Gabrielle Ritchie, Director at The Change Room: 4th January 2016
It’s the start of 2016 and South Africa has got off to a rocking start with a number of key hashtags in response to the ongoing, appalling, tiresome, tedious, offensive racist vitriol that white people seem to think it okay to spew all over social media. Sigh. The first excellent hashtag is #TheYearWeMispronounceBack – a strong statement about the insistence amongst white people (turns out this is experienced the world over) to find “black names” too challenging to bother with. It’s not that the names are too challenging. We know this. But rather that so many of “my people” just frankly don’t consider it important enough to bother with black names. Shocking horrible dismissive arrogant racist stuff. The # takes the mickey out of traditionally white names, while making a key political point about respect, language, culture, supremacy, privilege and a range of other social factors and dynamics at play.
The second hashtag is #PennySparrow. Or #JustinVanVuuren. Or #ChrisHart. Or #DennisDyason. All of whom are white South Africans who have spewed forth some ugly ugly stuff in the last 36 hours or so. Not repeating any of it here, as it doesn’t warrant further sharing. The bottom line out of all of this is that #RacismMustFall, and it is the responsibility of white South Africans – me included, obvs – to speak out loudly in support of anti-racist measures, to call racism out when we see it, and to stand up and raise our voices against any form of racism (yes, even our own). And we can’t expect any accolades, medals, or awards for it. We must simply get on with it and do it. If white South Africans have any work to do, it is being constantly vigilant about our own behaviour and that of those white folk around us. No complaints. Just get on with it.
So what does all of this have to do with philanthropy in South Africa? A good question, you might be thinking. And this is really directed at us white South Africans.
Okay, so philanthropy is about someone giving financial support for a cause/s which that person believes in. It is about “doing good”. It is – as has been shown in a number of recent South African research reports – about believing that one can “make a difference”, that by giving one can “contribute to change”. Giving therefore has to start with the questions “what do I care about?”, “what is the change I want to see?” and “what difference do I want to contribute to making?”. Asked and answered honestly is where the line gets drawn, between those who want to be “helpful to those less fortunate” (and I am not knocking that, really) and those who actively want to see change.
One of the key areas of real change required in South Africa is that #RacismMustFall. Spend a good few minutes thinking about that, and thinking about how your own giving and your personal philanthropy can contribute to tackling your own prejudices – not just in what cause or organisation you support, but also in the way in which you offer such support. The real impact is often felt in HOW we do things, and philanthropy is no different. The HOW of philanthropy is crucial in effecting real change.
If you are looking to support any social justice cause this year, and you are also looking to ensure that your own racism and that of those around you is tackled, then your support needs to be committed; your approach will be consultative; your ears will be tuned to listen to the voices of those doing the work (rather than to your own voice); and you might look to contribute to work already happening rather than foregrounding your own way of doing things.
There is so much going on out there – amazing initiatives by incredibly energetic and creative people. And they need your financial support. Think about what you want to support this year, and how you are wanting to offer that support.
Please share any thoughts you have on this 🙂 Our young democracy depends on you.