Of course we had to go take the trip to Robben Island to visit where many of South Africa's political prisoners were housed including, the late Nelson Mandela.
Quick tip, be sure to book your ferry ticket to Robben Island in advance online. Saves alot of time at the Robben Island Museum. The ferry ride is about 45 minutes each way. To say that the ferry ride was the absolute worse is an understatement. The waters were super choppy and the ride back to Cape Town was down right unbearable. We got so sick! So prepare yourselves!
Honestly I left the tour of Robben Island wanting more -- so much more! The first part of the tour took place on tour busses and they drove us around the island to see different parts of the prison. Honestly, I could have skipped all of that. The meat of the tour was when we went into the cell block and had a guided tour with a prisoner who was in-prisoned there with Mandela.
He gave so much detail about Apartheid and life in the prison. I clung to every word as he explained how the cell blocks were segregated. He even explained how different races had different meal allocations. He then walked us to Nelson Mandela's former cell and then I noticed something rather peculiar -- All of the non-black tourist perked up. They had only come to see Nelson Mandela's former cell. They had no interest in hearing about Apartheid or any of the horrific treatment of the Robben Island prisoners.
After the horrific ferry ride back to Cape Town, Dan and I walked through the Robben Island Museum and read more about Apartheid in South Africa. We learned that under Apartheid only 7% of South Africa was left for black people to live in; we learned about the 300 laws that were used to control blacks in the country. The more I read the angrier and depressed I got. Then I thought about home. The parallels to America and South Africa were smacking me dead in my face. I thought how can so many white Americans be so empathetic to what happened in South Africa because of Apartheid and choose not to get the affects of slavery and segregation in their own country.
I bagged my feelings up because I was on vacation and didn't want to be angry the whole time. However, the next day I had an encounter that affected me more than I would like to admit. While in Camps Bay, we were walking out of the Pick N Pay and this lady walking down the street ask "Are you American?" Of course I keep walking, I am not going to tell a random stranger on the street this. This white lady then proceeds to say "Yea you are American. I am sick of you blacks riding off of the work of white Americans." *insert Mr. Krab meme*
I whipped my head back around so fast and she's said "Yea I said it!" So I give her the middle finger and yelled back "This is universal." I look at my friends like "Did you hear that?" We get in the car and I look over at her and she is point her finger at us like its a gun and "shooting" at us. Ash rolls down the window to yell "Get off the drugs!" And a well placed Capetonian on the corner made a face that provided some much needed comedic relief and all of us in the car laughed.
Later that evening when I had a moment alone, I thought about that encounter again and it made me so sad. It was the first racially charged tourist moment that I have ever had, and I thought it was interesting that it happened in South Africa. Now some people might be saying "AB don't let it get to you, she was clearly on drugs." But that makes it bother me even more. That no matter where I travel in the world the images that America portray of black people will follow me.
No matter how educated I am, how well traveled I am, how much money I make, I will always been seen by some as a 2nd class citizen. In the land where ancestors came from, Africans greeted me with "Welcome home my sister," here is this white junkie speaking down on me as if she is better than me. Was it her history of growing up in Apartheid or America's soiled legacy? The neighborhood that this happened it was noticeably white and upper class; was she upset that I was somewhere she deemed I didn't belong? It hurt. I didn't travel almost 8,000 miles to be told I didn't belong. I get that enough in America.
In a conversation with one white South African, she stated that she thought the country was past its issues because she say a black person driving a Porsche. Again the parallels to America were staggering! Just because a few of a previously oppressed population have 'MADE IT" and acquired expensive things doesn't mean the problems are solved. When we speak out and protest on the issues, they tell us that it isn't the right time or we aren't proud to be American. It truly is amazing to think that one can't protest what's happening in their country without their patriotism being questioned. Perhaps we just want the country that we love to uphold its promise to us?
We are constantly told to be the bigger person and "protest respectably," all to make our oppressors comfortable. Oppression of black people is a world wide issue. While we in America are fighting police brutality, our South African bothers and sisters are fighting hiring and housing discrimination (we still have this issue in the US too). Albeit the issue slightly different, the ultimate mission is the same - making others see the value in our lives and culture. The value of our skin!
Where is the hope for us? Just seems like there will always be a fight! Always the need the need to plead for our humanity!
BLACK LIVES MATTER, no matter the location!