Honouring Difference

Namaste.
(a respectful greeting said when giving a namaskar.a traditional Indian greeting or gesture of respect, made by bringing the palms together before the face or chest and bowing.)

Sawubona.
(a respectful greeting said when seeing a person, to acknowledge their presence. a traditional Zulu greeting.)

Dumela!
(a respectful greeting said when seeing a person, often followed by their name, to signal that one is seen and acknowledge
and therefore they too must agree and acknowledge being seen by seeing and acknowledging the other.)

One cannot honour difference without acknowledging difference. Acknowledging a thing means to see a thing. And oftentimes we do not see each other.The group facilitating this week’s topic was very brave to say the least. Chattering on very delicate, sensitive, dicey and political terrain: a black woman’s hair. I must admit I was unsettled and triggered in that space. Needless to say it was a heavy class. It was amazing the doors of the mind and the heart this particular class opened. During feedback session, one of the group members apologised to a classmate for being rude. She admitted to being triggered by their question and hence her reply. Her bravery caused a ripple effect which sparked a confession from another group member and the classmate directed to was me. In that moment, a 2 year long silent feud evaporated. Another classmate from the second week’s facilitation came out with her own confession, an internalisation of feedback that was perceived wrongly. That air too was cleared.

When we distance ourselves from a thing and stop being the centre from which all things revolve, we stop and see and acknowledge we are not in isolation. We embrace lovingly than battle warringly. Sometimes we are in conflict with people who are not even in conflict with us, some even unaware there is a conflict. Different doesn’t mean bad, but mannier times out of fear of what we do not know we often battle. We assume and conclude the worst without even knowing the full story. Assigning stereotypes and cheating ourselves out of meaningful experiences. None of us is innocent.

Because this class was heavy and got personal, I have not much to write about here. But it stamped a truly important lesson: that of truly seeing. And it is my hope that you see me. Before you draw me, see me. Before you confine me, see me. Before you label me, see me. truly and nakedly see!
And this is what the native traditions of greeting teach me. In all of these greetings, all three mentioned herein, the person greeting first stops and focuses their attention on the subject of their greeting, sees them, acknowledges them and allows them a response. It says it is not always about us. And that we must take a moment to come face to face with another’s heart and exchange humility. To address then someone or thing by their or its name means to know what or who you are addressing, or signals the intention thereof.

As we honour each other and our differences; It is my hope then to see you and address you by your name.

Shalom.

—Rethabile

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