What I learned on Twitter last week

So the new year started off with a bang on South African social media, most especially Twitter, with shots fired from all sides and it seems like the controversy and the precarious position we’re currently balancing in all started with THOSE horrid, hateful, ignorant and hurtful comments made by Penny Sparrow and before long people were climbing on that band wagon and there was fighting, mud slinging, insults, hurtful and hateful words being spewed across social media. I’m sure we can all agree, it was an ugly place to be. And honestly, there were times I despaired. There were times when what I read hurt and frightened me. 

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I don’t want to add my voice to the noise, I want to tell you about what I learned from last weeks social media mayhem.

I learned that if you look carefully, you’ll find little gems. People, who like me, are looking to engage, to share their points of view, their hurt, their thoughts and experiences in away that not only engages, but helped me see and understand others points of view, people who have a totally different point of reference to me, who helped me see how retaliatory comments were not necessarily coming from a place of hate, but a place of hurt. Those same people who felt those comments should be dealt with and not excused. 

I learned that if another’s point of view made me uncomfortable, I should look within myself and examine the reasons why they caused discomfort, without responding in anger,  that if I engaged with the right people, they could often help me see things differently, understand things differently, experience things differently.

If we’re aware enough and willing enough and thoughtful enough, we can learn from even the most uncomfortable situations by listening, by digesting what is being said, by understanding that we may have a different point of reference to someone else and that by listening to their point of reference, we could indeed learn something valuable. 

I may seem ignorant by admitting this, but it’s through social media and those gems I spoke of earlier, that I’ve become so very very aware of my white privilege, a concept which is still denied by so many. And it’s with this knowledge that I’m learning to humbly and carefully seek out those gems who can help me to understand. 

I saw this video a few week’s ago and it was so helpful in explaining what white privilege is, I’d love it if you’d take the time to view it and share your thoughts with me:

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As a South African, as a woman and a mother and as a mother raising mixed race children, I feel I have a responsibility to learn and to understand my fellow countrymen. I believe that while the last week of social media has been shit and it’s hurt and it’s brought up anger and resentments, there is still an opportunity for us all to grow and understand.

I’m mot saying we should all hold hands and sing Kum Ba Ya, but I do think we could control how we respond to hate and hurt because from my own experience, there are lessons to be learned everywhere.  



  • taryntibble

    January 11, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    White privilege is something I looked down upon until I really understood it – my point of view was always that my folks were broke, they didn’t have good educations, I went to a public school on a bursary, my folks didn’t buy me a car etc. I haven’t struggled exactly but I didn’t have the “privileged” upbringing I associated with the concept. It took a long time for me to understand that the most basic principle is that I can walk down the aisle of a shop without someone automatically thinking I’m a thief. I can walk in my suburb without photos appearing on facebook with a caption “shady whiskey female walking on xyz street”. It was that point that made me realise exactly how privileged I actually am.

    • Sharon

      January 11, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      I’m so with you. For the longest time I misunderstood the concept. I still have friends & family who don’t understand it and I’ve tried my very best to explain it to them. It’s not about privilege in the traditional sense of wealth, it’s so much more than that.

  • Cassey Toi

    January 11, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I think that a lot of folks don’t get what privilege really entails. There are so many times when I’ve been ignored or told I speak so well, or many other micro aggressions happen…that when someone tells me they’re not privileged due to their skin I walk away. A “friend” was unemployed for 3 months and moaned about how he wasn’t getting a job because of being a white male, I laughed…it took well over a year before I found one.

    If people tell me they don’t see colour a warning bell goes off. To say that you don’t see colour is denying all the experiences of the world that has shaped someone.

    • Sharon

      January 11, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      If someone says they don’t see colour, then I can only assume they are blind. Trying really hard to be politically correct but blind!

  • Elize

    January 11, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I also misunderstood the term white privilege until I stumbled upon this little gem: http://occupywallstreet.net/story/explaining-white-privilege-broke-white-person.

    Maybe holding hands and singing kumbaya wouldn’t be such a bad place to start. Love and acceptance is what is needed in a country where there is no trust between the different race groups.

    A good leader will also help, not someone who regularly uses the terms white racists, white capitalists and white supremacy. Every time he gets taken to task about something he shifts the blame to the past, to apartheid to white supremacy even to Jan van Riebeeck, saying more than once that whites want Apartheid back. Yes, the past is to blame, but we cannot sit back and just fold our hands. I believe this perpetuates the fear and resentment between everybody. I don’t speak for everyone, but I do know that Apartheid will never be part of this country again, I believe the majority of people see if for what it really was, an evil that never should have been part of anyone’s reality.

    The past cannot be changed, and this country needs a leader who loves South Africa and it’s people, someone who does not steal, lie, hide behind the past, someone who will take the bull by the horns and say right, we’ve seen some terrible atrocities but lets work together to make this a great country. A government that rushes to help broken, poor people. Someone who rushes to help in times of drought and suffering. Not grand standing and laughing while we’re all trying to make this a better place for all. But mostly we need someone with integrity.

    The last couple of weeks was also extremely painful for me, bad things were being said from all sides. And the dehumanization (on all sides) was incredibly hard to witness. But maybe this has opened up a way for constructive, open and honest conversations. Sweeping everything under the carpet has just caused emotions to finally erupt and spill over.

    • Sharon

      January 11, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      I agree with what you’ve said but feel that we cannot just blame our leader, the responsibility starts with us. And for me it was interesting to read all the different POV’s during the shit storm last week, even though some of them were incredibly hard to hear and then be able to take a step back and instead of reacting, trying to learn something from it.

  • Moipone

    January 11, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    there were times when I found tweets that made my blood boil and I choose to ignored it because i was going to say something more hurtful and I will be adding to the chaos not coming up with a solution. I kept my mouth shut and scrolled down. This is a wonderful piece


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