Our first day in Cape Town. Finally. It was here. After arriving in the late morning and being beyond exhausted, we trudged along through the airport, a cab ride, and into our hotel room. (Truly a first world problem that we were exhausted from our extensive traveling.) We were only staying in this hotel room for one night, so there was no point in getting too settled. After some much needed showers, we sat on the couch and tipped over into a surprise nap.
3 hours later we awoke to hunger.
Because we were staying in the city centre, we decided on a delicious sushi place. We were excited to be in warmer weather and thought it better to walk to dinner. While walking, I am overcome with memories of my 2013 trip to South Africa. My excitement is bubbling over and probably annoying the rest of my group members. But since I did not have my tour guide like last year, I did not know where I was particularly going. I was on my limited phone data looking at maps while we walked.
While fumbling on my phone with directions, I put the phone on my side to look at the space around me to see if I’m on the correct path. I was then approached by a 2 men. One of the men attempted to grab my phone from the opposite hand by reaching across my body. He was unsuccessful, which made him then grab my wrist and hit me. He and his friend continue to walk without looking back at my fellow travelers or myself. Professor Owens confronts them as they walk away and they reply with expletives.
There is that moment when adrenaline is running through you and you have a confusing response. My response was to not do anything. I had a look of confusion and concern on my face after it happened. After adrenaline is in your bloodstream and your body attempts to return to a state of rest, there is an unstable feeling. This happens when a police pulls up behind you with their lights on but pulls over another car. There is a feeling of shakiness and your body continues to be on high alert. Although I enjoyed my dinner and knew I was safe after we got into the restaurant, my body was recovering for the rest of the evening.
I began to process what happened with my group during dinner because we are a group of Social Workers and we love to process. My professor was infuriated because this individual was a Black male and he is perpetuating a stereotype of an untrustworthy and aggressive individual. She continued to be visibly angry for the rest of the night and will always be upset. There is only so much you can do in the moment and you think of things that you should have said or did in the moment but was not able to do. Retrospect is 20/20. But why was it me? Was it because of the phone in my hand or was it something else? Was it the way I look? Was it the way I look in comparison to the others in my group and look weakest? Was it my positioning on the sidewalk in relation to him?
I was initially scared and shaken up. A stranger on the street, for absolutely no reason, has never assaulted me. I then felt justification for this individual trying to steal my phone. I knew afterwards that I should not have had it visible on the streets due to my time in Cape Town prior. Which is the victim blaming mentality of “I should have know better” and “I had it coming”. I then moved to the thought that individual could have truly needed the money from potentially selling the phone to pay for responsibilities he had. I would have rather him just ask for money than feeling it necessary to intimidate me. Then I was just pissed.
The final emotion I felt for him was pity. He felt desperate enough in his life situation to abuse a stranger in broad daylight. He used an intimidation and scare tactic of a weak theft attempt and a punch to expose his power. The problem was, he has no power. If someone is that desperate, they have probably have no control or power over their own life. He was abusing his LACK of power by abusing me. He had me scared, blaming myself, angry, and finally feeling pity for him. By having these feelings, that gives him power. By giving him thought, I would be giving him power. I will not think of him any further, because he has NO power in relation to me.
I hope he finds peace within his life situation and makes positive changes.