Racism, or Personal Freedom – a Perspective

During that late nineties, I was participating in the Dusi Canoe Marathon, between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, South Africa. The annual race goes from city to city and through the rivers and mountains, of deep-rural KwaZulu-Natal.

The thieves

The river was low and I was unfit. This placed me right at the back of the pack, on the second day. I was followed only by the sweeps.

Soon after I had paddled, scraped and dragged my kayak past a school – which the canoeists had sponsored – I was surrounded by about 6 knife-wielding youngsters. “Give me your watch!” they demanded.

I quickly climbed out of my canoe, and defensively raised my paddle, as I moved onto firm land. I could see two canoeists standing there and sought the safety of their company.

“Vimba! Vimba” (Stop him! Stop him!) They cried out in isiZulu.

I kept moving towards these Johannnesburg canoeists, as I swung my paddle at the boys. From behind me I heard a plaintive voice, “Give them everything that they want. It is not worth it!” I realized that I was not going to get much support from the two paddlers, and reluctantly handed over my watch.

I was then, the chairman of Stella Canoe club, and the chairperson of the Valley Assistance Fund – which had been founded by the Natal Canoe Union to fund schools along the course of the 120km marathon. And I had facilitated the funding of a local school, in that area. In fact, I could actually see the school, from where I was being robbed!

I was so outraged, that regretfully I decided to pull out of the race. I was emotionally burnt. As I walked along the banks of the river, carrying my kayak, I began to think. “How could these BLACK people rob ME? After all that I have done in these valleys, for THESE people?”

As my feet ate up the kilometers, I started to picture all of the people who had helped me in my quest to bring safety, peace and development to canoeing – and into the valleys. Up popped images of the local Chiefs Mlaba, Bhengu, Maphumulo, Shangase and more. Then came their Indunas, community leaders, canoeists, funders and local youngsters. Most of them happened to be black people.

It was at that point that I switched my thinking from “black people” to thieves. And my anger began to fade. Irrespective of their colour – I had been robbed by thieves! And this is what I told the sympathetic canoeists at the overnight campsite.

An interesting aside, which places the courage of our three canoeists into perspective… (Yes, you can laugh!) A few hours before we were set upon, a 14 year old girl was accosted by the same group of thieves. Young Lorna took her paddle and chased the thieves away! So much for the courage of the “Give them what they want,” brigade!”

A Hijacker

James, a friend of mine, was driving his van through the Free State province, when he saw a WHITE hitchhiker. So he stopped, found out where he was headed, and told the guy to get on the back of the van.

As the miles unfolded, the hiker signaled that he was cold. James, in his kindness, stopped and let him into the front. As they drove, James was on the phone to people in the Prison’s department. The hiker sat silently beside him.

Suddenly, on a deserted highway, the passenger pulled out a gun, and told James to pull over. “I have just come out of prison. You are very lucky, my friend, that you are helping people, in prisons. Otherwise I would have shot you and taken your van.” He said in a thick, Afrikaans accent.“ He too, had changed his view of James.

So was this a WHITE AFRIKAANS person, who came close to killing James, and stealing his vehicle – or was it simply a hijacker? Again, I know many white people, and Afrikaans – speaking people. Good folk. As good, as the people, in the valleys. So, I prefer to say “hijacker.”

There is a lot of freedom, in seeing thieves – as thieves. And not as a race, colour, or culture. Sadly when we view people through our prejudice, it is far too easy to hate en-masse. And that is not a mind-set that I want to have.

Racism brings with it fear, suspicion and hate. It also brings separation and isolation. Each of these are emotionally-debilitating. My feeling is, that it is a way of being, that has been around for far too long.

Set yourself free, if not for your sake, then do it for your children.

Brian V Moore – 7 March, 2014
Celebrating Humanity International

Brian - Day 2 Dusi 1992

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

Nelson Madela and Ubuntu

Nelson Mandela talks on the meaning of Ubuntu.
Many people, companies and government agencies talk about Ubuntu. Not as many as speak, actually practice it.

For training on Ubuntu email us, and visit our website for more information.

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Better relationships? Talk straight, clearly and with respect.

As the lift descended the two Zulu ladies made their observations of my well-rounded figure…
“Hawu! We sisi! Uwubonile umkhaba? (Gee Sister have you noticed the stomach.)
“Yebo, ngiwubonile. Yinkinsela yempela – sengathi inemali eningi!” (Yes, I have noticed it. Clearly a wealthy person – I’d imagine he has plenty of money)
All this gossip happened in front of me, as they innocently watched the floor indicator panel. I bided my time and as the two ladies prepared to leave the lift, I spoke to them in Zulu. “Sobuye sibonane bomama.” (I will see you ladies around some time.)
“Hawu! Hawu!” They squealed in shock. “We didn’t know that you could speak Zulu!”
The event reminded me of similar events where people use their “superior” use of language to make negative observations of people.
Many years ago I used the services of a UK born dentist. I had an afternoon session with him. I had earlier washed my mouth out at a supermarket rest-room after eating a sandwich for lunch. It was not enough. He peered into my mouth and pronounced to his assistant, “It is a foggy day in Liverpool.”
In his English way he had said that I had not brushed my teeth. I was very embarrassed and he lost me as a client and a number of others who I spoke to about the event.
In a recent training course my beautiful Hindu wife and I were subjected to abuse from a small group of England born delegates. In loud and profane tones they proceeded to malign the “Indians” and their “ability to speak the truth”. This in the round about and sarcastic manner of certain English people. Very little is said directly.
We are however well travelled and understood perfectly. As facilitators we have to be fair, pleasant and respectful to all of our delegates. Any mention of their meanness would reduce the programme to a series of personal attacks. It took us both a lot of internal and interpersonal talk to get close to our normal warm level of communication.
At an earlier course three of the many Afrikaners, on a Celebrating Humanity© course, walked into the conference venue and made similar attacks on Arthie and the programme itself. This time it was in Afrikaans. They too never believed that we could understand and speak their language. Their embarrassment was very visible as the programme unfolded with both of us speaking English, Zulu and Afrikaans.
Numerous African people from our many language groups speak of the way certain English speaking South Africans “Shaya ‘ma angles.” (To speak indirectly and in a round about way.) It is an old English habit to lighten the criticism and talk around a challenge, so as not to hurt feelings. Often the hurt is greater because no-one besides the speaker understands the true message until much later.
Some people find it necessary to joke in sexual manner. Their jokes are often below the belt and cause great embarrassment to their colleagues and friends who do not discuss these matters outside of their bedrooms. Most African and Eastern groups do not appreciate such jokes. Others try to get their laughs by bringing down “groups” of people. By race, by colour, by language, by religion and even by hair colour.
The message here is all about respect.
When we isolate ourselves into our common groups and use our cleverness to “secretly” or “publicly” attack others, we damage our ability to develop good working relationships. When we try not “to hurt others feelings”, we often cause more pain than we would have by straight talk and without rancour. When we use our own “language” to communicate our jealousy or meanness towards those who communicate in other languages, we often isolate ourselves. When we joke in a manner that is sexual or which brings down other people, we bring ourselves, the listeners and our country down.
We live in a wonderful multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-spiritual land. All of our people have a right to respect and dignity. All of us have a duty to be respectful and dignified. One huge step of our journey, to a united land, will take place when begin to tell funny jokes that do not demean, or disrespect other people. And another gigantic step will take place when we talk straight, talk clearly and talk with respect.
Celebrating Humanity International
trainers@africa-dreams.com
24 April 2004
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Our Own New York Taxi Driver!

All people are looking for, is a little respect and recognition; 4 steps to getting more from life.

Our Los Angeles shuttle driver looked bemused, after we had greeted and thanked our hotel porter, in Spanish.
“I thought you guys were from South Africa. Where did you learn Mexican?” He asked.
“Right here, in LA.” I answered.
“How long have you been here”, he asked.
“Two days”, I answered.
“Well, that is incredible! I’ve been here 45 years, and you know more than I do.” He shook his head in amazement, as we set off towards Hollywood Boulevard.

As we traveled down the road, we spoke of our journey through the USA, and how a little respect had built some great friendships. When we arrived in New York, we were guided to Pennsylvania station by a lady – suitcases loaded with South African wine. She was incredibly gracious and kind.

At Penn. station we boarded our first unmarked taxi, to our first rather scary Manhattan hotel. We asked the taxi driver where he was from and what his name was. “Hamid” – he responded, “and I am from Morocco. Where you from?”

“As salaamu alaikum Hamid.”
“Wailakum as salaamu.” he responded.

We greeted and found out how each other were, as we travelled through the busy New York traffic. We found out how long he had been in New York, where his family was and lots of other really human info. We told him that we ran team-building in South Africa. As we chatted, we asked if we could get his phone number, so that we could call him when we needed him. At the end of our journey, he gave us his number and we paid him for the trip.

The next morning, Arthie phoned him. “Ah, the South Africans, he said. And he was perfectly on time, outside our hotel. Off we went to Macy’s. Upon our arrival, we asked what the fee was.
“Twenty dullah,” he said, “You are on vacation.”

Hamid became our friend, our guide and on every occasion – bar the trip to the airport – charged us $20. He would be there at night and in the morning. He was our saviour. We respected him and he respected us. We learnt so much about this very private man from our conversations, and he about us. How many other people have had their own private New York Taxi driver?

Pat, our Irish American, taxi driver nodded and shook his head. He had never heard of that before – “New York taxi drivers are renowned for their focus on money, not on people. That is amazing!”
“And there is more ,” I told Pat. “When we were in Las Vegas, we had a taxi driver as our witness at our wedding!” We looked at each other and laughed, at the wonderful memory.

“No way!” said Pat, “tell me about it,” laughed the big, jovial 3rd generation American. (His grandfather had emigrated to the USA from Ireland, as a young man.)

Arthie took up the story, “As we left Flamingo Casino, we decided to find a chapel and get married again. (This is our 6th wedding to each other.)”
“Never divorced?”
“No, we just love to celebrate our love for each other through weddings and re-affirming our vows.” She continued, “As we stepped out of the hotel, the Concierge stepped up, and asked if we needed a taxi, and where we were going to. He was quite shocked when we told him that we needed to find a chapel, to get married. He asked the taxi driver, if he could do it. The taxi driver nodded, and we climbed in.”

Pat laughed, “And then you asked all about him, didn’t you?

Arthie laughed, “How’d ya know? How’d ya know?” He laughed and settled back to listen to her.

“So, Jahed – who was from Iraq – called his controller on the radio. “You know that chapel downtown, you told me about? I need the address.” After a little time and some strong words, with the controller, Jahed said. “I got it.”

A short while later, we arrived at the Stained Glass Wedding Chapel. Jahed switched off the taxi meter, for the duration of the wedding. Within about 15minutes – we were set and ready for our wedding – dressed in our denims and sneakers. The organisers tried to hire a wedding dress and tuxedo – for about $200 dollars each – but we wanted a quick wedding, without finery!

A short while later a little old lady, in a wig arrived. She was the minister. 5 minutes later, and with some very beautiful words, that we had repeated to each other – we were wed! And Jahed was our witness.”

Pat laughed, his deep Irish laugh and shook his head!

I carried on, “And we got his phone number too. But never needed to use his services again. We had tried another taxi driver – from Ethiopia, but he was really rude. He got the standard tip, and complained bitterly about it. A little respect goes a long way! And disrespect takes you nowhere.”

Pat looked at us in the mirror, and said, “You guys are a true example to us all. You will never want for anything.” We thanked him.

As we drove Pat spoke of his life, the recent death of his father – and how he was handling that. As we drew near Hollywood, he asked us where we wanted to be dropped off. We told him that we had just attended an amazing conference, on building our team-building company, and internet businesses.

“Wherever the red tourist buses are based”, said Arthie. “Oh look, there is one now.”

Our new friend, swung into action and chased the bus. When it came to a halt, he bounded out and asked the driver how we could get on! He was helping his new friends out and was going to do everything that it took to get us on that bus.

And indeed, that is what happened. We wished Pat well, “The top of the morning to you, Pat!” And he hung his head a little, and said, “You speak more Irish than I do.”

Arthie and I have built friendships and relationships, around the World, simply by respecting other people.

4 simple tips to get more from your life.

1) Care More – Life is not only about you. Start to greet people, and treat people, in the way that they want to be greeted and treated. Learn their languages – do not demand to hear yours. Ask about them, talk far less of your self.

2) Give More – Don’t be afraid to help others, be it by listening, caring and even sharing. Don’t always go with the “standard tip.” Look for ways that you can give, rather than seek ways to get. And you shall receive!

3) Love More – You are perfect as you are, however Life rewards action and not thought. When you really begin to like and accept who you are, in every way, then you are able to be more loving. When you love more – you are loved more.

4) Thank More – Live in a permanent state of gratitude. Be thankful for each breath that you take. Be grateful for your family and your friends – AND tell them. Thank people for every thing that they do. Humbly thank people for their compliments. Develop an “attitude of gratitude”, and the world will reward your thankfulness.

Arthie Moore and Brian V Moore
Teambuilding -in South Africa and Diversity Training in South Africa
“At the level of respect, all people are equal.”
Durban, South Africa. 30th April 2008

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