When your comfort zone turns into ignorance…

2012-12-21 17:25

In a country with eleven official languages, a tumultuous racial history and various cultural differences it’s not hard to see why most South Africans are more comfortable socialising within their racial circle.

It would be indisputably irresponsible for me to generalise by claiming that all of SA’s inhabitants do not socialise outside racial lines but what I wish to convey is that most of us prefer to mix with people whom we identify with.

The (dis)comfort of being comfortable

Known columnist and radio show host Ndumiso Ngcobo tweeted recently that “in a country with a population of 80% black folk (all people of colour fall in this category just to be clear) you have to try very hard not to have a black friend.”

A friend of mine (black) confided in me that she wouldn’t want to date a white, coloured or Indian man. Intrigued but not surprised by that statement I decided to probe the reasons why she would say such a thing. What followed when I asked why she said that was, “I do not have time to play games on something that won’t last! I am at that age (she is 25 by the way) where I need to be in a stable relationship.”

Basically her reasoning is that the relationship would fissile faster than you can say “interracial” because she is black and he not of Xhosa descent. While it is true that all racial groups have different backgrounds, basing a relationship’s strength on the fact that you from opposite sides of the tracks is just plain madness.

We should remember that we are all human beings and that should hold more weight than anything else. Yes we have an excruciating past which was fuelled by racial bias and while it will take longer than 20 or so years to correct that injustice we must be careful not to use that as an excuse of avoiding getting to know our fellow brother and sister despite the colour of their skin.

Forging new friendships and acquaintances is a daunting task as it is. You do not know if people really want to be your friend or they just want to be associated with you because you hold a certain position professionally or financially. Why would you want the added pressure of excluding people because you do not have the same skin colour?

While it is understandable that people want to mix with those they deem to have something in “common” with, the downside to this is that you automatically shield yourself from learning about other people’s way of life. You should choose your friends by personality and nothing else.

Not everything has to be Black and White

The best way to obliterate racial intolerance, stereotyping and prejudice in this country is to stop thinking in black and white. We should stop thinking that all whites are racist or blacks are angry and bitter. And the only way to know who is and isn’t these things is to start getting to know different people rather than jumping to paranoid assumptions.

While this might be a classic case of easier said than done, it has the potential to bear fruit if we actually attempt to look beneath a person’s skin colour.

I read an article earlier in the week which said the biggest challenge currently facing South Africans (not sure of its accuracy) is mingling with people outside their “usual” social circle. Some white people were quoted as saying “they do not know how to approach blacks” with blacks saying it’s “they do not relate with whites because they have nothing in common.”

This may be true but those little ‘harmless’ statements soon evolve into “you people” or “these people” and the infamous “I am not racist but…” all because we are too chicken to step out of our comfort zones. Meeting new peeps should be about many things and one of them MUST not be race in order for us to stop feeling awkward when we are among other racial groups.

We pride ourselves as being the 21st century generation filled with hope, dreams, ambition and a better South Africa. Connecting with people should not only be limited to social networking sites it must be reflected in the group of people you regard as close friends.

Try it and you might find that discomfort is not so bad after all!

You can catch me on twitter @BongaDlulane

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