Racquel Brown, Guest Columnist
Historiographers and the media are rushing to rewrite what is and what was. Nelson Mandela co-founded Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a militarised group of freedom fighters who waged war on a system that oppressed them and other non-whites in South Africa. The media choose not to report this. 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. Other ridiculous and dehumanising actions were taken.
This same government passed laws that later became known as petty apartheid. Petty apartheid restricted the movement of blacks within the country, including where they could work, where they could go to school, where they could build businesses, where they could live, and even what they could buy.
Nelson Mandela made it clear many times in his biographies that he preferred non-violent methods towards freedom over violent methods. Mandela joined African National Congress (ANC) in the 1940s because of its mission and dedication to putting an end to apartheid.
In 1960, the ANC was banned and its 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 organisation that eventually participated in bombings, firefights with the opposing and oppressive government forces, and even executions.
The media and historians attempting to give him this Gandhi-like image are not conveying a totally accurate portrayal of the man. Perhaps they fear we will one day grow tired of our own oppression. 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 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 are often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a certain point, one can only fightfire 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 are painted as heroes; black liberators are painted as passive, deranged, or ignored altogether.
who will write history now?
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 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 instils it in us that isn't the way for 'us' 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."
"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 paint 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 fightfire 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.
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