Tuesday, September 16, 2008


On 08/08/08 Shane and I had yet another heavy day. At this point in the journey we had visited the Holocaust museum in Berlin and three separate genocide sites in Rwanda, now it was time to learn a little about Apartheid.

Apartheid was the system of segregation and discrimination based on the grounds of race in South Africa from 1948- 1991. I'm a bit embarrassed at how little I knew about Apartheid. This unjust system was going on during my high school years (class of 91 baby! Side note... I am still a little bitter that they selected Rod Stewart's "Forever Young" as our class song. I thought the song was lame even back then). It's interesting how the internet has changed things. During high school (and college for that matter) I had not even heard of the internet. I must also admit that I really did not have a concern for matters taking place in other parts of the world (though I couldn't help follow the fall of Communism). Though I wonder if things have really changed that much? So we have the internet and all the information in the world, but have we started caring?

The sign that greeted us on our way into the museum stated,
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." -Nelson Mandela

During our visit to the museum, we took a lunch break to visit Soweto (and eat cow head!). Soweto is a township (ghetto) with nearly 4 million people living in it. During Apartheid there was a significant riot in Soweto. During our short visit there we walked through a "hostile." This is very low-income housing within the township. During Apartheid only black men were allowed to live in hostiles. The living conditions were horrific for folks forced to live in these conditions. Today families are allowed to live together in them.

While we walked through the hostile, our guide said to us, "This is how liberated South Africans live." In many ways, Apartheid is over and chains have been cast off. But in other ways Apartheid is alive and well and people are still marginalized and suppressed. Townships can be very rough places to live, and yet only black people (and some coloured) live in them (in South Africa people are categorized as "black," "white," or "coloured" (meaning mixed race)).

I was amazed at the similarities between South Africa and America. They had Apartheid, we had Jim Crow laws. In South Africa white people live in nice housing while people of color are forced to live in townships. In America many people of color are trapped in the urban ghettos. In S.A. I met white people who thought there was no longer a race problem because Apartheid was over, in America I know many white people who think the same.

It really was a gift to stay with Xana and Alan at the Hands of Compassion community. They are true freedom fighters. Though the weapons they used were not guns or machetes, rather they fought with love. In the height of Apartheid they (being a white couple) moved into community with some people who were black. It was illegal, and potentially dangerous. They were harassed by their neighbors, but they did not give up! They modeled a different life. Today they are living in community with over 100 people, from many different backgrounds!

I will now post several pics from the museum...
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