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Die Student
Recognize your own privilege
Caitlin Kotze
Caitlin Kotze

We often complain of all the things we don’t have, and we forget to be mindful of the things we do have.

That’s what this is all about.

To be conscious of one’s privileges. For a person of colour in South Africa, these privileges were hardly present a generation or two ago.

This piece is for the born-free generation that carries a silver spoon, to which so many of us turn a blind eye. Whether or not your privilege exclusively relates to your race, is not the emphasis, rather that it is there.

Through no doing of their own, some students have certain advantages in their lives, but it is important to recognise that it is there.

This isn’t to shame or guilt-trip you for the circumstances in which you find yourself. This is rather to open your eyes to the advantages you have and maybe realize that not every student is in the same position as you are. For example, if you do not rely on public transport, you are privileged to either stay on campus or have your own vehicle.

Financial privilege

Privilege comes in many different forms; perhaps the most distinct being financial and given our country’s history, inequality still stretches along racial lines.

For our generation – the born frees – we’ve hardly paid any attention to the strange concept of “privilege” and it’s hardly ever spoken about.

Recent events on Stellenbosch campus have brought to my attention how blind I’ve been all this time…

Privilege, in this case, is not being remotely concerned with where that food could have gone.

One afternoon, while having lunch, some students didn’t finish the meal that they bought in the Neelsie. Following which they threw the rest of their lunch in the bin without a second thought.

I asked if they have finished eating. “No,” they nonchalantly replied. I thought to myself “wow, aren’t we privileged?” but said nothing.

Privilege, in this case, is not being remotely concerned with where that food could have gone.

Circumstantial privilege

Many people in South Africa and even some of our peers struggle with hunger, yet this is seldom recognisd.

I think of the times my mother told me about her life and how her ambition was driven by her circumstances. She told me of how there were nights she and her four other sisters would go to bed hungry.

While at university she didn’t have campus accommodation, which meant she had to stay in a student house somewhere off campus. The house was a suburb away from the University of the Western Cape. When there weren’t buses or taxis on that route, she walked.

READ MORE: If you could change anything in the Constitution, what would it be?

The accommodation on campus was reserved for white students and her parents weren’t wealthy enough to afford a car. I am a third year, BA International Studies student. I have never stayed in the res and I am staying at home, driving in and out every day to campus.

I am fortunate enough to stay close to campus and come home to a cooked meal every evening. It’s understandable that everyone’s circumstances differ.

When I heard that the university was going to start charging for the shuttle services, I was outraged. Not because it affected me directly, but because the students make use the shuttle service are clearly in need of that service. And they are often part of marginalised groups.

My mom didn’t have the option of staying at home and commuting to and from campus every day, because she came from a small town outside Cape town, as many students often do.

When I heard that the university was going to start charging for the shuttle services, I was outraged. Not because it affected me directly, but because the students make use the shuttle service are clearly in need of that service. And they are often part of marginalized groups.

Mind the injustice

The voices of those that fall between the bigger categories are equally as important as the masses.

Certain issues may not directly apply to you, but understanding the subtle injustices done to your fellow students may go a lot further than you realize.

Realize your privilege. Accept it.

Now help those that need it.

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