It’s been 29 days since George Floyd’s death sparked a global outcry of mammoth proportions. The aftershocks were felt all around the world with voices being raised in protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, demanding attention and pleading for change.
I am acutely aware of my silence, but please do not mistake it for apathy. The truth is that I care so deeply that putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys, in this case) brings up a swell of emotions that I fear will overtake my words and render them ‘wishy washy’. This is too important for me to undermine by letting my feelings get in the way of what needs to be said.
My soul has been touched by the absolute injustice that my black countrymen must swallow as ‘normal’ too many times. I see it on the streets and I see it in malls, I see it on the faces of mothers and hear it from the lips of people whose lives hold as much value as any white person’s life.
As a 10 year old I was absolutely mortified to be warned by an adult about my 11 year old ‘boyfriend’ because “black boys expect far more than white boys”. For the record, all we did was exchange beautiful letters, and the innocence of the connection was such that we never even held hands. That black boy went on to achieve success way above my own on the sporting field, in academic and leadership roles (at a well-known, prestigious ‘white’ high school) and in his professional life. He stood, and continues to stand, head and shoulders above most.
I have experienced first-hand the reaction of people I thought were Godly human beings when they realised that the life of the stranger I saved, the blood that covered me, was that of a black man – I saw my actions reverting from ‘heroic’ to ‘foolhardy’ in their eyes, like Simphiwe’s life mattered less and wasn’t worth the risk of mine.
My heart has been broken over and over again by the realisation that, regardless of the fact that we have exactly the same level of education, had our children in the same stage of life and in similarly taboo circumstances, a good women and the grandchild she raises will live out their days in a ‘home’ with one room a roof that leaks, sprinting outside no matter the weather to use the ‘bathroom’, while I continue to climb the corporate ladder. Why? Because the colour of my skin has afforded me familial connections to ‘the right people’. Every job I have ever held has been because of this network – I am not accomplished, I am lucky.
I have loved people of all colours. I reach out to them and extend help in ways that I will never broadcast because that’s not the point. I listen to songs from The Struggle with my children in my car and in my kitchen, teaching them about the great injustices of our country’s history every chance I get – what happened at Meadowlands, why the babies in the lullaby didn’t see their daddy, and more recently, who Collins Khosa is and why what happened to him is disgusting – it would NEVER have happened in our neighbourhood. People who know me know not to start their story with “There was a black lady in the car next to me…” because I WILL challenge them – is the colour of that lady’s skin essential to your story? No? Then please start again, she’s just a lady in a car.
Although I feel all of this so deeply, and although I can read as much as I can and teach my children everything that I feel in my heart, hoping to raise partcipants of a more inclusive, kind generation, I know that I can never fully understand. Not really.
It’s been 29 days since George Floyd’s death sparked a global outcry of mammoth proportions. But now it’s quiet. People have moved on – ‘the next cause’ is calling, and the one after that, and the one after that. It’s only been 29 days.
And so I will continue to watch and learn, and hope that I am leading by the right example. I have already learned so much in these few short weeks and am committed to making changes in my home and in the lives of my family in the hopes that it might impact yours. Together we can change the world!
Until then, please be patient with me, I really am trying.