Looking over the horizon from the window of my flat two stories up, no rx it dawns on me the magnitude of the time and place in which I stand. I am in Umbilo (a local housing division) of Durban, cialis South Africa. I remember when Blacks, cure whites and Coloureds, (there is still a distinction of the color lines here) could not mix except in very specific circumstances of employment but never in a social context. Race mixing was against the law. It was the era of apartheid and it has left its indelible scars on this country and on its people. The apartment complex that is currently my home is located in a section of town that was, at that time, exclusively for whites.
Prior to the end of apartheid, the only campus that would accept non-whites as students was the University of KwaZulu Natal, which was formerly known as Howard College and has all of the symbols, statues, building names and memorials of colonial rule still present. However, most Blacks on campus at that time were in the roles of domestic workers and most of the non-white students on campus were Indian. Now I am a Visiting Professor, living in a flat not far from campus and being shuttled back and forth by colleagues who are white South Africans. This is indeed a new time and place, and each day I am here it becomes clearer that this experience is something to be interrogated, unpacked and appreciated more and more for what it represents on so many levels. That is not to say that the vestiges of times past are not evident, they are. But it must be acknowledged that South Africa has come a long, long way in just two short decades. This acknowledgment also brings into stark contrast our respective countries’ histories that cannot be ignored.
Many South Africans, particularly the students I am teaching, are shocked to hear me talk about the system of legal segregation that is a cornerstone of U.S. racial history and politics. They are stunned to hear about the Jim Crow Laws that were embedded into the systemic and institutionalized racism and endless racial preferences threaded into the U.S. cultural continuum. “Segregation by law?” they ask. “That is apartheid too!” Out of the mouths of babes! “Yes it is”, I confess.
Once again, we as Americans must deal with the hypocrisy and contradiction of our own racial history and legacy. Immediately, they proclaim that Obama is the U.S. President, and the idea that due to this incredible phenomena the U.S. must have indeed moved past its problematic racial history. To address those complexities and the politics embedded in the theory of a post-racial society during The Age of Obama will take much longer to unpack than a 45-minute lecture. This conversation will have to continue throughout the semester and will probably yield more questions than answers.
The understanding that most U.S. citizens have about Africa in general, or South Africa in particular, is just as embryonic and elementary as most South Africans’ understanding of the U.S. It must be recognized that our respective knowledge base is rooted in images and information generated by the Mass Media Industry and works to serve that industry’s political and social agendas. Please stay tuned.
Up Next Week: Women Have a National Holiday in South Africa