South Africa as Super-America

I’ve sort of come to think of South Africa as super-America. All of the problems the states suffers from are here, but turned up to 11. We’ve got income inequality, they’ve got extreme income inequality. We’ve got historical racism, they’ve got profound historical racism. We’ve got high crime, they’ve got bonkers high crime. There’s a lot both countries could learn from each other.

Americans, for example, tend not to see the structural components of racism. It’s easy for us to say ‘that black dude is poor because he didn’t finish high school, go to college and get a job. It’s his fault.’

It’s a lot harder for an American to say that about a black South African, whose family was so profoundly disadvantaged by Apartheid (dude, your race was part of your social security number) that he can’t be expected to make up the gap in one generation.

The situation is actually the same in America, we just don’t see it because the magnitude isn’t as profound. Just as black South Africans weren’t instantly transported out of the townships when Apartheid ended, black Americans weren’t magically moved to Connecticut when segregation ended.

We have more time between us and segregation than South Africa does, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still swimming in its wake.

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One response to “South Africa as Super-America

  1. elephantwoman

    I think it’s a really interesting comparison you make between the two countries. But I think America has had a lot of profoundly positive influences over the years, which is why it has been able to move forward in a way that South Africa just can’t — it’s really sad what’s happened in South Africa over time, and their refusal to deal with HIV properly has made things so much worse too. BTW, have you seen Tsotsi? In that film, the victim of the crime was a wealthy black family. I think it’s the same in many developing countries, where the victim of crime are simply those with money, not necessarily those of a particular race.