As we were approaching South Africa my mind was racing with thoughts of what this country was going to be like. In my mind when I think of Africa, I automatically think of it as a third-world country and having a 97% black population. I had not been taught anything different, and as I was about to find out, my thoughts were wrong.
As I walked off the ship in Cape Town, I was questioning if I was really in South Africa. It appeared as if I was in San Francisco, California. It was a large modern city with white people everywhere. Everyone was speaking fluent English, and there was nothing that made me feel like this was a third-world country. As I began to explore the city, I started getting the feeling that the whites were thought to be elite in comparison with the blacks of the country. I was witnessing different signs of racism that I was not used to. I am used to everyone being treated equally, and when I found out South Africa only has 11% whites, I could not believe how that 11% could make the other 89% feel so inferior.
The division between the two races was very prominent. White people were always in the elite positions, while the blacks were the laborers and getting paid minimally. The white people were not the ones living in the townships; it was as if they were too good for that. In the restaurants, the management was all white, and the rest of the staff were black. I kept asking myself, is this really happening? Why is this still happening? I was very disturbed by the behaviors I kept running into.
Apparently, this was just the beginning. A tour guide explained to me that the blacks and whites were treated very differently in prison also. He explained to me that if a black man and a white man committed the exact same crime, the white man would be given more privileges. Whites in the prison system are allowed to wear socks and use cream in their coffee where the black prisoner is not. All I could think was: This is justice in South Africa? My tour guide was white while the bus driver was black. Once I arrived at the orphanage on my tour, I was again presented with a financial manager who was white and a staff who were black. Was I the only one seeing this? Or maybe I was the only one having a problem with it; I am still not sure.
Once I made my way to the craft market, I witnessed blacks and whites selling items side by side. I was excited to see that there was some form of equality somewhere in South Africa. As I wondered into the Green Market, there were only blacks selling items. Now I was really confused; where did all the white people go? Then it came to me, the Craft Market was indoors with air conditioning and concrete floors, whereas the Green Market was outside in the heat with dirt floors. Of course the whites would not want to work in those conditions.
Based on my experience in South Africa, it seems they have a long way to go before the country can truly say they treat everyone equally. After spending a week there, and really looking for signs of equality, I am sad to say I did not experience any equality or change happening. I hope I am wrong and I was not able to witness any equality. I hope that this country is able to find it and put racism behind them soon.
Archbishop Tutu is sailing with us on the MV Explorer. When he speaks to us students, he tells us that we are the future and hope of this world. Arch believes we have the power to change the world, and he knows the future is in good hands. I am proud to say that I know I can do it with the help of others.