During these holidays I got a random book from the local library – a biography of Nelson Mandela. What a short but intense story.
Having grown up in Venezuela and lived most of my adult life in Canada and Japan I probably have not been exposed to blatant racism like in some countries – like in some areas the US, let alone in South Africa. That is why every time I read stories about racism they send me into an inner-thought process – gratitude for what I have, sadness thinking about people who have endured this, but most of all, shock at how recent this all is.
Media an movies do some job at portraying the harshness of racism. (Though sometimes I am still shocked, can you believe it was part of the apartheid plan to deny South African citizenship to black people? Yeah…). But, what’s still is hard do comprehend is the recency of all these racist institutions, policies, and thinking.
I was in middle-school and apartheid was a thing! That means there are some folks my age who grew up under apartheid. Which means that their parents were basically one level up from slaves. Some of the people in leadership during this era are still around, today.
I think back at all the opportunities I had growing up and try to imagine how my life would be if I had none of it – good schools, play time, food, security. There is no way I would be in the same place. How upset I would be.
Then you hear that racism is over and that today are the individual merits that count… Maybe that second part is true in some cases, but how fair is it that people who grew in semi-slavery conditions (trying not to go hungry, fending for security) are competing with folks that had a rosy upbringing (time to play and study, not worrying about food or security)? I honestly cannot imagine.
Then again, there has always been the haves and have-nots and thinking that everyone should have the same level of childhood is just wishful thinking. But this is not the same, is it? This is not a group of privileged people being more talented or luckier than others. This is the result of very recent policies from one group blocking the progress of the other.
…I am sure there is more depth and nuance to this topic. And who knows what the solution could be. But, in my case, this is the kind of thought that stories like this provoke.