It has been a while. I only write a blog post when, (and I know this sounds bizarre to most), I feel the Holy Spirit imploring me to do so. And so may HIS will be done…
I am a white, American, living in one of the most intensely culturally diverse regions on earth; we coexist, but barely. Let me be clear here, I, by no means categorize myself as a white South African. I am an expatriate, and I will always be an American living abroad.
With this said, in my very short amount of time living here in SA, I have been both the victim and the perpetrator of racism. I am ashamed to admit the latter. No, I’ve not committed overt violent acts against my Zulu or Xhosa neighbours, but I have much to my own shame…rolled up my car windows and locked the doors when three black men walked across an abandoned parking lot toward the vehicle where my four sons and myself were waiting.
I have watched in judgement of white South Africans at the manner in which they approach or talk to black countrymen and women. I have also been disgusted and frustrated with the Zulu and Xhosa people and my perceived lack of their concern for human life, as well as, what I construed to be their apathy toward the betterment of their communities.
I have seen both sides. I will not insult South Africans, both black and white, by pretending to think I have an answer to the issues that they, as citizens of this great nation, face on a daily basis. I AM NOT AN AUTHORITY! I HAVE NO ANSWERS!
I can only give voice to my own experiences.
Here, I am often mistaken for an Afrikaner. Decedents of the Dutch, the Afrikaans people group is for the most part, fair skinned, fair haired, and very tall; all of which I am. I am the recipient of both undeserved acceptance, and unwanted resentment before I open my mouth, allowing my very American accent to correct these wrongs.
Today, on my way home with my four boys I was able to right just one of the multitudes of racially charged wrongs in this region of the world. The common denominator of motherhood was the indelible thread, which wove this moment, in this COMPLICATED, tapestry of life together.
I pulled up to the stop sign in my neighbourhood, just as I have done thousands of times before, and for some reason I was enthralled by an attractive young, black, mom with two sons in toe, and one infant on her shoulders. Her hands were full with the single suitcase on wheels, which she pulled behind her. She looked tired, and worried.
I think she had expected me to speed through the stop sign, as she paused for me to go forward in front of herself and her sons. I had the right of way, I usually would have moved on without a moment’s pause, most drivers would. But today, I stopped, perhaps I was just starring, maybe I was just a voyeur, but I sought out her eyes. Meanwhile, my own gaggle of four boys chatted, argued, and hopped around my car. When I found the other mother’s eyes, we connected. We were in that moment, just two mothers of active, promising little men. We shared knowing looks, exhausted/pained nods of the head, and broad smiles that exposed her gold plated teeth and my vulnerability. Life had not been easy on this beautiful young mother. Life is not easy.
I paused long enough for her to cross the intersection with her sons, and when she turned her face toward me, she mouthed the words, “Thank You,” her deep, dark, telling, eyes bored holes in my own. I instinctively knew she was not referring to my allowing her the right of way, but rather, she was recognizing the fact I SAW HER and HER SONS. In that moment, on this day, this small, fleeting fabric of shared humanity was enough to propel this tired mother forward-or at least across the next intersection in her life.
She passed and I made my turn toward home. Little did that mother know how much our brief encounter would impact me, and I wonder if we wouldn’t have more in common than that singular moment?
I have to believe we would, because otherwise, what was I doing at this African intersection in the first place?