Letter: Like the salmon, they struggled
Posted on Dec 11, 2013 - 01:05 PM Printer Friendly View
Like any other week night, I was watching National Geographic when the news of Nelson Mandela’s death came over the TV screen. Though I knew it was a matter of time, I was saddened to the point of tears … unusual for me. Recounting the death of Martin Luther King, I must say I felt no emotion at all. A lifelong resident of Gloucester County and being born into segregation, I was naïve to any disparity that existed in society. The only civil rights protest I had seen was on television.
But when I witnessed daily news broadcasts of unrest in South Africa and Rhodesia … the violent and bloodshed; every day I was drawn to the CBS television news hosted by Walter Cronkite. I’d come to understand why this rebellion had come into being. I kept hearing the word apartheid, not really knowing what it meant. But more than anything else, I kept hearing the name Nelson Mandela who I learned was a political prisoner accused of being a terrorist.
As years passed I’d become well educated in reference to the South African movement and Nelson Mandela. It appeared that colonialism was still firmly intact with continuing violence, claiming the life of black activist Stephen Biko while in police custody. The apartheid system of government can be legitimately described as a lingering byproduct of colonialism.
Mandela would scoff at offers of freedom in exchange for discontinuing his resistance against the government. Bargaining his personal freedom for the dignity of his people was not an option.
Being an avid viewer of Wild Kingdom, I was fascinated by the migration of the salmon. In spite of hordes of predators, these fish instinctively persisted to complete their journey to their ancestral spawning grounds.
Much like salmon, the native South Africans of color, virtually helpless in the face of well-armed soldiers and policemen, persisted against apartheid.
Amidst continued resistance and international pressure, oppression would come to an end bringing about the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of incarceration, later to become president of the nation.
The collapse of apartheid was a moral victory for the entire civilized world. This visibly evil institution would forever be remembered as a blemish on the dignity of humanity.
Not to say the newly-elected president harbored no animosity toward those who had oppressed him—Mandela did not seek retribution. His desire was reconciliation.
The civilized world can be proud that Nelson Mandela was not destroyed by evil, but allowed to reap the rewards of longevity … a much-deserved legacy would become reality.
William P. Clayborne Jr.