Yesterday, Ilda and I went to the District 6 Museum. District 6 is an area of Cape Town that was designated a “white” area in the 60s and all (primarily black) residents (35,000) were forced to move 16 miles away. Then they demolished the entire neighborhood. And never did anything with it. We drove around there after the museum and it’s just fields.
It started me thinking about what it would be like if all of Eastchester (where I grew up) was demolished. A whole community displaced and redistributed. It’s almost inconceivable.
The museum was largely focused on showing what an active and vibrant area District 6 was. It also focused on illustrating what life was like during apartheid. One of the items they had was a “Whites Only” bench. While taking a picture of it, I realized that we in the U.S. had plenty of “Whites Only” items until the 60s. And it got me thinking…
I kinda wanted to think about apartheid as this distant, terrible thing that happened in Africa. But in the U.S., we (or at least some/many Americans) treated black people in a very similar way:
We made intermarriage between black and white people illegal.
While we didn’t force them to live in separate areas officially via laws, unofficially, they were effectively forced to live separately from white people.
We treated black folks like they were a different, substandard species by doing things like conducting scientific and medical experiments on them, treating them like they were intellectually inferior, not allowing them to have the same rights and opportunities as white people.
And, we (along with the Brits), kidnapped black people, brought them here and enslaved them.
It’s kinda hard to feel superior to what the government of South Africa did under those circumstances. I found it really uncomfortable, actually. And, to boot, when much of the world was supporting the ANC in fighting against the government and the concept of apartheid, the U.S. did not help at all. So who ended up stepping up to support them? Communist and terrorist (Libya, etc) countries, which made it really easy for the U.S. to continue to do business here and claim that the commies would take over if the ANC was successful, thereby allowing apartheid to continue and effectively supporting the government that was imposing it.
Makes it a little hard to swallow being an American here. Makes me sad.
After the District 6 Museum, we went to the Jewish Museum. Among other things, it showed how many Jewish South Africans stood up to apartheid and were very influential in the fight against it. There was a newspaper article that talked about a trial of hundreds of people who had been arrested for anti-apartheid actions and it talked about the fact that over 1/3 of them were Jewish. Considering that Jews are a very small part of the population in Cape Town/S.A., that was very inspiring to see. This helped provide some balance for me and made me feel somewhat less guilty by association.
It’s a complicated, difficult world out there. I often am busy with my own thing, just worrying about what is happening in my life and how it makes me feel. Or I’m focused on U.S. politics and not very aware of what’s going on in the world. Something like this really slaps you in the face.
Everyone needs a good slap every now and then, I think.