Thursday, August 19, 2010

Apartheid Museum: "A journey to understanding, freedom and equality".

Trent and I and some friends made a trip into Johannesburg to visit the Apartheid museum. I have been reading a little bit about the history of South Africa but have not been able to fully grasp what happened here until I visited the museum. The word apartheid means "apartness". It was a system introduced in 1948, that classified and seperated black, Coloured and Indian people from white people. When you walk into the museum there are two entrances one for White/Europeans and one for Non-whites. It was an uncomfortable feeling to walk through a separate entrance, especially when right behind us was a large group of black students. As much as I love to believe that color does not matter and we are all human beings, this was a direct reminder that this has not always been the case and in many ways we continue to be divided by the color of our skin. There is a lot to read and the entire tour can take upwards of 2-3 hours. Although, America has a similar history of oppression and segregation, in many ways Apartheid was more similar to what Hitler did to the Jews. The black people were forced into townships (shanty towns-or the shack communities that still exist today). They were required to carry a passport showing who they were and where they worked and lived. If they were caught without their passports they would be thrown into prison. The control that the minority whites had on the native black people was shocking. The fact that this went on until the 20th century is even more disheartening. Experts from a book entitled  House of Bondage, was displayed and the author Ernest Cole writes: "Three hundred years of white supremacy in South Africa, has placed us in bondage, stripped us of our dignity, robbed us of our self-esteem and surrounded us with hate." He also explains that the black people want to be segregated from the whites also... they don't want to be apart of another group of individuals who can treat people the way they did. Apartheid ended in 1994, when the black people were finally allowed to vote and elected Nelson Mandela. Although, Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison for fighting for black people's freedom he was able to forgive and move on and attempted to unite the country. Segregation is no longer the law but it has not dissolved completely. There are still areas that are mainly black or mainly white. While some individuals, such as Nelson Mandela, have attempted a reconciliation it seems there is still an underlying mistrust. Will that ever go away completely? Will we ever learn to respect and love one another regardless of differences? Doubtful, but we should try to do our very best.

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