Are We Still Separate but Equal Peoples Today?

Apartheid was a time of separation of people, and an intentional lack of equality.  The South African government was full of corruption and manipulation and damaged many lives.  Despite all of the damage and effects that are still visible today, South Africa is working out of the hole that apartheid dug to improve quality of life for all South African citizens.  Apartheid was declared over in 1994 but has left damage that still shows today.

In 1990, Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners were released by political action of FW De Klerk.  Immediate steps were undertaken to bring down apartheid.  Nelson Mandela and the ANC party worked to turn South Africa from a white minority ruling to a Democracy.  In addition, a bill of rights was created to ensure equality amongst all people of South Africa.  For too long had the humanity of most South Africans been ignored.  Once the democracy was created and Mandela made president, immediate action was taken to begin breaking down the damage of Apartheid.  Unfortunately, changes are far more difficult to make once the ideas are integrated into culture.

One of the first places the new government wanted to modify was the living situations of the population.  During apartheid, people were forcibly removed from their homes into overcrowded townships and shanty-towns.  These overcrowded living conditions triggered rapid spread of sickness for which there was not adequate health care.  In fact, patients would often die before getting the opportunity to speak with a doctor.  The worst place for people to be situated was in prison in which human rights were frequently violated and there were miserable living conditions that also encouraged disease and sickness.  Fortunately, with the new democracy, plans were immediately initiated to turn shanty-towns to more developed homes and to reduce the sicknesses that plague this environment.  In some of the more populated areas, homes were built and in the remainder of the country, electricity and fresh water were supplied.  Today, most of these locations are drastically improved and less populated, but it is clear that work needs to be done to provide homes and better environments for the people.

Another important issue resolved with the end of apartheid was the Separate Amenities Act.  This was a law that had all public resources separated for whites and non-whites.  There was so much more equality amongst people after apartheid when they were not frequently being divided.  An aspect of apartheid life removed that was particularly important was the passbooks.  These horrible books governed when and where a person without white skin could be.  Laws and restrictions such as these were agents of apartheid that have built upon any racism we have today.  Also, with people being forced into townships, many “non-whites” have gone through a lot of difficulty with the issues of illness, gangs, drugs, and prostitution.  In fact, these very problems multiply upon themselves: prostitution can spread HIV/AIDs and gangs and drugs typically increase the amount of crime.  These issues make the bridge to complete equality and better living conditions more difficult, as funds need to be extended to new areas to make assistance worthwhile.

Today, people are still found in the shanty-towns and prostitution, gangs and drugs are still being minimized, but what is not gone and should never be taken away are the memories of apartheid.  Apartheid only ended in 1994, just two decades ago: the fight for freedom and equality are still fresh in the minds of many.  These memories of apartheid will never leave these people that experienced it, but they should also never be forgotten.  The author of Jakaranda Time, Zenzile Khoisan, who was part of the investigation of human rights violations during apartheid, has helped to record thousands of statements and recollections.  The only problem is that these are all bottled up somewhere: there is very limited access to these documents.  In order to truly remove apartheid, it must be acknowledged as a period in history.  Stories must be recounted, remembered, and available.  Fortunately, the people that carry memories of apartheid are still active in making South Africa a place of more equality.  In the government, today there is far better representation of South African peoples with many levels of courts that are all interested in advancing South Africa.  Even in personal relationships change is being made: the political prisoners and the officers from Robben Island can speak to one another without loathing one another.  Progression is being made, but it is incredibly important that apartheid is recognized as a part of South African history.

Educating people is one of the most important things to do in South Africa right now.  People must learn about apartheid, what it meant and what it means now.  Not only this, but a strong base must be created for the future of South Africa.  Unfortunately, educating the children of South Africa is more difficult because of apartheid.  One of the acts intended to separate and to disadvantage all people of colour was the Bantu Education Act.  This set aside kids that were not white to other schools with fewer resources and less education.  With the poor education these kids received, it must be difficult for them as adults to find high enough paying jobs to afford higher education for their children.  Poor education from apartheid time also has other implications: there is also false knowledge that still exists that is damaging to society as a whole.  One of these false beliefs is that sex with a virgin will cure a person of HIV/AIDs.  This false belief has made the streets a more dangerous place for people, particularly children.  The effects of apartheid can be worn away with education so this should be a priority of South Africa.

Although apartheid is written in the books as being over, there are still many aspects of it that continue to thrive in South Africa.  To truly eliminate apartheid as a part of life in South Africa, education and the documentation of apartheid are priorities.  The past cannot and should not be forgotten.  It must be accepted and dealt with.  Like slavery in the United States, we must remember how it has changed who we are today and its implications on our culture.  The time has passed in which people point fingers at one another; now knowledge and harmony between people are important.  Gradually, the embedded racism will diminish but the history will remain.  Apartheid must be placed solely where it belongs: “in a museum.”[1]


[1] Apartheid Museum quotation

This entry was posted in Class of 2013 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Are We Still Separate but Equal Peoples Today?

  1. jmercer2 says:

    I love the question that you pose as the title. I think about this still in the religious sector. There are people that are white and black that celebrate the same religion but choose to celebrate it in different segregated churches. I do not know if this is because of physical location or differences within our culture. We would like it if segregation and Apartheid were only found in museums but the sad fact is that segregation continues to occur. People stay segregated due to tradition and due to social class differences. As we walked into the Methodist church in South Africa, I felt out of place even though I was also of Christian denomination. We were in the same room but I felt as though our culture was too conflicted and it made it difficult to feel at home.

Comments are closed.