I doubt that any white person brought up in South Africa can be free of racism; our history dictates that. However, I want to believe that every thinking South African rejects the type of explicit and overt racism that has been in the news and social media these past days. Yet our daily actions constantly reveal our own deep underlying prejudices. It’s the subtle sometimes unconscious behaviours that are the problem and I know that I am not exempt.

These are some of the many examples my friends have shared with me:
♣ White managers who constantly check up on whether their black colleagues have done their job but don’t check up on their white colleagues nearly as often.
♣ A friend of mine, Ntshantsha, constantly has people say to her because of her difficult to pronounce name “Oh that’s too difficult to pronounce, can I call you by your surname- it’s much easier”.
♣ When you ask to talk to the manager, being surprised that he is black.
♣ Asking a black person in the supermarket where the biscuits are without stopping to realise that that person is a shopper just as you are.
♣ Waiting for the white teller rather than going to the black teller..
♣ Speaking one or two Zulu words is like getting a Ph.D, every black should know about it
♣ Crossing the street when walking alone and a black person is walking towards you
♣ Giving every black person a fake smile for less than a second.( Neither black nor white people expect every passerby to smile at them.)
♣ Presuming a senior black manger got his job not through merit but through BEE.
♣ Paternalistic explanations

Today I know I still get it wrong but I am trying to constantly turn the lens on myself. Here are my suggestions on how we can all guard against our own unthinking behavior:
• Acknowledge our history and the deep and lasting hurt it has caused.
• Recognize that a white skin brings privilege. You can’t change that, but you can be aware of it.
• Consciously commit to egalitarianism. Every day.
• Be a warrior against racism wherever you see or hear it. Call it out.
• Acknowledge differences but seek out common ground to have real conversations.
• Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. All the time.
• And keep Mandela’s words close: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.


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