Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Barack Obama echoes Mandela: The rainbow nation address

“Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote: “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.” (Senator Barack Obama)

The above formed part of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s reply to the criticism of his damaging association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. (Philadelphia, March 18 2008)

In what has been described by some as his “Lincoln moment”, Obama tackled not only the questions on his relationship with Wright, who is renowned for his inflammatory racial remarks and condemnation of America, but also the issue of racism in America.

While many commentators are applauding Obama’s bravery in standing by Wright and meeting the race issue head-on, others have stated that he has transformed himself from a man who is running for president, who just happens to be black, into a black man running for president.

The transcript of the speech gives a clear insight into the Democratic candidate’s thinking on the state of race in America today and more importantly, from a South African perspective, throws light on issues which still divide us 14 years post-apartheid.

It also demonstrates what a powerful force for positive change in Africa Obama could be, if he were to be elected as president of the United States of America. His understanding of the racial divide, what causes it to shift and the ways in which it might be bridged, may well prove to be invaluable in putting this continent on the right track.

Starting with the opening paragraph where Obama quotes Faulkner — words which ring as true to South Africa today — as they were when he first uttered them. If regard is had to what we read in newspapers, people’s comments or even their actions, then transition is still very much a work in progress. We are still far too close to the end of apartheid to start thinking of it as the past; it is very much part of the here and now. While many of us would like to draw a line in the sand the reality does not allow for that just yet.

Our country as many are aware has a Constitution the equal of any in the world. Yet, in referring to one of the most famous and well established Constitutions, that of the US, he notes: “And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every colour and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part — through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.”

“It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts — that out of many, we are truly one.”

In essence, that a Constitution constructed with all the good intentions in the world, is not enough to set us free or mend the damage caused by the past. It takes South Africans, willing to go about their daily lives with the determination to make those words a reality. This does not happen overnight.

Indeed, as Nelson Mandela confirmed during his inauguration as state president in 1994: “We have fought for a democratic Constitution since the 1880s. Ours has been a quest for a Constitution freely adopted by the people of South Africa, reflecting their wishes and their aspirations. The struggle for democracy has never been a matter pursued by one race, class, religious community or gender among South Africans. In honouring those who fought to see this day arrive, we honour the best sons and daughters of all our people. We can count amongst them Africans, coloureds, Whites, Indians, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews — all of them united by a common vision of a better life for the people of this country.”

Which is what we need to start learning if we are to be the rainbow nation envisaged by Madiba, continued by president Mbeki with either JZ or Kgalema Motlanthe to follow — that all South Africans are different and that while we do form groups, each is an integral part of the whole — the aggregate of which makes us stronger. Our differences should be cause for celebration not division.

Obama then turned to the question of the Reverend Wright: “I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.”

Herein lies a great lesson for all South Africans. Where we disagree with others regarding issues or conduct pertaining to a person or group, then by all means debate them head on. Do not however write off an entire group based upon the misconduct of one or even a number of persons — this applies to us all.

“I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America — to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through — a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point.”

It was at this point in his speech that he made reference to the quote from Faulkner; that the past is still here and part of our present. What evolved over centuries can never be undone overnight. We have to recognise that it remains part of the present in order to build for the future.

In addressing a congregation at the Methodist church in Langa in 1999, Madiba said: “Today we face new challenges, even greater than what we overcame when we freed our country from the system of apartheid. From the destruction of a past based on racial domination and discrimination we are building a society in which every one shall have the dignity of equality, opportunity and freedom from poverty. We are creating a society in which none need fear oppression by another; a society at peace with itself. Democracy has brought us the opportunity to meet this challenge. It is not an easy task nor will it be a quick one, to put right the legacy of hundreds of years.

Obama then went on to record his views on how the inequality among races arose: “Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown vs Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

“Legalised discrimination — where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments — meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

“A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families — a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods — parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-ups and building code enforcement — all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

“This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up.”

Isn’t this the reality which we accept as having taken place but due to the painful memories that it brings back refuse to face head-on? When I tell my readers that I am for BEE and affirmative action some find it difficult to accept. They draw my attention to a non-racist new South Africa. While that may well be the end game, right now we have to accept that certain measures, arising from our troubled past, have to be introduced. Claiming non-racism as a blanket policy in the new South Africa is unfortunately unhelpful and does not resolve the more pressing problem of uplifting our people. Accepting what constitutes our past and that it remains with us even now paves the way for implementing solutions.

As Madiba confirmed during his inauguration: “The government will devise policies that encourage and reward productive enterprise among the disadvantaged communities — African, coloured and Indian. By easing credit conditions we can assist them to make inroads into the productive and manufacturing spheres and breakout of the small-scale distribution to which they are presently confined. To raise our country and its people from the morass of racism and apartheid will require determination and effort. As a government, the ANC will create a legal framework that will assist, rather than impede, the awesome task of reconstruction and development of our battered society.”

Obama was also mindful of the fear and anger which resides within the white community: “In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labour. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighbourhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk-show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze — a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns — this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.”

The racial stalemate and concerns confronted by Obama in this speech are as appropriate to us in South Africa as they are to Americans. Segregation in the US has to a large degree occasioned the same problems we are experiencing here. By stepping back and hoping they will resolve themselves we are not doing ourselves any favours. We have to accept that the problems of the past are still with us and will be for some time. Building the future requires that we deal with them constructively, ie, factoring them into our decisions as well as, in the case of the black community, understanding the government’s current position when making demands.

“For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances — for better healthcare, and better schools, and better jobs — to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.”

This means that not only must the white community accept the problems arising from the past but so too the black community must accept that there will be sacrifices in the way we are required to build our future. We can work together to take it forward or all remain behind as the victims of our past.

As Madiba noted in this extract from an interview he did with the Christian Science Monitor in 2000: “It has been said that difficulties and disaster destroy some people and make others,” Mandela began. It was a phrase he had last used in a letter to Winnie in 1975. “Douw Steyn is one of those who has turned disaster into success,” he said of the wealthy businessman who had formerly supported apartheid. “Change yourself first — one of the most difficult things is not to change society — but to change yourself,” he said.

This is also very appropriate if we look at Obama’s take on Wright: “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country — a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope — the audacity to hope — for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”

Not only must we acknowledge the giant strides that have been made in 14 short years, which many of us fail to do, but also look within ourselves as Madiba says and ask whether we have evolved along with our country. Our Constitution and our hard-won freedoms are nothing without a change of mindset by all South Africans. To make these great ideals a reality we need to think about where we are now and how we would propose taking this forward to the benefit of us all.

Obama believes that the way to build solid bridges is there: “In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds — by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realise that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.”

This again applies to us all — the need to accept that our concerns and fears are real and should not be ignored — that all South Africans must share the problems that beset some South Africans and that by solving them is to the benefit of us all.

“In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.”

The problems of our fellow South Africans are the problems of us all — if we can use that as our starting point we will make progress far quicker than looking after ourselves. For example, if people are squatting that is not a black problem it is a South African problem. It touches on crime, health, poverty and too many other issues to list here. By dealing with it you reduce many of the problems facing this great nation. This must apply accross the board.

Obama’s speech was more than just a Lincoln moment, it was a reaffirmation of the ideals and aspirations of one of the greatest human beings that ever lived — Nelson Mandela — that a rainbow nation, working and living together as one, would occupy the Southern tip of Africa.

“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.

This is the challenge that faces all South Africans today, and it is one to which I am certain we will all rise”.

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    • Jon

      As long as there’s someone out there telling me “You HAVE to accept this, or you HAVE to do that”, it will neither be accepted nor done. Not by me.

    • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy

      Very good speech. Very good article. Obvious similarities – including superficial and sensational media reporting worsening the situation perhaps? Just – is the American government racist? I genuinely don’t know – I don’t follow American politics much.

      Example of what I mean: Safm news report will say that Mbeki is in Mauritius to help them with their “Truth and Justice Commission”. I don’t think – “pull the other one – Zuma is also there”. I think – “But Mauritian history is so different to ours”. Then I look it up, and I get cross. There is NO indigeneous population in Mauritius. They did need Mbeki to help them “overcome colonialism” in the way implied.

      I don’t see the episode at Free State University as being proof of how much racism we have, but how little. The ANC is clinging to this one incidence involving 4 students like it was a liferaft. If there were more incidents that could be proved, they would do the same. They are supposed to be fighting poverty, unemployment and crime – but fuel racism as a smokescreen for lack of delivery.

      Another example: The celebration of the battle of Cuto Cuanavale as stopping South African imperial expansion to annex Angola. Why would South Africa want Angola eight years after they could have had a much bigger prize, Zimbabwe, on a plate? Instead they, together with Britain, pressurised Ian Smith into the Lancaster House agreement in the belief the result would be a democratic state and not a communist one.

      The ANC were not even there! The ANC was a small group of a few hundred sent into exile to train for leadership, and a few thousand in camps training for sabotage back here. The fight against apartheid was at home – involving PAC, UDF and many others. The fight on the borders was against communism.

      Tutu annoyed the ANC when he said in public “those who oppose apartheid are in many ways like those who oppose communism” and also “most blacks who reject communism as atheistic and materialistic…”etc. How many Christian supporters of the ANC know that communism as practiced by Russia and Cuba included enforced atheism?”

      I object to propaganda being represented as history – especially when it appears to be done to fuel racial conflict. And yes – the Nats did the same, but I objected then as well!

    • Roland Kuchling

      Mr Trapido, your hypocrisy is nauseating. In Sport, where your interests are effected you are fiercely intolerant of Affirmative Action. Where it holds no consequences to you (yet), in your job, in your wallet you justify AA and BEE by using Obama’s contradictory speech.
      In your first paragraph you quote Obama: “We don’t need to recite the history of racial injustice…” In paragraph 21, you write: “Obama then went on to record his views on how the inequalities among races arose”. Then you quote Obama’s list of white guilt.
      You’re article is as pathetic as Obama’s speech. Obama, the man who worships in a racist church since twenty years (which he joined as an adult) and then takes cheap shots at his grandmother to save his political ambition.
      Does the ANC pay you for this yarn you’ve spun? Have you sold your grandmother yet?

    • hotafter2tots

      I thoroughly enjoyed this well written piece and agree entirely with some of its main arguments- including that South Africans can learn from how race is being addressed constructively by Mr Obama, which somehow revives the thrust of Madiba’s legacy: human reconcilation. Thank you for sharing. Spread the love & peace.

    • BLACKLISTED DICTATOR

      Traps,
      It seems that Obama only distanced himself from Jeremiah Wright when it became politically expedient to do so. As a result, it is unrealistic to believe that Obama really rejects the following views…..

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jc2FCJ7zWEQ&feature=related

    • Kendy Madisha

      Good observation Michael. I also think the speech does more than speak to USA race problems. It speaks to us as South Africans in a profound way that could allow us to engage on race in a more progressive manner. Barack has impressed me throughout his presidential run as a unique politicians able to bring real change to the world.

    • cader

      Great stuff Michael.

      I share your sentiments but I would like to interrogate your statements further as to why there is so much inaction on the part of the people who benefitted from the past illegitimate regime. The degree of denial is so massive and it is building up large amounts of tension. Is it because they are conscious of the great suffering in terms of human right violations apartheid brought upon the majority of South Africans? It is so enormous that it it better to forget about it(“we are dealing and taliking about humans beings for G&%%sake”).

      I find these debates or should one call them baseless rhetoric confusing,immature, irreponsible and morally reprehensive and that the ones with the resources should actually stand up and do something.

    • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy

      Blacklisted Dictator
      I listened to the tape. That is how a minority feels.Blacks are 10% of America. Whites are 8% of South Africa. If anything it should help EVERYONE understand minority fears.

    • Consulting Engineer

      why dont we cut the BS about Obama. Lets look at what he really thinks, what he wrote before he wanted to be President. He may may condemn Wright now but he has always been anti-white and racist. Here are his own writings expressing disdain for whites:

      From Dreams of My Father, ” I FOUND A SOLACE IN NURSING A PERVASISVE SENSE OF GRIEVANCE AND ANIMOSITY AGAINST MY MOTHER’S RACE”. Barack Hussein Obama

      From ‘Dreams of my Father’, “The emotion between the races could never be pure, even love was tarnished by the desire to find in the other some element that was missing in ourselves. Whether we sought out our demons or salvation, the other race (WHITE) would always remain just that: menacing, alien, and apart.” Barack Hussein Obama

      From Dreams Of My Father: “That hate hadn’t gone away,” he wrote, BLAMING “WHITE PEOPLE – some CRUEL, some IGNORANT, sometimes a single face, sometimes just a faceless image of a system claiming power over our lives.” Barack Hussein Obama

      From ‘Dreams Of My Father’, “There were enough of us on campus to constitute a tribe, and when it came to hanging out many of us chose to function like a tribe, staying close together, traveling in packs,” he wrote. “It remained necessary to prove which side you were on,to show your LOYALTY TO THE BLACK MASSES, TO STRIKE OUT and name names” Barack Hussein Obama

      OBAMA EXPRESSES HIS ADMIRATION FOR ISLAM: quote from Barack Obama’s book, Dreams Of My Father: “THE PERSON WHO MADE ME THE PROUDEST, though, was [HALF BROTHER] Roy .. HE CONVERTED TO ISLAM”

      From ‘Dreams of my Father’, “IN INDONESIA I SPENT TWO YEARS IN A MUSLIM SCHOOL” “I STUDIED THE KORAN”

      From ‘Audacity of Hope: “Lolo (OBAMA’S STEPFATHER) FOLLOWED ISLAM….”I LOOKED TO LOLO FOR GUIDANCE”.

      From ‘The Audacity Of Hope, “I WILL STAND WITH THE MUSLIMS should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”

      From The Audacity Of Hope, “WE ARE NO LONGER JUST A CHRISTIAN NATION,” “WE ARE ALSO a Jewish nation, A MUSLIM NATION, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

    • Consulting Engineer

      So Obama the master of spin pulls it off again.

      I was wondering how he would explain why he sat silent in a pew for 20 years as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright delivered racist rants against whites and whites inventing AIDS to infect and kill black people. Yawn. How would he justify not walking out as Wright spewed his venom.

      So Barack agrees Wright’s statements were “controversial,” and “divisive,” and “racially charged,” reflecting a “distorted view of America. “But we must understand the Rev. Wright came: 350 years of slavery and segregation.” What a boring old story. So why is Obama listening? He wasnt a slave.

      Obama says the “white community,” must start “acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the
      minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination is real and must be addressed.

      And what deeds must whites perform? The “white community” must invest more money in black schools and communities and provide this generation of blacks with “ladders of opportunity” that were “unavailable” to Barack’s and the Rev. Wright’s generations.

      It is the same old con. The same guilt and blame used by street corner hustlers. The same con the Kerner Commission used to blame the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other
      cities on, as Nixon put it, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”

      Was “white racism” really responsible for those black men looting auto dealerships and liquor stories, and burning down their own communities, as Otto Kerner said — that liberal icon until the
      feds put him away for bribery.

      What about these facts:

      America has been the best country on earth for blacks. They grew to 40 million, were introduced to
      Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

      Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is in a white ruled country.

      Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on
      welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

      Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against whites with AA, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.

      Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

      We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

      Barack talks about new “ladders of opportunity” for blacks. Let him go to poor white areas and ask white kids how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for “deserving” white kids.

      Are whites really responsible for the fact that the crime and incarceration rates for African-Americans are seven times those of whites? Is it really whitea to blame that illegitimacy
      in the African-American community has hit 70 percent and the black dropout rate from high schools in some cities has reached 50 percent?

      Is that the fault of whites or a failure of the black community itself?

      As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. Is Barack Obama
      aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the
      time?

      Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?

      We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Wright about Tawana Brawley,the Duke rape case and Jena. And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.

      Sorry, Barack, some of us have heard it all before, about 40 years and 40 trillion tax dollars ago.

      We are not buying the Black man’s hustle again.

    • BLACKLISTED DICTATOR

      Lyndall,
      Not all blacks in the USA subscribe to Jeremiah Wright’s teachings. It is, moreover, frightening that Americans can even consider voting for a candidate (Obama) who has, for many years, lapped up Wright’s divisive sermons.

    • cool down.

      In America Whites (81.7%) decide the future
      of minorities (Blacks 12.9%) Asian (4.2%) others
      (1.2%).
      In South Africa Blacks (79.6) decide the future
      of minorities W(9.0%) Coloured (8.9%) Asians (2.5%).
      So any comparison with America is irrelevant.

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    • http://capetownnews.co.za/ Richard Catto

      I feel that an excellent article by Michael Trapido has been unnecessarily sullied by a litany of ranting racist comments from belligerent right wingers.

      There’s a few commenters on here that Thought Leader can easily afford to lose and thereby increase the quality of debate for the rest of us.

      Thank you, Michael. Well worth the read.

    • Observer in America

      Traps – this was insightful. Obama may not be perfect (who is?) but he is certainly willing to talk openly and candidly and raise the consciousness and the difficulty of buliding racial bridges. Your objective was to show us how similar we are to the American stage. Here is a candidate that doesn’t sweep things under the mat or throw off friends to suit the occasion but says – yes let’s confront the issue and understand how bigotry and prejudice have been created and let’s eradicate those structures. There are so many dinner tables that I’ve sat in around South Africa among both black and white and heard shockingly racist commentary. Have I corrected people yes – have I convinced them, not always. Are they friends – yes because I don’t believe in hypocritical expediency but they also know my views on bigotry

      The hardest bit of fighting prejudice is to change the mindset. Some contributors here have consistently proven this. Sweeping and emotional generalizations demonstrate that they are victims of their own mindset and ignorance. First seek to understand and then propose a solution that benefits each citizen – democracy is not the ideal solution just the best we have. Let us collectively find solutions that empower all South Africans. That is the gist of the comparison that Traps is making between Mandela and Obama.

      Racism is alive and so is prejudice in America. Institutions don’t create prejudice – human beings do and they can choose between right and wrong, fairplay or not, justice or chaos, decency and dignity over arrogance and destruction. Women are still on average paid less than men and black people especially men are still victims of deep seated prejudice. If you want a treatise on racism in America today – go out and read it, it’s all there in black and white on the net. Don’t speak for black people in America – dignity and material wealth are not interchangeable but can co-exist. Let’s seek unity through common values not self righteous whinging and divisionism. Salute Traps!

    • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy

      Blacklisted Dictator and Consulting Engineer

      You do have points – unfortunately. Three things worry me:

      1.Black on white crime can be “merely” crime, if an old couple is bound up and gagged, and their possessions stolen. But when boiling water is poured down their throats – that is not crime it is racism.The trouble is the government tells them false statistics all the time about the whites contolling the economy and making them poor. It is simply not possible. The PIC has R700 billion. 30% of our stock market was in foreign hands 6 months ago – you can’t call all foreigners white. It is probably more now. What about the vast amounts in Setas? And is all the Unit Trust money white? The blacks control all the tax money. 25% of adult whites have left, 25% are consultants or run their own businesses (providing employment), and the remainder consist of those in retirement or working towards retirement (i.e already employed before AA). And many of those consultants are merely doing the jobs they left for the “black” sitting behind the desk and paid by taxpayers. So the taxpayer is paying twice – the state employee to pretend to do the job, and the consultant to actually do it for him or her. This has bankrupted the Road Accident Fund where they are letting attorneys do the work for them (at vast cost) because they are not qualified to make the decisions themselves.

      2.Black Patriarchy. It exists still. When I practiced my profession a liquidation of a “white” clothing business would always be that the expensive clothing stock would be for women and children. More proportion of family income would be for clothing women and children than for clothing men. There was always minimal and cheap stock for women and children if the ahop was “black” All the expensive stock wouuld be to clothe the men.Mbeki has made it worse not better. His “women” are regarded as tokens.

      3. Foreign Investment. We have not been getting foreign investment – we have been selling off assets and calling that investment. See any new factories? See any new industries?

      The more they have supported Mugabe – the more I have wondered why? It makes no commercial sense unless they are doing the same.

    • Consulting Engineer

      @Richard Catto

      Spoken like a true leftie:

      “There’s a few commenters on here that Thought Leader can easily afford to lose and thereby increase the quality of debate for the rest of us.”

      Silence the opposition so you can all ‘debate’ and agree amongst yourselves about how right, clever, and progressive you are. And of course never ever address the facts the opposition brings up. Just write it off as racist rants. Mugabe would be proud: we can afford to lose such people who are ‘disagreeable’.

      More enlightened liberals like Lyndall Beddy (sorry Lyndall if the term offends you. I dont intend to) at least concede that the ‘racists’ have good points.

    • Consulting Engineer

      @Observer in america

      Rather than talk of changing mindsets, why don’t you rather change the reality of behaviour then people wont have a reason to be predjudiced.

      As long as a segment of your population commits crime at 7 times the rate of others people will continue to dislike them. No liberal whitewash of the facts will change that. Do you want a link to the Dept of Justice stats page, or do you prefer to keep your head in the sand?

      And what about the constant whining for reparations, like Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of Afro-American Studies at Harvard, demanding that whites pay reparations to blacks.

      Here is an article by Frank Reed for you:

      http://www.leany.com/slavery.html

      I am sure you were a great guest in SA: invited to people’s homes for dinner then complain about their racism. How charming. Guess both white and black hosts were too polite to show you the door, to the credit of my ‘racist’ countrymen.

    • Consulting Engineer

      @Lyndall Beddy

      One aspect of foreign investment that concerns me is the proliferation of game farms and resorts. The eastern Cape and northern Transvaal are hard hit with this.

      Food production is reduced, driving up the price of meat, and these farms are sold to foreigners who use them for holidays. They sell holidays to europeans who pay fo it overseas in euros, so tourist money or hunting fees do not enter SA. Food is also flown in from europe. A few domestics are employed; far less than the number of farm workers. Even some of the staff are brought in from europe.

      SA loses out to become a play ground for foreigners. The government then says there is investment. But in reality there is a reduction in the local economy.

      It seems like the ANC is promoting neo-colonialism.

    • cool down.

      Is not strange that it is taken for granted
      that a person from a minority black group is deemed
      a suitable candidate to change American history,but if anyone from a white minority group in South Africa embarks on a course not favoured by the majority Black,he is soon labelled a racist and should no longer be allowed to air his/her
      views.

    • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy

      Consulting Engineer
      Not insulted. We must all try to keep open minds or we will go around in circles and solve nothing. Sometimes you should read outside your own comfort zone – just to try to understand the other point of view.

      Whites should maybe read “Rabblerouser for Peace”(Tutu’s biography)

      Blacks should maybe read “The Great Betrayal” (Ian Smith’s autobiography)

    • http://letpeoplespeak.amagama.com Lyndall Beddy

      Consulting Engineer

      There really is enough land for both- and those game farms are also green lungs.Tourism brings in lots of foreign exchange. What we must do is look after productive farms and not let those be developed easily. We are exporting food, so we have enough; but farmers are giving up – not enough profit and continual racist abuse.

      Our “New” environmental laws are a joke – made things much worse, and they are going to make it even easier with another one. The one thing they should have kept centralised they have decentralised. – so corrupt locals can cook up schemes together without the oversite there used to be. The laws that exposed the Rhoodefontein scam have been removed.

      I live in a rural area near Plett. The foreigners are only here half the year – but contribute astronomically to everything – including the Aids programmes, abuse shelter, soup kitchens, creches etc etc.

      Golf estates are another myth. I will give you 2 examples. Penzula in Knysna is NOW prime estate and bringing in a fortune in taxes, international tournaments etc. Before it was developed it was a windy headland which was not possible to be cultivated – the wind is too strong and the soil too rocky and thin.No one had ever used the land. Fancourt in George is the same. It was a partly developed piece of land . The developer went bust and the liquidators sold it on public auction. George is not on the coast and was just a drive through town before Fancourt. Both those are cases of eccentric and very wealthy foreigners who developed for fun and enjoyment. The spin off for local business and employment has been massive.Remember the AIDS concert at Fancourt where the full R6 million gate money went to Aids relief in the area? BUT there must be NO removal of the protections on farmland which is viable. That is exactly what the ANC is doing under the guise of “improving the apartheid laws”.

      We don’t eat much game. Foreigners do.A year ago we were exporting game from the Karoo to Europe at R65 a kilo wholesale prices! The prices have probably gone up. Maybe another idea for the Ciskei and Transkei could be more game farms!

      I don’t understand the maids story. Here the staff or agencies look after the holiday homes and get paid even when the owners are away. Fancourt and Penzula are fully staffed all year. Surely most game lodges are as well?

    • Kevin Seabi

      Consulting engineer

      The article provides South African with views that will encourage us to grow, hence I find it difficult to understand the views of “Consulting Engineer” where he refers to phrases from Obama’s book, Dreams Of My Father. It is rediculous for him to think that people who read Thought Leader article are idiots, some of us have read Obama’s book, Dreams of my Father, needless to say – it boils down to selective reading on your part.
      People grow, the book reflects on his childhood and the emotions he went thru. In the transcript of the speech – he clearly states that he is imperfect – you omitted.

      You have also stated “OBAMA EXPRESSES HIS ADMIRATION FOR ISLAM: “its not for islam but for his brother who you must read the story to understand, however what is wrong with Islam? From ‘Dreams of my Father’, “IN INDONESIA I SPENT TWO YEARS IN A MUSLIM SCHOOL” “I STUDIED THE KORAN”
      This means that he is well read, have you studied the religion before you castised it? It seams vain for an educated folk.

      From ‘Audacity of Hope: “Lolo (OBAMA’S STEPFATHER) FOLLOWED ISLAM….”I LOOKED TO LOLO FOR GUIDANCE”.
      Where should he find guidance if not from his father.

      “I WILL STAND WITH THE MUSLIMS should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”

      Once again – do not omit. A little knowledge is dangerous.

      From The Audacity Of Hope, “WE ARE NO LONGER JUST A CHRISTIAN NATION,” “WE ARE ALSO a Jewish nation, A MUSLIM NATION, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

      Is this not the truth, also here in SA we are a nation of Religious practices, aren’t we?

    • cool down.

      Kevin Seabi
      Do you see Osama bin Laden as a terrorist or Freedom fighter?

    • Alan

      Interesting reading, now it’s time for a laugh.
      http://www.theonion.com/content/news/black_guy_asks_nation_for_change

    • http://www.christinmeministries.net Rev. Christine Glover

      THE NEWS MEDIA IS AT IT AGAIN — REV. WRIGHT AND SENATOR OBAMA EXONERATED!

      Thank God for PBS and their boldness and kindness in letting Rev. Jeremiah voice his feelings, showing his remarks in context — that the news media blew out of context and played over and over again to incite racial hatred and to cast expersions upon Senator Obama for not denoucing him.

      Thank God he didn’t! He knew the truth about the matter and stood firm on his belief.

      The news media tried to show comments — again out of context– of the things he said in the interview before it was aired — they put their usual negative spin on it to prejudice people against it before it even came on.

      Shame on the news media! Everyone was exposed and Rev. Wright and Senator Obama were exonerated. I trust that this will be enough to stop the negative effect of the ads that the Republicans are going to run next week.

      The news media says that it was bad timing for Senator Obama, when in fact it was great timing. I trust that the Obama campaign will pay money to run the entire interview on national tv before every primary.

      The news media is still taking the interview out of context and putting a negative spin on it even after it aired.

      Hopefully the American people will not take what the media showed in advance of the interview, and will form their own opinion about the matter.

      Thank God for answering the prayers of His people in bringing out the truth.