I’m not racist, but…

I’m not racist, but… November 29, 2012

Sometimes, the comment section is the best bit of this blog.

Whether it’s someone who’s received bad treatment in an ACE school going on a huge rant or an ACE supporter saying I’m a “true retard“, or someone saying, you know, something intelligent, they’re always good.

Like this, which came in yesterday morning. First, some context. This was in reply to my How ACE is Racist post. That post quotes a couple of ACE PACEs which contain some quite unjustified racial commentary. Two of the quotes (written in the 80s, when South Africa was under apartheid) argued that if black people were given the vote, the South African economy would be destroyed.

So it was a delight to read:

“So, have the blacks destroyed South Africa in the 18 years that they’ve had power? It certainly seems so! Our economy is down the tubes, our Rand is effectively worthless, no international investment thats worth mentioning, civil unrest, and so on and so on…. The government figures that are in “power” are milking the people for every cent they can in order to live a life of fatcat luxury… Starting to remind you of another country, or countries, in Africa? Many black South Africans will also tell you they lived better lives under the “Apartheid Regime”, certainly not saying that we should go back there, but then again, Einstein’s definition of insanity is; “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

My children are on the ACE program and frankly, they dont even notice any “segregation” in their learning material. ACE is certainly a whole lot better than the public “government” run schools… I dont trust what the government wants to teach my children, and the quality of education in this country today is shocking to say the least! Reminds me of an ancient joke with a punchline that goes; “give him another chance!”

Whats your REAL beef with ACE? Your blog smells of an agenda against ACE.

My 2c, from someone LIVING in South Africa with children on the ACE program.”

In these days of political correctness, it can sometimes feel (at least to a privileged white guy like me) that the war on racism has been won, so it’s important to be reminded that there are still racist pieces of shit still out there.

On the other hand, my all-time worst church experience actually had nothing to do with Accelerated Christian Education; it was in a church run by some white South Africans who were racist, ignorant, bullying, and wholly unpleasant people. I frequently have to remind myself that they were just nasty individuals, and you can’t generalise about South Africa from them. And then along comes this guy to reinforce my stereotype.

I should explain. In 1998 or 1999, the church I attended hosted a “family fun” evening, when members of the congregation performed party pieces for entertainment. The pastor’s wife suggested that I should mime singing along to the Sister Act 2 version of “Oh Happy Day”. And she insisted that I do it blacked up. 

For some reason, I went through with this. I think it was even recorded, but mercifully that tape’s never surfaced. If it does ever show up, that’s one video I won’t be posting to YouTube.

My most vivid memory of preparing to go on was the same pastor’s wife muttering, as she smeared jet black paint onto my face, “I hope no one thinks this is racist. Oh well, if they do they’re just narrow-minded, eh?” Then she spun me around and marched me towards the stage.

I remember thinking But this is racist, isn’t it? I don’t know why I suppressed that thought. I think I thought, Well, I know I don’t mean to be racist, and I thought the pastor’s wife couldn’t be racist or she wouldn’t have mentioned it. The pastor’s youngest daughter later informed me that it was wrong for couples of different races to marry, “because their children would get bullied.”

The Happy Day performance is now the single memory that haunts me the most from my entire time as a fundamentalist. I think it’s because I should have known better. Yeah, I was pushed into it by church authority figures, but I was 13 or 14. I should have been too old for that bullshit. But I was educated in ACE, where Africans were “blacks” who ruined economies. Two black kids went to Victory while I was there, and neither stayed very long.

After the performance, I felt disgusting. I remember my Dad (not really a racist, but wholly ignorant on such matters) saying it was “very funny,” but, “What happened to your dancing? You could have put a bit more energy into it.” I couldn’t think of anything to say in response. I hadn’t even wanted to be there. I just gave him a teenage grunt.

I say all this just to show fundamentalism’s relationship with racism is extremely complicated. On the one hand, there are racist scum like these guys, and on the other hand, the Pentecostal movement (of which my church was a part) originated from black Americans. And the same pastors who got me to black up would encourage the congregation to listen to T.D. Jakes.

ACE are even more confused. Before I got this idiot’s comment, I was thinking about retracting my claim that ACE is racist. They have definitely printed some indefensible things about minorities, but it’s more complicated than straight up racism. I don’t want to stir up false charges when there are plenty of genuine, serious failings with ACE.

According to Paul F. Parsons’ book Inside America’s Christian Schools, in the 1980s ACE actually refused to sell their materials to segregated schools. At the same time, the PACEs depict segregated schools in cartoons. It’s a bizarre mixed message. The PACEs also depict William Wilberforce as a godly man who saw that slavery was wrong because he read his Bible, while ungodly people still owned slaves. Historical accuracy… who needs it?

Oh, and by the way, Captain Racist:

Whats your REAL beef with ACE? Your blog smells of an agenda against ACE.

Of course. It would be preposterous for my real bone of contention to be ACE’s endorsement of apartheid. I hold my hands up. You got me. What can I say? I tried so hard to hide my bias against ACE in my 90-odd blog posts in which I carefully enumerate my disputes with ACE, but somehow, you saw through it. Well done, Sherlock.

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