It is hard to even enter an Uber or restaurant without hearing music we, as Americans, are already acquainted with. Their issues with foreigners in general though stems from a concern and the conception of the interest of people like me and where it intersects with the economics of the region. It is important to mindful of your presence and privilege as you should everywhere else, but know that it will be a common icebreaker as people here have tended to be quite curious of our experience as we, as tourists, are of theirs.
When I speak of economics I wish to raise the concern of its direct meaning, the distribution of limited resources. We have been told from our coordinators everything here is political, and upon arrival I have sensed only that. From the water crisis, to the removal of a corrupt president months prior, and to the daily protesting that occurs right outside my home stay in Bo Kaap against gentrification, people have not sensed the change that declared South Africa, “the rainbow nation” as Mandela once called it, and they are not afraid to speak out against it.
To touch on this, you will find people on the fence about even Nelson Mandela and his legacy. People question if his legacy truly has had a profound affect on freeing its people as the world generally thinks. Like most post-colonial systems it is fair to refer to the social environment as a sort of evolved apartheid. By this I mean that, whites sill dominate the wealth, you can see this in person and on paper.
The negotiation following apartheid allowed whites to keep their education status, employment status, and attitudes that kept the system alive and well following 1948. Not only this but the memorial and names of these people who made apartheid are carved into statues and street names around the city. This makes the reality of seeing a white woman driving through the hills in a roofless Maserati while refusing to give a dime to a local displaced and homeless African woman possible.
There are three categories of race as established by the Apartheid system: Whites, Black, and Coloured, and they are treated and viewed distinctly. Africans and Coloureds still live predominantly on the outskirts of the city as they taxi into the parts that allow them to. In these places they travel to are rising housing prices stemming from foreign investment and white flight. This makes finding work competitive, envy present, and hopes dwindle as largely the people in which the land belongs to are not looked after. To cope I have been trying to be generous, polite, and conservative as possible as the friendly Capetonians have much to deal with and are intent on changing the system themselves. I have found this respectable as foreigners such as the Dutch, English, Portuguese, and others have robbed this nation of so many resources while masquerading as modern day saviors.Cape town is a city used to tourists. Even after being here for a week, I am not sure what is the direct attitude held by the general public towards foreigners. What I can speak to is the mixed reactions that is present towards Americans like me, which comes immediately from hearing your accent. Much is assumed about Americans, as people assume things generally. You will also find that the South Africans in Cape Town are very aware of the larger ideology and problems that Americans are not afraid to speak of in our own country, from Trump to Black lives matter that they have learned through our music, movies, and social media presence.
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