All my life, I have lived in two worlds. Though we
lived in the predominately black, middle-income Cascade
area of Atlanta, Georgia, my parents decided early on
that I would attend school in Atlanta's rarefied white
I grew up with constant influences from the black and
white communities, a situation which caught me in that
limbo where I was too black to be white but too white
to be considered fully black. I learned that inbred
stereotypes in both communities would force me to have
to constantly explain my "white" traits to
my black peers and my "black" traits to white
I also learned that the traditional racial and socioeconomic
divides between the black community of Cascade and the
white community of Buckhead, my homes, created a troubling
ignorance each community had for the other.
Parallels to South Africa
Through recent studies of communities in South Africa
at Howard University's International Affairs Summer Enrichment
Program, I have seen that these racial and socioeconomic
divides are shared by more communities than my own.
The Apartheid system created intense and total separation
between the black and white races of South Africa. Political
moves went so far as to remove entire black and colored
communities from their homes so as to free the land
for the white minority. Post-Apartheid, moves such as
this and others left South Africa with entrenched tensions
between the races that were largely founded on the ignorance
from a lack of interaction between said races.
Like black students in the white communities of Atlanta,
the "Colored" mixed race was left as a buffer
and absorber of these tensions from both directions.
Particularly in the South African city of Johannesburg,
similar conflicts to those in Atlanta exist. After watching
the film Tsotsi which describes the criminal activities
of young thugs in the slums of Johannesburg and their
interactions with the rich elite, I see that Atlanta and
Johannesburg not only share racial divides, but also significant
Because of the lack of a large middle class, these
divides appear more drastic in Johannesburg, yet both
cities have polarized communities that seem to come
from different worlds.
After the Jim Crow era in Atlanta and Apartheid era
in Johannesburg, many steps have been taken to close
the gaps between communities of different races and
classes. In particular, leaders in both cities have
focused on the inequality of general living conditions
in white and black communities as it relates to socioeconomic
The fact that these marginalized sections of Johannesburg
and Atlanta do not receive the same quality of public
resources as white or upper-class communities and therefore
live essentially different lifestyles, greatly contributes
to the ultimate lack of understanding between such communities.
They truly do come from different worlds, making it
difficult to see from the other's perspective.
Working towards a solution
By looking beyond our own communities, we can see that
we are not alone. Communities across the globe have been
dealing with essentially this same conflict for years.
If these pockets of society were to combine their respective
visions into a larger vision for how to address these
nonsensical divides, a solution could be synthesized,
and individual communities could then adopt and adapt
the solution to their particular environments.
This could be achieved by something as intricate as
a world forum with representatives hailing from all
one-hundred ninety-five countries or something as simple
as individuals becoming aware of communities beyond
their own and integrating others' successful practices
into their local community.
Still, most of the black populations in both Atlanta
and Johannesburg live in segregated, and often inferior,
areas of town. Though the process of how these separations
came about varies significantly between American and
South African histories, the outcome is essentially
the same: when sub-communities become isolated from
the larger body, they lose touch with reality beyond
their own and begin to believe that their way of life
is the only one.
Thus, when they come into contact with people of different
backgrounds, they bring many stereotypes and generalizations
and often confuse "different" with "wrong."
It is imperative that, on the local and international
levels, communities learn from each other and work to
open the minds of the world's next generation of leaders.
What we do not understand, we fear. What we fear, we
come to hate. In order to decrease the hatred in our
communities, not just in Atlanta and Johannesburg, but
all over the world, we must increase understanding.
Ultimately, this requires destroying the barriers that