I grapple with the question of safety and security a lot in my daily life. As a woman, I am always hyper aware of people and places that could pose a potential threat to me. As a mother my senses are even more heightened as I look out for any threats to the health, mind and body and spirit of my children. There are numerous news and websites that provide a breakdown of crime stats across the country – for someone like me who already worries so much this – it is like adding fuel to fire.
This heightened sense of worry means I also understand why some parents think that the best scenario for them is to immigrate out of South Africa because of the huge crime rate, social unrest in certain areas, etc.
As part of my vigilance, I belong to my local area’s Facebook and Whatsapp safety group; it is highly informative and provides a sense of community to know we are all being vigilant about the safety of our community, and that if you need assistance someone will come to your aid. This is really reassurance.
But I have also noticed a tendency towards hysteria and blame as well as generalization of certain people based on race and gender. Just this week, someone posted about a BM looking suspicious walking down a certain street. As expected someone responded and went to check, that’s great P, they found out that the gentleman stayed in that street and was walking home (epic fail). The lady then said he had looked nervous that’s why she reported him. I thought about this and realized, I am also nervous walking down my own street- I’ve had the experience of people slowing down to peer at me as I walk, probably thinking she is casing the neighbourhood for crime, or I sometimes wonder if they are not thinking of robbing me, I don’t even like it for my husband to go running in our “safe” neighbourhood, because I’m scared someone will mistake him for a criminal or shoot him, because he looks like he is running away from someone (This is hard though because he loves running). I don’t let my kids play in the streets or too far from me because of fear of someone hurting them. Interesting, my 8 year old son is going to visit my mother in the township, there he will play outside the whole day without worry and I won’t even worry about him as much as I do in my neighbourhood. That is so strange – considering how much emphasis I have around safety.
So the cycle of crime, fear and suspicion continues, and it plays in our minds and makes us even more paranoid. In another example, in one of the online mommy groups, a mom who is a foreigner, wanted to get to Centurion and was asking what is the best mode of transport to get from the airport to Centurion, as she was worried about the xenophobic attacks.The hysteria was so profound – 90% of respondents didn’t give her any advice about taking a cab, taking the GAUTRAIN perhaps, which would have been the easiest, but proceeded to tell her how unsafe it was because what was happening in Durban and spreading hoax messages about busloads of Zulus coming to attack people in Johannesburg. It seems this is how we all deal with feeling unsafe: by spreading more fear.
This way of living makes no sense to me and I feel it does not contribute to quality of life. So I have been thinking I have to do things differently. Immigration is not an option for now as I love this country and I love for my kids to grow up with family and I have travelled enough to know that there is crime everywhere and that in most parts of the world, the fact that I’m bringing up two black young men, will present its own set of worries. So it is the devil I know and all of that.
But I am focused on finding a way to include more strangers in my life, to live a little less fearfully but carefully with all the necessary information. Also to live more joyfully because human interaction is special and amazing, and that’s what I want my kids to grow up knowing.
As an informed citizen, I am participating in organisations that not only fight crime but also work for social upliftment and support. LeadSA which is one of those organisations had this to say:
What can you do every day?
As a parent
- Lead by example. We can’t be perfect all the time, but we can:
- Ensure their physical and emotional safety and well-being.
- Speak to our children as we’d like them to speak to others.
- When driving ensure they are always safely strapped in the back seat.
- Choose nutritional over junk food.
- Help with homework (yes that does mean having to do maths homework all over again!)
- Read them a story at night
- Do what you do best: Lead with Love.
So I am going out there to do my bit, and I find more to do to make my family, my friends and my community safer and stronger. I will continue to not only contribute towards those endeavours, but also to spreading the message so those who want to DO SOMETHING, can DO SOMETHING.