DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Supremacy or Humility

Written by: on September 15, 2017

Apartheid has not been a subject on the top of my reading list until very recently. With the plan of visiting South Africa and the preparatory reading of David Welsh’s, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, I have a new appreciation for the leaders and the people of South Africa who persevered through decades of racism and its long-term effects.

Welsh is comprehensive in his coverage of the major movements and figures of Apartheid, explaining without over vilification or exoneration one people over another. The facts reveal the historic drama, and while dry in the telling due to the great detail, they unfold the complex reality of multiple ethnic groups converging at the Southern tip of Africa to find freedom and determine how to live together in peace and as reconciled people.

Apartheid, literally meaning separation “was the attempt to thwart, neutralize or abort the African urbanization”.[1] This separation captured every aspect of the native African’s lives both before and throughout the nearly fifty years of severe oppression by the white minority ruled government. Africans lost the right to vote, to own property, to be educated, and eventually to even be considered citizens of their home as they were deemed, “temporary sojourners” by the ruling class.

Of the many devastating effects of apartheid, one of the most impactful aspects was the removal of people from their homes and into rural ‘homelands’. These overcrowded and distant spaces from the cities forced Africans into poverty as migrant workers with no rights.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to have my government consider me, ‘a danger’ or a ‘temporary sojourner’ and seek to eliminate my family, my existence and my future from all we have known based on my skin tone. Yet my peers across the globe understand this acutely.

As a response to the horrific treatment the Africans organized the African National Congress (ANC), of which Nelson Mandela joined and eventually led. And although the ANC began peacefully, and from Welsh’s perspective, were moralistic and submissive[2], the years of worsening conditions grated on the Africans, especially the younger generations who saw the need for violence in reaction to the violence done to them.

Mandela also joined in the violence and eventually lost his place in the homeland as he was sentenced to life in prison. Although absent from the ANC, the twenty-seven years in prison were not wasted. During that time Mandela’s leadership was reformed. His stance became one of humility as he sought non-violence once again, became open to working alongside other oppressed people and not just for Africans. Most strikingly, Mandela was willing to converse with and eventually move the country toward peace through his negotiations with President De Klerk.

As I read about the history of South Africa’s racism I continually think about the racism that remains here in the US. We have a history of slavery and even after slavery, of oppressive Jim Crow laws that prevented black people from voting, of separation in education that was only integrated initially not because of the rights of all people to be educated in any place but based on the fact that our federal Supreme Court determined black children were unable to learn well from black teachers in black schools.[3]

Today racism is prevalent for Dreamers who are about to lose their ability to legitimately remain in the only home they have known due to the removal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

People of color in the US are once again dealing with the alt-right groups suddenly springing into public arenas to hold rallies (most recently, last weekend in Portland) while thousands of counter-protestors counter the hate. These actions do not begin to detail the myriad of shootings and hate crimes seen throughout our cities and suburbs.

Although we do not have forced separation in the United States we have subliminal (and sometime overt) messages from groups, just as the Afrikaners did, that see themselves as superior to people of color.

It feels like the answer should be simple. Don’t judge people based on the color of their skin. Yet, the process of getting to the place of withholding judgment is much more complex. We are entrenched based on what we have known and the systems and ways of being we have perpetuated.

As I see it modeled in the change in Mandela and the honesty of De Klerk, racism comes down to our view of others. Do we see ourselves as superior to others? Are we willing to humble ourselves and see that another person, who may be very different than us is just as worthy of rights, of belonging and of love as us?

On Sunday I choose to leave my home, my eighteen-month old baby boy, and my husband, to visit the place of the rise and fall of Apartheid. I choose this, and for me it is not easy. I am comfortable here with my family and my work, mostly surrounded by white people. But I also know that much of my community both near and far is not white. I go hoping to gain a deeper understanding of how to love rather than judge from the outside. I hope to grow in seeking God’s peace, particularly in the places where my voice has influence.

 

[1] Welsh, David. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. (Jeppestown: Jonathon Ball Press, 2009), 57.

[2] Welsh, 38.

[3] Malcolm Gladwell, 2017. “Miss Buchanan’s Period Of Adjustment.” Podcast: Revisionist History. http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/13-miss-buchanans-period-of-adjustment

About the Author

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Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

15 responses to “Supremacy or Humility”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Trisha,
    Thanks for your post from Newberg. I liked your review of Welsh’s work on the Apartheid, especially your analysis of Mandela’s leadership journey. Isolation is a good tool that God uses to shape, soften, and prepare leaders for His purposes. Thanks for linking the global and supernatural impact that evil has in racism.
    Sadly, racism does manifest in many places around the world. Sometimes the hate and prejudice is not about color, but about one’s ethnic origin. I witnessed police and military led “roundups” of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe who came into Botswana to try and earn money for their families at home.

    I look forward to meeting you soon.

    Stand firm,
    M Webb

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Thanks for your reply Mike. I agree that racism is not just about color. I think ethnic background plays a large part in prejudice.

      I am interested to hear how those raids affected you and how you see those relating to what we have read, and will soon see, about Apartheid.

  2. mm Jennifer Williamson says:

    Hi Trisha, I am really looking forward to meeting you next week. It will be an adventure, for sure.

    I appreciate the connection you have made to the Dreamers. Have you noticed a change in the racial tensions since the elections in the US? Was there anything in the history of apartheid that stood out to you as applicable to your life in the States?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      I have noticed a huge change this past year. I was working as the interim undergrad campus pastor at George Fox while living in the middle of Portland and the climate, the response, the women’s marches and the droves of students who were affected was astounding. It has been a surreal and challenging year to say the least. We had multiple students immediately fearing for the safety of themselves and their loved ones. I see the connection between SA and the US with the rise of conservative and nationalist power in our government and the fear and intense resistance of many people to authority especially via public forums such as protests, blogs and social media.

      • mm Jennifer Williamson says:

        In some ways it feels like the Trump presidency has brought racial issues into focus. It’s easier to fight an enemy that has shown its face. I’m glad to see people standing up and speaking up. My prayer is that even though the fears are well founded, that they would not have a paralyzing power. Theat people would continue to protest and face down this enemy.

        • mm Jean Ollis says:

          Jennifer,
          What an interesting point you make – “bringing racism into focus” and “fighting an enemy who has shown its face”. It’s true that we, as a country, are being challenged to look at racism head-on and confront evil attitudes and belief systems. If anything, it gives us an opportunity to use our voices for good – to stand up for what is right.

          How is it to experience the election from afar? I can only imagine the French perspective on our government/President.

  3. Trisha,

    I agree with you that it is horrifying to see alt-right groups emerging with shameless, swaggering pride. I keep telling myself that the media amplifies their presence, and surely there is only a tiny fragment of people who are activated by this racism. But this small group is given a significant platform and we must counter this with our own voices. (One problem: our story doesn’t sell newspapers or media hits.)

    Did anyone else notice that The Rise and Fall of Apartheid was published in Charlottesville VA? Ironic, no?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Mark – I totally caught the Charlottesville locaton! I wonder how that worked out? I also noticed there was a dual publishing with South Africa. So interesting.

    • mm Jean Ollis says:

      Mark,

      Thank you for the reminder that our platform does not sell to the press. While I want to believe that only a small segment is activated by this racism, sadly in the rural Midwest we are seeing significant numbers of people empowered to speak their racist thoughts/feelings about people of color. As we hold critical conversations on college campuses, even college students (who are made to feel safe to share) openly discuss their racism (without even realizing they have racist attitudes). It’s complex for sure! I can’t wait to hear about your pre-Cape Town travels! See you soon!
      Jean

  4. Greg says:

    Trisha, I too appreciate your thoughts on this Welsh book and the struggle of racial tensions in the US. Many history books can be a little dry but as you know are nessary in understanding history; Maybe it is test of perseverance.

    When I hear about protests and reactions to those protests it does challenge me to ask how am I responding to race issues in my community? How am I actively showing love? I usually feel guilty when I ask these questions as I realize that I often am in my own world doing my own thing. Thank you for your vulnerability and the reminder through your own journey that we are all making a choice to be challenged desiring God to make us on going students. See you soon.

  5. mm Jay Forseth says:

    “It feels like the answer should be simple. Don’t judge people based on the color of their skin.” I love it when you said that!

    It seems to me like everything we learned in Elementary School has been forgotten. Be nice, play fair, treat others the way you want to be treated…

    Your words were perfect.

  6. This was my favorite line of yours … “As I see it modeled in the change in Mandela and the honesty of De Klerk, racism comes down to our view of others. Do we see ourselves as superior to others? Are we willing to humble ourselves and see that another person, who may be very different than us is just as worthy of rights, of belonging and of love as us?” because this is the part of the book that most resonated with me as well. I was inspired to examine how I am treating those different from me and I appreciated how you brought this topic home and made it personal. Beautiful post and what a sacrifice you are making leaving your baby, see you next week.

  7. david says:

    Trisha,
    Thanks for this post and the review of the book as well as the contemporary connections. I am with you on how this book seemed to apply to our current situation in the United States. We’ll continue the conversation in Cape Town!

  8. Chris Pritchett says:

    Hey Trisha,
    Thanks for your thoughtful reflections on the book. I appreciated how you began by recounting some of the real life consequences that black South Africans faced during and after Apartheid, then relating your reading with your experience and knowledge of racism in American, past and present. I totally agree with you on DACA and the subtle forms of racism around us. I’d be curious about your thoughts on mass incarceration. See ya soon!

  9. David Brewer says:

    I’m coming to the party late, but a follow-up books I could recommend would be “No Future without Forgiveness” by Bishop Desmond Tutu and “A Human Being Died that Night” by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. The latter book is about a black South African psychologist’s interviews with Eugene de Kock, head of the government-sanctioned death squads. It’s a powerful book about her journey and his.

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