Racism Remains in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Apartheid, Photo by UN Photo
Apartheid, Photo by UN Photo

SOUTH AFRICA - The World Hates me Because I am Black... Thus I will Love the World Because I am Black.

I will always remember this moment: my mom and little brother coming into the house with mail. She hands me a large envelope with the biggest smile. I quickly glance to see Howard University in big, bold, blue font with 'CONGRATULATIONS' on the bottom.

I didn't know at the time that I would be attending a premier HBCU and one of the leading research institutions in the world. My reality soon became engulfed in Black pride, Black beauty, and Black history. Professors continuously remind the student body of the academic, technological, and cultural contributions by African people to the global network. Because of my experience at Howard University, I learned to appreciate my skin color.

I am currently studying abroad at the University of Stellenbosch in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The town is racially and economically segregated. Walking on one side of Eikstad Mall, a shopping centre, I mainly see students, the white middle class, and employees. However, the other side of the mall reveals a different story. Blacks and Coloureds fill the area while White tourists enthusiastically take pictures. The university itself is notoriously known as a racist university because of its history as an Afrikaans-only school. Even the architect of Apartheid taught at this university. So as a young Black woman, I am defying the slowly dying Apartheid-schema:

WHITE = GOOD & SUPERIORITY; BLACK = BAD & INFERIORITY

Stares continuously confront me as I walk through the streets of Stellenbosch. They range from genuine curiosity to a loaded question of “why are you here?” However, I must mention that the stares vary by the perpetrator's color (I am using color to make a claim and demonstrate my observations; I am not aiming to generalize nor to negatively portray South Africa and its people). White people look with curiosity, fascination, objectification, lust, and a complex, deep-seated hatred and contempt. Coloureds glare at me as if I remind them of a Black perpetrator in their past (Blacks and Coloureds do not have an amicable relationship mostly due to the systematic marginalization of Coloured placed slightly above Blacks - similar to the history and relationship between Blacks and Latinos in America). Black Afrikans stare at me with … well... I would argue curiosity, disgust, and confusion.

Does my natural Afro, American accent, and African-Native-American-European mixed features evoke a 'stop-and-stare' reaction in a non-American country?

Of course.

That would definitely be the acceptable explanation if these stares were solely genuine curiosity.

But they are not.

The actual is not the main issue. I do not favor staring because of my experiences in childhood. Staring is a natural phenomenon that will never disappear; I accept that. The main issue is what lies behind the staring that is not spoken, but clear: a covert global campaign promoting Black inferiority.

Everywhere I turn I see Black women destroying their natural hair with non-stop weaves, wigs, and braids. The Afrikan cultural traditions of decorating one's head with flattering hair-dos and wearing clothes that demonstrates one's roots and status became replaced with conflicting European standards of beauty. Like diamonds in the rough, I see Black people retain their heritage through their language, dancing, and the undying dedication towards Ubuntu. But this is overshadowed in Stellenbosch. Even if I travelled to Afrikan places that fought against the damaging effects of colonialism; like a mouse, it silently scurries in and conveniently leaves droppings as a reminder of its presence.

Ultimately, I travelled from an HBCU bubble, Black pride island back into the real world. A world that constantly reminds me that it loathes my skin color and anything associated to it. At every restaurant, I am confronted with “you don't belong here and should never belong here.” At a club, I am asked for extra identification. At the bar, several customers are served before me. In stores, I am monitored but not helped. From tourists, I am greeted with a traditional Afrikan language. To others, I am worthless until my American origin graces their ears. These experiences have truly influenced my study abroad journey. However, there is one that moves my soul to tears: the contempt for Black Americans from Black Afrikans.

Howard reminds me that I have brothers and sisters in Afrika and in the Afrikan diaspora, yet I believe the feeling is not mutual. A Black-American girl from Boston told me that in her conversation with some Afrikans, she mentioned that she identifies herself as African-American. To her surprise, she was met with laughter and a firm “you are not Afrikan.” We can always debate on 'what is Afrikan,' but the disregard of our historical bond disturbs me. Clearly the definitions of Afrikan, Black, isiXhosa vs. isiZulu, Zimbabwean vs. South African are significant to most. Yet, all hope is surely not lost.

One of my best days spent in South Africa was at Mzolis in Gugulethu, a township. My flatmates, Christine and Alyssa, and I were chilling in a lounge with Afrikan men watching a soccer game . Our passionate, young 'tour guide' stopped all conversations to remind us that our ancestors were taken from Africa for the slave trade; however, everyone in that room are brothers and sisters. The men instantly agreed and jokingly identified our African origins based off our physical appearances, mannerisms, and speech. Apparently, I am undeniably South African, but it is a debate between Xhosa and Zulu origins.

In coming to South Africa, I was reminded of the world's hatred for Blackness. But I also experience the community's love for me. South Africa presents me the challenge to love my existence. It shows me the remarkable diversity of Africa and Africans. As I prepare to return to America and Howard University, I shall remember this:

The world hates me because I am Black, Thus, I will love the world because I am Black, I love the world because it is Black, And that will never change.

Follow Chrycka on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Poet & Literary Critic: @chrycka_harper

This post is dedicated to my Black sister, Christine Smith, that shared the experiences described in this post in our semester spent in South Africa.

Sub-Saharan Immigrants Suffer in Libya

libyans-round-up-sub-saharan-black-africans-photo-by-pan-african-news-wire-file-photos.jpg

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:25 PM EDT, 28 March 2012

Libyan Rebel SoldierTRIPOLI, Libya - Illegal immigration is a problem in emerging economies where many migrants seek to make the dangerous journey to Europe in hope of a better life. Libya, as a gateway to Europe, finds itself in a politically sensitive position with regard to immigrants.

Specifically, native-born Libyans now seem to have a serious problem with 'black' Africans. Sub-Saharan Africans are now viewed with suspicion and are often discriminated against through racial profiling. Because of their skin color they are easily identifiable and singled out.

Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader recruited thousands of mercenaries – nearly 30,000 according to the nonprofit group Human Rights Solidarity – largely from Sub-Saharan countries. The men were reportedly hired to take care of the dirty work of repression, and many were ruthless in their violence.

Shortly after the overthrow and death of Gaddafi, rebels hunted down mercenaries from Nigeria, Ghana, Chad, and Mauritania, including some black Libyans who were subsequently detained, beaten and extra-judicially killed. Even immigrants who have legally entered the country suffer immense discrimination.

Because most Libyans view Sub-Saharan Africans with suspicion, illegal immigrants fare much worse, especially those caught at the borders. Just outside of Tripoli there is a camp that houses about 600 detainees who have been caught trying to cross the border illegally.

Most have used all their money and resources to get to Libya which is a gateway to Europe. They don't want to stay in the North African country, but are simply seeking passage to countries where they can work in anonymity.

Once detained men and women are housed separately and subjected to harsh conditions. They are housed in corrugated steel buildings with concrete floors and no heating.  Many of the men complain that they haven't had access to telephones and are therefore unable to contact their families to let them know what has happened. According to a BBC report, they also state that many are sick and lack access to healthcare, and are hungry.

There are just a few wardens to guard over 600 prisoners and they recognize that this is a potential human rights violation, but are powerless to do anything about it.  They are doing their jobs though some sympathize with these immigrants who are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

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