How Bill Cosby saved South Africa

Posted by stephanie on Apr 24th, 2009
2009
Apr 24

The other day I had the privilege of sitting down and chatting with Dave Steward, current executive director of the FW de Klerk Foundation, former UN Ambassador, and former Director-General in the Office of the President under FW de Klerk (basically the Chief of Staff for the prez).  FW de Klerk was president of South Africa from 1989-1994, and is best known for engineering the end of apartheid in South Africa (for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 alongside Nelson Mandela).  Therefore, Mr. Steward played an intimate role in the government that ended apartheid in South Africa, so you can imagine how much of an honor it was for me to meet him.

The FW de Klerk Foundation was established in 2000, and its goal is to promote peace in multi-community states and to maintain the constitutional government.  The Foundation sees the key to the peace in the 21st century as accommodating cultural diversity in states, especially in an increasingly globalized world.  The main work of the Foundation is done through its Centre for Constitutional Rights, which was established three years ago to support and uphold the South African Constitution, monitor developments, test legislation with regards to constitutionality, inform people of their constitutional rights, put together coalitions, and offer pro-bono legal advice for constitutional matters.  It works to uphold the legacy and goals of FW de Klerk’s administration.

In our discussion of South African history, politics, and freedom, Mr. Steward and I were in agreement that freedom and democracy, though used interchangeably by many, are in fact, not the same thing.  Mr. Steward used the example of Hong Kong to illustrate his point that while not a democracy, Hong Kong has quite a free society, especially when looking at it economically (it is ranked #1 in terms of economic freedom in the world).  Mr. Steward believes that free societies are those that allow for the most individual freedom, which in turn leads to more personal empowerment.  The measure of a society’s freedom is the sum total of the citizens individual freedoms.  In fact, his definition of freedom is “the maximum ability for individuals to take decisions with minimum interference from the state or other outside forces within the framework of the law.”

Mr. Steward went on to describe South Africa as a 5-tiered cake, based on its diversity of socio-economic statuses and multi-racial communities.   The first-tier is made up of around 13-14 million South Africans.  This group includes the black populations still in the tribal homelands operating under tribal institutions and laws.  The second-tier includes around 4 million people.  This includes black and colored workers on white-owned farms.  The people in this tier live in large communities (a farmer’s family can have up to 100 tenant workers) and have low wages.  There is a paternalistic relationship between masters and workers.  The third-tier consists of 12 million South Africans who are first-generation city dwellers.  These are the township dwellers, many who live in the shantytowns.  These people come to the city looking for economic opportunities.  The fourth-tier is the urban working class—families who have lived in the city for a couple of generations.  They are more educated, have jobs, and higher expectations.  This group is more politically motivated than the third-tier, and more integrated with western culture.   The fifth-tier of South African society consists of 6-7 million people who live to a first-world standard.  This is now composed of about half white and half non-white populations.  This tier has experienced rapid change since 1994.

To put this into perspective with the major South African political parties, the ANC has wide-appeal across the country, but Jacob Zuma in particular appeals to the Zulu population, which is the first-tier of South African society and one of the largest segments.  The DA appeals to the upper layers of society, but Mr. Steward believes they have a growth ceiling of 15-20%.  COPE is a new political party for this election and has support among the Xhosa supporters and supports of the former president Mbeki.

An important point that Mr. Steward made is that that changing economic relationships change outmoded social and constitutional relationships.  During the FW de Klerk stage of South African history and the time preceding it, there were great socio-economic forces at work in the country.  The end of apartheid did not come over night, or was the result of one incident or event, but began a few decades before the official end came under FW de Klerk.  In the 1970s in South Africa there was rapid economic growth within the country that brought black South Africans into the economy.  The gap changed from the enormous share of the economy belonging to the whites to a much smaller divide that resulted in changing power relationships.  There were also huge developments in education, and by 1994 there were more black kids in university than whites.  In Steward’s opinion, apartheid was destroyed by ordinary citizens making their own economic decisions, which was more effective than international sanctions.  Also, the introduction of the Cosby Show to South Africa changed many people’s view of the relationship between white and black people, and showed a different model than many people were used to.  The Huxtable family is quite impressive, but who knew they played such a big role in ending apartheid in South Africa?

Another important factor to the end of apartheid was the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The National Party (the party of FW de Klerk) didn’t do in 1980 what it did in 1993 because of the concern about the communist affiliations that the ANC had.  The NP did not want South Africa turning into a communist state, so many of the policies that it wanted to enact had to wait, but were quickly put into motion after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Steward grew up in a diplomatic family, spending much of his childhood in Canada and the UK, which he believes definitely shaped his view of the races and why he helped to end apartheid in South Africa because he didn’t grow up with the same ingrown hatred of many, whether from the Anglo-Boer tension or tensions between different races.  It is always interesting to think about how much of who we are is shaped by who we were and where we came from.  We can learn from who we were and change, both for better and worse. Different ways of life and upbringings can also help change and shape those when they become exposed to them.  I think that South Africa is learning from who it was and changing for the better.

Elections and Erections

Posted by stephanie on Apr 18th, 2009
2009
Apr 18

Last night I went to a play written by and starring South Africa’s most famous cross-dresser, Pieter-Dirk Uys.  The play, entitled Elections and Erections, is a satirical look at two things that were illegal in South Africa for most of his life, democracy and sex, and how his interest in politics arose because of an erection.  Using the medium of theatre, Pieter-Dirk Uys exercises one of the most important rights to him—his freedom of speech (www.epp.org.za).  Against a backdrop of past and present political posters, Uys presents himself as a series of characters to comment on the political situation in South Africa and the world (the were plenty of references to politics in America…even dating back to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and more recently to the optimism that the election of Obama brought to the world).  With national elections less than a week away in South Africa, Uys wants to make the message clear on how important voting is for everyone, and does it in such a humorous and moving way that I’m about ready to get in line to vote on Wednesday.  As an outsider to South Africa, and a newcomer to trying to understand the politics and psyche of the country, I cannot say that I understood all of the nuances or references in the play (not to mention the parts that were in Afrikaans), but I had a great time.

He opens the play with a sketch involving Hilary and Bill Clinton, and then goes to a skit with him portraying an older white South African woman as the cleaner in the White House that is now occupied by an African-American family (reversing the idea of the role of master and servant in South Africa based on racial lines).  He parodies the problems and solutions at the Home Affairs office.  He also discusses the lack of legacy left by Thabo Mbeki, the singing, dancing, and preaching of the soon to be president Jacob Zuma (and of course parodies the infamous Zuma response that taking a shower after having unprotected sex with an HIV positive person will prevent AIDS).  In a more serious moment, Uys sits and talks candidly to the audience about an experience he had growing up with a coloured boy that changed his sensibilities about races and the divides that exist in South Africa.

The second act of the play involves Uys famous alter ego Evita Bezuidenhout.  This part of the show involved audience participation, and even allowed the audience to ask Evita questions about the upcoming election because, as Evita says, democracy is about asking questions and demanding answers.  There are also many references to the hope and optimism of the 27 April 1994 elections that brought Nelson Mandela into power and lifted South Africa out of the shame of apartheid.

Although the play is a satire at heart, it is also remarkably inspiring.  Uys recognizes how young and fragile the South African democracy is, saying that in South Africa, the democracy is so young that its voice hasn’t even broken yet (although just about everything else about it is broken).  Another one of my favorite moments was when Uys talks to the Zuma doll he had made, and the promises Zuma makes to the country are to “yield to the left so that nothing is right.  And to yield to the right so that nothing is left.”  Uys wants his message to be to the politicians of South Africa that “No, you can’t!” (in reference to Obama’s campaign slogan Yes We Can!) No they can’t continue with the ridiculousness and corruption that is creating a bad image of democracy in the country and not allowing the country to move forward.  South Africans must keep their politicians accountable, and to do this, everyone must vote.

Election Day

Museums in Johannesburg

Posted by stephanie on Apr 13th, 2009
2009
Apr 13

Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum is located in Johannesburg and one of the main reasons why I wanted to add Joburg to my itinerary (and definitely worth it!)  The term “apartheid” derives from Dutch and means separateness.  Basically, apartheid propagated the idea that people not of European descent were sub-human, and it stifled the culture, education, and ambition of other races, most severely that of the Blacks.  Apartheid policies were implemented in 1948 when the Afrikaner-dominated National Party took control of the government under D.F. Malan. People were classified into the racial groups of White, Black, Colored, and Indian.  Segregation became the norm, and Blacks were even stripped of their citizenship.  Hendrik Frensch  Verwoerd is considered the most influential politician in the growth of apartheid, called it the “policy of good neighborliness.”  There is a lot to know about apartheid, and I spent about 3 ½ hours in the museum, so I don’t think I can get into all of the specifics here!  I walked away from the museum drained because of the amount of information and the weightiness of the topic, but it is a fantastic museum.  The remnants of apartheid can still be felt today.  Apartheid was dismantled from 1990-1993, culminating in the elections of 1994 when Nelson Mandela was elected president.

Hector Pieterson Museum
This museum was a surprise addition that we didn’t know what included in our tour of Soweto, but incredibly interesting and informative.  It basically tells the story of the June 16, 1976 student uprising in Soweto and is named after a 13-year-old boy who was sadly the first student to lose his life during that day.  These protests erupted because of the government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans rather than English.  Police opened fire in Orlando West on 10,000 students, and 566 people died.  After this event, economic and cultural sanctions were placed on South Africa from abroad in protests to their apartheid policies.  Soweto and other townships became the stage for violent state repression.  There was a poem in the museum that touched me the most and captured for me most beautifully the impact of this event.

First victim…
A bullet burnt
Into soft dark flesh
A child fell
Liquid life
Rushed Hot
To stain the earth

He was the first victim
And now
Let grieving the willows
Mark the spot
Let nature raise a monument
Of flowers and trees
Lest we forget the foul and the wicked deed

-Don Mattera, 1976, Azanian Love Song

Soweto

Soweto is not a museum, but is instead home to approximately 1 million people in Johannesburg.  The largest township in South Africa, it still reflects the racial policies of the apartheid government.  Townships in South Africa were formed as a way to force Africans out of the city centers.  Soweto is a group of townships south west of Johannesburg (Soweto is an abbreviation of SOuth WEstern TOwnships).  Soweto is also the only place in the world where two Nobel Prize winners grew up on the same street—Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I think this is a true testament to the human spirit that even those who grow up under policies meant to oppress them can fight for their own rights, then go on to lead their country based on policies of unification and forgiveness.  What really interested me about Soweto, though, is how nice a lot of it is.  There is definitely an emerging black middle class, and many of the streets and houses in Soweto looked like a suburb out of the U.S.  Of course, the disparity between the way that many white South Africans life and the way that black South Africans live is still really great.  There are also shantytown portions (informal settlements), where there is much poverty, but Soweto is definitely an emerging place, full of culture, and hope and optimism for the future.  From what I saw of Soweto, I really liked it.  People were walking around and there seemed to be more of vibrancy in this community than the walled-in, guarded homes that are so common in Johannesburg and the country.

I recently read a book called Khayelitsha about a white South African journalist who moved into the largest township in Cape Town called Khayelitsha.   Basically, there are no white people in townships, so it was interesting to read about his experiences living there for 2 years.  He had to confront his own prejudices as a white South African, but enjoyed living there and became a part of the community, learning in the process that much of the fear and paranoia many in South Africa experience is more made in their heads than actual reality (although there is a lot of crime in townships and elsewhere because there is so much desperation, don’t get me wrong).

There are so many museums and books about South Africa and its recent history and the apartheid past.  It is nice to know that the country is confronting its issues and not forgetting about them.  Hopefully the problems of the past will stay there and South Africa can move into a brighter future.  I think that it is well on its way.

Cape Town Museums

Posted by stephanie on Apr 13th, 2009
2009
Apr 13

My time in South Africa has been busy with visits to museums.  In this post I hope to summarize some of the history behind the museums I visited and what they have to teach about the struggle for different types of freedoms in South Africa.
Robben Island
Perhaps the one of the most famous museums in the world, Robben Island is home to the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for part of his sentence and one of the most iconic places in South Africa for the struggle for freedom.  As one of the most popular attractions in Cape Town, we had to get our tickets a few days in advance (keep this in mind if you are planning a visit!)  We hoped onto the ferry at the Nelson Mandela Gateway and took it across the harsh water for about 25 minutes (while not too far from the mainland, the waters are quite treacherous and many people died in them trying to escape Robben Island).  After getting off of the ferry, we were then put on buses for a tour of the island and given a brief history by our entertaining guide.   People lived on Robben Island thousands of years ago, but since the Dutch settled the Cape in the mid-1600s it has been mainly used as a prison—a place of banishment, isolation, and imprisonment.  Under the apartheid regime, Robben Island became a maximum security prison in 1959, and between 1961-1991 more than three thousand men served time here as political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.  Former political prisoners themselves conduct the tours of the prison.  This is a way to guarantee employment for the political prisoners.  Unemployment in South Africa is incredibly high, so it is not that the political prisoners necessarily want to continue to stay tied to the place where they were imprisoned, but they do it out of economic necessity—another type of imprisonment I suppose, but at least they are being given a voice and the troubles and mistakes of the past are not being forgotten.

From my experiences in Burma as well talking with former political prisoners, I personally cannot imagine the dedication and self-sacrifice involved in committing oneself so fully to a cause.  Sometimes I try to imagine what I would do if I was alive during certain times, and I always want to think that I would be one of the people involved in advancing higher and noble causes.  I guess that it is important to that freedom means different things to different people.  If everyone was a freedom fighter, then who would be home to feed children, who would be a doctor, who would make sure that people in a society could function?  But if nobody took on the role of a freedom fighter, then oppressive regimes and societies would be allowed to continue.  That’s why I think it’s important for all of us to evaluate what freedom means to us individually.  Freedom for all doesn’t mean that you have to organize protests, be involved in politics, become a political prisoner, etc.  Freedom can be making a cup of tea for your grandma, practicing a religion, visiting a sick friend.  So while I’m not sure if I could ever have what it takes to be a political prisoner or freedom fighter, I can still advance freedom in my own way in my own life, and probably in the lives of others as well without even knowing it.

District Six Museum
Also located in Cape Town, the District Six Museum tells the stories of the forced relocations of 60,000 inhabitants of this former inner-city residential area during the 1970s during the apartheid era.  The District Six area was an incredibly lively part of Cape Town, and the most racially diverse area of the city, which the apartheid government saw as a threat and wanted the separation of races.  The government wanted to create a “Whites Only” residential area in its place.  Residents of District Six were relocated to the Cape Flats, about 25 km outside of the city.  In 2003, work began on rebuilding the area, and in 2004, some of the original residents were allowed to return.  There is a lot of freedom in home ownership and in being able to be secure in where you are.  District Six was at one time the heart of Cape Town, and mainly in respect to the people’s lives that were uprooted during the apartheid area, the land is now quite empty and desolate.  It is a symbolic reminder of what you get when you are ruled by policies of hatred.

I’ve visited lots more museums in Cape Town, but I think that those are the two most important in terms of understanding apartheid and issues of freedom and race in the country.  Since this post is getting a bit lengthy, I’ll continue to tell you about museums in Johannesburg in the next post!

I survived Johannesburg

Posted by stephanie on Apr 5th, 2009
2009
Apr 5

I’ve stared death in the face many times on my adventures, from being chased by goats to angering the Ugandan army, and now I can add surviving Johannesburg, South Africa to that list (side note—none of those experiences were actually life threatening or even scary…well, maybe except for the goat).  And the funny thing is, despite all the warnings and fear instilled in me before the trip (anyone on Facebook can attest to my pre-departure anxieties), I really enjoyed Joburg.

I met up with Halle (for those following my travels closely, she’s the one who founded One Mango Tree that I met (stalked) while in Uganda) in Joburg for a 4-day trip combining work and play.  Halle is interested in expanding the market for her products to South Africa and had meetings with various yoga studio owners in Joburg to see if they would be interested in selling her products.  For me, the work portion was visiting the Apartheid Museum, central Joburg, and the Soweto township (I’ll write more about this in my next post where I hope to synthesize all of my museum visits).  In between we explored one of the northern suburbs of Joburg called Melville, where our bed and breakfast was located. We also sampled some yoga classes in the area because the yoga instructors we went to in Kampala are from South Africa and had many recommendations for us on where to go to do yoga (although admittedly we planned to go to a lot more than we did….our B&B was just too comfortable and cute to leave some nights). We also went to a fantastic organic market in Bryanston where we sampled delicious foods and met with the hippier side of Joburg.

Overall, we had a fantastic time in Joburg.  If anyone is traveling to South Africa, you will probably end up going through Johannesburg from any international departure point, and instead of fleeing rapidly, I definitely recommend spending a few days in Johannesburg to see a different side of South Africa.  I am back in Cape Town now, though, once again enjoying the mountains and ocean, and plotting my next move.

Johannesburg

Rainbow nation–dream or reality?

Posted by stephanie on Apr 4th, 2009
2009
Apr 4

Rainbow nation - dream or reality?

Black and white South Africans joined hands in dancing and singing 11 February 1990 at a mass African National Congress (ANC) rally in Soweto

By Audrey Brown
BBC News

When Nelson Mandela became president of post-apartheid South Africa in 1994, he promised he would build a nation where people of different races could live together in peace and harmony.

The racial bloodbath feared by many had been averted.

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come,” Mr Mandela, who has now turned 90, said at the time.

“We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white - will be able to walk tall. A Rainbow Nation at peace with itself and the world.”

His words ushered in a collective reverie as white South Africans discovered their common identity as Africans.

Nelson Mandela looking out of his old cell at Robben Island
Remember the horror from which we come
Nelson Mandela

Those who were not white looked forward to the opportunity of earning a decent living and educating their children.

Although there was recognition that it would be hard to reverse apartheid’s legacy, there was a general feeling that - with Nelson Mandela at the helm - the country would pull through.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up to lay bare the horror of the past and put it to rest.

But not everyone noticed that this rosy view relied on the goodwill of the very poorest South Africans who were expected to forgive and forget - even though there were reminders everywhere that this new South Africa did not necessarily include them.

Any talk of the differences between black and white lifestyles, attitudes or expectations was shouted down - no-one wanted to wake from the dream.

‘Black diamonds’

Yet white South Africans, basking in their new-found acceptability, maintained their wealth and advantages.

We have the historic duty, I believe, to demonstrate to the world that it is possible to live in a raceless society
Professor Neville Alexander
University of Cape Town

Only a few middle-class black and mixed-race South Africans, the so called “black diamonds”, were able to gain an education, get government contracts and tenders - their share of some of the spoils of a powerful economy.

Motsoko Pheko, a member of parliament for the Pan Africanist Congress - a rival to the ruling African National Congress during the long anti-apartheid struggle - said government policies were “pure appeasement”.

In truth, the only area where rich and poor, black and white have any shared experience is crime.

It is a terrifying reality for everyone, although white South Africans - on their farms and behind their high walls - believe they are the real targets.

They point to the racially charged language sometimes exchanged between black criminals and white victims.

Bronwyn Patterson, a white woman who was robbed and had to listen while her daughter was being raped by black men, spoke of being called a “white bitch”.

If we fail, it’s got the ingredients, like any other racial order, of genocidal conflict
Professor Neville Alexander
University of Cape Town

Some black South Africans in rural areas speak of unbridled brutality against them as armed white farmers “mistake” them for baboons and shoot to kill.

Timothy, a black activist in a small agricultural town west of Johannesburg, says people get paid too little for back-breaking work.

There have been some widely reported incidents when black people have been attacked by vicious dogs - and even lions - as they go about their business on farms that their ancestors once owned and they now work on.

Mapule Lottering’s child Nkarabile was shot and injured in an incident in which four of her neighbours were killed by a white man. Armed, white farmers also fire shots and throw missiles at the flimsy shanty dwelling where she lives.

Xenophobia

Fourteen years after Mr Mandela’s new nation was born, the country’s newspapers are still filled with stories of snubs and rejections as white establishments blatantly refuse to allow black people in.

South Africans sell meat in the open air

Many South Africans remain stuck in poverty

Yet white South Africans vote with their feet as they complain that their opportunities are dwindling, as the government promotes its policy of Black Economic Empowerment.

The re-cutting of the economic cake, it seems, is leaving most people dissatisfied.

More and more black people are also leaving the country as the dream starts to fade.

South Africa’s streets may not be paved with gold, but as local people leave, millions more come from other parts of the continent to try and make a living.

This has added to the country’s racial and economic burdens because more poor black people add to the competition for scarce resources like houses and jobs.

Earlier this year, these tensions spilled over into a shocking outbreak of xenophobic violence, which left more than 60 people dead and thousands homeless - attacks which Mr Mandela condemned.

For me, racism has never been something that I’ve ever contemplated
Jamie Patterson, rape victim

“Remember the horror from which we come,” he warned.

Professor Neville Alexander of the University of Cape Town says South Africa’s racial mix presents a unique opportunity but also a danger.

“We’ve been given the historic opportunity, because we have a black majority that suffered and has struggled in an anti-racist movement to bring about a non-racial order.

“We have the historic duty, I believe, to demonstrate to the world that it is possible to live in a raceless society.

“But unless we handle it carefully, it can turn into its opposite and I think that most political people haven’t thought deeply enough about this - if we fail, it’s got the ingredients, like any other racial order, of genocidal conflict.”

Perhaps the best hope for Nelson Mandela’s lofty ideal of a true melting pot comes in the words of Bronwyn Patterson’s daughter, Jamie.

She was born in 1990, the year Mr Mandela was released from 27 years behind bars, and says her black rapists were definitely full of “hatred”.

“But to be angry at black people would be stupid,” she says, remembering how black church members from Soweto gave her an award after overcoming her ordeal.

“When they prayed for us, it brought tears to my eyes because it was with such sincerity.

“For me, racism has never been something that I’ve even contemplated.”

Hunger for Freedom

Posted by stephanie on Apr 3rd, 2009
2009
Apr 3

I was not born with a hunger to be free.

I was born free.

Free in every way that I could know.

Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars…

It was only when I learnt that my boyhood freedom was an illusion…that I began to hunger for it.

–Nelson Mandela

Johannesburg

The Great Divide

Posted by stephanie on Apr 3rd, 2009
2009
Apr 3

There is a palpable tension in the air in South Africa.  A tension caused by decades of racial strife that only officially ended less than 20 years ago.  A system of oppression was still in place during a part of my lifetime, and the pain that the system of apartheid caused has still left a fresh wound on the country, one that is healing but still stings.  In discussions with fellow travelers and others not actually from South Africa, we all agree that there is something here that is a bit strange for all of us.  Race seems to be so much in your face, and I feel acutely aware of my whiteness.  This awareness of my skin color works in two ways.  Many times I will find myself in a restaurant, store, concert, etc., and everyone around me will be white, which always makes me wonder how this exclusion of other races takes place in the “Rainbow Nation.”  Does it all relate to economics, or is there more of an unspoken divide that keeps people away from certain areas?  If I find myself as the only white person in some situations, then I feel myself getting panicky, thinking thoughts of if someone is going to mug me or target me because of assumptions about who I am, what I believe, and what I have based on the color of my skin.  Much of this is because of advice and stories from locals about where to go and places to avoid, but their perception of danger has been colored by a different past, a past of segregation and unfamiliarity with the other side.  Paranoia seems to be the order of the day, although I have heard my fair share of personal accounts of crime in South Africa to not let my guard down, but I hate that I get panicky when those around me look different from me.  It is easy to feed into the hype, though, when you are surrounded on all sides by walls with electric fences at the top, gates that neither let people in or out without a key, shops with gates over their doors during business hours where you have to be buzzed in, and other security measures that I’m not convinced are necessary but have just become such a part of the culture that nobody does without them.  During apartheid non-whites were forced out of their homes and moved into different locations to accommodate White Only areas.  While this segregation has officially ended, there are still clear racial divides in the parts of the cities that people live in.  From my own observations, (which come from only a couple of weeks in the country, so I’m hoping to be proved wrong in the coming weeks), there seems to be little mixing of the races on the streets, in cars, in shops, etc..  While not a legal divide, I think there is still a psychological divide that is very much present.

I grew up in the suburbs in the Midwest, and growing up the people I knew were mostly white and from a similar socio-economic background.  I think I can count the number of people in my high school who were not white on one hand, maybe two.  While I wasn’t exposed to that many people from different cultures and backgrounds in one-on-one interactions during my years growing up, I was also raised to see everyone as equal and treat them that way.  I can’t imagine disliking someone because of the color of his or her skin, or the mentality necessary to create a system bent on the separation of different races.  Hopefully that means in the next generation or two, a similar shift in attitudes will occur in South Africa.  The United States is certainly not innocent in our own history of the separation of races and denial of human rights because the shade of your skin isn’t the “right” one.  Racism did, and still does, occur, but I think the majority of people in the U.S. (I hope anyways) would agree that race, while a part of who we are, isn’t all we are.  Like South Africa, I think the U.S. can be described as a “Rainbow Nation,” one that is made beautiful because of all of our different colors.  A beauty that is most clearly seen after weathering a storm.

If anyone has anything to add about their experiences with race in the U.S., South Africa, or anywhere in the world, please post a comment on this blog.  As we’ve seen from my trip, democracy and freedom are intimately intertwined in people’s minds, and part of democracy is having open debate and discussions.  Feel free to use my blog as a forum to express your opinions and further enrich the exploration of freedom!