Nelson Mandela’s body isn’t even buried and historiographers as well as media rush to rewrite what is and what was. Nelson Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a military of freedom fighters whom waged war on the system that oppressed them and other non-whites in South Africa. The media chooses not to report a big reason apartheid ended was through armed resistance and not by Nelson Mandela giving the white politicians who hated him hugs and handshakes.
Apartheid South Africa was run by a regime with no conscience, disenfranchising coloured voters, putting them in the worst of schools, forcefully removing millions from their homes and into coloured zones, and other ridiculous and dehumanizing were taken. This same government passed laws that later became known as petty apartheid. Petty apartheid restricted where Blacks could go in the country, where they could work, where they could go to school (white students received 10 times more funding), where they could build businesses, where they could live, and even what they could buy. This was (is) indeed a government without a conscience.
Nelson Mandela made it clear many times in his biographies he preferred non-violent methods toward freedom over violent methods. Mandela joined African National Conference (ANC) in the 1940s because of their mission and dedication to putting an end to apartheid. In 1960, the ANC was banned and their non-violent tactics weren’t working so Mandela proposed the idea of starting a military wing of the branch. This led to him forming Umkhonto we Sizwe, an organization eventually in which eventually participated in bombings, firefights with opposing and oppressive armies, and executions.
Nelson Mandela never claimed to be the pacifist CNN, MSNBC, and every other news outlet is making him out to be. The media and historians attempting to give him this Gandhi-like image is doing him and us all a grave injustice. Perhaps they fear we will one day grow tired of our own oppression and the results being non-violent fails to yield to a system with no conscience. Perhaps they fear we will learn about Mandela and his true approach toward freedom in its entirety and draw inspiration from it all. Much like Martin Luther King’s legacy was kidnapped and whitewashed, Mandela’s legacy is undergoing that same process right before our eyes. Nelson Mandela was no Jesus, no Gandhi (neither of whom even shunned violence themselves), but he damn sure was and is a hero.
“A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire.” -Nelson Mandela
This is where the question is raised, “who will stand up and tell the truth?” History has always been written with an agenda, slave owners and rapists like Thomas Jefferson are painted as heroes; black liberators are either painted as passive, deranged, or ignored altogether. It is 2013 and oftentimes the wrong things are said while the right questions are never asked. Who will stand up and write history now? Shouldn’t it be us since we are living in it? Will we allow it to be written by those with something to gain by hiding certain facts, leading to it being taught wrong to our children in and grandchildren in schools, if taught at all. History isn’t just something we learn in school for a grade, it is something that stays with us and our knowledge (or lack thereof) is the key to how we view the world and ourselves. It isn’t a coincidence Europeans have conquered every foreign land they have through violence but instills it in us that isn’t the way for non-whites to gain independence. So these images of our leaders are pushed forth as peaceful, hand-holding, tree-hugging, non-threats, as if that is the only way we make progress. We are subconsciously turned into passive punching bags. “Shoot me, cop. Beat me, white man. I’ll just create a petition, have a peaceful march about it, or hold a rally that won’t bring about any changes. We’ll take some pictures and make it look good though.I’ve never seen an example of any other way working anyway since it isn’t included in the history I studied.” Nova Knows.
“History is real; it brings real, tangible results. When we wish to negate it and not integrate it, when we wish to negate it and not affirm it, then it negates us in the end.” -Dr. Amos N. Wilson
Who is Nelson Mandela to me? Like popular media paints him, to me, he was a hero, forgiving, great world leader, and diplomat. Unlike popular media shows, he is also a warrior, freedom fighter, and someone who knew to fight fire with fire when non-violence wasn’t working. Long live Mandela, the real Mandela, in our hearts and in our minds. Knowing him is knowing a piece of ourselves.
Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.
- Nelson Mandela, Palestine And The Fight Against Apartheid – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- Historians say Western powers distorting the memory of Mandela (antiguaobserver.com)