-Brett "Fish" Anderson
My name is brett “fish” Anderson, born in Johannesburg but spent most of my life in Cape Town and then Stellenbosch, am married to tbV [the beautiful Val] and we have just moved back to South Africa after 3 years in what i like to call Americaland, where we worked with a couple of non-profits [Yes people, Americaland needs help too! And how!]
i LOVE this country and unless God, or maybe my wife, decide we need to be somewhere else, i will choose this as my number 1 place to live, hands down. South Africa is kind of like trying to eat a mielie with your hands. It’s a complete mess-fest, but I love it. Butter and salt and little pieces of mielie on your hands and stuck between your teeth – the meal that keeps on giving – but an all-round enjoyable experience. And I found that while I was in Americaland my heart for South Africa and in particular for racial reconciliation and bridge-building and unity and life to the fullness among all cultures, colours and creeds was intensified within me. I got quite involved from a social media spectator point of view in all the race stuff that was happening in Americaland with Trayvon Martin and #BlackLivesMatter, #MassIncarceration and #Ferguson and a whole bunch of other things. And realised that they are just as messed up over there and saw some interesting overlaps and tried to listen to a lot of black voices that were speaking up and out about things.
BUT WHAT CAN I DO?
So I returned home with a passion to be somehow involved in change and yet what can I do? i am pretty sure change should not be driven by white people here after all the damage we did. But perhaps we can facilitate it. And so first up, I started to use my blog and my social media to invite people of colour to share their stories and thoughts on various aspects of race and country-building. I started by including Race as one of the Taboo Topics my blog gives space for and a fun one that happened early on was under the heading of ‘What I would love my white friends to hear’. Mixed Culture connections, where I asked mixed couples to share some of their story, was also very well received. When I started writing and sharing on White Privilege though, a lot of people were not AS amped [white privileged people, funnily enough]. The main point though was to start sharing stories. And it has been great. And through sharing stories through my blog, I have started connecting with a lot of new friends online from various backgrounds, cultures and races. Which has been And I completely believe is the key! The future of South Africa is going to be determined by people who choose to build friendships with people who are not like them – race and social/economic status feel like two of the biggest barriers we have to cross to truly be able to move to a time where we can embrace “the other” and see them as not so different than ourselves. Or different in a way that is good and positive and has a lot to add to the way that we do life. But the way forwards is relationships – I have no doubt about that.
YOU ARE INVITED TO OUR TABLE
The next idea that we have [and this is still to be implemented – my wife and I have just moved into our own place in Southfield after living in other peoples’ houses for the past 6 months and so we feel like only now can we truly start to settle] is to gather people around the dinner table for deep, meaningful and society-transforming conversations.
At one of the non-profits we worked at in A-land, we had a saying, ‘It is not that the rich and the poor don’t like each other, it’s that they don’t know each other.’ So much of giving is done through a third party and so the rich give and the poor receive and they never have to even meet, or speak, or touch. And so it is easy for them to remain “the other” – faceless, nameless – and easy to withhold compassion or feel the need for any great involvement. So one thing my wife and I are hoping to do around a variety of topics [race, money, church etc] is to invite people around to sit around our dinner table and wrestle with some potentially uncomfortable topics but from a place of friendship and good food and face-to-faceness. The hope is that ultimately conversation moves to action but we think that it has to start with relationship building. Bringing people from the different spaces and backgrounds together as well as those with very different viewpoints and creating a space where it is safe to engage and where relationship is more important than ‘rightness’.
It was one of the dreams we had when we returned to South Africa and despite not having our own place until now, we have already seen those deep potentially life-changing conversations take place with a number of people. So we look ahead to our first dinner which we are hoping to be in March [which is like a week or two away – bring it!]
One thing we have to be realistic about is that twenty years after apartheid was officially dismantled, there is still a crapload of work to be done. There are a lot of negative voices and whiners [both inside of and outside of South Africa – I’d love to be able to congregate them all outside somewhere] and still much greed, violence, corruption and hurt that needs to be dealt with. This is not an overnight solution. But it might be the start – or the continuing or re-awakening – of a revolution. Brought about by people who love South Africa and refuse to let it go the way of the naysayer. Who hold hands and embrace uncomfortability and awkwardness and bite their tongue on offence and reach out in forgiveness and humility.
I do believe these people exist. In their hundreds of thousands. Maybe even millions. And if each of us just does what we can to help bring them together and listen and share and plot goodness with each other. Well who knows what will be able to stop us…
Find more of Brett’s writing on brettfish.wordpress.com