10 steps to creating a free and non-racial democracy.

As we head into 2013, and we are approached for team conflict resolution interventions in corporate, government and other business arenas, I am astounded at the levels of prejudice, cross cultural incompetence and general inability to build relationships in diverse teams.

Much of the prejudice is so archaic it is almost ancestral in origin, in fact some of it is from colonial days. Some of it comes from the sad era of Apartheid. And sadly much of it is being created on a daily basis in homes and the workplace.

Our people are divided. Our politicians and government perpetuate the divisions daily – by political affiliation, race, colour, language, clan – even though they profess to be developing a non racial democracy. New forms of formalised Apartheid and political protectionism creep in every year.

And this is reflected in the attitudes and actions of our people. Racial superiority and inferiority according to what race you were born into and where you stay, is rampant.

Ours is one of the few countries in the world where the race question is foremost in the minds of people. Be they mothers and fathers, business owners, civil servants, procurement specialists, or workplace employment teams, “What colour is he – or she?” Or more blatantly as if they are talking about another creature, other than a human being – “What is he?”

This simply must stop.

If we are to give our children, and ourselves, a fair chance at living in, and building our beautiful country we need to change. To be different and to become more human.

Our team conflict resolution programmes do this (brian@africa-dreams.com) – but only for the people that we interact with – and their families. The Ubuntu Girl – Soja Kruse does this – but again the extent of her reach is limited. (ubuntuabundance@gmail.com)

So how do we, as a nation of human beings begin to bring about the long term change that is so deeply needed?

10 steps

  1. Accept that there is a problem in the way that we think, talk and act towards people of other religions and cultures.
  2. Resolve to make changes in your own behaviour, and do not accept negative behaviour from people within your circle. (You may have to find some new friends!) Set yourself some change goals.
  3. Accept that in doing so, you will leave a wonderful legacy for future generations.
  4. Stop using negative, prejudiced words and names.
  5. Stop judging – get to know more about cultures, religions, traditions and belief systems. Have fun whilst learning. Invite people home and visit their homes, celebrations, funerals and traditional events.
  6. Learn new languages, from other people. Start with greetings, thanks, goodbyes and body language. (Misunderstood body language is often an immediate block to respect and business relationships.)
  7. Learn how to cater for people from different backgrounds. Do not judge from your own experience. There may be challenges and fantastic opportunities arising from differences in culture, religion, health and personal preference.)
  8. Learn what respect means to others – and show them respect in the ways that they wish to be respected.
  9. Actively make decisions without bias. This may mean that you have to think very deeply before you decide important things. (We are often polluted by our own belief systems and upbringing. Clear the smog, simplify your required outcomes and make informed and responsible decisions.)
  10. Celebrate each noticeable change.

It is time that we began to celebrate the wonders of our similarities and our differences. Not only in South Africa, but in Africa and the World. We are in our 19th year as a free democracy, it is time now to grow up and live to our full potential!

Racist name calling in South Africa.

Name calling never helps.
In South Africa it is deemed hate speech to use the “k” word, particularly if the person saying it is not black. However, as previously stated I have heard on very rare occasions black people using it on each other. The word (kaffir), whatever its origins, is simply hurtful and hateful and not acceptable.
However many black people find it acceptable to call a white person Umlungu (Zulu), Ngamla (Sotho); and Afrikaaner is called “iBhunu” (Boer or farmer); a Muslim would be called a “iSulumani”; and person of Indian descent a “iKhula”. The latter comes from the term Coolie. Any of these names group people in a manner which makes it easier to “define”, or “hate” them. This is simply prejudice at work.
Our politicians – some of whom fought the “struggle” for peace against the Apartheid regime sing old struggle songs – such as “Kill the farmer.” This targets the white group in South Africa, in particular people of Afrikaans descent.
The challenge here is that everything else except the use of the “K” word are not seen as hate speech – by the perpetrators. They believe that they have the right to say and sing divisive and hateful things. Until we can build a nation where we can clearly state One South Africa, One Nation and “At the level of respect, all people are equal” we will still live in a land of “them and us.”
To add a few other dimensions even within, so-called similar races, there exist names for each other. English speaking South Africans are some-times called “Rooineks and Soutpiele” the first meaning rednecks – from the sunburnt appearance of the British soldiers fighting in the Anglo-Boer war. The second is a bit rough and I will not translate it here. Some English speakers call Afrikaners “Dutchmen.” None of which are acceptable.
Amongst Indian-speaking South Africans the word “Coolie” and it’s African language equivalents are not acceptable. Many of this group will call themselves “Charous” – very few however allow others to do so. There are further divisions amongst those who originate from North and South India, with the Hindi-speaking northerners being known as Roti-ous and the Tamil speaking as Porridge-ous. This is derived from the flat bread cooking of the Hindi speakers and the porridge used in prayer ceremonies by the Tamil speaking people. This has become a more fun way to describe each other.
The descriptions of other groups by South Africans of Indian descent – such as vet-ous (White people), Slam-ous (Muslim people) and Bruin-ous are some of the many colourful ways to single out members of other race and religious groups. (The word “ous” is Afrikaans slang for people.)
And then in Africa, tribalism enters into the equation. This is becoming more and more prevalent. We are occasionally called in to resolve team conflict where there are no white people. One of the main challenges listed is racism. Because the cultural beliefs and traditions are so different one group may describe the other as, “animals.”
We do not need to separate by group, this prevents us from knowing people as humans. The time has long come that we should respect each other and venture into other diverse circles to find out what makes us tick. Are we so different? Or are we a bunch of human beings from wonderfully different diversities that have been tainted by our histories. Sadly we are being poisoned by the new wave of political utterings, too.
Let us not make the mistakes of the past. Let us build the future together – based in respect.
Brian V Moore 14 June 2012