It’s hard to believe that the first week of the trip has already passed by so quickly! While it’s sad to have to leave Capetown, I really enjoyed our trip to the District Six Museum. While there, our tour guide Noor did an amazing job of telling the story of Apartheid and how it affected South Africans and the country. He also did very well with telling his own personal narrative, showing lots of old family photos and pictures of his home in District Six before everything was stripped from him. I was particularly moved when he told us the story of the “Europeans Only” sign that would be on benches in public here in South Africa, and how his three year old son was begging him one day to use the bathroom because he had to use it. Noor said that he pretended not to hear his son’s complaints, and kept doing what he was doing. But his son kept begging him, and asked Noor to take him into the bathroom near them, but it was a “Europeans Only” restroom. Noor mentioned how he was so angry and heartbroken as well as puzzled, as he did not know how to inform his three year old son that he wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom because of the color of his skin. Noor (and all of the other South Africans of color) constantly had situations like this one that they were forced to face during Apartheid. It was very interesting to see how emotional Noor got when telling this story, as he really put the ridiculous and sad rules that were put in place during Apartheid. He also mentioned how if any South African of color (non-white) were to be caught doing anything they were not allowed to be doing, they would be beaten and thrown in jail. This part of his speech, as well as many other things he mentioned, reminded me of American Slavery/Jim Crow/Civil Rights.
I never realized until today just how much Apartheid and African American history of oppression were similar. Many of the same experiences were faced by both South Africans and African Americans, some of them being being torn from land and family, being judged solely on the color of skin, being forced to separate by use of designating signs, creating two of everything/spending millions of dollars/rand to accomplish the segregation, etc. After Noor’s tour, I felt even more connected to my own roots as an African American who comes from a past of oppression and racism. I also was given more of an appreciation for listening to people tell their stories – Noor is a living and breathing museum in addition to the overall District Six Museum, as he actually survived apartheid and created a way to tell the tale to others so that the history does not die. He and others chose to commemorate the stealing of their land and mistreatment of their people, which can help me to further my thinking about my research question. There seems to be an overall concept of museums here in Capetown, all of the ones we’ve visited so far being very welcoming and eager to share their stories.
The last thing I’ll mention about this activity was the fact that Noor mentioned the concept of forgiveness. He said that he forgives his previous suppressors for everything that they did to him and his people, which I thought was very big of him to do. Noor made the point about forgiveness being extremely important, as you could lose your inner peace without forgiving those who have wronged you. I think it was nice to get that perspective because I’m always curious about how people view and practice forgiveness – it’s a difficult ability to obtain and keep track of, and I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to forgive the people who took everything away and told me I was less than. In essence, listing to Noor today made me realize just how strong many of the South Africans heavily affected by Apartheid actually were.