Only a small amount of people know that my real name is Rolihlahla. Mostly, I am recognised as Nelson Mandela. When I started school at age 7, my teacher changed my name to Nelson. We weren't allowed to keep our African names because of the British bias of our education. I didn't just lose a name, I lost a part of myself, of my identity. The whites either couldn't or refused to pronounce our real names. To them, African culture did not exist. At school, the government spent approximately 6 times as much on a white student as they did on an African student. To the Nationalists, the African was biologically ignorant and lazy and no amount of education could fix that.
When I was a boy, I rarely ever came across a white man. To me, the whites were as grand as gods, and I was aware that they were to be treated with a mixture of fear and respect. My admiration for whites slightly faltered when my father got into an argument with a magistrate and lost his job. I was confused and I thought it was all some sort of mistake. How could these noble, respected gentlemen take away a man's job? His only form of income...His life? I did not encounter discrimination when I was young, probably because of two main reasons:
1) My connection to the Royal Family
2) I lived in a remote area where whites were uncommon.
At that time, I had almost nothing to do with white people. However, when I was about ten years old, I started hearing stories the elders told about how white people had destroyed the fellowship of their tribes and told them that their real chief was the Great White Queen across the ocean. This Great White Queen brought nothing but misery and treachery to the black people. These stories made me feel angry and cheated, as though I had been robbed of my own birthright.
After school, I experienced first hand the harsh reality of prejudice and discrimination in our society. It was then that I discovered the unfairness and inequity of our society. In my opinion, this was because the whites were narrow-minded with false preconceptions that they were happy to keep. Africans were in desperate need for legal help in government buildings; it was a crime to walk through a Whites Only door, to ride a Whites Only bus, to use a Whites Only beach, to use a Whites Only drinking fountain and to be on the streets after 11p.m. It was a crime to be unemployed, yet also a crime to be employed in the wrong place, a crime to live in certain places, yet also a crime to have no place to live. The black people could not win.
After Uni, a good friend, Oliver Tambo and I set up our own law firm. As a lawyer, every week we interviewed people and families who's lives were being devastated by the white people. Every week, we interviewed old women that had brewed...