Coffee Shop Conversations

Viewer discretion is advised.  The following post contains thoughts and opinions that you may not agree with.  I tried to be as objective as possible.

Last night I was invited to have pizza at a place in the (in)famous Long Street.  I was in a group with local South Africans, studying different disciplines at UCT.  It was great for me because I had been craving pizza for a long time, and the company was great.  (Balsamic vinegar on pizza is genius!)  I was able to meet new people, have a drink, and enjoy myself.  After our meal, we went to sit at a coffee shop, where we got into a conversation that got political, in a good way.

Over our lattes, hot chocolates, and cappuccinos (there were only 6 of us), I was quickly impressed by how much they knew about American politics.  Actually, they said, it’s pretty ridiculous how much more they know about American politics than they do about South African politics.

Here are some things that we talked about:

[I don’t even know where to start!]

There is major dislike for Donald Trump because he made overarching racist comments about Mexicans that cannot be true for all Mexicans.  He does not fully understand what is happening in the Middle East.  He is hypocritical about his manufacturing in China, but it’s sad how a lot of American enterprise is exploiting Chinese workers.

If China stopped all production, even for a short while, the American economy might collapse.  They know that the US in major debt, trillions of dollars.  They know that China’s GDP has overtaken the US’, and it could be possible that China is on the way to be a world super power.  China has started making relations with many African countries.

They don’t think that Jeb Bush would be a good candidate to be president; they joke that there really shouldn’t be another Bush.  They also hope that people don’t vote for Jeb Bush because they want to elect another family member.  They have noticed that Hillary Clinton has been inconsistent with her beliefs and her promises over the years, even claiming that she only endorses the view that is most popular.  They fear that Hillary may only get elected because she will be the first woman president.

The don’t understand how in the US, there are only two major political parties.  How could you represent the whole American population with only liberal or conservative views?  This is why Bernie Sanders is impressive because first, he has been consistent throughout the whole time he’s been in politics, despite the fact that he was an outlier way back when, second, he isn’t backed by major corporations or billionaires, and third, he is an independent.

They want to vote in US elections (actually, I got figure out how to vote now that I’ll be abroad in November…), and they know that voting participation rates are really low.  How could it be possible that what gets passed is how the nation really feels?  In addition, elections are swayed by big businesses and corporations.

The don’t understand why the US has the right to bear arms now (it made sense then but not so much now), and they know that the US has major issues with racism (reminder: they come from South Africa).  They know about the Charleston shooting and the Ferguson shooting.  They point out that that kind of crime only really happens in the US, so it doesn’t make sense why there is a right to bear arms.  They agree with me that the racism that people experience in the US is not necessary always blatant, but systematic racism.  There is structural racism within society, where there are clearly people with advantages and disadvantages.

They have also noticed the major inequalities in the US in cities like Atlanta and Detroit.  The find it appalling that the inequality in the US between the rich and the poor, especially between rich whites and poor blacks, is worse than it was in apartheid South Africa.  Let me remind you again, apartheid is institutionalized racism where black and coloured people were essentially forced into poverty.

But, in the end, they also believe that the US is a great place to visit.  No matter how the elections turn out next year, the whole world is going to affected because of how much of an influence the US has over the rest of the world.  This is why they have to learn US history and politics, but they find it unfair that many Americans (like myself) don’t know much about South African history, not even African history.  They are curious about the kind of education that Americans receive in the US, as it is from the American perspective.

We talked about South African politics too.  It was clear that they weren’t very passionate about their own politics as they were about America’s.  One of them did mention that he didn’t feel like the ANC does enough for the poor.  But, the communities in the townships will always vote for the ANC because they don’t always have full knowledge of the political happenings.  Additionally, he believes that the people still living in the townships expect that they should receive government handouts without work, as a compensation for over 40 years of apartheid.  Of course, the government can’t just give everyone who lives in a township a nice house with all the amenities, he said.

As they were critical about what is going on the US, they are also aware and critical of all that happens in South Africa from Oscar Pistorius, the poor education system, HIV, rape, and lots of other issues.

I truly had a very interesting conversation with my new friends last night.  It reminds of me of the conversations that I would have with my peers at Berkeley.  It was really interesting to hear from an outside perspective of what other people thought about the US.

Over and out.

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