As a group of us were hanging out at Stones the other night, Kaitlyn and I were playing a game of pool with a few locals. While I was waiting for my turn, a guy we were playing with was asking me what we were planning on doing while we were in Cape Town. When I told him that we had previously visited a township and we were planning on doing volunteer work in Delft township, he gave a reaction I was not expecting. He looked at me with complete seriousness and he said, "You are such Americans. You just want to see how people are living worse-off than you." At first, it really pissed me off because we are not here to judge how anyone else is living; we have no right to do that. We are simply here to learn and to help in any way that we can.
I was really hurt by that comment for a few days. Then yesterday I was talking to Nate about it and he helped me calm down a bit. He told me that people don't understand what we are doing because so many Americans do not "come in right" when they come to South Africa and eventually end up doing more hurt than good to the poor communities of this country. He told me that Americans have a really bad reputation here because, in general, we are a very selfish culture.
This conversation with Nate, along with a class we had on white privilege really got me thinking about the every-day privileges I have as a white individual that I have not even realized until now. For example, the color of band-aids are meant for white people. Also, the black population in the United States, as Derran pointed out, gets pulled over by the police much more than the white population. As I learned in a class I had last semester, nearly 50% of African-American males over the age of 18 are incarcerated, but the white percentage is substantially lower.
It is little things like these that really make me think about how bogus it is that the color of your skin can determine how you live your life. Frankly, it makes me really mad. There is absolutely no difference between me and the students of color on this trip and it infuriates me that they do not have the same opportunities in life that I have. They do not deserve the treatment that has been given to them, nor does any other African-American in any country.
Apartheid has messed up a lot of things in this country, but they have come back swinging. Without the black people of South Africa, it would have nearly as rich of a culture as it does now. This country would not be the amazing place it is today without the dozens of African tribes that make up this society. Each and every individual here deserves the exact same rights, treatments, and opportunities as the next person.