Students and South Africa: Fight for What’s Right

American helpThe fight to overthrow Apartheid was nearly half a century old and South Africa remained in the same oppressed state it had been in. A global movement led and inspired by the growing group of exiled, jailed, and banned liberation leaders appealed to the world for necessary democracy in South Africa. After many failed attempts, there seemed to be one last frontier to venture to gain help from.

The western world was in the hands of the United States to take a stand and take action against the South African government. It has been seen before and it will be seen again, the power of the younger generations to stand up and fight for what is right. It was said that if America could stake the claim of the most powerful country in the world and still turn their backs to the struggles in South Africa then there must be something wrong with the nature of the power and the willingness to earn justice for all.America's power

By the 1980’s an international campaign to isolate South Africa was considered a success in sports, consumer boycotts and embargos, but situations in South Africa appeared no better.

A Tricameral parliament was created in South Africa made up of white members, Indian members and colored members. The black community was not allowed to be a part of the parliament, which led to a large number of uprisings.

Economic sanctions, which had failed to be passed for three decades, were now pushed to the forefront of the United Nation’s discussion on South Africa. The United States continually blocked all attempts to pass such sanctions under the belief that such motions would ultimately hurt the same people they aimed to help. Although it proved to be a double standard of thinking, the topic did not fade but continued to be a prominent discussion within the United States.

defy laws

It’s been over a month now of continued knowledge on South Africa past and present and I have begun to see a common thread holding the history together. The younger generations have continually stood up against the leadership of the older generations. Watching as governments continued to argue, fight and get no where I could see the shame that all citizens must feel. These political fights were not ending Apartheid or keeping black South Africans safe, they represented nothing more than a power struggle. Politics continued just as the media continued to air daily clips of tear gassing, shootings, and uprisings in South Africa and there was a breaking point for the youth of the United States.

columbia march

Divestment began to gain headway as it was realized that major universities and college institutions were being endowed by companies with links to supporting the South African economic system. Taking away support for such companies would mean hikes in tuition, decreased financial aid and salaries which would directly affect all university members. Some began to turn their heads to the issues in South Africa because their own money was at stake. In such a pivotal time the youth again stood up to do something. There was no chance now to hide from the struggle for these students. The images were in their faces and the guilt seemed to somehow resonate with them in a way adults didn’t necessarily feel. Maybe it was the naivety of economics, politics and real world problems that the youth didn’t understood, but then again maybe it was this naivety that they needed to do something.

Students at Columbia began to blockade entrances to administrative buildings and stage a protest in the name of divesting from South Africa. Even with a court order barring demonstrations the students stood strong chanting and cheering “Columbia pays the bills, Apartheid kills.”

By defying court orders and beginning a campus wide march a statement had been made and felt around the United States. Other colleges began to see the struggles taking place and realizing that the colleges they pay tuition too were not doing their part to help.  As the names and video clips of colleges flashed on the screen one after another I felt such a pride in my age group and I could see their strength and ability to make a difference. We as the younger generations may be taught that adults are stronger, wiser, better but we are the people willing to fight for what is right and we are the people pushing the norms for a better future for all not just for one.

american police

One of the many student protestors commented on the shanty village him and his class mates had made and how in destroying them the American police began to look like the South African police. This moment in the film made me pause and take in the picture of the white police beating the white students. The only difference from the many scenes I’ve seen from South Africa was the color of their skin.

I couldn’t believe that the United States would allow such a travesty to occur in the face of such bigger issues occurring in South Africa. It was embarrassing to see these police men knocking over the protestor’s shelters and beating them. I suppose the same problems can occur worldwide with no regard for race but no one ever imagines such an event occurring in their own country.


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