South Africa is certainly a diamond not without a few rough edges. If there’s anything I can take as a preliminary observation, it’s this: Apartheid drove a deep wound into this country, one that seems to have healed but still festers every so often.
Our project sponsors grew up in the shadow of this condoned racism, a philosophy that was just as unjust and brutal as Nazism but far less publicized, it seems. Who knows — maybe I heard less as a child because I grew up in a country whose sole partnership with a majority of the continent in which South Africa resides is to throw a bunch of rice and aid at it and shut the door on the way out. But when your sponsor raises a clenched fist to the security guards on the way out the gate and offers a word of solidarity, you can’t help but pay attention to his words:
“People don’t understand. Just because Apartheid is dead does not mean the struggle does not continue. Politically, we are equal; economically and socially…well, my friend, the fight continues.”
And it’s all too obvious. The pungent stench of silent segregation avoids the nostrils of only the most naive here, and I can only pretend to understand their plight. A lot has been made of the fact that I’m the only white member of my team; nevertheless, when we go out to dinner or to a club it’s clear that we’re not from ’round these parts simply because it’s apparently an anomaly to have a white, a black, two Hispanics, and two Chinese students sitting around the same table breaking bread.
At times, I have to repress my sadness for witnessing such opacity, and I do wonder how much longer I can keep it up before holing myself up in an apartment for a weekend and reflecting. If only I had the luxury of time to do just that.
Would people understand? I’d hope so.