As a black South African, I have spent so much time observing myself, my blackness, my consciousness and what I believe I want my world to be shaped by. I do not think that this is unique to me. I feel that this is something quite common to the Black South African person.

It might sound like a lot, but in truth, the ability to see ourselves in relation to others is the only thing that gives us strength. It is not something that we have been taught to do. It is not something that education has gifted us with the tools to do. Yes, education has allowed some of us access to more tools, finer, more delicate tools but ultimately the awareness of blackness in relation to the world is something that we, as black people, realise and navigate through as a means of staying sane in this racially constipated society.

At this point in my life, and in society, I feel that the question, “What are white people doing for their white children?” seems late yet highly needed.

I work with parents, white parents who are adopting black children. These white people are readying themselves for a lifetime of questions based on a reality that they feel they have very little, to no control over. They are right, they can not change South Africa’s history. Sometimes, sadly, some of them hope that their family alone, will be enough of an example.

What are white parents of white children preparing themselves for? Nothing. White parents of white children don’t encourage their children to ask questions like, “Mom, why are there only whites at this party?”

White parents of white children don’t prepare themselves to answer questions, important questions such as, “Dad, why are all of your friends laughing at the way that black man speaks?” “Why did you ignore that woman at the window.” “Why don’t you give that family a lift home, our car is completely empty.” “Why are all of your facebook pictures/ family holiday albums and wedding pictures filled with only white people? Why does Precious live with us even though she just had her own baby and looks like she needs to cry every second of every day?”

Black children of black or white parents ask questions all of the time. Questions that are almost impossible to answer. Questions that grind your teeth and make your stomach cramp. Questions that have no answers and also only one, “Because you are black and the world is designed for whiteness!”

If white parents took a moment to acknowledge their whiteness and made an effort not to pass whiteness on to their white children, we, and I really do mean all of us, could be looking at a future filled with a change that we have all desperately been wanting. We don’t want unification, we want inclusion and the normalisation of variety

My white school friends often send me WhatsApp voice notes asking me the questions that they should be asking their parents. Sharing with me the fears that they should be sharing with their other white friends. These white people believe that race is a conversation that takes place between those who are affected by it.

Are white peoples not affected? Are you really not affected? Look at your life? Look at your fear? Look at your shame and guilt? Are you not affected? Look at your children, know that they are taking in everything that you are. Know that they are observing your unspoken languages and thoughts. Know that they can see you turn your head away from the person at the window asking for R1. Know that they can see you stiffen and move faster as you pass the person buying food in the supermarket. Are you not affected?

Your children should be asking the questions. You should be having the conversations. As a parent, your want should be to make your child stronger, better, braver than what you are. Is this not what we want for our children?

If you were opening up your home to conversations about the reality of South Africa, conversations about your whiteness, conversations about your fears, conversations about your shame. If you were the one to ask your other white friends “Why is everyone here white?” If you were the white person to leave a restaurant because there were only white people in it, your child would begin to realise that the world is unfair.

Your child would stop causing racially harmful interactions at school, such as “Your hair is so spongey. Why is your mom white? Or, when you have straight hair, you look like a princess. Your child would understand that whiteness is harmful to humans beings and that whiteness is different to being a white person.

White people who raise white children, your responsibility is not to simply be a nice person, a nice Christian, a nice neighbour, a nice employee, a nice customer, a hearty donator. It is your responsibility to open the eyes of your child, let them see the world, let them ‘see colour’, let them ask all of the questions that make you sweat and squirm.

When your family holiday photos look like my family holiday photos there will be nothing abnormal to ask about. When your friend group looks like my friend group, your child will have no need to ask, loudly, “Mom, why is that black person holding that white, brown, black, man, woman, persons’ hand. Are they friends, lovers, brothers, sisters?”

So then, Dear white people raising white children, now is the time. Have the conversations.



Image: Issa Rae – Paste Magazine.

Thola Antamu

Author Thola Antamu

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  • infpbeliever says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I am not a parent, but as a young white teenage girl in SA this is so relevant and so good. We need to have these conversations and live right.
    I am struggling with the difference between “whiteness” (as a destructive identity) and “being white” (a physical part of me I cannot change). However, no pressure to answer this 🙂 I want to dig into this more and figure out how to balance being white and yet letting “whiteness” die.

    • tholaantamu says:

      Thank you for sharing your feedback with me. I can not answer your question because it is not something that one can simply answer. It is a work in progress and a discussion that should always be open to being had, be it awkward, hard, ugly or simple. Whiteness, I believe, can be dissolved, people just need to want to dissolve it. Please let me know if you want more conversation, I am always up for a race conversation about whiteness.

  • says:

    I hear you. But not all white parents are unengaged in this regard. Some of us are ACCURATELY aware. Even painfully so of our whiteness
    And whilst we haven’t adopted an African child we are so aware of our whiteness and want our kids to know better. Please know it’s Not ALLL of us.

    • tholaantamu says:

      To be honest, I do not believe that there is such a thing as a white person being accurately aware. Also, if you feel that this blog post does not speak to you then that is absolutely fine. This narrative is for those who do nothing or very little. All white people parading whiteness could and shoud and muct, always do more.

  • Jules Kynaston says:

    Thank you for writing this Thola.

  • Alan says:

    Thanks indeed for this conversation. Indeed important questions that need to be asked. Assuming that this is a conversation and not a statement being made I agree with what I think Anthea wanted to say (ACUTELY and not ACCURATELY) – i.e. sharply and not correctly. It is indeed assuming too much if you think that few or no white parents engage their children/friends/colleagues/churches about exactly these issues. My sixpence worth is then just this – please be more nuanced and less stereotypical. It is not always an “us” vs “them”.

    • tholaantamu says:

      Dear Alan, if you feel that this content is not referring to you then it is not referring to you. Why feel the need to defend yourself or anyone else?

  • Heather Ferris says:

    It is past time for this. You speak directly to the issues of whiteness and we all need to pay attention and take action. I’m in!

  • Very complicated this. Human nature is what it is. We can only do the best we can. The pendulum is swinging and soon the roles will be reversed. It’s good to remember that ALL children are affected and influenced by their environments, their parents’ experiences of life that informs their actions. One day at a time. One action at a time. From both, or rather all sides of the fence.
    Thanks your article. It stimulates thought and debate and that informs attitude and change.

  • Carika du Plessis says:

    “Because you are black and the world is designed for whiteness!” What do you mean? In what ways are the world designed for whiteness? Surely nature is designed for all living creatures and human inventions benefits all races.

    I see people of all races ignoring beggars, having same race families or friends are most peoples’ reality whether you are white, black or purple.

    I have black, white and coloured people in my family which I think is quite unique to most families in SA but I see absolutely no need to teach children to notice skin colour. We don’t fuss so much about hair and eye colour why should the skin be different? Children don’t naturally notice skin colour. To me thats the best thing about kids, they don’t judge eye sight.

    • tholaantamu says:

      I don’t have time to explain the truth of the world to you. Please use the internet.

      • Tadbo says:

        Pathetic reply to a very true comment

        • tholaantamu says:

          To be honest, what is pathetic is expecting me, as a black person, to explain or respond to things that are not understood by white people who think that racism is a black issue. I love getting comments but I don’t have time for laziness. Tadbo, please explain to me what is true about the comment?

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