October 2015 will sit comfortably at the top of the “young people taking action in South Africa in 2015” list. If you’re not from around here, get a drink at sit down, because you’re about to be schooled. Like South African students will not be able to next year because of fee hikes.
In South Africa this month, fee hikes for all major tertiary institutions were announced. Some of these went up to 12%. The bottom line: fees for 2016 reached a record unrealistic high that the vast majority of students would not and could never be able to pay, for various reasons. [UPDATE: Minister of Higher Education claims that fee hikes will not exceed 6% across the board. This is unrealistic as fees are not standardised at South African universities. Students still claim that the fee increase is too high.]
Now, many people have their views. Some believe that the protests (which have spread to almost all universities resulting in a national shut down tomorrow) should not be happening. When the fees fall and benefit all, they won’t be on that side of the fence.
Let’s make this short, yeah?
The majority of students affected by the fee increase are black students. Why? Because of demographics. Now, white students, and other students of colour are certainly affected by the irrational increases, and will benefit in the same way as other students when the fees fall. I commented on the demographics issue (that most are unaware of somehow????????) last night on a new blog, and this is what I had to say:
I understand your perspective. I also understand why the generalisation [that white students can afford the fee increase] is somewhat offensive to the white students who will not be able to afford fees. What I don’t understand, is the idea that the protesting students are turning away fellow white students who want to join the protest. I have seen the protest, and been there today when I saw my sister, and I don’t believe that is the case.
Also, the fact that the generalisation exists comes down to demographics. 75% of the student population of Wits, and South africa, is black. Of those 75% (students), 75% cannot afford Wits fees as it is, due to the fact that their parents, much like your mother, cannot afford to send them to university as they work the jobs that 60% of black citizens work, i.e informal jobs, domestic labour & security guarding.
The matter of privilege is different entirely. Privilege refers to where you stand socially, and economically amongst other criteria, based on your race, gender, or social status. This isn’t something you can change. White privilege exists and it doesn’t mean that whites are financially privileged, but rather that as a population group (demographics, again) and due to injustices that will never be “fixed” regardless of BEE and “twenty years!” cries, and the vicious system of capitalism, every white person has and will continue to benefit from the colour of their skin. It’s factual, and nobody is wrong for having this privilege, because as I’ve said, there’s nothing to be done about, except being aware.
Being aware of your privilege is extremely important as you look introspectively at South Africa and further at the world. It is the only way we, as global citizens, and as the children who will grow up in the mess our parents and grandparents never had to, will manage.
Now, I’m going to get white people telling me that they are not privileged because they are not rich. *sigh* I’ve dealt with enough insults regarding this today, so I’m going to leave this here:
White privilege can be a tricky thing for people to wrap their heads around. If you’ve ever called out white privilege before, chances are you’ve heard responses like “But I’m didn’t ask to be born white!” or “You’re being reverse racist.”
The next time that happens, just show the nay-sayer this succinct comic by Jamie Kapp explaining what white privilege is — and what it isn’t.
White privilege doesn’t mean you have more money than black people. It doesn’t mean you are financially privileged! It can include financial privilege due to past inheritance systems that POC have been systematically excluded from but it is not only that.
And finally, the the great Apartheid debate. It’s not a debate. The facts remain that the repercussions of a system that lasted from 1948 cannot be reversed in twenty one years. Systematic oppression of the past cannot be fixed if generations afterwards, the cycle of poverty still continues. Capitalism works that way. And THAT IS THE REALITY OF THE COUNTRY IN WHICH WE LIVE.
I’ve done so much fighting today. You would swear my finals aren’t in five days.
LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT OF SOLIDARITY, LONG LIVE
Love and light