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The Reason I’m Uncomfortable Visiting South Africa

  • February 21, 2023
  • 8 min read
The Reason I’m Uncomfortable Visiting South Africa

I had a friend once who had a lot more experience traveling the world than I do. The part of the globe he preferred to frequent was actually Southeast Asia, so he proceeded to visit and spend notable time in more than one country therein. 

This buddy of mine, whom I had many quality conversations with, told me something that I would never forget. He said that he had never been in a country where the people aren’t, to one noticeable degree or another, racist.

The Preferential Treatment

Now before proceeding, let me put that statement in context in more specific terms of the individual I’m referring to. He had both an American and Ghanaian passport. And sometimes for whatever reasons, he would travel internationally with the latter as opposed to the former. Or in any event, the homey told me that whenever he’s abroad, i.e. in Asia or wherever he may be, dealing with people on whatever level, the treatment he would receive if he used the US passport would be different from when he utilized the Ghanaian one. Put more bluntly, he would be treated better if he identified himself as an African-American as opposed to an African.

Africa, the Motherland

The reason I’m bringing that up is because based on such knowledge, as far as I’m concerned, different degrees of racism exists everywhere, including in Africa itself. In most of the Motherland the majority population may be Black, so it isn’t one of those kinds of situations, where you have to deal with people who intrinsically feel that we are inferior. 

In the Motherland there’s Blacks of all personality types, occupations and characters. So it isn’t like, say, in the United States where there are places that don’t have any or very few Black people, so all those locals would think about us is based on the primarily negative or frivolous stereotypes they come across in the mainstream media. In the Motherland, people are very much aware that Blacks for instance can run governments and build cities.

But one thing about Africa is that in certain circles, lighter complexions are considered favorable or “fairer”, as if the Black people who believe such have an inferiority complex when comparing themselves to Europeans. 

Along those same lines, we may no longer live in the days of colonialism proper, but in all frankness there remain parts of the continent which are more accommodating to foreigners than they are to the locals. Such preferential treatment to outsiders is primarily money based. But still, it can feel like a form of racism in some extreme cases.

South Africa

All of that said, South Africa is on a whole ‘nother level when it comes to its history with racism. While most other African countries had already achieved independence by the mid-20th century, well, South Africa had also. In fact formal South African independence came in the early 1930s, decades before most other sub-Saharan nations had acquired their statutory freedom. But as for Apartheid, the most-overtly racist system of the entire 20th century, it lasted way into the 1990s. And even now, some decades later, of course remnants of it still exist.

And that’s the primary reason why South Africa tops the list as the one country I wouldn’t want to visit as a Blackman. I’m not expecting that if I were to go there, I would come across “Whites only” signs or anything like that but as a Blackman who grew up in the United States, I am relatively-sensitive to racism. So the last thing I would want for instance is some White South African to get snippy with me, as I may totally take it the wrong way.

I understand that a Black and White person can get into drama that has nothing to do with race but in the back of my mind, I would expect that there are many White residents there who feel they are superior due to their traditional standing in that part of the world. And given the whole historical context behind Apartheid, I wouldn’t want to be at an African locality where a White person thinks that he or she has the right to disrespect me.

If something like that were to happen in Europe, that’s one thing, because that’s their homeland. Africa however is where Blacks are supposed to be able to roam without facing that BS. And it would also break my heart to see the natives in South Africa still suffering en masse as compared to their former oppressors, who remain by and large beneficiaries of injustices past.

That said, I’m well aware of the fact that many African-Americans and Africans alike prefer to visit the Rainbow Nation. From what I can gather, the reason many African-Americans feel more comfortable going there as opposed to other parts of Africa is because their system is the most reminiscent of that of the West. In other words, spending time in South Africa, in theory, should be most akin to what a Westerner is already used to, since it’s the part of the continent with the largest population of Whites and also a country that for a long time was directly administered by them.

A Nation Battling High Rates of Crime

But racism aside, another solid reason I wouldn’t want to go to South Africa is because of the nation’s ridiculously-high crime rate. As one well-known example, take the murder of Lucky Dube.

Dube, a South African native, remains the most-renowned and successful reggae artist to ever actually come out of the Motherland. Accordingly his music was very conscious and, though critical, peaceful. So how did Lucky Dube unexpectedly die at the age of 43? He was in a suburb of Johannesburg, taking his children to see a relative, when he was gunned down by a couple of carjackers.

As the story goes, the carjackers did not recognize the music star, rather mistaking him for a Nigerian, as if that’s a viable excuse to murder someone. But this is just a celebrity example of how bad crime can be in South Africa, yet another nation known to have serious issues with Black-on-Black violence. Indeed, an unenviable number of South African cities are currently near the top of the list amongst those with the highest crime rates in the entire world.

And with that in mind, it’s also pretty common knowledge that the Rainbow Nation has one of the uppermost murder rates on the globe. Another thing that tends to break my heart as a Blackman is seeing our people, who already have so many things going against us, being physically abusive to one another.

In Conclusion

I can’t say that I will never visit South Africa. Maybe, if I had a viable reason to do so, I would. I know a number of Black people who have visited the country, and I can’t readily recall any of them reporting having encountered instances of racism.

But if I were to, say, get on a flight to South Africa at this very moment, the entire time I would be thinking about touching down and having to deal with racism. It may even be something in terms of Blacks aggressing against Whites. 

All things considered, it’s just not a situation I would want to place myself in, one where I know that a decent possibility exists for something to transpire which may not be out of the ordinary for the locals but could garner a high-emotional response from myself. But maybe one day, when the system becomes more equal and another generation or two removed from direct experiences with Apartheid, I can consider South Africa a potential destination.

About Author

GreetingsFromAbroad

GreetingsfromAbroad.com is a travel blog founded by keen traveler, writer and experienced digital nomad, Kojo Enoch. Currently Kojo lives on the beautiful, sunny island of Malta. This website is run by a solid team of expert digital nomads,  avid travelers, photographers and writers from all over the world.

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