Waitressgate: Reflections of Someone Mixed Race, Part 1

Waitressgate occurred at the Obz Café in Cape Town, South Africa. When waitress Ashleigh Schultz (a white woman) brought their bill, two #RhodesMustFall activists wrote on it, “WE WILL TIP WHEN YOU RETURN THE LAND!” Schultz broke down crying. One of the activists, Ntokozo Qwabe, went onto Facebook boasting about the incident and mocking her tears as “white tears”. On the one hand, apologists for Qwabe say he was right to mock ” white tears”; on the other hand, a fundraising campaign raised R44,777 for Schultz.
To dismiss Schultz’s tears as “white tears” commits the Explanation Freeze, a human tendency to fixate on the first explanation that comes to mind. Studies show that when we consider alternative explanations we are more likely to accurately assess the situation. In Schultz’s case, she’s working to help her mother, who has cancer, and she had had a rough day.
One Qwabe apologist raised the issue of white people responding with guilt and tears when confronted with the realities of racism. He contends that it’s oppressive to attempt to share the pain instead of accepting responsibility and working to end the oppression. I disagree. I contend that it’s human, when one’s narratives and worldviews are rocked, to be shocked; in fact, it can be psychologically disruptive, particularly, considering the fact that we(humanity) have a tendency to surround ourselves with ideas that confirm our preconceived notions and anything to the contrary is “lontano dell’occhi, lontano del cuore”(Italian for ” far from the eyes, far from the heart”). Due to this confirmation bias, these issues are uncharted territory for a lot of people, and they probably don’t know how to respond.
Now, to white people: once you’ve had a good cry, felt guilty, etc., dust yourself off, go back to your sources, and try to understand what they’re saying. (Remember to avoid the Explanation Freeze.) Seek contrarian viewpoints. Like a pioneer, go into this uncharted territory. Find something, however small, you can do to change the system, for it’s little acts that add up to make a big difference. Decide the buck stops with you. As the Bible says, “Pluck up and break down, destroy, and overthrow; build and plant” (Jer. 1:10). In my view, it’s the private citizen that can do more to change the world than the politicians.


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Christian, freethinker, believer, skeptic, seeker.

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