They say only he who wears the shoe knows where it hurts. This saying is remarkably true when it comes to the topic of how the apartheid era affected the people in South Africa. In as much as apartheid ended several decades ago, those years seem like just yesterday to black South Africans but to the white folks, it might as well be a century ago. This is why you hear phrases like “Get over it” or “Move on”.
As whites didn’t feel much of the pains of apartheid, it would be quite easy for them to feel that the issues about apartheid have been over-extended and that it’s past time to dismiss them and let people move on to other things.
It might not have been said in polite company but sometimes, when white people talk in circles where they feel the blacks will not overhear, you’ll be quite appalled at how they feel and the things they have to say. Generally, people feel like race is not something that should be discussed quite so much, and so most of the time, we just want to ignore it and hope that it dies away but guess what, problems don’t go away just because you ignored them.
The worst thing about the race problem is that the more people pretend that it does not exist, the more it rears its ugly head up. Anyway, it is quite hilarious how most white South Africans believe (quite convincingly too) that their black counterparts have the same life opportunities as they do. This is really just not true. How can someone who has never felt the pain of rejection equate themselves with people who have had to live with it and struggle every day to rise above it? Apartheid might have ended long ago, but the black people of South Africa still have to struggle with its aftermath.
As much as we hope that we would one day come to a time where race no longer matters, for now, it does. So this is a list of the things white people enjoy that black people still don’t. These things may not apply to everyone but to a greater majority.
1. Self-sufficient Parents
Most contemporary white folks have parents who got an inheritance from their parents so that even if they don’t have wealth to pass down, their children won’t have to worry about sending money home from the little they make which is what most black folks have to deal with. It does not end with supporting your parents who went through a lot of pains to educate you, you equally get the honor of supporting your relatives too.
2. Proper Childhood Development In The Right Environments
There’s a reason it’s so newsworthy when black kids from a poor background make a huge success of themselves. The biggest odds they’ve had to overcome are largely invisible. Forget the physical disadvantages of living in a township or rural area.
Most if not all white South Africans have parents who were educated enough to know the importance of giving them healthy food, developing their motor skills as toddlers, and helping them read so that by age five they are already leagues ahead of their black peers from the township. This is an edge that gives them exponential returns as their education develops.
Ask experts on early childhood development and they’ll tell you that the advantages you were given before the age of five before you had to do one iota of work, would have set the course of your life very favorably.
3. Wealth Passed Down From Past Generations
Most white South Africans of today have parents whose grandparents had the right (thanks to the preferential treatment of the apartheid) to buy properties and own businesses and as such, they amassed wealth in terms of properties and businesses that they could afford to pass down to their children and their children’s children. Now, this passed down wealth will help them have a start of whatever kind of life they want for themselves.
However, for black South Africans whose parents and grandparents did not have such grand opportunities, they have nothing passed down to them and as such, they have to struggle hard to earn a decent living and make something out of their lives. For them, there is no such thing as a wealthy family to fall back on, you are either on your own two feet by yourself or on the ground with the rest of your family.
When a black guy says he’s broke, it usually means family debt, circling loan sharks and the horror of truly going under. When a white guy says he’s broke it usually means he may have to dip into his savings or swallow his pride and ask his parents for help.
4. Head-start In Finances
The majority of young white people in South Africa were lucky enough to get their first car from their parents, and their first degree almost fully paid for, if they were unable to get a bursary. The black guys, on the other hand, have definitely had some pretty hairy experiences with the stress of trying to pay for their university degree.
You know, many white people believe those affirmative action policies are the most unjust, cruel things ever. But some black folks have had to work three part-time jobs at the university to cover some costs.
For many black South Africans, the situation will be even worse. They won’t be able to make it to university and will need to immediately work to help the family.
This is not some random fact of life. It is a direct result of the economic policies of apartheid that left generation after generation destitute so that for the first few generations of black people trying to make it in post-apartheid South Africa, it’s like running a race with lead weights on your feet.
5. Social Capital
Passed down wealth does not stop at financial inheritance, it goes a step further to social resources that can be helpful in a way that money cannot. This could come in forms like rich and famous family friends, educated friends or extended family members in high and key positions in government or industries.
Social capital can be quite extensive and it’s mostly not something you earn. It could be amazing advice, mentorship, the extra car from parents, cultured and mannered upbringing, the excellent clothes that set you apart at an interview etc.
6. The benefit of the doubt
White folks are given the benefit of the doubt as they are not expected to be violent so that even when they are, there must be something behind it. They are given free access to everything and everywhere the black folks would not dare go. In the words of Verashni Pillay.
“I wish every white person who thinks that race isn’t such a big issue and that we’re all just human could walk around as a black person for a day in a predominantly white area…” the differences are glaring!
Conclusively, a lot can be done to change the glaring differences but it’s definitely not by pretending that there is no race problem. Like earlier mentioned, it’s probable that the things listed above may not apply to everyone as there is always an exception but majority they say carries the vote.
Adapted From: mg.co.za