Apartheid: A Wound and a Lesson

Evelyn Rivera Mr. Warden World Geography 21 March 2013 Apartheid: A Wound and a Lesson Ask anyone that was alive between 1948 and 1990, what life in South Africa was like. They will most likely mention the concept of apartheid and describe it with vivid, graphic details. They will put in the picture the millions of victims and the thousands of families that were separated, the children who experienced gory scenes that people in this century generally only see in films. They will tell you about the difficulties that they faced raising children in a time that only seemed to get worse day after day.They will share with you the stories of what scarred their lives, what torments them until this day, and what dehumanized their characters. Yes, they were alive, but the only thing that kept them alive was the thought, the optimism, the clinging to hope of one day finally reaching a point where all the suffering would cease. Unfortunately, these citizens of South Africa would have to feel agony, let tears drip down their face, and shed blood for several years to come. Similar to the segregation taking place in the United States in the 1960’s, that the famous activist, Martin Luther King Jr. along with other well-recognized activists, helped put an end to, apartheid, had the same ideals and principles that were around in the early years of the United States. Before learning what the exact meaning of the word apartheid meant, I had a basic idea of what it could mean because of the root word “apart”. Apartheid was the method in which South Africa’s government isolated the rich from the poor citizens, having them experience some of the worst times in South Africa. The rights of the black citizens of South Africa at that time were awfully violated.In fact, blacks had no rights because the government believed in white-supremacy. Before apartheid went to its extremes, it was originally created so that the National Party would have control over the economy that the country was generating after it was discovered that South Africa was resource-rich. Then, terrifyingly, in the 1960’s “Grand Apartheid” began taking place, radically ending people’s lives both figuratively and literally. In 1948, when the system of apartheid had recently been introduced, laws that resemble the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws from 1935, made it clear that marriage between non-white individuals was prohibited.There were certain jobs in society that were reserved for whites only. The citizens of South Africa were labeled by the color of their skin. They could either be black, colored, or white. If citizens failed to abide by these rules, it resulted in cruel punishments. This was only the beginning of what was to come. To completely wipe out the “rights” of blacks, they were sent to one of four different “homelands” (an example of a euphemism) that were created so that the people who inhabited them would lose the citizenship of South Africa and ultimately have no say in Parliament.If the citizens of South Africa weren’t physically abused or murdered in the times of apartheid, the memories of what was once the place where they grew up in, killed their innocence. The ones that were affected drastically were the young kids. The children who dealt with the dismembered bodies, the policemen shooting at those who rebelled against the government, the racial segregation, and the poverty, are the ones that were affected, marked with a past that was difficult to overcome.These were sights that the children that grew up in that time saw everyday for years. Some might have even grown used to it and seen the brutal and violent behavior as something that was perfectly normal. Of course, there are always two sides to every story. In this case, there’s the point of view of those who were poor and the one of those who grew up in a middle class or in a luxurious lifestyle. If asked, those that didn’t have the advantages that the rich had, will gave an atrocious and brutal description of what apartheid really was.On the other hand, the rich sometimes made racist remarks and didn’t have a clue about what really happened in those townships due to the fact that they didn’t experience the torture firsthand. South Africa wasn’t just affected socially, but it was affected psychologically as well. There were countless victims of physical abuse and malnutrition after apartheid vanished that needed moral and medical support after the tragic years they had lived. Who knows? Maybe apartheid left anger within individuals. Maybe there’s hatred towards whites because of the humiliation and suffering blacks were put through.Nevertheless, the help that was received from The United Nations will never be enough to cure the internal, emotional wounds that apartheid caused to its victims. They were only able to cure those external wounds. The scars of the past will always remain because the years of apartheid were years that everyone who experienced it will never have the ability to leave behind and pretend they never occurred because the scars have become part of what they were shaped into. Look outside your window when you first wake up. What do you see? Do you see beautifully arranged gardens with spring-green lawns?Do you see two-story houses with freshly-painted walls and luxuriously-furnished rooms? Do you see luxury automobiles parked in the driveways? Can you even see this? Do you have to imagine it? Does the room you’re in even have a window to look out through? If none of the descriptions apply to you, it’s perfectly fine. You can change what you see outside your window. It’s simple. It all begins with the desire to succeed and becoming an individual that influences everyone around you in a positive way. This is where social mobility comes in.Unlike in South Africa when apartheid was taking place, in The United States we can move out of the social class where we originally born into. In South Africa, people didn’t have the ability to move out of social classes because they were trapped in a vicious circle. They were stranded in an island of poverty because citizens didn’t have skills. They didn’t have skills because they didn’t have the education to acquire the skills necessary. They didn’t have an education because they didn’t have the money that was required to pay for school. Luckily, here in the United States there’s public schooling.The opportunities are endless. It’s up to students to decide whether they want to take advantage of what is given to them for free, or if they want to throw it all away and keep the same disappointing view outside their window. Because of what is given to us, we can move up social classes. It might be hard because there are always obstacles, evidently, not as big as the issues that apartheid caused. There are lines and barriers that divide society, but they’re not as extreme and intense as the ones in South Africa. Here in Houston there is one way that people are divided.Drive around town and the neighborhoods will speak for themselves. There will be some that fit the description I gave in the beginning and there are those that are far from it. I did notice a key element to success. It might sound boring and cliche, but it all begins with education. Being educated grants you skills, the skills open up well-paying job opportunities, and those jobs generate a great income. You can thank school for your future fortune because it’s the foundation to a successful life. The people that lived through apartheid will tell the tales of the horrifying experiences they lived through.The horrible images that they introduce to our minds will make us think twice about what we have. What I have read makes me value what I have and what I have been given without asking for anything in return. The window I described previously is a metaphor for success. What is a window used for? It lets light in. When it’s opened all sorts of good things come in. In times of need, a window can also be used as an escape. When we’re young we dream and paint pictures of what we want our lives to be like in the future. Even though some of these dreams aren’t tangible at the moment, they can be with dedication, devotion and keenness.

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