So this is a bit out of left field. My focus is typically on Fathering, Adoption, family and the like. That’s who I am, that’s what I love and am passionate about and that’s what I feel called to write on. But in the past 3 weeks I have had a burning to add my 2 cents to the discussion on the challenges being faced by both the students and educational institutions in South Africa. Perhaps my voice will fall amongst the noise made by a thousand other opinions and perhaps it won’t stand as a voice of reason for either side, but it is a voice nonetheless and more importantly, it is the voice of someone looking through the eyes of a father, dreaming for his children, remembering his past and hoping my kids navigate their journeys better than those that came before them.
Before I exhale what has been chewing on my thoughts let me disclose a few things and add a few caveats.
Firstly, I am white (or rather peach to be more accurate) and I come from a privileged background. I won’t apologise for the sacrifices made for that privilege as they were made with the best of intentions and fuelled by a love for me by my parents. But, whilst I won’t apologise, I also cannot peddle the lie that I am not privileged. I suppose given my complexion and my previous statement, I am a benefactor of white (peach) privilege.
However, my privilege does not simply relate to finances and freedom of access. I grew up in a home of loving parents, who stayed together for my formative years. I felt safe, I felt protected and free to experience child hood. I camped outside, road by bicycle on the dirt roads around our plot, my playground was not limited to a television or playstation and I was given the opportunity to experience childhood beyond our four walls. So yes, I am privileged and very aware of that privilege.
Secondly, I do not know what it feels like to go to bed hungry, alone and hopeless. I do not know what it is like to be judged on the colour of my skin nor have my potential capped on the basis of my origins. But I do know that justifying this position by lumping guilt on myself won’t help anyone. What I also know is that 50% of the people that I love the most may experience some of these things and that breaks my heart, this spurs me on to do whatever I can to be the change.
Thirdly, I know how we are living now is not God’s best for us. I know we can have anger, but I can’t let that anger result in sin. I know hate is inferior to love yet seems louder in the moment. I know a God who expects more from me than society does and I believe in spite of all our arguments and expectations, He owes you and I nothing. We steward the life we have to bring glory to Him and believe to see His Kingdom established on earth.
Fourthly, I agree completely with the ideal that education is the best way to free people out of poverty and release their potential. We should all aim to live in a society where those who cannot afford education are given the opportunity to learn and further their education. I also must admit that I say this on the back of believing that a tertiary education, degree etc is by no means a promise of a financially successful and significant life, I also wonder if the days of the “Degree” are numbered.
Lastly, I can’t begin to know how growing up in poverty and hopelessness can effect the way I fight for a cause which I believe will prevent my past from being repeated by my children. I know this, but in any negotiation there must be room to move and ideals become unhealthy when I am not prepared to engage but rather demand my position be valued, without appreciating someone else’s.
With the above in place perhaps I can proceed with a little more credibility.
I went to Wits university and during my final year of Law there was some administrative error resulting in the funding of many students being at risk of being withdrawn. Let me say, we were all appalled by the way in which it was communicated to students and supported their feelings and resultant action. But, where the support began to wain is when anger turned to violence. I know I drove home everyday, I had access to computers etc and so my frame of reference was vastly dissimilar, but I also remember the fear of being hazed out of lectures. I remember the screams, I remember the violence. Did my support dwindle on the back of this, yes. Was that the correct decision? I don’t know. But matters were resolved because there was a stronger leadership on all sides seeking a resolution in spite of the few who merely wanted to draw attention to themselves and their potential gains.
Leadership is synonymous with responsibility. We cannot expect the pulpit without enduring some flames. Leadership requires that even if I am not to blame, I am responsible. I don’t see this from Students, universities or government. What has hurt the most is the hatred that has come through the protests. Some may argue that it’s been directed by media and the story that they want shared is the only one seen. But I think we need to stop living the post apartheid fairy tail that we have navigated our way out of a racist society. Let me also say, My definition of racism is not linked to status, but rather linked to a dislike/hatred towards another race based purely on colour.
I see the verbal sewerage hurled between groups, the entrenching of positions at the cost of unity. There is no way of navigating racism or hatred by blaming the other side. Understanding is key to unity and that will require erasing the battle lines and engaging with a solution in mind not an apology. Let’s face it, apologies won’t benefit anyone, they won’t erase a shocking past and they won’t ensure a better future. Engaging on a solution, not a position or an ideal, will allow people to come together and work together for something that seeks to benefit the whole.
But this requires humility from all sides, it requires openness, truthfulness and vulnerability. I want my kids to grow up in a place that where leadership practices these. I have seen enough hatred in the past few weeks and if we are honest, no one is better off.
I guarantee, there will be no winners if things proceed as the have done but there will be victims, my prayer is for wise leadership to rise up on all sides and seek workable, long lasting solutions and not a list of demands.
And to all the leaders, whichever side you stand, bare in mind the following, even though it may not be your fault, you are responsible!