A Painful Reality

By Zoleka Qodashe

Travelling on South African roads can prove to be quite the activity. From the exchange of scornful glances between motorists to one’s countless woosah moments on these taxi-dominated streets. What is clear, however, is that more often than not, one’s mood on the road varies depending on the nature of one’s trip.

A prominent characteristic, one that cannot be missed, is the number of beggars at nearly every traffic light. For those such as myself with a frivolous inquisition, the tale of how one could end up on the streets through the scorching sun and the brisk winters begins. Often, the genesis of such circumstances becomes impossible to trace as my mind provides a plethora of explanations to this one difficult scenario.

I recall, quite vaguely, taking a trip with loved ones. At one of the numerous traffic lights that call you to a halt at the sight of the red beam, we happened to be confronted by a white man with the request for spare change. A ‘what went wrong?’ conversation then ensues at which point two issues are highlighted. The most disturbing being that we come across countless black people executing the same act on a daily basis yet questions regarding the unfortunate circumstance hardly arise.

What this highlighted, for me, was how society at large has become accustomed to black pain as though it is in the black man’s nature to suffer. While we can only peer through the prism and be offered a distorted view of the challenges that the black man faces, we seem to neglect the fact that he has not called the suffering upon himself. My realization, then, is that I suffer from a serious moral deficit as I am blind to the pain of my own. I suppose, I too, peer from the prism of privilege when making futile attempts to understand the conundrum. A painful reality is that many Black people sleep in our streets.

In the midst of all the racial turmoil that has become the center of public discourse, I believe it becomes imperative to not ask “what went wrong?” for those who are ultimately the architects of what we now see as ‘misfortune’ for the black man but rather ask “what did WE do wrong that has now affected our own?”

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