In the midst of all the horrible racism that emerged around Black Monday, a series of Facebook posts by "Joburger" has woven through a thread of humour and shown South Africans at their best. In the posts, Joburger asked South Africans of different races to ask people of other races one question.
What had the potential to turn into a racist k*k-storm, in fact resulted in genuine, open, humorous conversation in which twice as many bridges were built as were burned. South Africans have a great sense of humour and this gave us the opportunity to display it, with full fanfare.
Among the top questions were:
Mango Jama: "Why do white women go to a salon pay big money only to come out looking the same?"
Chiara Patta: "Is it compulsory to have a K way jacket from birth?"
Vamee Nokwanda Mbatha: "Why don't you guys scream and faint at funerals?? Why are yall so calm?? It's very suspicious!!"
Buzile Bubs Mtetwa: "White folks...are you guys immortal I mean Why do you test God? Free falling? Jumping from one building to another? Free diving? Everything that has the possibility of dying you do."
Qaqamba Sunshine Dunywa: "And why do you say “he/she doesn’t bite” when your dog has teeth AND IS CHASING ME???"
Carandah Hogg: "Why y'all get hyped up for Sweet Caroline?"
Kagiso Ashley Leshaba: "Who told tannie that its cool to put those eyelashes on her Ford Fiesta's headlights?"
But the best part wasn’t so much the questions that were asked, but the responses that they got. It seems that some people really are willing to laugh at themselves and to work at understanding one another rather than creating ever-wider divides.
Some of the top questions got hundreds of answers so each reply thread became an adventure in its own right. I urge you to visit the "Joburger" page and have a look. No discrimination – there’s one for every race. I’ve only posted white questions here because I am white, so I feel that those are the ones I’m justified in taking ownership of.
"Joburger", emboldened by the attention he’d been receiving, then went on to ask people of all races what they liked about each other. These threads also offered South Africans a wonderful opportunity to just be kind (mostly). These weren’t nearly as funny as the question threads, but some of them made me feel quite tearful (in a good way).
I spend a lot of my time feeling apologetic for my whiteness. There are so many atrocities committed around the world and especially in South Africa under the banner of whiteness that it’s hard to feel any kind of pride in my race. The “What do you like about white people?” post didn’t take that away for me – and it shouldn’t – but it made me aware that there are all kinds of people out there who don’t see ALL white people as terrible ALL THE TIME. In spite of what we’ve done. So that was nice.
None of this has taken away from the fact that white people have a lot of work to do in making things better in this country. We need to accept that the economic status quo is unacceptable and that our privilege continues to keep us at the top of the food chain financially and professionally – and then try to work out how we can address that.
But it is good to know that if we approach things with a bit of humour and humility, that we can all laugh together and hopefully move forward together. South Africa may be a bit of a mess right now, but South Africans are great.
So thanks, to everyone who participated in the "Joburger" posts, for your insights, your openness and your sense of fun. It helped to take away the bad taste left in my mouth after Black Monday.