Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We arrived in Cape town 12 days ago after 25 hours of traveling across the Atlantic and the entire African continent. Since that arrival I have never felt so white and so rich in my life and sure that should have been evident when preparing to travel to Africa however I am from Hawaii and because I have been a minority my entire life I was disillusioned into thinking this experience would be comparable. This experience is not comparable. I naively thought my living experience in Hawaii couple with living in Washington DC would allow me to easily adapt to poorer conditions and manage stark racial dichotomies but here in South Africa the extent of dissonance among different identity groups is exploited by the vast inequality which has metastasized here throughout history.
Now it is easy to think South Africa and specifically Cape town is developing, evolving, and modernizing however the existence of such entrenched and vast inequality has been predominantly muted and avoided. Tourists see the fancy new Green Point Stadium, the sparkling Water Front, Land Rovers roaming around Cape Hope, celebrity mansions in Cliffton, wineries in Stellenbosch, night clubs on Claremont, and hotels/restaurants in Kloof but they don't venture one step away to the Langa or Khayelitsha township or ride the mini buses or eat at Mama Sheila's or speak with the unemployed or HIV ridden population. Tourists see only what they allow themselves to see. And through these past twelve days we no longer are just tourists or by-passers, we are lenses trying to make visible the contradictions and realities that exist here to carry back with us.
I think the reality is that this country is bipolar. It is both beautiful and violent, forgiving and vengeful, rich and decrepit, and ultimately its future is precarious. There is no sense of peace here there is only an absence of media worthy conflict. I have never been so frustrated and so motivated at the same time thus this bipolarity extends to me as well. Regardless this experience has been incredible and if people allow themselves to see the inequality you cant help but what to lessen the gap. I hope to be a force in lessening the gap rather than perpetuating its widening trend with nonsensical economic policy.

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