Am I racist?

I sat with real sadness witnessing the racial shit show that started off South Africa’s new year.

If there’s one country in this already broken world that can put on a display of rainbow oneness to the international community, South Africa is usually it.

Not this time.

So I sat here in France, a country equally disturbed by the poison that is racism, and was brought deep into my own psychological make-up and what was going on in there, in my heart and in my mind.

The shock of Penny Sparrow is not that she had the guts to say what she said, the shock is that she had the guts to even think those thoughts; even give in to the over-flowing garbage and racial junk folder that had become her mind.

Penny Sparrow's 2 January racist commentary on Facebook -- source ewn.co.za

And as more and more of these digital racists emerged over the week that was, I wondered how many other South Africans had these same deluded, rampant thoughts? What were people thinking when Facebook was offline? How many people were agreeing with each other in colluded, racist conversations at dinner tables and in the work place? Fifteen people liked Sparrow’s post on Facebook! Who were these people?

I listened to all the radio discussions on the topic and grew increasingly aware of how angry we all are and how unwilling we are to listen, to sympathise with blackness and whiteness and any form of ‘otherness’ that exists in a country as wonderfully diverse as ours.

And then came the caller on 702 Talk Radio who suggested we treat racism like alcoholism and start by admitting we have a problem. And then, day-by-day, go into drastic treatment to put us back on the straight and narrow, clean up our thoughts and become recovered racists.

He struck a chord, that caller. He made me question where I fit in in all of this. And as I searched deep inside myself, knocking on the doors of a few awkward topics, I came to the very uncomfortable conclusion that I am a racist in recovery.

Chances are, we’ve all become racist in one way or another. And if we can start by admitting this deeply embarrassing fact to ourselves, we’ll become racists in recovery; racists on the long, hard road to changing our individual mindsets and confronting our own, toxic belief systems.

I came to the very uncomfortable conclusion that I am a racist in recovery

But the longer we dart around the topic, pointing fingers at the so-called ‘racists’ with a ‘tut-tut-tut’ attitude, while pretending we’re personally far clear of this very complicated problem, we won’t ever be healed from it.

And why should we treat racism as having varying degrees of severity? Is it possible to be a ‘never racist’, a ‘slightly racist’, a ‘sometimes racist’ or an ‘always racist’? What then is the difference between a ‘Penny Sparrow racist’ and someone who is ‘sometimes racist?’

Racism is racism. Finished and klaar.

You’ve either admitted you have racist beliefs and are on a personal road to recovery or you’re in denial.

For your sake and mine, I hope you’re the recovery kind of racist, the person brave enough to search deep and confront your own truths. Together we can kick this habit, one thought at a time, one word at a time, until we have stomped it so deep into the ground, it will never resurface.