Claudia Hirtenfelder
Claudia Hirtenfelder

I’m exhausted

I’m exhausted by my privilege. I’m exhausted with restaurants filled with primarily white patrons. I’m exhausted that those serving these white consumers are mainly black. I’m exhausted by the ignorance of those in the vicinity to see the difference. I’m exhausted when I climb off a Gautrain bus only to see a man scrounging through the dustbin furiously trying to open up a carton filled with old grapes. I’m exhausted by the men I see carting other people’s waste — recycling and receiving minuscule compensation and recognition. I’m exhausted by lack of tolerance informed by race politics. I’m exhausted of leaders acting without tact. I’m exhausted by the denial that our system still privileges male voices and pockets. I’m exhausted by the numerous bare feet and hungry eyes I encounter on any given day. I’m exhausted by the fact that I’m not doing enough, and I’m exhausted that all of this runs through my mind on a simple walk to work.

I’m exhausted.

But I’d rather be exhausted than ignorant. I’d rather have a pinch of discomfort every time I sit in a restaurant filled with only white consumers than be ignorant to the fact that 20 years after democracy wealth and space are still racially constructed. I’d rather let a man searching for food get my thoughts rambling than turn a blind eye and refuse to see him for what he is – proof that our society remains grossly unequal. I’d rather be cognisant of the people recycling in our cities than curse them for dirtying up the lawn in front of a posh suburb. How dare they! I’d rather be angry at our grossly gendered division of labour and differing gendered pay scales than view it as normal and natural. I’d rather be ashamed at the behaviour of our political leaders and party politicians than shrug it off as another day in SA. I’d rather be exhausted by the bare feet and hungry eyes so that I make a call to friends for shoes they no longer use and give a bucket full of non-perishable foods. I know it’s not enough but it is something, something I would have failed to do had I not been exhausted by the racial, gendered and class politics of our everyday lives.

I’m exhausted.

I would rather be exhausted than ignorant because ignorance it what fuels our acceptance of unequal situations that should make our guts turn. Ignorance is what makes us trepid about our politics. Ignorance is what makes us make shallow statements like “I worked for my wealth”: without recognising the structural advantages that paved the way. Ignorance is not lack of education it is a lack of desire to open your eyes and see our world. Further, it is a lack of willingness to once you see it to think about it, contemplate it, and wonder why and how it has come to be viewed as normal.

I’m exhausted

Yes, I am privileged and my awareness of my privileges in certain situations (not all) makes me tired but I’d rather be exhausted and contemplative than ignorant and unwilling to change. I also realise that my talk about tiredness may sound insensitive because surely those without some of my privileges are far wearier. My point is, I agree. I see their weariness in the face of my privilege and I think about it, I don’t repress it and refuse to acknowledge such divides exist. Indeed, I’d rather have bags under my eyes than cover my face and reality with a make-up that masks the world we truly live in.

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