When #MikeBrown was murdered in Ferguson by a white pig by the name of Darren Wilson, I was studying abroad at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
The news broke and I didn’t what to do with myself. I considered organizing with fellow students because I felt so alone, so hopeless. But even though the students around me weren’t discussing it, if I had gone to twitter I would have seen over a million tweets from all over the world, including South Africa. But there was little to no international footage on the few channels I got in my apartment.
I was a Black American living in a country with some of the worst white people you will meet, attending a prestigious, historically white university, and I just wanted to march in the streets with my friends and family. What was going on in Ferguson was disgusting. And then seeing the photos of how the police brutalized folks in Berkeley and Oakland broke my heart in a very personal way. I knew that being out there meant potential arrest, teargas, and fractured bones in this Black body of mine. I knew that even if I was home in Oakland, I might not have marched for fear that my mom might get a call in the middle of the night saying that something had happened to her son. But even if I didn’t march, I just wanted to be home. So I was there. In Cape Town. Isolated. I had a twitter account but I wasn’t active during that time and even my Black American friends at the university weren’t talking much about Ferguson. I had this burning desire to be back in the country where my blackness was so reviled just so I could be with my people. All the while living in a country where my blackness was equally reviled, but at least I was surrounded by people who looked like me.
Needless to say, I needed to talk. But I also knew that talking wouldn’t bring Mike Brown or anyone else back. Even the notion of organizing a march or protest in South Africa felt useless.
Looking back, I don’t know if I would have done anything different now, except for go onto Twitter. It took days for Ferguson to truly reach the news and even Facebook, but twitter covered it as it happened.
What I do know, though, is that I’m happy to stand with the #NationalShutdown, to stand with #FeesMustFall, to stand with #EndOutsourcing. Not just because I felt so alone during Ferguson—felt is key here, as I definitely wasn’t alone, I just didn’t know the proper channels at the time—, but because white South Africa has deprived Black South Africans of food, shelter, and education for too long. The ANC devolved from a revolutionary organization to a money-hungry political party that has aided in the deprivation of Black South Africa. All Black lives matter, not just those who have been murdered, not just those in Western countries, and definitely not just those with the rand or dollars who can afford a formal education.
Education is a right, not a privilege.
Educational opportunities should not be decided by the color line.
Educational opportunities should be be decided by class.
Educational opportunities and white surpemacy should be go hand in hand.
If white South Africa truly wants transformation (spoiler alert: they don’t), then they need to listen to the voices of those who have been historically marginalized: Poor. Black. People. Poor. Colored. People. Poor Indian people. Poor immigrants. Does the white devil and the Black ruling party think xenophobia sprung up out of nowhere? No, it’s the result of capitalistic white supremacy that the ANC once fought against.
Europeans created artificial borders, competition for low-paying jobs, and conditions that drive people out of their homes into a new unwelcoming country due to globalization and capitalism. Why do Black folks themselves now uphold and extend these systems?
I write all this to say that the women leading #FeesMustFall are right: we must strive for free education for all. A 6% cap in fees is not enough of a “compromise.” To create a more equitable South Africa, a South Africa that adheres more closely to the Freedom Charter, access to quality educational opportunities is one of the best ways paths.
Moving from personal to political–although these are intertwined–I’d like to speak to those on the ground. To those who are at home for fear of deportation, out in the streets fending off rubber bullets and tear gas, and to the mothers who worry about their children: thank you for everything you are doing. Even if these are just words I type that only one person sees, I’ve helped somebody. I’ve made somebody feel less alone. During Ferguson I clung to the articles I read, the Facebook posts that brought tears to my eyes, the firsthand accounts of my friends. If their words helped me–and I say this with the utmost spirit of service and humbleness–I hope my words can help you. Thank you, South Africa, for your support of Black America. I hope we can help you further.