The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, by David Welsh, is an expansive and historical explanation of the South African Apartheid moment and its’ ultimate downfall. Welsh’s focus is on the effect of the mid-century rise of racism due to Afrikaner nationalism, white South Africans of Dutch origin who held anti-British sentiment resulting in white supremacy over black Africans. Although South Africa is not the only culture that has dealt with racism or discrimination, but it is one of the most visible of the last 100 years. Welsh looks at the effect of: leaders such as Mandela and De Klerk; international sanctions and protests; and military regimes. It is a historical writing that documents human drama of discrimination played out on a world stage.
Complex and overwhelming are two words that come to mind when approaching the subject of the Apartheid. It is complex and overwhelming in that I am not from or connected with South Africa. It is also complex and overwhelming in that the issues of racism, discrimination, or prejudice are not simple or easy, nor are their solutions. It is also complex and overwhelming in the amount of leadership and work that it took to bring South Africa together.
As you read, there are so many factors and layers that it is not easy or simple in its’ origin. Therefore it was not easy or simple in its solutions. I had never given much thought or contemplation about the Apartheid, but this book was eye opening in its complexity. As someone, not from South Africa, I found it difficult to wrap my mind around the subject matter. This is also something that prejudice and racism has in common, it is complex and very difficult to wrap your mind around. Especially when you are on the outside looking in. Why can’t people get along, overcome their differences, and work through their issues? From the outside, it can be difficult to understand or resolve.
The issue of racism is also very complex and overwhelming. Where do you begin and how do you bring resolution that have been in existence for decades. I begs the question is racism and prejudice a product of environmental upbringing or is it natural with every person to be suspect from anyone different than yourself? As you read and think, it becomes very difficult to separate the two because its existence has been around so long. De Klerk captures the sentiment as he said on his way into Parliament referring to his speech: “South Africa will never be the same again after this.”
Lastly, the amount of leadership and work expended to bring the nation together is overwhelmingly complex. As Welsh points out, there were multiple issues and complexity that brought about the strife and unrest in South Africa. However, through the conflict their were two leaders that emerged to bring about resolution and peace. Those leaders were De Klerk who in simplistic terms represented the white South African and Nelson Mandela who represented the black South African. These two individuals, from very different perspectives, worked, sacrificed, and gave of themselves even ahead of many of their constituents to bring about peace among the white and black of South African. This display of leadership, even in the heat and pain of the tension of change illustrates one of the powerful layers of complexity that brought about resolution. Within complexity of situations and life there are always a leader or leaders that bring about resolution, the downfall of the Apartheid is no exception.