“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
– Nelson Mandela –
The image of a white policeman pressing his knee against the neck of a black man pleading for his life has triggered many emotions and memories from my own childhood growing up in apartheid South Africa.
To put it bluntly. Racism is wrong. It is evil and it comes from the lowest depths of human behavior.
Born as a white person, I never questioned why blacks did not attend the same good schools that I attended, why blacks were refused entry to restaurants, had a different entrance at the post office, were arrested for breaking a night curfew in white areas or could not sit on the same benches as white people in the parks.
But some things happened where even as a child I started questioning the world in which I lived. I witnessed a farmer whipping one of his laborers. He showed no mercy as the man screamed in pain. This was the same man who only hours earlier attended holy communion in church and made a point of emphasizing how good a Christian he was.
Some years later the Lutheran pastor of our white church invited his fellow black pastor and his brass band choir to play in the white church. Despite the pleas from the pastor that this was not the apocalypse and that Jesus would not tolerate racism, the choir was met with extreme antagonism by white congregation members. I never understood the hatred spewing from the mouths of these people who all called themselves Christian.
Years later while working as a reporter for a newspaper in Durban, I attended a court case where two black politicians, detained under the country’s emergency laws, explained in great detail how the white security policemen sitting in the same court meted out electroshock and other torture methods on them. I will never forget the smug grins of those stocky policemen who seemed very sure of themselves that they would never be investigated for their crimes.
I remember the sad and resigned expressions in the faces of the aged black women and men forced to leave their ancestral lands because a government had designated their luscious agricultural land as a “white” area.
I recall the terrible rage of a white shopkeeper when I walked into the black entrance of his shop.
Years later after returning to my home country for a visit, I drove through what I remember as a staunch white-only community. The children were out in the playground. There were white, black, mixed-race, and Asian children playing together in what would have been unheard of in my childhood.
And, I remembered Nelson Mandela’s famous quote that nobody is born to hate. It is what the societies in which we live make of us. They can fuel the flames of the worst part of human character or sow the seeds of compassion, love, empathy, and the meeting of hearts that recognize the humanity within beyond the pigmentation of a man’s skin.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant
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