Dear South Africa,
I remember the night before I boarded my fifteen hour flight to South Africa. I’d never traveled to a country with people I didn’t know. Would the locals like me? Will I be satisfied with the course? I came to this country with high hopes and high expectations, and I’m glad to say that this country exceeded my expectations. This was truly an unforgettable experience because of the people I met, the relationships I built, and the knowledge I gained.
First, I love this country because I feel like I belong. I am not an outcast. Back home, everything is catered to white people. White people see themselves represented as the majority in advertisements, governments, management, etc. Because of the lack of diversity and inclusivity, black people are rarely considered in these setttings. Recently, companies have tried to have finally attempted to include minorities in advertisements; however, some offend the black community (ie. Dove). So it seems like black people either aren’t represented, and if we are, the company will make a fool of us. Also, the government’s diversity doesn’t equate to the poplation’s diversity. As a result, it is a challenge to propose laws to benefit black people. Where are the laws to circumvent police brutality and mass incarceration? We have the Voting Rights Act, but Voter Identifcation Laws, mass incarceration, etc. lowers black people’s representation at the polls. Affrimative Action at univserities…Trump doesn’t like that either. In South Africa, I see advertisements with majority black people. Here its evident that blackness is beautiful, blackness is accepted. Though South Africa has some problems, achieving equality is a primary goal in this country. The people of this community have fought for their rights and continued to fight together, America is and has always been divided.
Moreover, the interactions I had on this trip made this life-changing and eye-opening. The locals were friendly and open to discuss their experiences and was very accepting of me. The women in Soweto came up to me and hugged and told me I was their sister and that they loved me. I had only know these women for a couple hours and I already felt a part of a family. I don’t get this from strangers in America. It shocked me and made me become emotional because I felt the community and love, I barely get this from some people in my own family. Even when speaking with the student activists I felt a part of a community. We shared personal lived experiences an spoke politics. One of them even wants to keep in contact! Though I had great conversation with locals, I can’t say the same for some of the students I’m here with. I don’t understand how this trip was about Social Movements, including Apartheid, but some managed to say comments that could offend minorities. It definitely offended me. I’ve documented thirteen comments on my phone that I found offensive and insenitive toward commnities of color. I was disappointed that I couldn’t relate to most of the girls (or want to talk to them) because of this; however, this did not hinder my thoughts of this trip. I still enjoyed myself, and will return to South Africa.
Overall, I’m glad that I was a part of this study abroad program. It changed my life, how I view things, increase my awareness of other black communities, and positively influenced my goals in activism. I know I want to return, I may even live here at some point. Thank you South Africa for the experience, the people, the scenery, the fight, the empowerment, and the inspiration.
Until next time,