‘Cause there’s a place in the sun where there’s hope for ev’ry one,
where my poor restless heart’s gotta run.
There’s a place in the sun and before my life is done,
Got to find me a place in the sun.
Lyrics from A Place in the Sun by Stevie Wonder
Please note: I am very nervous about sharing this post, because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings in any way! I also don’t want anyone to think that I am writing this post from a point of privilege, even though I know my place. This post has been written with the best of intentions, and I will appreciate of it is read in this way.
I grew up in a country where skin color was a thing. South Africa was known for its ‘apartheid’ and it was at its height when I grew up there. I left at the end of ’94, the year Mandela was elected president. I didn’t leave because of that, but because of very personal circumstances. I have been back to South Africa twice, and sadly, skin color is still a thing there. No, ‘apartheid’ has come to an end, but now they have ‘affirmative action’ which essentially is still about skin color (something I personally experienced in the last 9 months I lived there).
My father is a racist.
My brother is a racist.
My mother was the one who taught us that everyone had the right to a place in the sun. In my childhood I was never in touch with children who’s skin color wasn’t the same as mine. That changed when I was an adult, especially when I entered the military. I ended up having several friends I knew neither my father or brother would approve of, but those people didn’t mind that my skin was white, so why did I have to mind that their’s were different tints of brown?
At Eroticon 2019 the beautiful Cara Thereon had a session called “You don’t see me because I’m black” and sadly, I knew what she meant, but I didn’t feel comfortable saying it because… well, I am white.
Back one of the last years I lived in South Africa, for the first time ever I had an older woman who helped me clean the house. Please note that I said: helped me. I didn’t let her do everything, because she had another job – at the day care center where my kids went to. I drove her in the mornings, and when I picked the kids up in the afternoon, she came home with me. She had her own room and bathroom facilities, with an outside door. She was looking for a place to live, and I told her she could live with me, and all she had to do was to help me in my household. I was alone with two small kids and could use the help.
I cooked for us in the evenings, which meant I cooked for her too. I wouldn’t have minded if she would sit at our table to have dinner, but she didn’t want to, because it wasn’t ‘appropriate’. Our upbringing – hers and mine – said that we had to eat separately, and even though I wanted to change it, she didn’t feel comfortable with it. I asked it a couple of times, but then let it be, because I knew I only made her feel more uncomfortable.
Honestly, I felt uncomfortable too, but my discomfort lay in the fact I didn’t know how to handle her discomfort. I wanted her to feel at ease, but I didn’t know how, because we were taught that people of different skin colors don’t mix. They don’t socialize with each other, and where by then I already had those friends in the military, for her it was just a step too far to be equal to me. She was of a generation before me, and if it was already difficult for me to get out from under my ‘apartheid’ background, it was even worse for her.
I have never understood why we should look down on people who are not the same as us, whether it’s about skin color, or religion, or sexuality or anything else that is different from the way you do things. I believe my mom has a lot to do with this; the way I look at life around me. This all comes back to a post I have written some time ago: Spread Love, Not Hate.
Can’t we all just accept each other the way we are? I think the world would be such a beautiful place, when we all allow everyone a place in the sun!
© Rebel’s Notes