonyms: imperceptive, unperceptive, slow, obtuse, stupid, uncomprehending, unimaginative, insensitive, thick-skinned, bovine, stolid, unintelligent

deprive (someone) of understanding, judgement, or perception deprive of understanding, deprive of perception, deprive of judgement, deprive of reason, deprive of sense

– something designed to conceal one’s real intentions.

synonyms: deception, camouflage, screen, smokescreen, front, facade, cover, disguise, cloak, pretext, masquerade, mask, feint.

Explained medically, blindness is a lack of visual perception due to structural or functional defects which can occur at various places, from the eyelids all the way to the visual cortex. It is an inability to perceive the parameters of a scene within the nominal visual field of a subject within the presence of adequate illumination.

realization

riːəlʌɪˈzeɪʃn
noun

– an act of becoming fully aware of something as a fact.

“a growing realization of the need to create common economic structures”

synonyms: awareness, understanding, comprehension, consciousness, apprehension, cognizance, appreciation, recognition, perception, discernment

the achievement of something desired or anticipated, actualization, fulfilment, achievement, accomplishment, attainment, bringing to fruition, bringing into being, consummation, effecting, rare effectuation, reification

A realization of a dream.

equality

ɪˈkwɒlɪti,iː-
noun

– the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.

synonyms: fairness, justness, equitability, impartiality, even-handedness, egalitarianism, equal rights, equal opportunities, non-discrimination; justice, freedom, emancipation; rare coequality

Truth.

 

Luke Macdonald – Izwe lethu

 

 

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4 thoughts on “I once was white, but now I see.

  1. Fragments of thought. Revelations, a journey of discovery. Unlearning, learning. What you see depends mainly on what you look for… The dictionary. Limitless words… We use some, others we don’t. Generational shifts (Time) shape the words we use, learn and understand. Truth is circumstantial. Lies. Preservation of Privelege. The realization of a dream; Re-education, Justice, Emancipation, Freedom, Equality… Negotiated, not won. Not won. Negotiated. Alas! Circumstantial. The one with greater bargaining power wins. Always. Privelege. Negotiation. Reparation. Negotiation wins. Will denying or disowning all symbols of power and privelege assuage the situation? Perhaps not. Amandla. Power. The Fist. A symbol of Power. Equality. Equal Power. That is the dream. Who has the Power? Has there been a shift in Power? Strides have been taken, slowly but surely. Maybe not fast enough, but surely. Reliquinshing power and privelege is not in human nature.

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  2. I believe that black people were degraded in the past and I am sorry for their narrative. I also believe that it has been passed down in the form of feelings of inferiority. I do not believe that this automatically translates into superiority of whites. whites in South Africa who oppressed blacks did not achieve privilege through this, because the whole system was inefficient. whites in Europe or America had a higher standard of living than in South Africa

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    • I don’t see how onw can possibly think white’s didn’t achieve privilege through apartheid. It was a system that absolutely destroyed non-whites. Whites held power in basically all spheres -political, social, religious, economic, educational, physical (arms), judicial etc. (the list is truly endless), I simply cannot see that as equality in any form!

      Secondly, to say the whole system was simply inefficient, is precisely the point – in fact, it is much more than insufficient. It is morally wrong and completely inhumane. Herein lies the problem – a completely broken system that we are not fixing in any way, we seem content in it… could that by any chance be because it benefits us?

      (I hope my tone does not come across as harsh – this is from a place of passion for truth, and the dispelling of such myths)

      – Luke

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  3. The noun ‘truth’ is defined as, the quality or state of being true; that which is true or in accordance with fact; or reality or a fact or belief that is accepted as true. So then, is truth subjective, objective or infallible? On the one hand, to say that something is ‘subjectively’ true means that it is true for the person(s) making the judgment, even though it may not be true for others. While on the other hand, something is generally considered ‘objectively’ true when its truth conditions are met without biases caused by feelings, ideas, opinions, etc. And finally, there is the ‘infallible’ truth which is defined as being incapable of error; not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint; or incapable of error in defining doctrines touching faith or morals. Jesus said to him, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6) How do we view this ‘truth’? Is it the same way the disciples did long ago where when they heard these words of Jesus and believed them and followed His example and command to tell others the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment? Or are we seeking additional proof in the form of signs and wonders before we are fully convinced? Have a blessed day.

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