What’s In A Name?

One of my dear relations through marriage has, for the last three years that Dan and I have been married, consistently misspelled my name. Dan and I have tried to gently draw her attention to the fact a number of times (by signing my full name at the end of emails or Dan posting a…

Let’s not end the discussion on racist graffiti in NH superficially

(This opinion piece appeared in the Concord Monitor both in print and online on Sunday, October 20, 2013.) On Tuesday, the Concord Monitor reported that a 42-year-old man, Raymond Stevens, had been charged with writing racist graffiti on black, African refugees’ Concord homes in 2011 and 2012. This was after Detective Wade Brown had painstakingly combed through 1,500…

Just another day in (post-apartheid?) South Africa…

Julia is her “good name”. The name she gives to white people. It’s how she introduces herself to us, half out of breath, as she runs up and climbs into the cramped back seat of our car to catch a lift over the mountain and to the next town. When she sees Sindiso, she smiles…

Safe Spaces: Breaking the Barrier Between White and Black

In much of our reading lately, Dan and I have heard the message repeated that the best solution to racialisation and the inequality it perpetuates in society is for white and black people to be intentional about forming deep relationships across the colour line. This requires living in community with one another: shared neighbourhoods, churches,…

Who gets to say what about whom?

Anybody who’s seen Chris Rock do stand-up comedy on national TV knows the man doesn’t pull any punches. “Sometimes the people with the most ‘stuff’ get to say the least ‘stuff’, and the people with the least ‘stuff’ get to say the most ‘stuff’”, he told my white college mates and me one night as…

In South Africa, past is present in black and white

[This column was written for the Manchester Union Leader, May 15th 2012] Learning my New Hampshire history back in middle school, “conflict” was not a concept I encountered. It seemed the biggest tragedy to befall our state in the last 250 years was losing more than a few good men to wars beyond our borders….

In defense of guilt

Say you’re a twenty-something American male and the year is 1970. The Vietnam War is still in full swing and dates are drawn from the “hat” (or shoebox and capsules, as the case may be) to determine who gets drafted and who stays home. Your birthday falls in August, but September dates are drawn, leaving…

From Concord to Cape Town – on my strength alone?

(A version of this column appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader – pardon the shameless re-posting :) I was raised with a healthy New Hampshire dose of rugged individualism. My favorite pastime on a summer’s afternoon was to disappear into the Monadnock woods with my brother Tim and build a fort – a pair of…

Where ‘insurance’ is 10 planks of wood

[An abridged version of this column appeared in the Concord Monitor on Feb. 26, 2012] When houses burn in the world from which I (Dan) come – Concord, New Hampshire to be precise – it’s a tragedy attended by fire engines, ambulances, and police. Loss of life is mercifully rare, and rarely does the fire consume…