One of the biggest issues with privilege is that those within the privilege are blind to it, living in a bubble of disregard for those who fall outside of it. As both female and black, I am made unquestionably aware of the role the colour of my skin and my gender play in how I am received on a daily basis and nothing irks me more than the denial of the struggles I face in a society that favours everything I am not.
In a country as diverse as ours, the opportunity to experience a variety of cultures is something truly beautiful, eye-opening and unique. It’s sad then that I find it has made it impossible for me not to raise an eyebrow at how blinding the position of privilege can be. The privilege here is choosing to complain when Beyoncé goes a little too black and to lose control when a group of those who lack privilege decide to interrupt your rugby match. It is choosing not to engage with anything that makes those in privilege uncomfortable.
It is easy to look the other way when something does not affect you, I can attest to this. But, how do we get them to snap out of their blissful oblivion without entering a space that causes further tension between us as South Africans?
The answer is far from simple but it is clear that we have to start on a human level. Fear is arduous to overcome and unless we can set our fears aside long enough to engage with these real issues, we are going nowhere quickly (except, perhaps, to a space of further animosity) as a country.
We need to have more open communication which means creating a space where people are free to speak their minds. It is vital that these discussions lead those who live in a bubble of privilege to a space of empathy so those outside of the privilege may be more understanding about the learning process. Furthermore, it is important for us to recognise instances where we get it right as a country, instead of drowning ourselves in the negative.
We are all a part of a system, some empathy the other way will do more good for our country than bad. So come out of your bubble for a little while, will you?
Written by: Iris Hlakuva
Photograph: Simangaliso Tshabalala