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Covid-19: Check Your Privilege

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Malcom Gertse

Bridging Department Coordinator

Monday, 23 March 2020


As I watched President Cyril Ramaphosa's Covid-19 address on Monday, the 22nd of March 2020, I knew it was going to be a major adjustment and would affect all of our lives. However, what also kept going through my mind was how Covid-19 would specifically impact the lives of the poor and marginalised of our country?

As this pandemic grew, many South Africans stocked up on their supplies and made plans to stay indoors during the 21-day lockdown. However, the poor and marginalised of our country had to take on the additional worry of Covid-19, while still struggling to cater for their basic needs. Countless families in township communities worried about how they would look after their families, access food, water, medical supplies, and use public transport to get to their ‘essential service’ jobs.

As the lockdown went through its first few days, social media went into a frenzy with posts complaining about certain South Africans “not abiding” to the lockdown regulations. These posts were almost always addressed to those living in township communities. I thought to myself, “fair enough, this is a life-threatening illness that we are dealing with, but have these people thought about how Covid-19 was affecting the everyday person?”.

How about the person who was unable to stock up their cupboards with the necessary items needed to meet their basic needs? Many South Africans only received their weekly wages on the very same day the lockdown started! What those on social media seemed to forget, was that many South Africans still live day to day and hand to mouth.

Many people struggle to afford R10 of electricity per day. So how could we have expected them to buy in bulk for the 21 days, if they can’t even afford to buy their basic necessities in normal circumstances?

Yes, we are supposed to be in a lockdown, however, if you managed to stock up your household needs ahead of the actual lockdown, this would be classified as a privilege. I acknowledge that I am speaking from a point of privilege. I am privileged because I only share a house with a few other people, 2 dogs and a cat. I am privileged because I have an internet connection at home and can work remotely. I am privileged because I have running water in my home, and I am privileged because I have electricity. I am privileged because I can take a break when needed, in the comfort of my own backyard, and I am privileged because I am able to open the fridge and find food inside.

To those throwing insults online to people in townships still being outside, I’d like to ask you to check your privilege. Look around you, are you sitting inside a home that has running water, sanitiser, food in the cupboard, and a toilet? Are you inside your home with people you feel safe with? If you answered yes to those questions, then you are privileged. As individuals, and as South Africans, we must recognise our privilege and see how this manifests when we are in our homes, at school, work, church and in our community.

Now is the time to reflect and introspect. We need to recognise and acknowledge how unequal South Africa really is. This pandemic has given us a good look at the already existing inequalities in our country, and how the impact of such pandemics continue to affect the marginalised, poor, poverty-stricken and vulnerable the most.

It's during times like this that we need to look around and see what change we can bring to our communities. Things will probably never go back to “normal” as we know it, so let’s use this time to think about how we can use our privilege to positively change lives, and close our inequality gap.

It is the small things we do in our everyday lives that matter. In a time like this, we need to make a conscious decision to change and make a paradigm shift to become Everyday Activists. There is still time to do this. You just need to take the first step.


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