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One of my favorite quotes is “the personal is political.” The statement was prominently used during second-wave feminism to center women’s experiences in the political sphere. This statement especially rang true after hearing from the three guests we had at our weekly dinner this Tuesday. Our guests work for the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) and they spoke to us about the politics of consumer choice. They reminded us that the clothing we buy is political.

Buying locally made South African goods creates jobs and boosts the economy, they said.  Shopping at Zara and H&M may be appealing, but it has real consequences for workers. Thus, they urged, we should be more conscious in making decisions about  what clothing we are buying. The personal is political. Here in South Africa, I am constantly reminded how much our daily lives are intertwined with politics.

Walking to work is a privilege, and our ability to walk to work has so much to do with politics. We are able to walk a mere 30 minutes to our office because we are located in a very wealthy, white neighborhood. Meanwhile, some of our co-workers commute for hours on a taxi, bus, or train to get to work. This is what Apartheid did; it systematically pushed black and coloured people out of the city so that it would be harder to access jobs, facilities, and basic sanitary living environments. According to one article, black South Africans spent an average of 101 minutes per day commuting to work in 2013.

While our stipend allows us to Uber if we want to, if we ubered everywhere we would not be experiencing how 90% of South Africans live their lives on public transportation. In DC I have always been driven or driven myself, even though many times I could walk or take public transportation. I have actually really enjoyed walking to work every day. Andrew, Bennett and I have had really interesting conversations, it’s good exercise, and I have begun to notice a lot of aspects of the city that I would not have picked up on in the car.

For example, every morning as we walk through the park, there is a group of city officials who come through the gardens and wake up the sleeping homeless people and tell them to pick up their things and move elsewhere. They do this at about 8:15 AM, probably so that they are gone while other people enjoy the park during the day. The park is filled with homeless people, people who were possibly evicted from their homes, the exact people that Reclaim the City and NU are assisting. The city could provide so many alternatives for these people, in fact it is their constitutional obligation to do so. Instead they simply make them move around every day to find another sidewalk.

Anyway, my point is that walking everyday is a privilege and we should treat it as such. I might complain about it when I’m tired and occasionally take an Uber, but we are so lucky to be in Cape Town, located where we are, and we should take a walk when we need to.