The Dark Continent: The Politics of Invisibility
“Look into the countryside to find the truth about a city.” This I find to be a universal truth. Parallels can be made between the south or west sides of Chicago and townships in Cape Town. Comparisons can be drawn from neighborhoods like East Cleveland or Englewood (communities in the states) to the experiences of people in areas like Khayelitsha and Guguletu in South Africa. There is an experience of poverty that crosses over oceans and settles in continents only to finds itself in the American “inner city” but also in the outskirts of Cape Town’s city-bowl. I find stamps that are labeled with a title of invisibility placed onto the lives of those who are seen as disadvantaged. This attempt to ignore, displace, and erase is now a common international occurrence, especially when any type of “outsider” enters into a country, but more specifically any type of foreign “space.”
Last year the country of South Africa put on one of the largest world productions. This is the type of event that is only rivaled by events like the Olympics. The FIFA World Cup was centered around the two largest cities in South Africa: Cape Town and Johannesburg. This was one of the few times that FIFA took a chance to host the World Cup in an “untraditional country.” So the world’s eyes were waiting to see if South Africa would /could successfully host an event of this caliber. The general consensus was that the country did a great job, and almost all the soccer matches and surrounding events happened perfectly. But the success of the world cup is pushed into the peripheral of this blog, and the countries attempt to make marginalized communities invisible is moved into the core.
In preparation for the world cup citizens of South Africa were literally displaced. Houses or what I have heard some call “shanties” were torn down, and president Zuma literally sent out a “shoot to kill” warning to more heavily police criminal activity in the city. Through these actions and actions similar to it, people who were already living on the margins, experienced secondary marginalization. Not to mention these communities already had a lack of resources and an overload of human rights violations, only to add to the horror, they were pushed even further out, specifically so these areas would not be viewed by Europeans who would come for the World Cup. This process remains both a blatant and vicious cycle in the politics of invisibility.
When the government decides what can be seen and what can not be seen by “outsiders,” when homeless people are rounded up in the city like cattle, then moved to areas outside of the city (this actually happened in the states) and when homes are torn down because they don’t fit what authorities want others to see of them, we find the politics of invisibility.
This is just like living in a dirty house and trying to hide the dirt when you have visitors. (If this is you, stop being nasty) No matter if they see the dirt or not, it will not make you a cleaner person. And hiding it usually only makes the problem worse. I want to be clear that this metaphor does not get misconstrued. By “dirt” I mean people in power trying to privatize water and give even less access to services in poor communities. By “dirt” I mean how the government has yet to provide adequate schools and teaching facilities for tens of thousands of people in South Africa. By “dirt” I mean how people are abandoned and then disrupted anytime a world microscope is placed over the country.
I am an outsider in this country; however, I can make the connection to what I have seen in my own country (which is not as progressive and developed as many would like to believe). Situations like this are exactly why people on the south side of Chicago were happy when the 2016 Olympic bid was rejected. Because they knew many people would once again fall into the pattern of being ignored, displaced, and erased. These problems are universal and they will ultimately take a universal effort to even begin to fix them.