Foreign but not outcast

A friend posted something on Facebook that stopped me in my tracks. The snip was on the vitriolic xenophobia which rears its head all too often in the Southern Suburbs of beautiful Cape Town. I find myself in an odd position. I am foreign, but few people beyond my circle know that.

It’s not a great secret. It is just that I come from Zimbabwe, so I have a similar accent and I use similar slang. Not exactly the same, but similar enough that few people notice the difference. It’s only when someone addresses me in Afrikaans and I respond with a glazed expression that my heritage is revealed. I am white, I am educated, I appear to fit in.

I do not belong here any more than those who are abused. I, too, am from another African country. I, too, have come here in search of employment and a better life. But I am not viewed in that way. Or at least I have never had to defend myself against such a view.

Whoever the scary immigrants are – I am not a part of the problem.

And yet I experience all of the tiny frustrations and bigger existential crises of not quite belonging. From having to use my passport as my identification document to being threatened that I will be evicted from my place of work if my documentation is not up to date.

If you have never been a foreigner, you will never quite understand the sense of disconnect. Of knowing you are in the right place and yet not quite belonging. I cannot begin to imagine having to bear the brunt and indignity of xenophobia at the same time!



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