Africa has a way of cracking open your heart. I’m struck by the stark contrast between the lives of blacks and whites, even 20 years after Apartheid. The animals in the game reserves are locked behind electric fences. The South African people can’t get out easily either, the Visa process makes international travel prohibitive to those who lack money, skills, or education. For many people and wild animals, parts of Africa can be like a giant box. I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude that I’m free to visit this amazing place and see with my own eyes the rugged beauty of it all.
My extreme privilege at being allowed easy access to the world is because I’m American, and it helps that I am educated and white. I’m amazed at how easily I can take my privileges in life for granted. The vast differences between my life in America and what I experienced in Africa is staggering. I was face to face with elephants, baboons and zebras and native South Africans—both black and white. Some animals thrived while others appeared sick. Some people I met there were positive and appeared generally happy about their lives, while others seemed negative and critical.
The privilege I enjoy simply from the color of my skin and my birthplace is nothing more than that, luck and circumstance. What’s most important for me to remember is that we are all the same, all creatures of this world. Differences fall away when I can clearly see my advantage in life is based on these circumstances. I have no right to comfort and freedom, I was born into it. I’m not smarter or more deserving. It’s heartbreaking, really, to be be so far from home and see this part of Africa in stark relief to the world I know and the privileges I enjoy.
I always wanted to travel the world. I never dreamed I would be invited to Europe, Alaska, Africa, Mexico and the Caribbean and that I would attend fantastic events meet so many interesting and wonderful lesbians along the way.