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I taste the salt water, crisp and acrid.

There are only white people here.

The travelers laugh, mingle, jeer

The locals, a whole other tier

Chortle at the items’ prices

Whose makers’ voices we’ll never hear

Dance around the market square

While sordid bodies shiver near

We point and snap at the animals

In reality, we’re really the zoo

Click clack at my computer

I am apartheid too


Spatial, economic, social, educational: the forms of residual “separateness” are innumerable. Apartheid is over, the textbooks say. There are still suburbs of Cape Town that are predominantly colored or black, lasting remnants of the regime. The townships face high crime rates, low college matriculation, and crippling hunger. Homelessness is everywhere. But one can travel to Cape Town and revel in its opulence without being the wiser.

I can’t shake the feeling of luxury of my life in the city. I start my mornings in a cozy villa, head to a posh gym, eat tasty meals, and explore new parts of town. The places and experiences that I have enjoyed have been designed to milk money from people like me. They are marketed to the wealthy, for the international, for the white. They use the workers but simultaneously shut them out: save for their reputation being tainted by a drop of color. I wish to enjoy and experience Cape Town for everything that it has. But I ask myself whose backs were broken in this pursuit and who am I keeping out?

I cannot unwrite the images of privilege seared into my mind. Wealthy millennials standing outside a bar in the queue, waiting to find a seat. Several homeless men stood right across from them, simply staring at the luxury, hoping for a meal. They chattered on, ignoring the pairs of eyes glued to them. The woman who walked beside us for a quarter of a mile, pleading with pain and tears in her voice for a meal. We walked past her while she followed us in desperation. The high walls, electric fences, barbed wire keeping out anything less pristine than the white paint inside. No one can enter, no one can leave.

The inequality gets to you, especially when you realize how much you benefit from it. I can experience a different Cape Town than theirs without even trying. These lasting systems of apartheid that allow me to exist in the environment I enjoy make me realize my ivory tower, my privilege, my separateness. I am living in a glass box, and maybe I’m doing more harm than good.