I’d like to take some time just to record some of the conversations I’ve had with people the past few days. Though they’ve been few and far between, it’s the quality of them that astounds me.
One of them stands out in particular, and it occurred yesterday on Monday. I went to the market with a friend where we stopped to talk to these two ladies working. My friend had met them a few days prior and this was my first time meeting them. After some warming up to them, I realized that they, seemingly normal people, have stories to tell. I was mostly astounded at how easily they were willing to talk with us, and how eloquently they spoke with us. I’ve found that, as I’ve mentioned, in South Africa you’ll find people who can speak English conversationally, and you can find people that can have intellectual conversations with you. It’s these people that I find I can speak easier with. We talked about family, life in Cape Town (one lady was originally from District 6, and moved back in 1996. She is one of the few to do so, as property rights/land reform in South African is often a long and arduous process in the courts), politics and technology. In that order. I was surprised to learn that the Black Power movement I’ve been studying has little impact/relevance in today’s society, but that is slowly to change as Mthelele’s party, the Democratic Alliance, picks up steam. Mthelele is Steve Biko’s wido, and the DA is largely influenced by his philosophies. I learned that after 1994 and affirmative action programs began, they encounter the same problem here that we have in the United States. Their employment ration is 1:2:7. That is, for every white person, there has to be two black, and for every two blacks there has to be seven Indians employed. The other girl I talked to, Aisha, was applying for a job, and after having finished her schooling, was competing with a girl who was still doing her studies. The latter girl got the position and told Aisha that she could just employ 2-3 other people to help her with the position and get experience. So the company can say they’ve hired 3 people as opposed to 1, whereas you can have one person who does the job excellently, or three people who do it just as well as the average person; further, then you have multiple people working the same job, the pay is spread more thin between them and the company is worse off than hiring the one person! In the end, the affirmative action programs stem from post-apartheid racial empowerment/inclusion policies. It was a real eye-opener for me to see how programs look on paper and how I may have been impressed with it had I read about it in the paper, and seeing its actual effects from talking with people.
I’ve learned that the Black Consciousness movement doesn’t apply to just blacks. The term “black” is used to describe anyone who’s been oppressed and seeks liberation; it includes anyone who can identify with “the struggle.” Therefore, the BC movement can apply to Indians just as much as it can to coloreds and blacks. Although these terms aren’t used anymore legally, they’re used socially and as a way of identifying oneself. Whether these are vestiges and deep seeded cognitions of apartheid, I’m not quite sure.