Letter: American apartheid
In August 1981, K.W. de Klerk was appointed president of South Africa. Shortly thereafter, he boldly initiated actions to dismantle apartheid. This monumental shift in policy was eventually realized, cumulating in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela as the first post-apartheid president and forming a democratic government. De Klerk was appointed by Mandela as his first deputy. A year earlier, the two unlikely allies received the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.” Their collaborative efforts successfully transformed a dreadful period of oppression and established a new era of democratic rule in South Africa.
Apartheid was created by the Afrikaans National Party in 1948. “Apartheid” is an Afrikaans word that literally means “to stand apart.” This unjust practice of forced segregation was enforced and systematically expanded by the Afrikaans National Party for the next 46 years. During this era, the rights of a vast majority of Africans, the non-whites, were oppressed by the tyranny of a small minority of South Africans, the white ruling class.
The dismantling of apartheid was a long and horrific process, one in which many lives were lost during a long period of epic unrest. Of course, an integral component of this historic shift in policy was the need for the exploitation of power to be recognized. In South Africa, the domination of the small ruling class at the expense of the vast majority of South Africans was as clear as black and white. More preciously, it was distinguished in terms of white and non-white.
In the United States, a similar form of tragic exploitation of power at the expense of the vast majority of Americans has yet to be fully acknowledged. The disparity of wealth in the United States has dramatically increased in magnitude over the past few years. According to the Pew Research Center (Dec. 17), “the wealth gap between America’s high-income group and everyone else has reached record-high levels since the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09, with a clear trajectory of increasing wealth for the upper-income families and no wealth growth for the middle- and lower-income families.”
Racial segregation was the form of apartheid enforced in South Africa. In the United States, the economic policies unjustly favor a very small minority of the population, commonly referred to as the 1 percent. It is evident that the vast majority of Americans are monetarily segregated by an unjust form of economic apartheid.
There is now an imminent need for the vast majority of Americans to awaken to the economic injustice we continue to endure. Only then will we be able to unite in defiance of a system that unjustly rewards a very small minority of the population. Unified actions will provide us, the vast majority of Americans, a greater share of the prosperity that our great country has to offer.
Jim Coddington III