In a recent article, protests in South Africa are centered on the removal British imperialist statutes that represent past racism. Protestors are looking to rectify that past violations that continue to contribute to the demise of the country. The removal of the imperialist statues will only drive the undesired behavior underground therefore continuing the perpetration of racism in South Africa. not remove continued racism.
According to the article, on March 9, a South African student protester tossed feces on a statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town, igniting nationwide calls to remove other statues of former white leaders. A statue of Britain’s King George V on a University of KwaZulu-Natal campus was splattered with white paint. Some activists want a statue of Paul Kruger, a white Boer leader in the late 19th century, to be shifted from a central square in Pretoria, the capital, to a museum.
The uproar is part of a larger discourse about change in South Africa, where the legacy of apartheid, the white minority rule that ended two decades ago, is often blamed for economic inequality, a struggling education system and other problems.
Mthunzi Mthimkhulu, a technology consultant and former student at the University of Cape Town, stood Saturday near the Rhodes statue, which had been wrapped in black garbage bags by protesters. Obscene graffiti covered the pedestal.
By Sunday, the Rhodes statue was boarded up, its days apparently numbered. University Vice-Chancellor Max Price, who is white, described Rhodes as a “villain” and said the statue should be moved. Rhodes, who died in 1902, was “a kind of colonial warlord” and “ardent segregationist” who made a fortune in mining and grabbed land from the local population, said Paul Maylam, a history professor at Rhodes University in the South African city of Grahamstown. Rhodes was also associated with education and philanthropy, partly because of scholarships that carry his name, Maylam said.
The problem with removing the statues is that is does not remove a culture that has accepted the racial past as normality.
Jim Crow Laws
The Jim Crow Laws is a primary example of how the removal of symbols has little impact on eliminating racism.
The Jim Crow laws were racial segregation state and local laws enacted after the Reconstruction period in Southern United States that continued in force until 1965 mandating de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern U.S. states (of the former Confederacy), starting in 1890 with a “separate but equal” status for African Americans.
Like South Africa there were several attempts to render the Jim Crow Laws ineffective.
The Civil Rights Act of 1875, introduced by Charles Sumner and Benjamin F. Butler, stipulated a guarantee that everyone, regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, was entitled to the same treatment in public accommodations, such as inns, public transportation, theaters, and other places of recreation. This Act had little effect. An 1883 Supreme Court decision ruled that the act was unconstitutional in some respects, saying Congress was not afforded control over private persons or corporations. With white southern Democrats forming a solid voting bloc in Congress, due to having outsize power from keeping seats apportioned for the total population in the South (although hundreds of thousands had been disenfranchised), Congress did not pass another civil rights law until 1957.
In 1887, Rev. W. H. Heard lodged a complaint with the Interstate Commerce Commission against the Georgia Railroad company for discrimination, citing its provision of different cars for white and black/colored passengers. The company successfully appealed for relief on the grounds it offered separate but equal accommodation.
In 1890, Louisiana passed a law requiring separate accommodations for colored and white passengers on railroads. Louisiana law distinguished between “white”, “black” and “colored” (that is, people of mixed European and African ancestry). The law already specified that blacks could not ride with white people, but colored people could ride with whites before 1890. A group of concerned black, colored and white citizens in New Orleans formed an association dedicated to rescinding the law. The group persuaded Homer Plessy, who was one-eighth “Negro” and of fair complexion, to test it.
In 1892, Plessy bought a first-class ticket from New Orleans on the East Louisiana Railway. Once he had boarded the train, he informed the train conductor of his racial lineage and took a seat in the whites-only car. He was directed to leave that car and sit instead in the “coloreds only” car. Plessy refused and was immediately arrested. The Citizens Committee of New Orleans fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court. They lost in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), in which the Court ruled that “separate but equal” facilities were constitutional. The finding contributed to 58 more years of legalized discrimination against black and colored people in the United States.
As you can read, racism continues to rage in America as it will continue to rage in South Africa. The best way to eliminate racism in South Africa is to promote positive racial relationships amongst all citizens.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
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