In 1994, South Africa officially ended apartheid, a period of segregation, violence, and discrimination on the basis of race. It is what Mandela and thousands of activists fought bravely against whilst enduring unfair imprisonment, torture, and even death. It has now been a little over 20 years since the end of such atrocities, but the impact echoes down until today. Throughout our program, we learned and saw much of this effect. We learned about #feesmustfall campaign fighting against fees that restrict impoverished, mostly black and colored students from attending higher education. We were students at a university that had 61% white students in a 10% white country. We met people waiting to receive compensation and houses from the government who kicked them out of their homes during the apartheid.
Although we saw first hand the impact of racism, we unfortunately experienced some directly. As we explored South Africa, a handful of black men approached the three Asian student on the program and yelled racial comments, such as “China”, “Ni Hao”, and “Hello Asian person”. One employee at the Cape Town airport came up to one of us, tugged his eyes to the side in a squint, and made racial jokes at him. I was furious. Even in Trump’s America, I had not experienced anything like this. The most frustrating thing was that black men, who had experienced discrimination and racial hatred only 20 years prior, were committing those same hateful acts towards me and my two other classmates. Why is this happening? One of my professors explained in a lecture that because 20 years have passed since the apartheid, a new generation of South Africans who don’t remember or lived through the apartheid was coming up. Perhaps my experience with racism in South Africa is due to the fact that people don’t remember being explicitly discriminated against. Or perhaps its for other reasons. But one thing was made clear for me: racial reconciliation goes beyond US boarders or between whites and blacks; despite its atrocious racial history, the world has so much more to learn in loving and respecting others.