I am a white South Africa. I was born and grew up in Bophuthatswana.
I have fairly liberal parents, and even if we did not agree with the ruling government, the fact is that I benefited. When we moved to Pretoria, I went to good school and got a good education – a solid foundation in life. I was lucky enough to go to University and, where I am today, is partly due to that start in life. Sure I worked hard, overcame dyslexia and disproved the teacher who said I would never amount to much, but had my skin colour been different, a lot of these priviledges would not have been mine.
There are a few responses one can have as a white South African. You can deny that you had any part in it, you can say you did your bit. I was still at school, but did any of us do enough? You can be guilty, but let’s be honest, guilt helps no-one and is immobilizing. You wallow in it and yet nothing changes. People are scared and worried about the future, those with kids worry about their future too, but I believe that our response has to be: To take ownership of how we benefited, regardless of fault, and give back.
So, while I might not be responsible, I fully believe that I am now duty bound to give back and to make SA better for those who did not have the chances I had. Being privileged is not bound by colour, so if you have more than other South Africans what are you doing to help?
It can feel a bit overwhelming but if we all reach out and help in our own small corner of the country we CAN make a difference, help one person, one family, one school, one community. Give time, give money, give skills. And not just in passing. Get involved. Get to know people and let them touch your life as you touch theirs.
I leave you with the starfish story – throw one back and make a difference!
Based on the story by Loren Eisley…
I awoke early, as I often did, just before sunrise to walk by the ocean’s edge and greet the new day. As I moved through the misty dawn, I focused on a faint, far away motion. I saw a youth, bending and reaching and flailing arms, dancing on the beach, no doubt in celebration of the perfect day soon to begin.
As I approached, I sadly realized that the youth was not dancing to the bay, but rather bending to sift through the debris left by the night’s tide, stopping now and then to pick up a starfish and then standing, to heave it back into the sea. I asked the youth the purpose of the effort. “The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach and they cannot return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun rises, they will die, unless I throw them back to the sea.”
As the youth explained, I surveyed the vast expanse of beach, strectching in both directions beyond my sight. Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. The hopelessness of the youth’s plan became clear to me and I countered, “But there are more starfish on this beach than you can ever save before the sun is up. Surely you cannot expect to make a difference.”
The youth paused briefly to consider my words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw it as far as possible. Turning to me he simply said, “I made a difference to that one.”