Racial inequality, it’s real and has been at the forefront of my mind since the day that I found out that I would be moving to South Africa. The apartheid was a topic I had studied in several classes in college, but never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought that I would be living amongst the effects of this horrible period of South African history.
Since stepping off the plane in August, the number of times I have witnessed the division is far too many. It's most visual in the larger cities where blacks and whites populate the same area. I live in a rural village where I am the only white person. When I first arrived in Masealama, I thought that because this was a same race village, they must not have first hand experience of this divide.
Well, I will own up to the fact that this was my ignorance talking. Quickly I was brought back down to reality when I was confronted with talk of this inequity. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of having my country coordinator, Tessa, come for a visit. She came with me to the crèche one morning and was introduced to the principle of the crèche, Lischen. The two women were talking and Lischen mentioned how much she enjoyed having volunteers and asked Tessa to send them to her every year. She made the comment that they love having white, American volunteers so they can take them to their quarterly meetings hosted by the government. Her words were, “Having a white person makes our crèche look so good!”
I was so taken back by this comment. Why?! Why does the color of my skin make me, or the organization that I work for, more or less legitimate? I have absolutely no training of preschool education, but the fact that I am white supposedly gives the Masealama Play Center more credibility.
Needless to say, this comment has stuck with me and really made me more aware of the power of color in this country and the privilege that goes along with it. .. or not.