It is not my fault that I am privileged.
My privilege started on 19 January 1990 – the day I was born into a loving middle-class family in Sandton, Johannesburg.
As a baby, I started off on a better footing than most people in South Africa. I had an educated family who were stable and able to provide for my every need – not everything I wanted, but everything I needed. I had plenty of toys to play with, most of which were designed to stimulate brain activity to give me an early developmental boost over millions of other kids my age.
Growing up, I had a support structure that was loving, caring, willing and able to assist me with any problems I faced while learning the basics of life – reading, spelling and mathematics. If there were things I did not understand, my parents were there to help me. In stark contrast, most other South African kids’ parents were out drinking, fighting with each other or not even in their lives at all. Some kids’ parents had to work more than one job to keep food on the table, were too busy looking after their relatives’ kids or just could not really care about the future of their own children.
I always worked hard at school, but I never worked that hard – compared to what some other people go through, to pass school, I did not work at all. I was privileged enough to live in a neighborhood where I never had sleepless nights before a test due to domestic violence or gunshots disturbing the night’s silence. I never went to bed hungry – like, really hungry, not knowing where tomorrow’s breakfast, lunch or dinner was going to come from. I never had to worry about our shack burning down, destroying the little possessions I had, which may or may not have included outdated text books and hand-me-down school clothes.
I walked home from school most days, but I never had to worry about being mugged or raped while doing so. I never had to study with 5 (or more) people in my 2-roomed shack distracting me from the task at hand. In every house I ever lived in, I had my own room, where I could study in peace, read books in peace, do what I want… in peace, with very few real worries.
The schools I went to were safe. The teachers were well trained. I had all the text books I needed and if I needed extra help, it was readily available – even if it came at a cost.
“I dream of an Africa, that is at peace with itself”
I never had a trust fund that set me up for life, but I had all the stepping stones I could ever dream of to make a success of myself – most of my friends were better off, financially, than we ever were, but I had everything I needed – I was more privileged than most people in our country. I never realised it at the time, but I do now.
I never chose the privileges that I had growing up, I just had it. I was born into it.
About five years ago, my parents lost everything they had. Everything. But we have a support system in family and friends which meant they were able to get back on their feet without having to sleep on the streets or in a township or anywhere uncomfortable – they had nothing but they never went hungry or cold during winter because we are privileged enough to be surrounded by other privileged people. My parents worked hard to get back on their feet but with the privilege of a good upbringing, good education and a good job record, they were able to find jobs with relative ease.
I would love to say that I started from the bottom and worked my way to where I am today, but I didn’t. I was half way to the top, in an elevator, when most people my age had only started climbing the stairs to reach the top floor.
Over the last couple of years, I have come to realize why these privileges were bestowed upon me. The cost of my privilege is unthinkable – the blood of fellow South Africans – but I never asked for any of that.
When I decided to attend the #ZumaMustFall march on Reconciliation Day, I had honest intentions. To me, this was a way to show the ANC that we, as a nation, are fed up with the widespread corruption and mismanagement of our country that has been fueled by Jacob Zuma.
While marching to parliament, I realised that I was walking with people who all seemed to share the privilege I had growing up. When I logged onto Twitter later that day, I realized why – and it brought a sense of sadness and anger over me.
Turns out, many people (privileged and non- privileged) decided not to go march against our President, not because they supported Zuma, but because there were too many white, privileged, people joining the march. Apparently the only reason why I was there, was to protect the life of privilege that I live – not by choice, but because I was born into it. I never chose this.
It breaks my heart that someone who agrees that Zuma is rotten, will not walk next to me, because of my privilege. It makes me angry that because of my privilege, people won’t even listen to my political opinions, even though they share the same views as I do.
“We are not Africans because we are born in Africa. We are Africans, because Africa was born in us”
Is this not the sort of discrimination and judgement that we’re all fighting against? Is this not the sort of liberty that the ANC stalwarts fought and died for?
In my mind, this had nothing to do with me. I did not go to that march for myself. I went to #ZumaMustFall because under the ANC government, millions of South Africans have been kept ignorant and uneducated. Millions of people have no idea that Jacob Zuma’s actions affect their daily lives. These people don’t understand the basics of economics that dictate the price of their daily goods. They don’t understand that firing a Minister of Finance, in the way that Zuma did, will likely mean that soon, their basic food costs will escalate and they will be poorer than they have ever been.
Because these people never had the privilege that I had, they don’t understand these things. It’s not their fault, they did not ask for it.
These are the people I marched for. To be blatantly honest, and I speak for myself, I don’t need to go and protect my privilege – I have the ways and means to leave South Africa if Zuma destroys this beautiful land to the point of no return. I have friends and family all over the world where I can go. It is the last thing I would want to do, but if I had to, I could pack up and leave.
The people who need Zuma to fall most, can’t pack up and leave. They are stuck in a country where their president loves his party, the ANC, more than the citizens who voted him into power – he said so himself. These are the people I marched for.
Surely, as an educated person (privileged or not) you and me owe it to these people, to march on their behalf? To respect each other, and march for them?
For the first time in more than 20 years of democracy, people of all backgrounds had the opportunity to stand together and fight against a common enemy, but we let our differences get in the way, again. This saddens me so much.
Surely, we can put our differences to the side for one day and make actual change happen? I’m not asking you to be my friend – I am asking you to stand up for yourself and for those who don’t know what Zuma is doing to our country.
My wish is for everyone in South Africa to share the privilege I had growing up – but after 20 years of democracy under the ANC, it has become increasingly clear that this won’t happen. Unless we, as the people, stand up against a government built on corruption and gross mismanagement.
When the next #ZumaMustFall march takes place, I will be there, fighting for those who do not share my privilege and I sincerely hope that you will be there as well.
Don’t stay away because of my privilege, be there for those who never had my privilege.
photo: Sullivan Photography
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