Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Andre Brink and white contribution to anti-apartheid movement

Most heroes and heroins of the anti-apartheid movement who bravely opposed a brutally racist system of government that oppressed nonwhite people in South Africa were mostly black South Africans, many of whom were members of the African National Congress (ANC). But black South Africans weren't alone in the struggle against apartheid. Some white South Africans also stood up against racial segregation and discrimination, although they're not always recognized and widely celebrated for their contribution to the cause.

South Africa lost a white critic of the apartheid regime on 6 February 2015. Andre Brink was a South African novelists and writer who, according to the BBC, was one of the most outspoken critics of the apartheid regime. He died at the age of 79 on board a flight to Cape Town after he received an honorary doctorate degree in Belgium.

According to The Guardian, Brinks used Afrikaans (described by some at the time as the "language of the oppressor") to speak against Apartheid, and he is best known for his book A Dry White Season, which focuses on the death in detention of a black activist. The novel was adapted for a film, and is among some of his books that were banned by the apartheid regime.

In my view, Andre Brinks was a Boer who opposed Boer oppression of black South Africans. The way I see it -- after reading his letter to Madiba published by The New Yorker after Nelson Mandela's death -- the writer was a brave man of good will who wasn't afraid to express himself; he was a white individual who fearlessly opposed white domination in his country. Andre Brink could have taken the easy way out by simply supporting apartheid since he was white, but he didn't. He chose a more difficult path which at the time was less traveled by white South Africans - a path that made him a dissident at a time when, according to The Telegraph, to sympathize with the anti-apartheid movement was to be labelled a traitor to his race. That's what heroism looks like.

Andre Brinks was definitely not a traitor to his tribe or to his race. In my view, he was a traitor to oppressors, and being a traitor to an immoral cause it nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, he deserved a batch of honor for speaking truth to power at a time when it was inconvenient and dangerous to do so. Apartheid was a racist system of government that oppressed people of African descent from 1948 to 1994. Any form of nonviolent opposition to a system of racial segregation enforced by a government is an honorable act.

Brink wasn't the only white South African who opposed apartheid. Heroes of the apartheid movement had whites in their ranks, including people like Denis Goldberg, Helen Suzman, Joe Slovo and Ruth First. The list, I believe, is incomplete. Many other non-black South Africans contributed to the anti-apartheid movement in perhaps other less significant but important ways.

Although apartheid was designed to favor white South Africans, not all white South Africans supported the inhuman system of government. The contribution of whites to the anti-apartheid movement is testament to a cliche that is worth reiterating: not all white people are racist; not all white people support racist discriminatory policies. However, it's clear, in my perspective, that not enough white people actively oppose apartheid-like ideas designed to maintain the disillusioned idea of white "supremacy," that's why racism is still a problem decades after the collapse of apartheid and other blatantly racist systems around the world.

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