(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)
Amazingly, we have crossed the halfway point here in Durban, and although I was planning to write about the amazing trip to Mnweni, recent events back home have caused me to shift gears and discuss a frustrating mindset that many Wentworth residents have of the United States.
This summer in the United States has been chaotic and tragic, as stories as the horrendous mass shooting in Orlando and the never ending racial tensions within our communities have dominated the headlines of most major news networks. Just recently, three more shootings have taken place which resulted in the deaths of seven individuals, and those are merely the deaths that have been heavily dissected by the talking heads of cable television.
It has been very interesting discussing these events with individuals from the local Wentworth community. For some reason, many citizens here believe that in America, there is no crime, everyone has massive amounts of wealth, and racial tensions are nonexistent. They are all stunned when I inform them of the nonsensical killings, of the widespread poverty, and of the racism that still is a dominant presence in many Americans’ everyday lives. Even though the United States is viewed as a model of excellence with no flaws, reality paints a much bleaker picture of daily life in America for many of its hardworking citizens.
An explanation for this, I suppose, is that compared to Wentworth, the images of America that appear on the TV do in fact seem amazing and so much better than the life they live. In this area, where many people live below the poverty line and are exposed to widespread crime, people watch shows such as NCIS and think “Wow, America is so much better than here”, as the United States tends to not promote its inadequacies to the global stage. So even when I tell local children that the United States has its own massive flaws and not everyone is treated equally, they largely ignore me, as dreams of living in a New York City penthouse and partying with Chris Brown still are alive and well in their minds.