Why Are We Still Apart(heid)?Melanie Mokgatla
Living social justice requires a lifestyle of intentional awareness about poverty, injustice and division
Years after the end of apartheid, our city still lives apart. It takes deep intentionality to integrate daily life with those unlike you – not just interact as a means of transacting but truly integrate work, home, friends, church, and your whole life. How long will it take to reverse this division?
As much as we want large scale change, so much will happen if individuals live a lifestyle of social justice. And part of this begins with being intentionally aware of poverty, injustice and division. The Bible compels us to act and do justice (Micah 6:8), but to do this, we must first look, listen and grow awareness of the current realities in our own lives as well as others in our city.
If you were to be challenged to have a conversation with someone different than you, how difficult would that be? Do you naturally have deep relationships with a diverse group? We need to realize that how we design our lives and interact with society actually effects our perspective and our ability to do justice. Who do you work with? Who gets invited into your home? Who do you interact with at church? Do you intentionally seek diversity and integration or are you happy in groups where you blend in?
Why don’t we mix well in our city?
What hinders you from diversifying all areas of your life? Is media still feeding us stories of violence and theft so often that we can’t see the humanity of those who live in a different neighborhood? Are we afraid to be rejected? Has racism invaded our perspective and we’re afraid what others might think if we’re speaking to someone who looks different than us? Is it just easier to stay in the neighborhoods that we grew up in – familiar streets, same language, known neighbors? Has comfort, routine, and fear crippled our understanding of ‘love thy neighbor’? Do we accept the homogenous bubble we’ve created or are we ready to break the pattern of ‘being apart’ in order to live like Jesus lived?
How can we be more intentional about growing our awareness and challenge ourselves to bridge the division?
Here are some ways to look, listen and gain a deeper awareness of what’s going on in our city. But don’t stop there. If you’re moved by what you see and hear, challenge yourself to act!
- What’s your daily routine? Is your life diverse? Look at who you interact with and what meaningful relationships you invest in.
- Take note of your travel routes. What are you seeing? Who’s driving, who’s walking? What types of homes, public service vehicles, shared spaces do you notice? Are there vast differences in the places you pass on route?
- Who do you interact with socially? Is there diversity in your friendships, where you shop, who gets invited to your get togethers?
- Have you educated yourself about the stats of South African communities? Read these stats with a justice lens. What is unjust? What ‘should not be?’
- Observe your budget in light of these stats. What percentage of South Africa is in your economic bracket? Have you ever thought about your finances as a justice issue?
- Read scripture with a fresh set of eyes to see God’s heart for justice. What does God say about doing justice? How do you hear those commands and do they translate to your life well?
- What conversations do you hear on a daily basis? Ask questions, seek to understand another’s story, listen to different perspectives.
- Walk the aisle of the grocery store and count how many languages you hear. Does everyone sound or look just like you?
- Ask someone you don’t know well how they celebrate special occasions (birthdays, Christmas, public holidays)? Listen for unique cultural insights or what they put value on when celebrating (people, food, the place).
- What media do you consume? Do the people you watch on tv all look just like you? Do those who you listen to mostly support your own beliefs? Listen with a justice lens.
- Engage with current issues. Listen to the stories of social, economic and political issues.
- When there are protests in different communities, seek to hear both sides of the story.
- Pinpoint a community you’d like to know better. Shop in a store near that place. Greet people in the aisles. Talk to the cashiers or car-guards. Look at the products for sale that might not be in the store nearest to you. Become a ‘regular’ and build relationships with that community.
- Read a local newspaper and highlight any articles related to poverty or injustice.
- Listen to a talk radio station you don’t normally listen to. Note the topics you don’t normally hear or aren’t aware of.
- Take a different mode of transport. Use your senses to understand those who use this route. What do you see, hear, smell, feel? What are the positives and negatives about the transport in our city?
- Share a meal with someone different than you. Open your home or invite someone to your lunch table at work. Share stories. Listen, listen, listen. Listen until you know the other person feels heard.
Check out these studies for more insight into God’s heart for justice:
Take one step in each category. Pause your busy life to notice something new. Listen with ears to understand and educate yourself to the realities of another. Challenge yourself to grow an awareness of poverty, injustice and division. And share your findings with someone. This challenge is not to be kept as research only, but to change our society and reverse the separation of apartheid that has lingered too long.