Claire L Bell

How can we use privilege to influence change?

After a year and half of being the white facilitator in Consciousness Café, a pop-up dialogue café in which people of all races, nations and cultures, come together to examine their own feelings – and consequently actions – on the topics of racism, privilege and injustice in South Africa, I started to wonder if an additional conversation was needed. I had noticed…

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Where were the white people on Reconciliation Day?

Yesterday we held our 21st Consciousness Café event of 2016 at the Joburg Theatre’s Penthouse. We chose this space not only for its floor-to-ceiling views of the city, an inspiring backdrop for a Day of Reconciliation dialogue, but also because it has safe parking and a bus stop outside. It’s accessible to pretty much everybody. When…

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Why South Africa continues to grapple with the L-word

So there I was, propping up a barn in Sweet Auburn, Atlanta. I was in town for a conference about racial justice (or the lack thereof) with my Consciousness Café colleague Keke. Two days before, Donald Trump had been elected president of the US, and the conference was a churned-up sea of angry, bewildered activists….

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‘Fuck white people’? No – My response to Lwandile Fikeni

How do you react when you attend a public lecture in which an intellectual, journalist and influencer argues that the slogan ‘Fuck White People’ is an artistically beautiful form of protest? Do you clap? Offer a standing ovation? Roll your eyes? Mutter ‘fuck black intellectuals’ under your breath? It is something I’ve contemplated over the…

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The cold white shoulder to shoulder

On Youth Day weekend, thirteen South Africans gathered at a retreat centre in the Underberg to experiment with Insight Dialogue as a way of dealing with the pain and anger caused by the racism and prejudice that is thick in our country. We were an Indian woman, 6 black people (all women), 6 white people (including two men),…

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Racism and prejudice: How to kill a watchman

Just over a year ago, Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird , was published. I remember the furore with which it hit the world. Newspaper headlines were thick with the tale of how this old manuscript had been found in a safe by Harper Lee’s lawyer, how Lee was now frail…

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Silence is golden, nobody likes an angry black

Six years ago I was awarded an Open Society Foundation media fellowship. My assignment was to spend three months in the old Transkei, interviewing the rural South Africans of Pondoland and Thembuland about what democracy had – and had not – brought to their lives. I set myself up as an objective reporter on an…

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A TRC for everyman?

It is happening. Last night in a church in Parktown North, three white Afrikaans men tried to explain how it feels to be white to an audience of almost-exclusively black South Africans. The previous night, in a church in Pretoria, three black men opened up to what it was like to be black, and what…

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Waar is Tannie Evita?

I feel like a traitor criticising Pieter-Dirk Uys, but he’s a big girl, he can take it. Fifty Shades of Bambi is PDU’s 2010 show, now back on circuit. I saw it last Thursday at Cape Town’s Kalk Bay Theatre, and it’s set to open tonight (February 25) in Joburg for a three-week run. The…

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Putting ourselves through the (Biscuit) Mill

It’s a sleepy Saturday afternoon in Muizenberg. Outside the streets are empty, most people are at the beach. In the dining room of an old blue house, seven South African residents sit on wooden chairs arranged in a circle. Divide them according to the old South African labels, and they are black, coloured, white, white,…

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