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America is apolitical.

Americans try to be apolitical – to separate their lives from politics.

“Oh no,” they say, “I can’t watch the news anymore, too much politics.”

When actors, comedians, musicians try to venture into the political, they are reminded to stick to their job and focus on things they actually know about. Talking about politics is still regarded as a huge taboo in the U.S. and children are intentionally sheltered from politicization.

But that’s not the case in South Africa. Here, everyone is politicized.

My site coordinator, Naledi, told us that she remembered being politicized as a young girl. Through school and lived experiences. A guest speaker, Noor, told us he remembered being taught harsh lessons in the political realities of South Africa when he was in middle and high school. Our guide throughout Johannesburg, Calvin, even recounted his political escapades throughout his young adult life.

But what really stuck out to me the most was how politics pervaded further, specifically in comedy. On our 3rd night (I think) in Johannesburg, 11 of the 12 of us on this trip went to a South African comedy show titled, “White”. This show was hosted by a black comedian, Tats Nkonzo who had invited his white friends to share the stage. The show focused on the life experiences of 2 white comedians and a white TV producer. Our host, Tats, effortlessly integrated politics into his comedy and was able to educate me and make me laugh at the same time. For once, I didn’t feel like I was trying to talk politics to a brick wall – there was finally an air of dialogue.

I really appreciated how everyone seemed to know about the politics of what Tats was saying. Everyone was engaged too. I also got to take a peek into the political world of South Africa from a non-academic point of view, to learn about how ordinary South Africans see and talk about race, and how people just interact with each other. The show was fun. But I think back upon youtube videos and comedies in the U.S. and I can’t find anything similar there. I remember watching a video where an American comedian was “booed” off stage because he dared to talk about something involving politics rather than sticking with the typical airline food jokes. Talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel or Ellen have tons of videos about our politics, yet they have some of the lowest view counts on their respective channels.

It’s sad to reflect upon my own home and see how much people detest politics and stay away from it. How privileged do you have to be to not have to think about the politics of your own country? How can we collectively move forward and progress when people don’t even know what’s on the political agenda? From bakers, to shop owners, to academics, to teachers, to children, people in South Africa seem more politicized and politically aware than in the U.S. and that’s definitely something we as Americans should learn from.