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Twenty-First Century Apartheid By Mark Lampkin

Thirty years ago, I had the joyful pleasure to be in the Oakland Coliseum complex to attend the Bay Area welcome for Nelson Mandela. It was something to experience. There before me and thousands of others stood a man who had been recently released from a South African prison after 27 years – his crime – speaking out against the unjust system of apartheid in his HOME, South Africa.

Webster’s dictionary describes apartheid as – “a former social system in South Africa in which black people and people from other racial groups did not have the same political and economic rights as white people and were forced to live separately from white people.”

The world applauded both Mr. Mandela and Francois Botha, the Prime Minister of South Africa, for their courage in not only making right a wrong done 27 years earlier but also for their commitment to ensuring that apartheid would be abolished forever. Mr. Mandela was even elected as President of the New South Africa… So far, so good. Right?

In these yet-to-be-United States of America, which had been in total support of what South Africa had done for decades to keep the majority of Black African people oppressed, the leaders were likely pleased that the world did not ask to look into her closets. For there, the skeletons still exist to keep people oppressed by subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle forms of apartheid.

You see, apartheid is really nothing more than setting up a legal system whereby a minority of people are allowed to maintain power over the majority. In South African apartheid, the Black population could not vote, hold property, or travel without their “passes.”

In our Nation, we have witnessed, since the November 2020 election, more than a dozen states enact laws that will restrict voting rights and privileges to many Black and Brown people, who collectively are now making up a majority of those states. Hmmm. Sounds all too similar to what South Africa did as a method to maintain power. Yep. We, too, have been a society that uses apartheid as a tool to oppress people. Think redlining in real estate.

What we are witnessing in our Nation is appalling. White men and women are scurrying around their communities fomenting fear. Firstly, saying that there were many voting irregularities in 2020 that they must address, and secondly, redraw (gerrymander) their districts in an effort to ensure that those “new” people are not able to secure a majority when they vote going forward. This, my friends, is 21st Century apartheid.

What are we to do? I am glad that you asked…