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The limitations of People of Colour

It has been a year since student activism reignited. Campus was finally filled with the discourse and activism that my parents' experienced when they were students. They are always eager when the discussion of student activism is raised. Passionately they speak about the dedication and determination that went into rallies, protests and sit-ins. How they united schools and communities through their common goal for freedom. And finally, 20 years into my existence this spirit was evident on campus.

This new activity on campus allowed for a different narrative to unfold and included words that I was unfamiliar to. However, I was not a stranger to the experience of these terms. White privilege, patriarchy and rape culture stood out for me. Despite finally understanding the meanings of these words, I wonder how differently my life would have been had I been able to identify them earlier on. I would have been able to realise that praising the privilege and luxurious life of white people was because of all the years of ensuring that people of colour felt worthless and inferior.

How aiming to be like the white man truly showed how far behind, disempowered and disadvantaged we actually were or still are. I would have realised that being catcalled and whistled at was a man’s way of objectifying you. It was how he reminded you that you had no agency over your body and that men had authority over you. “You are just a piece of meat and you should never forget it”. But instead, I and many other girls, grew up feeling a sense of approval when being objectified in public. We are taught the common phrase of “boys will be boys” while simultaneously hearing “your clothes suggested that you ‘wanted’ it”.

As if any person would want to be harassed, abused or rape. Unfortunately we are not taught these things at high school. People of colour are not taught about the social construction of race and how your “aspiration to be ‘white'” highlights all the obstacles and limitations that were designed for you to never reach that aspiration. Our education system teaches us about idealizing men who came and “developed” the Cape instead of noting that their colonization is the reason for our poverty. That the notion of white supremacy lies deeper than the unequal distribution of wealth and land in a black country. It is rooted in the idea that being white equals being superior. It is about discouraging black identity and culture. It is built on the promotion of a community and a country with western ideals, culture and architecture whilst erasing the fact that we are a black African nation! We are being disadvantaged. With money, with land, with education, with jobs and most importantly with our mind-sets! 

By Ammaarah Arendse (current student at the University of Stellenbosch)



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