Today we had the unique opportunity to listen to a member of the ANC (African National Congress), and it had me thinking about a lot of things. Particularly about how the ailments of South Africa’s–and Africa as whole–societal problems lies in education. The children of Cape Town are not comprehending their curriculum, and the courses are geared towards their success. Sister Helen, a nurse practitioner at my internship at the health department of the YMCA Athlone shared her experiences, as she lived through apartheid, and she mentioned the curriculum for black students included things like sewing, how to wash the dishes, and other domestic tasks. Where was the math, the science, the humanities? From this I can see how the system is designed for the failure of black and colored people of this country, and how apartheid can continue to live even though it technically has fallen. Apartheid translates to ‘apartness’ in Afrikaans, and although they aren’t obligated to be separate physically, they are mentally.
The mindsets of people of color and white people are so disconnected from each other, it’s almost bizarre. A local from Cape Town was talking about how during apartheid, they had a job and economic security, but now they have no job and no prospects. It makes me think about how the city can be so affluent, but the unemployment rate is 27%. It makes me think about the droves of children who need teachers who are invested in them, and the pool of recent college grads who could serve as amazing teachers while searching for jobs in their sector. It also makes me think about the role I play in the grand scheme of things.
Looking at where we staying, the privileges I have during this time of the water crisis, the fact that I was able to get an internship while locals can’t, has me feeling really guilty. It’s been mentioned a number of times that we as Americans and as students will feel uncomfortable at many points during this trip. While leaning into that discomfort, I’m starting the realize that the beauty and awe that I’m witnessed, may never be witnessed by someone native to the area. The fact that I’m able to walk to the corner store and buy a 5-liter jug of water for 50 rand, and think “wow this is cheap”, while some families can’t drink or afford half of that makes me uncomfortable. The fact that if I felt inclined, I could leave the water running for the whole day, come back, and STILL have water to drink and bathe with, makes me uncomfortable (I would never do that by the way). Realizing that I have the means to have consistent and reliable transportation to Waterfront to just LOOK at the water, while the reason someone couldn’t get a job is because they don’t have a way to get to the job in the first place, makes me uncomfortable.
Today we got to do a cross cultural exchange with students who attend UCT, and I mentioned to two of the students that I would love for them to come out to Long street with us this, and they mentioned that they’ve never been there before. They had been here for 3 years and have never been to Long, but I had been there for 5 days, and had already been 3 times. Although small, it was in that moment that I’m enjoying a country that wasn’t designed for its natives–really its non-white natives. That obviously makes me the most uncomfortable because I feel guilty and as though I am propagating and participating in an alternate system of oppression. Going to the District 6 Museum and realizing that the Waterfront, our hostel, all these restaurants, and so many other things that I’ve visited and admired stands on the land of a bustling community that was once a family, but now is separated and destroyed, makes me uncomfortable.
I’m glad I’m feeling this discomfort because it means I’m recognizing my privilege. Back home, I always criticize white and non-black people of color for ignoring or denying their privilege over me, whether intentionally or not. The fact that I have recognized that means that I can use that privilege to my advantage on behalf of the communities I am serving here in Cape Town.