Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Friendly Reminder

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While At Times It's Easy To Go Unnoticed...

by Darvis White

While at times it's easy to go unnoticed, once the cover's blown it's another story. All of a sudden voices start to change,
walks start to resemble limps, and of course the n-word gets its mandatory test drive. It's kinda funny because many of my conversations here would have ended in altercations back home. I've been told sternly on more than one ocassion that I'm not a Black American because I'm not wearing a chain.

Yet I usually try to forget the statements people say because remembering them accomplishes nothing except reminding me that I'm nothing like the people I look like. As a volunteer this is probably one of the only times in my life that I feel like I have more in common with people who don't look like me. I actually scared myself the other day when I was hanging with some volunteers and I saw myself in a mirror.

As (chainless) Black American Male it can be tricky dodging the role of representative and spokesperson for an entire demographic. Sometimes I like to shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know," but then that would only add to the disinformation portrayed in popular media. Race is a complicated issue in the states and it's even harder to explain here. I often wonder if some of my frustrations are specific to South Africa. Or maybe I'm just looking for an excuse.

Yet sometimes I feel like the South African friends I have made here have become converts through countless translations of "Black American language". 

Whether it's explaining what "the crib" means at 12:30am or being introduced to the family of someone whose name you can't remember in a town you definitely don't remember, I find that it's worth it to be patient and share my "culture" with them. It's also ironic that a lot of the things I turned my nose up at back home have become the things I'm proud of now. But I guess that's a part of me discovering who I am in the isolation that I'm experiencing here.

The more something stands out, the more you get a grasp of its definition.

Darvis is a CHOP (Community HIV/AIDS Outreach Project) volunteer working in the Mpumalanga Province.

Now that vacations are ending and work is just inching it's way to getting started, it's the perfect time to take a few moments to reflect on your Peace Corps experience. Why not write those reflections down and submit them to the Diversity Blog? E-mail jade.lamb@gmail.com if you have something you'd like to post, or even just an idea you'd like to cover. Remember, all of our experiences are diverse--and so all can be relevant to this blog.