I’ve been thinking about race a lot recently, South Africa stirred it up in me. Before this trip I can’t say it was something I thought about all that much, maybe because I’m rarely forced to face its reality. Of course, I think about it when things like the Charleston shootings happen, and it leaves me appalled at the depravity of humanity. But beyond that, I've been thinking about the subtleties of racism. The bits of white privilege I've never recognized. I keep thinking I’m ready to write about it and then when I start organizing my thoughts, I realize how complex the whole issue is. It’s all jibber jabber and I keep contradicting myself and playing the conversation out until it’s a very inarticulate argument between me and me. So instead here are my questions.
I was talking with a friend about how difficult it would be to live like a white person in Cape Town when your neighbor has no running water. I would click my diamond shoes together and huff at the injustice of the rich living so close to the poor. Does the variation is disparity between the poor and me in my city vs. Cape Town give me a hall pass out of caring?
I read an article about racial blindness, something I think I ignorantly paraded as elevated thinking. But really, I can not and should not deny the privilege I have been born into, to do so would be a disservice to everyone, but can I use my privilege for justice?
In South Africa we heard countless stories of tourists and local Afrikaners who were victims of violent crimes at the hands of the black people in the neighboring townships. Are stereotypes ever necessary when they’re potentially helpful for self-protection?
I’ve been conscious of my ability to walk into a coffee shop and automatically be assumed to be educated, wealthy, and hard working with no criminal record. Those things are true. But how would I feel if people never assumed that about me?
I was listening to a comedian tell a story at the Moth who was a little heavy handedly playing the race card in my opinion. Used as a source of entitlement and dissension, is it a possibility that people thrive off the self-fulfilling prophecy of their perpetual feelings of oppression due to race, and that in fact there is not a racist under every rock?
I’ve been noticing the way people around me talk about the Hispanic people in my neighborhood. Why do we need to name their race when referring to hard working members of our communities?
Social media as a boxing ring: I’ve watched participants take a decidedly polarizing one-sided opinion on police brutality against Black Americans causing more conflict and making no progress towards justice or peace. What is like to put your life on the line every day for the protection of a community? What is it like to feel targeted and victimized by the authorities in the community because of the color of your skin?
I have no answers, except this…I believe in the dignity and human rights of every person no matter the color of their skin, but so much more than that I believe in equal treatment and a movement towards equal opportunity for growth and goodness regardless of race. Polarization isn’t helpful, ignorance isn’t either. It is a complex issue and over simplification is not a way towards justice, but I guess I’m just trying to figure out what is.
“Robben Island is a reminder of our commitments to the freedoms of human rights and dignity, that wherever an injustice happens we must collectively say “never in our name”. Kgotso – tour guide and former political prisoner at Robben Island.