The extra few days I had in South Africa were very informative and allowed me to talk with multiple people about race integration, culture and apartheid. While shopping along Long street one day, I ended up having a wonderful conversation with a gentleman from Zimbabwe who works in a retail store and lives in a township. He described that he moved to Cape Town 8 years prior because of Zimbabwe’s failing economy. Though he had been in Cape town for quite a while, he mentioned that is a bit confused by South African culture and does not feel at home. In his view, native South Africans are very lazy. He said that most of the working people on Long street are actually foreigners who are working their hardest to make something for themselves. He believes that since apartheid many South Africans expect the government to pay for everything and are not willing to work hard to insure successful lives. I thought this was very interesting to hear this conversation brought up a very different viewpoint to what I heard along our journeys.
I also had the opportunity to spend some time with a white woman who grew up in South Africa during apartheid and talked about the separation that still occurs between racial communities. She mentioned that there are many struggles with full integration because many whites in her age group have never had black or mixed raced friends growing up and thus have not had the opportunity to make close friendships with people of other races even if they are open to it. I thought this was interesting to note as it was clear to me that in some areas of cape town there are many all white community with little integration. If someone grows up in these neighborhoods they may have a shifted perspective on what integration looks likes. While I do completely understand her point of view and where she is coming from, I also believe that if you are truly interested in living a more integrative life you can make that happen, even if it means making an effort and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
What was most interesting about my conversation with this woman was her view of the Afrikaans people. She considers herself a first generation South African, as her mother is English and immigrated to South Africa, thus she sees herself as different from the Afrikaans people. She mentioned that growing up she found the Afrikaans people to be quite racists. She mentioned that in her view Apartheid was in part due to the racist beliefs of the Afrikaans. She finds it fascinating to see how the Afrikaans people integrate with the colored and black communities. This conversation about the Afrikaans also brought up a new perspective that I contemplated about. I feel like in our course we did not really discuss the Afrikaans people and their relationship to apartheid. I believe that I was fortunate in meeting a few Afrikaans individuals through my placement at DSD, but I wish we could have also learned more about this culture and their perspective on racial integration in order to better understand the dynamics of the country.
Upon returning home I have had time to process and am so appreciative for this experience. Each day I am reflecting on conversations and experiences, which have brought transformation to my life and my view of others, communities and cultural connection. I know that what I learned on this course will always be integrated into my social work practice and my understandings of community, power, privilege and oppression.