Balancing the perspective on the Rivers Church incident

2016-06-29 09:39

So here I was in a Sunday lunchtime church service receiving a sermon from one of the most respected pastors in the region. Then he said something that struck a deep nerve in me. After 20 seconds of contemplating whether to walkout, I didn’t. I stayed and decided not judge the fabric of a man by a statement that he made.

But that does not mean to say that his fabric should shield him from being put to account for making such a statement. To say that “white people took nothing from no one” is fundamentally wrong, and casts ignorance on the struggle that every black man and woman goes through daily. The pastor was raised by a single mother and underwent some degree of hardship, but that can never be put on the same pedestal as any degree of hardship that a black person went or continues to go through as a result of our past. We cannot ignore the fact that any undue circumstance suffered by a white person, is ever so multiplied when faced by a black person. The pastor’s mother was able to put him through a technical school in a period when our parents and forefathers were subjected to Bantu education and had to die fighting against learning Mathematics and Physics in Afrikaans. He was able to start a business in a period where to be a black entrepreneur was but a myth. These events alone, within his personal circumstances, go to reveal that privilege is not an event in one’s life, it’s a perpetual system in our livelihoods. And white people need to be conscious of that.

Also, there was no need to use racial dichotomies within the argument. Barack Obama firmly said, “It’s not about being a white American or Latino American or Black American or Indian American, it’s about the United States of America”. This should never be about Black South Africans serving White South Africans or White South Africans serving Black South Africans…, it should be about The Republic, of South Africa. It should be about South Africans serving each other, and serving Africans broadly. Apartheid taught us too well of the adverse consequences that churches can have when they start getting involved in racial lines. It is my firm belief that such an institution should steer clear of preserving colour coded perspectives, especially given how sensitive the race discussion has continued to be in this country.

The pastor is a good man. He has, in my view, successfully role modelled what a father should be and the impact that good deeds can have in a society where such role models are far and few. However as an influential leader and a senior member of society, he needs to personally re-evaluate the fundamental assumptions that have manifested such racial beliefs. Such statements cannot have a standing in the South Africa that we are trying to build.

And we as the people should call these out. We should be never to follow blindly.

Khwezi is a Solution Space Scholar at the UCT Graduate School of Business

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