Racism Remains in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Apartheid, Photo by UN Photo
Apartheid, Photo by UN Photo

SOUTH AFRICA - The World Hates me Because I am Black... Thus I will Love the World Because I am Black.

I will always remember this moment: my mom and little brother coming into the house with mail. She hands me a large envelope with the biggest smile. I quickly glance to see Howard University in big, bold, blue font with 'CONGRATULATIONS' on the bottom.

I didn't know at the time that I would be attending a premier HBCU and one of the leading research institutions in the world. My reality soon became engulfed in Black pride, Black beauty, and Black history. Professors continuously remind the student body of the academic, technological, and cultural contributions by African people to the global network. Because of my experience at Howard University, I learned to appreciate my skin color.

I am currently studying abroad at the University of Stellenbosch in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The town is racially and economically segregated. Walking on one side of Eikstad Mall, a shopping centre, I mainly see students, the white middle class, and employees. However, the other side of the mall reveals a different story. Blacks and Coloureds fill the area while White tourists enthusiastically take pictures. The university itself is notoriously known as a racist university because of its history as an Afrikaans-only school. Even the architect of Apartheid taught at this university. So as a young Black woman, I am defying the slowly dying Apartheid-schema:

WHITE = GOOD & SUPERIORITY; BLACK = BAD & INFERIORITY

Stares continuously confront me as I walk through the streets of Stellenbosch. They range from genuine curiosity to a loaded question of “why are you here?” However, I must mention that the stares vary by the perpetrator's color (I am using color to make a claim and demonstrate my observations; I am not aiming to generalize nor to negatively portray South Africa and its people). White people look with curiosity, fascination, objectification, lust, and a complex, deep-seated hatred and contempt. Coloureds glare at me as if I remind them of a Black perpetrator in their past (Blacks and Coloureds do not have an amicable relationship mostly due to the systematic marginalization of Coloured placed slightly above Blacks - similar to the history and relationship between Blacks and Latinos in America). Black Afrikans stare at me with … well... I would argue curiosity, disgust, and confusion.

Does my natural Afro, American accent, and African-Native-American-European mixed features evoke a 'stop-and-stare' reaction in a non-American country?

Of course.

That would definitely be the acceptable explanation if these stares were solely genuine curiosity.

But they are not.

The actual is not the main issue. I do not favor staring because of my experiences in childhood. Staring is a natural phenomenon that will never disappear; I accept that. The main issue is what lies behind the staring that is not spoken, but clear: a covert global campaign promoting Black inferiority.

Everywhere I turn I see Black women destroying their natural hair with non-stop weaves, wigs, and braids. The Afrikan cultural traditions of decorating one's head with flattering hair-dos and wearing clothes that demonstrates one's roots and status became replaced with conflicting European standards of beauty. Like diamonds in the rough, I see Black people retain their heritage through their language, dancing, and the undying dedication towards Ubuntu. But this is overshadowed in Stellenbosch. Even if I travelled to Afrikan places that fought against the damaging effects of colonialism; like a mouse, it silently scurries in and conveniently leaves droppings as a reminder of its presence.

Ultimately, I travelled from an HBCU bubble, Black pride island back into the real world. A world that constantly reminds me that it loathes my skin color and anything associated to it. At every restaurant, I am confronted with “you don't belong here and should never belong here.” At a club, I am asked for extra identification. At the bar, several customers are served before me. In stores, I am monitored but not helped. From tourists, I am greeted with a traditional Afrikan language. To others, I am worthless until my American origin graces their ears. These experiences have truly influenced my study abroad journey. However, there is one that moves my soul to tears: the contempt for Black Americans from Black Afrikans.

Howard reminds me that I have brothers and sisters in Afrika and in the Afrikan diaspora, yet I believe the feeling is not mutual. A Black-American girl from Boston told me that in her conversation with some Afrikans, she mentioned that she identifies herself as African-American. To her surprise, she was met with laughter and a firm “you are not Afrikan.” We can always debate on 'what is Afrikan,' but the disregard of our historical bond disturbs me. Clearly the definitions of Afrikan, Black, isiXhosa vs. isiZulu, Zimbabwean vs. South African are significant to most. Yet, all hope is surely not lost.

One of my best days spent in South Africa was at Mzolis in Gugulethu, a township. My flatmates, Christine and Alyssa, and I were chilling in a lounge with Afrikan men watching a soccer game . Our passionate, young 'tour guide' stopped all conversations to remind us that our ancestors were taken from Africa for the slave trade; however, everyone in that room are brothers and sisters. The men instantly agreed and jokingly identified our African origins based off our physical appearances, mannerisms, and speech. Apparently, I am undeniably South African, but it is a debate between Xhosa and Zulu origins.

In coming to South Africa, I was reminded of the world's hatred for Blackness. But I also experience the community's love for me. South Africa presents me the challenge to love my existence. It shows me the remarkable diversity of Africa and Africans. As I prepare to return to America and Howard University, I shall remember this:

The world hates me because I am Black, Thus, I will love the world because I am Black, I love the world because it is Black, And that will never change.

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This post is dedicated to my Black sister, Christine Smith, that shared the experiences described in this post in our semester spent in South Africa.

Dear Chicago | Mother Buries Four Children

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Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 22:03 p.m. DST, 05 June 2014

This post is inspired by a DailyMail article, “Tears of a Mother who lost her FOUR Children to Chicago's Gun Crime Epidemic”

Dear Chicago,

Chicago River, North Shore Drive, Photo by David B. Gleason

Its been awhile since we last spoke on the Yard at Howard University, I remember you telling me about your dreams, strengths, and adversaries. Your style is unforgettable Your dialect is amicable Lifestyle and life view of the world deserves much respect. My eyes crinkle in smiles when someone proudly yells “south side” or “north side!”

But the news sees your beauty through grotesque eyes: Gun violence. The artificial newscasters utter shreds of murders and guns and blood and victims, But I know my Chicago is not inherently evil or menacing. I will admit the heart of the city is not pumping efficiently, but Chicago will tell you to not to spoil the body with contempt and hatred.

Shut up about Chicago, and hear its voice. Hear the twang in their step and language. Hear the rich black folks music. Hear the pride and the respect. The winds carrying their voices.... That's your beauty, Chicago!

I will not forget about your mother who buried her last child lost to gun violence. While I realize your feening to mourn, you have to keep speaking about the truth of your history to the world.

Keep me posted Chicago. May the grieving find comfort In the beat of the very heart that will save your city.

Sincerely, Chrycka

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The Cage Finally Open | A Tribute to Maya Angelou

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Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 00:07 a.m. DST, 31 May 2014

Maya Angelou - March 28,2008 - St. Sabina African American Speaking Series, Photo by Saint Sabina Photos

Not too long ago, Mandela joined the small community. He reunited with memorial friends, met with known ancestors, and joined the others to patiently wait for the next neighbor.

Eyes immediately focused on the glorious caged bird. Her songs send warm, comforting nostalgia to millions worldwide.

Our ears rejoice when she shares her wisdom, Our eyes rejoice when she graces the page with exceptional stanzas, Our mouths rejoice in smiles within her presence.

Maya Angelou, your songs kept us in remembrance of our history and heritage. But God said its time to unlock the cage So that the phenomenal bird can fly to its home.

Maya Angelou flew to her home, with Zora, Brooks, Wheatley, Aesop, but her spirit will never allow us to forget for the world.

Thank you, from an aspiring storyteller to a modern griot.

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A Tribute to Happiness

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Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 17:12 p.m. DST, 20 March 2014

Happy Clappy, Smiley Faces, Photo by King Dude Dave

Happiness always Makes the world a safer place. Is the world happy?

Don’t forget men’s work Their tears, passions, drives, and quirks Bring smiles to kids.

A child carries Light for the lantern to watch The world move to peace.

Peace rests on women, For the sake of the household, So we can smile.

Smiles lead to the Happiness in which we seek. A human goal, free.

 
 
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The Natural Rebellion

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Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 01:57 a.m. DST, 28 February 2014

Baby Panda, Seven Star Park in Guilin, Photo by BageltamSunshine's rays gleam off the cold metal cage of the world's favorite baby panda, Bao Bao. Nestled within fake vegetation resembling a panda's natural habitat, the baby panda willingly participates in the scientists' daily lesson plan.

An audience of thousands venture to the National Zoo in Washington, DC to watch Bao Bao's progressive learning process. With brochures illustrating the daily lesson plans, the audience engages with the scientists on teaching Bao Bao how to be a panda.

When Bao Bao walks left, necks follow in unison. When he goes right, necks follow in unison. When Bao Bao sneezes, in unison, everyone reacts with “bless you.”

On this particular day, numbers of the audience reached an all-time high. Humans representing diverse backgrounds and cultures are in the National Zoo watching the baby panda's interaction with a soccer ball. A man unfortunately becomes an open toilet for a blackbird above him. The blackbird and we shall call her Eboni, lands on a tree within the lions' exhibit.

The lions are resting their heads because of the human attention towards Bao Bao. Eboni swoops down towards the King of the Jungle, a black lion that was strangely found within Ethiopia, then propels upward into the clear blue sky. Then the King rises onto his paws and unleashes a proud roar. Eboni flaps her wings to the rhythms of the roar. She spots her flock near the Washington Monument and joins them for a brief meeting. The birds diverge to meet with other species of the planet to relay one message:

THE TIME IS NOW!!!!

Birds representing the iridescent spectrum deliver the message to creatures of all forms, shapes, and sizes. From the algae in the Pacific to the elephants in Africa, all domains of life receive the pertinent message.

Back in the zoo, members of the audience slightly shift their weight on their feet and stretch their backs while watching Bao Bao attempt to shoot a basketball into the hoop. A second roar erupts from the King's mouth then Eboni soon returns to move a switch that unlocks the cages.

Children remember their parents' warnings on public crying so they keep their growing hunger a secret as Bao Bao rolls around. Suddenly, the baby panda stops in action as the King erupts in a third roar- the loudest of all roars that the Universe has ever heard. Startled humans turn around to see nature surrounding them. Kings and Queens of the savannah, exotic plants of the rainforest, and tropical fish of the deep blue seas are silently staring at the human population. No one notices that Bao Bao leaves his cage and joins the King on his right, while Eboni rests on his left shoulder. No words need to be spoken to explain the purpose of this confrontation: nature is rebelling against the humans.

For centuries, nature received brutal treatment from humans. It remembers the baby stage of human civilization where all creatures lived in harmony and unison. Yet, events and circumstances that are not discussed in schools influenced the progression of humans' harsh manipulation, subjugation, exploitation, and oppression of nature.

Animals quietly laugh at the humans' idiotic view that they can rule the majority while they slowly plot their rebellion. Nature will never forget about the obstacles of organizing the creatures, but this day marks the heavily anticipated confrontation. No more excuses and no more silence. The time is now for Nature to demand better treatment from the humans.

This meeting serves as the Ultimatum. Humans must change their ways in order to live in harmony with Nature. Otherwise, Nature on Earth will end the Universe's experiment with human evolution, once and for all. This is the Natural Rebellion.

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LOVE is........

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Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 02:10 a.m. DST, 14 February 2014

What is the Key to my Heart, Photo by Alessio FeciI pray that LOVE is understood by the lover's eternal heart's beloved, no matter the speciality of the lover's craftsmanship.

Everyday, we present to each other locked packages, specialized by their beholders. Mine comes in a medium sized, cold metal box. Gray with swirls of turquoise and lavendar And sugary sprinkles of tangerine; all surrounding the one key hole.

Only a few people in this world have ever touched this box, fewer have gotten the key, and even fewer have understood to use the key to unlock the box to unleash its contents: my LOVE.

Two of those people are my Momma and my little brother- Brown Sugar and my little colored boy.

Brown Sugar! Don't ever lose your flavor. Amateurs always aiming to annihilate your flavorful accent But their heat drives them out of the kitchen... So don't ever leave the kitchen...

And my little colored boy. Hands academically shackled so you can only listen to your muffled potential. Schools teaching you how to type your prison numbers So when do you have the time to draw our freedom?

After the video games... Sleep Eat Repeat... Draw the next best game Draw the sheep that you count Draw the food that starving children should eat Keep going! Your humility and wittiness will carry you.

My routine may not be warm embraces but the contents that surrounded you from the box I presented to you is LOVE

LOVE is the universal, spiritual embrace we all relish in. It is up to the receivers to find the key of understanding: that LOVE also comes in different colors, shapes, and sizes.

I pray that LOVE is understood by the lover's eternal heart's beloved no matter the speciality of the lover's craftsmanship.

P.S. I pray that my audience understands my love for them through this story.

Amen.

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Come Play the Color Game

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Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 23:13 p.m. DST, 11 February 2014

Silhouette of Man Against Wall, Photo by Bell YanzDear Jo,

We have known each other for quite some time. I think this is the perfect opportunity to tell you how I feel about you. However, I want to make this interesting. Instead of me revealing to you my physical identity, you must guess who I am based on the following description that I provide you.

The catch: you must correctly identify my ethnicity.

When Toni is done reading this letter, you must tell her your answer. If you guess correctly, she will tell you who I am. If you don't guess correctly, then you will wander the Earth for the rest of your life never knowing the identity of your secret crush (just kidding). I wish you the best of luck in this game of “Guess Who” and I hope your mind possesses the necessary skills, such as inductive and deductive reasoning, to choose the best answer.

I am 5'5'' with a chestnut-almond complexion. Fashion magazines would declare that my figure is pear shaped and my feet are actually on the small side. If you were to browse through my music library, you will discover Pitbull, Baby Bash, and Mellow Man.

In my free time, you usually see me playing fútbol on the yard or basketball on the court. Many students can identify me just through my thick Southern accent, since I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama.

At this point, I trust that you already know the identity of this author. However, I will drop a couple of more clues on ya.

My fashion statement screams Harajuku style. I have an uncle that lives in Japan, so every summer; I visit him and buy my clothes from there. My favorite snack is sushi and my favorite meal is macaroni and cheese.

Lastly, my hair is naturally straight; it touches the middle of my back. My nose is narrow and my lips are medium-sized.

So.... who am I? Or rather, what is my ethnicity?

Sincerely,

Your “Not so Secret” Admirer ; )

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"All human beings tend to judge people based upon a set of criteria, though the oft said and most abused aphorism is "to never judge a book by its cover."

In America, we often judge a person by his color, and with that ascribe an entire litany of characteristics and assumptions about the person without ever taking the time to know them.

This latest literary submission by Ms. Harper provides an excellent illustration of our tendency to assign ethnicity based upon characteristics and qualities that are universal, but have been neatly packaged by the media and force fed to the public so that if a person likes a particular kind of music, wears a certain type of clothing, speaks with a dialect or in colloquialisms, has a certain texture of hair, etc. - then they are this, or they are that, they are in fact anything other than just a human being.

I took the color test and failed. Not because I guessed the person's ethnicity correctly or incorrectly, but because I tried. Did you do the same? Be honest with yourself if not with others." ~ Ayanna Nahmias

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Twitter: @nahmias_report
Poet & Literary Critic: @chrycka_harper