I remember years ago, doing as I always do, my work in school. I sprained my ankle while in the process, doing a report with a partner and we chose to do an African country that at this time, has had a great taste of racial freedom, but not always. Alex, my classmate, and I chose to do this as our geography assignment required we do a report on Africa, any country therein. While doing my research and dealing with the pain of having to elevate my crippled foot, I never got to touch the surface of Apartheid, the worst acts of racial hatred in a country since Jim Crow 1.0.
Nelson Mandella’s birth was a hundred years ago. He died in 2014, buto he was born on July 18, 1918. In his South African homeland, the white folks colonized and there was a big scramble to grab, choke, and steal most of the African continent. South Africa is home to many peoples, however. The Matabele, many forms of black tribes, and then there were the Afrikaans Dutch folks. Some Africans died in the colonization process, but there were some tribes that stuck around. Whites didn’t like interacting with or having anything to do with blacks.
Mr. Mandella was a freedom fighter, and he happened to be around with us when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in Alabama. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a serious issue at one point, and Mandella, who later in his life met Rosa Parks, cheered her on. Mandella was jailed in the latter part of the nineties, but what got him out? I still don’t know.
As president of South Africa, Mandella redefined the face of race and humanity. If I had had the chance to meet Nelson before he died, I would be pretty floored. The one question I’d ask is, “How can your legacy be used to improve things in America?” Well, Jim Crow 2.0, as I like to call the current racial environment today, would have Mandella crying out from wherever he’s at.
In South Africa, since Nelson’s death, there have been allegations of corruption, namely with Jacob Zuma, who wasn’t that great from what I understood. Nobody really has Mandella’s empathy for the human race, and to think that this man would spur me onward as a revolutionary and a freedom fighter also.
While Nelson Mandella’s legacy might not sound relevant to us, it is. Barack Obama might have looked empathetic, but why would he allow bombs to be dropped on people? Mandella would probably have not allowed bombs to be dropped on every corner of the world. I don’t firmly believe Obama should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize because politicians are rarely if anything going to display their empathy on the back that carries their shirt. However, Mandella as a peaceable man did not get far in travel, as he was listed a Terrorist for a time by the United States. This is a relic of Jim Crow 1.0.
I am sad to say that Nelson Mandella is gone. But who could possibly have told me to just live my life, and racial divisions need not stop me from being with the man I love? No kidding. Mandella and his example set a precedence for the undoing of everything from the bans on interracial marriage in the legislative books to the right of a guy like Trenton to live where he wants, sit with me on a light rail train car or bus, sit with me at restaurants without being told to “go out back and eat scraps, boy.” That kind of mentality should never be allowed. The Civil Rights Movement is likely being eroded because white nationals don’t want to learn the correct history in schools or by exploring museum pieces. AS a woman who was raised by a white and somewhat mixed maternal family, I find it heartbreaking that the blindness and race are the reasons my family not only made up what they did, but don’t accept my husband. Nelson Mandella’s legacy should have told them better. Nelson’s descendants are probably racially mixed, and that’s fine. But we must never forget the kind of things that humanity experiences on a daily basis.
A song that comes to mind in memory of Mandella is the one called Weeping recorded by Josh Groban and Lady Smith Black Mombasa, which contains the following refrain dealing with Apartheid.
It doesn’t matter now, it’s over anyhow.
He tells the world that it’s sleeping.
But as the night came out, I heard its lonely sound.
It wasn’t roaring it was weeping.
It wasn’t roaring it was weeping.
I wish I could say that white nationalism, Neo-Nazism, and other such hateful things could be locked up the same way as Apartheid is in this song. If you’d like to listen to this song, listen carefully to the way a white classical singer and a South African chorus group interpret the lyrics. Of course, hear the drums. Mandella would have and probably did smile as this was released while he was alive. I want to say that the nationalistic viewpoint of America should be not roaring with laughter as unarmed black man after unarmed black man is shot and killed by white people, but should be weeping and dissipating like a cancer that doesn’t progress thanks to drugs and chemo and efforts to fight it off. While cancer cells and racial divides dissipate, I hope that the readership in this blog remembers that Nelson’s legacy had nothing to do with just South Africa. His example is why we need to allow more blacks and whites to hold hands, march and protest hate groups, and show the rest of the country and the planet that love conquers all. Mandella would have been proud to see MEgan Markel who is mixed race marry a royal white guy, but more importantly, I would say that Mandella should have stuck around and seen the ordinary citizens and not celebrities only that are drinking the sweet waters of racial freedom. Trenton, for instance, doesn’t have to walk around in fear that he could be lynched or sold to a cruel master, and doesn’t have to worry about being punished for making love to a white woman, and doesn’t have to worry about being separated from his light skinned brethren in a rail car or bus.
May I add also that we have black friends who are female, and I’ll pick on my friend Jataya from school. She’s mixed, awesome, and has a great sense of humor. Her parents brought her up with not one single racial division or the whole mentality of “Choose what race you want to be.” She can be both. Jataya is free to marry anyone she wants, be served in the same hospitals as white people, have dinner with me and Trenton at a resteaurant, go to the same school or college as me–she attended my high school–and she also knows things that most people wouldn’t. Jataya understands about the importance of Braille, and has drawn smileys on my notes. I don’t often think about race as a reason we’re friends as about 90% of privileged whites do. I don’t care.
While Trenton and Jataya are two close examples of the beneficiaries of Mandella’s legacy, there are many more individuals who must be allowed to do the same. I wonder if South Africa has improved upon its abysmal crime stats, its murder rate, and its racial disparities as Americans must do all of this. LEt’s see if we have.
While a white boy is born into privilege, good schooling, and comes out successful, a young African American boy or a black South African boy might be born into any number of ghettos and townships, all of which usually are poor, with poor housing and healthcare. Black women are twice or even three times as likely to die from pregnancy or maternal complications because healthcare is not equal and affordable because the lady in this example is black. IF she’s lucky, our black lady will have to keep her black sons inside, away from the chances he or they could get into drugs, gangs, or worse. Police officers and white privileged jerks seem to think it’s okay to call out black people for just doing ordinary activities, appearing suspicious in the eyes of whites. Imagine if Jataya got escorted out of Starbucks because some white person called the police on her for doing suspicious activity. Would race play a part? Perhaps. If Jataya were shopping, cleaning lawns, etc., is it right to call the police? No. And these things and activities such as cleaning the lawn, shopping, or getting a Starbucks coffee are not criminal acts, yet police did indeed escort black patrons out the doors and some ignored the calls. Will Trenton, as another example, get arrested for illegally loitering? Or for walking around a grocery store? Or worse, if he had two black male pals with him, will they get arrested or turned away from a pharmacy over a real coupon? These questions sometimes hit me and then I remember what Nelson Mandella and Martin Luther King both envisioned. King envisioned a world where his “four little children” would wake up in a world where they would never be judged by the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. Mandella saw a world without Apartheid, sure, but he also had ambitions about world peace, prosperity for blacks in all areas of the world, and joined hands with civil rights activists such as Rosa Parks. We are too far away from the visions of both these icons to say we’ve accomplished a mission that dates back to the colonial days here in America. We can’t wave our banner until equality for all races is realized, both de jure and de facto segregation thrown away, AFrican Americans are granted the right to exist, marry, and do as they please. And one more, disabled people in all races should be allowed to exist, whether black or white. Mandella never understood the intersectionality between disability and race and inequality that exists today. As Mandella aged, due to his importance, he received good healthcare. But what about the elder blacks here in the States that fight for their care? IF Trenton, an ordinary citizen, can’t care for himself for all I know when he’s 99 years old, it’s not his fault. He would need constant or at least some physical care and in his own home with his wife and family. We’d never advocate throwing away our family in nursing care, but this happens all too often. Elderly black females are not entitled to the same care as elder white females, and this must change. To fulfill Mandella’s legacy, let’s show the rest of the planet what humanity is capable of doing and make life equal for all blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, disabled people, elders, and many more.
Thank you, Nelson Mandella, for your legacy of peace and determination, and rest in the valley of freedom.
If you were here, you would be a hundred years old today.