Segregation is a concept as old as time, and it is not unique to the United States.
South Africa still suffers from the effects of an organized and government mandated
system of segregation called apartheid that lasted for over a quarter of a century.
Apartheid, literally translated from Afrikaans, means apartness (Mandela 40). It is
defined as a policy of racial segregation and “political and economic discrimination
against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa” (“Apartheid”). According
to Robin Cohen, South African apartheid was based on four basic premises: “white
monopoly of political power, the manipulation of space to achieve racial segregation, the
control of black labor, and urban social control” (qtd. in Massie 385). Apartheid was
widely supported by powerful nations, including the United States. However, the validity
of the arguments and actions that those supporters used was questionable and not based in
The brief history on South African apartheid that follows is essential to
understanding the whole picture.
Apartheid began as an implied law in the seventh century with the start of the
slave trade where an estimated 25 million blacks were sold into slavery over a period of
12 centuries (Stock 65). However, it was not until 1948 that the South African
government actually passed apartheid laws (“Timeline”). The Prohibition of Mixed
Marriages Act of 1949 strictly prohibited people of different races marrying and having
offspring (Stock 21).
The 1950s were the era of Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, the Minister of Native
Affairs, and later, Prime Minister of South Africa. The Population Registration Act of
1950 required all people to be designated and registered by a specific race: white, black,
or of mixed decent, considered colored (“History”). This designation was primarily
based on appearance, often by means of the “pencil in the hair” test. Officials would
begin by placing a pencil in a person’s hair. If the hair was curly enough to hold the
pencil while bending over, the person was black, and if the pencil fell out, the person was
colored (Massie 21). In 1951 homelands, or bantustans, were established (“Timeline”).
The homelands were South Africa’s equivalent to America’s reservations. Blacks, who
had no rights outside their homeland, were often violently forced to move based on race
and origin (“History”). They were also forced to carry passbooks containing identity, tax,
race, and homeland information (Massie 29). During this time, Nelson Mandela began
his life of activism against apartheid in South Africa (“Timeline”).
In 1960 Verwoerd passed the Unlawful Organizations Act that enabled him to
prosecute members of existing organizations (Massie 69). This was primarily used to
allow him to outlaw the African National Congress. The ANC had been formed in 1912
to “transcend all tribal...