Friday, October 15th, 2010


Yesterday, Talitha and I entered a heavy, sober, prison-like stone building. But not together. One of us passed under a sign that read “whites,” the other under “non-whites.” I haven’t seen signs like that in 50 years.

Nor are they elsewhere today here in Johannesburg. We were at the Apartheid Museum, trying to understand more about official policy established in the 1940s that labeled every South African as black, white, coloured or Asian. These groups  lived fairly separate lives before Apartheid, but now it was required by law.  The whites had the privileges; the non-whites had little.

I would be foolish and presumptuous to speak authoritatively on people and history which I know so little about. So I will just record some of my impressions and thoughts as we walked through the Apartheid Museum–impressions that weave together with my own history.

1. Old images of battles between the incoming Europeans and the native peoples of South Africa could just have well been images of battles between Native Americans and incoming Europeans.

2. The only mention of slavery that I heard or saw was of Europeans bringing slavery with them. In whatever ways that may have changed slavery, there was no acknowledgment that slavery already existed with Africans enslaving other Africans.

3. In the town I grew up in, the blacks and whites lived in separate parts of town, as they did here during Apartheid. In South Africa, it was dictated by law. In Georgia it was de facto.

4. Apartheid made it illegal to marry across color lines. That was true too in parts of the US.

5. I watched a video in which a politician argued for the establishment of Apartheid. He justifies it because of the need to protect “our future generations.” That stopped me in my tracks–the idea of one group of people deserving protection at the expense of all others. And yet, it was not a new idea and there are still people in my own country who feel the same way.

6. I had to ask myself, Which is worse? Europeans invading South Africa and subjugating the native peoples for more than a century? Or  Europeans invading America, subjugating the native peoples and also importing another group of people as slaves and later treating them too as inferiors? I find it difficult to balance one set of evils against another.

The event that is the symbolic landmark of the end of official apartheid was the election of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994. As Talitha and I left the museum, I put my arm around her shoulder, thinking: If we had lived in South Africa when Talitha was born or in the US only a few years earlier, she would not have been our daughter.

I am thankful that much has changed in South Africa and in America. And there is much to keep praying toward.

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9 Responses to “Apartheid”

  1. I have been a mother at home and am soon to be a grandmother in and from my home and have for the most part been knowledgable about what was going on in the world around me in a far too broad sense. I had no idea how broad and shallow I was till I began (in the past couple years) become a self taught woman as it relates to the world around me. It has been both enlightening and sobering—with an additional degree of shame for being so ignorant for so long—but I am looking forward. Reading your entry now- has reminded me afresh of something that I listened to a few months back that explained much of what you related today. Hope it is alright for me to mention this link here that is referring an interview by a Dr. Peter Hammond.
    By the way… it is also from here that I was introduced to Alexandr Solzhenitsyn…another rabbit trail of interest that is worth our consideration and time. Thank you Noel. I look forward to hearing more from you again in the future.

  2. Woops- Forgot to link the second part of Dr. Hammond video which is the most informative part.

  3. Noel– I am sorry- here is the correct second part.

  4. Noel, thank you for your impressions and thoughts…we too continue to pray and work towards a day in which the beauty and variety of God’s creation of mankind will be celebrated and enjoyed. We have two “non-whites” grafted into our family by adoption for whom we give God thanks daily. We were just talking the other day about how if we describe the beauty of a rose it is received as poetic or lovely, but for some reason if we comment about how we love how my daughter’s eyes disappear when she smiles (she’s from Korea), we’re being racists. Crazy, isn’t it? In a pendulum swing away from apartheid, there is a “let’s be color blind” movement that renders us racist if we observe (even with appreciation) the beauty of variety in mankind…I don’t want to be colorblind, but rather celebrate the colors as wonderful creations of an Amazing God. I didn’t adopt two children from Korea because I hate them, but because I love them…the racist comments leave me bewildered.

  5. I like your posts! It is so good to hear your perspective. Hope you have a wonderful trip. God bless you.

  6. Some of the most compelling and forceful writing I have ever read against apartheid and institutionalized racial separation have come from the pen of Alan Paton.

    Most people are at least vaguely familiar with his fictional works. I recommend his non-fiction as well.

    “The Long View”, in this case.

  7. Trying to make sense of things. Is Alan Paton a humanist as claimed here (below) by Nelson Mandela?
    I don’t know if you can answer this now or not… but Noel- are you familiar with the works of A. Paton? How are we to handle rightly the works of Christian and non Christian writers.
    “Cry, the Beloved Country, however, is also a monument to the future. One of South Africa’s leading humanists, Alan Paton, vividly captured his eloquent faith in the essential goodness of people in his epic work.” – Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa.

    Researching Paton a bit reveals that he suffered at the hands of an over-ly authoritative religious father which ended up shaping many of his views toward the apartheid and the African government. Just don’t know if he is of the far left in liberal thought—or true freedom found in our precious gospel of Jesus Christ.
    I want to be particular about what I devote very precious time to—hense my questions.

  8. Thank you for taking us on your field trip to a real live country and museum that speaks of the evil Satan has for people, but the LOVE God meant for GOOD! The fact that you have made Talitha part of your family makes me want to praise the Lord with gladness because you can include her in your family here on earth and do not have to wait until heaven. Thank you Lord that Talitha was born and that she is in the Piper’s family!

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