It bothers me every single time I have to write about racism.
But I don’t feel like I have a choice, because while it is out there, it is my responsibility to try and offer some perspective that might help.
The alleged “whites-only” matric ball at Brackenfell High School has elements of sensationalism about it.
For example, the story is almost always written, as if the alleged racism was premeditated and intentional, which is mischievous and even dangerous.
I believe that’s the reason why the EFF injected themselves into the story by staging a protest outside the school.
Firstly, can I ask the EFF to please also apply this sort of righteous indignation to other social ills, like gangsterism, for example?
Why are you guys not protesting as passionately outside the houses of drug dealers on a regular basis?
And secondly, could you not recognise that this was both a learning and a teaching opportunity?
Most people can see that this was not an example of blatant racism, but more a manifestation of unconscious prejudice, which most of us have.
For those of you who don’t know the story, because of Covid-19, the school decided against an official matric ball.
However, a few parents organised a private ball and allowed their children to invite their friends.
Two teachers were reportedly also invited. It is entirely conceivable that because of unconscious bias and socialisation, nobody was bothered by the fact that there were no kids of colour on the invitation list. And that is the problem.
It is a challenge in our society, not just at Brackenfell High. And it is something that I reckon is going to take a concerted effort to address.
I haven’t heard anyone talking about the need for us to deliberately diversify our friendship circle as adults.
In other words, if you don’t have at least one friend of another race, then you need to make an effort to get one.
I know that sounds a bit contrived, but bear with me. Progress takes effort and if we want our kids to be open-minded and accepting of difference, then we need to take the lead and create a suitable environment.
I once asked two younger friends of mine how they first met. One of them explained that she had never had a black friend before, so she openly approached the other girl with the intention of making friends.
Our kids copy us, so it is up to us to lead the way for them. I have previously said how annoying it is to me that we are so keen on learning about Europeans and other foreigners, but we don’t know much about the other culture on our own doorsteps.
It will mean stepping out of our comfort zones, but it will also lead to greater understanding, tolerance and even appreciation.
This is the one instance where ignorance is not bliss. In this case, ignorance leads to offence at best, and friction at worse.
We can easily avoid all the racial conflict that plagues our society on a regular basis by simply taking an interest in each other and extending a hand of friendship.
There’s so much to share and learn, like the hurtful things that make us feel excluded.