The Struggle of Blacks against Apartheid and Discrimination

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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This documentary demonstrates that Blacks faced horrendous discrimination in both the United States and South Africa. It covers several topics, which will be summarized in this essay. They include the origins of Afrikaners, the link between religion and white supremacy, the apartheid system, Nelson Mandela’s role, the anti-segregation movement in the United States, and black voting rights. There was a phase in history when Blacks were grossly discriminated against, subjected to prejudice, and horribly mistreated. This documentary does an excellent job of revealing the conditions that Blacks had to endure during this dreadful period.

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The documentary illustrates how segregation was enforced in the United States and South Africa. Once protests began, it took around ten years for Blacks in the United States to gain some of the same rights as whites, whereas South Africa took almost half a century. A quote from the video reveals that, “The U.S. Constitution promised equality before the law, but in the 1950s in the South, where 10 million blacks lived, it was the state’s laws that counted”. The passage of laws promoting equality for Blacks didn’t make much difference, as they continued to face discrimination in their daily lives. Post-slavery, everything became segregated in the United States, with law enforcement deployed to maintain this racial separation. The Ku Klux Klan instigated fear among whites to hinder discussions of ending segregation.

Eventually, the Federal Court admitted schools to integrate, replacing the previous practice of using the National Guard to keep Blacks out of white zoned schools. However, this transition was challenging. A trial was initiated with a Black test group in Little Rock, but due to the violent reaction from white protesters, the school had to be evacuated. The prevailing President ordered the army to remove the violent white protesters and thereby enabling the black students to attend school. This action was a key component of the Civil Rights Movement’s goal to end segregation. The Civil Rights Movement emerged as Blacks began using mass actions, due to their conviction that the government was neglecting the persisting racial discrimination against them.

As the Civil Rights Movement progressed, Blacks started conducting sit-in protests, and in 1961, around 50,000 participated in one such protest. The Freedom Riders, a group of Blacks, refused to stay in their segregated seats on public buses, which eventually led to a bus being firebombed by a group of whites. In the U.S., around 36,000 Blacks were arrested for protesting segregation laws. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was introduced to “eliminate segregation in all settings.” However, the South resisted this Act, denying Blacks the rights they should have been accorded. For instance, some Southern regions denied Blacks voting rights. The video indicates that “only 10% of Blacks were registered in Alabama”.

Going into the history of South Africa, Afrikaners were white descendants of European origins who migrated to South Africa centuries beforehand. Afrikaners had their language, political system, and even their church. Within the Afrikaners’ church, white supremacy was enforced, teaching that God endorsed the belief of blacks being predestined to serve as laborers. In 1948, an all-white parliament passed legislation institutionalizing white supremacy in South Africa. Blacks were technically the majority in South Africa, and whites were the minority statistically, but this wasn’t reflected in everyday realities. Commodities were also segregated, and whites enjoyed superior treatment than blacks, making the whites feel like the majority. Whites received better hospital care, land, voting rights, opportunities, and more. Blacks weren’t even allowed to vote.

The apartheid system that was implemented played a significant role in segregating blacks and whites in South Africa. In South Africa, people were obliged to document their racial origins. If you were white mixed with some other race, you were deemed as colored, and if you were black mixed with any other race, you were also regarded as colored. Contrarily, pure whites and blacks were identified as they were. Blacks had to carry a passbook at all times, granted access to white areas only if they had a stamp showing they had professional duties within those areas. If blacks were found without their passbooks, they risked being arrested. Some laws from the apartheid system, besides establishing spatial segregation, prohibited interracial marriage and facilitated race-specific blood transfusions in segregated hospitals.

While white South Africans received a similar education to their counterparts in the United States, the situation for blacks was noticeably different. Black children were merely taught practical household skills in school, and knowledge about the broader world was purposely omitted. Black children were forced to give up their dreams of becoming doctors, teachers, or actresses because these roles were reserved for white children. When blacks in South Africa had had enough, they attended a meeting held by the African National Congress to protest the apartheid system—an action highly risky at the time. The video mentions that “the African National Congress called for mass civil disobedience” in 1955.

The African National Congress presented a freedom charter, which declared “South Africa belonged to all who live in it, blacks and whites.” This proclamation led to the arrest of 156 African National Congress leaders for high treason. Eventually, blacks were forcibly displaced from their homes and settlements and relocated into white-created townships designated for blacks. Another form of protest began when blacks started publicly burning their passports. Following that, a major protest occurred in the township of Sharpeville, where 15,000 people attended, 67 were fatally shot, and many others injured. Nelson Mandela, predominantly renowned for becoming the president of South Africa, was initially one of the leaders of the African National Congress. He advocated the idea of the sabotage campaign which eventually led to his arrest in 1962. Serving a life sentence at Robins Island, Mandela affirmed, “I planned the sabotage campaign because lawful methods of opposition were closed.”

This was a terrible period for both whites and blacks, primarily blacks. It was a dire time for blacks recently emancipated from slavery, yet still facing daily discrimination. It was appalling how whites could treat blacks with such a massive amount of disrespect, which is entirely astounding. Overall, I’m grateful to see our progress compared to what that documentary depicted. We have not yet achieved a perfect world where blacks and whites are treated equally, but I remain hopeful that we will reach that point one day.

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The Struggle of Blacks Against Apartheid and Discrimination. (2023, Mar 09). Retrieved from