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May 19, 2008

The Oppressed Has Become The Oppressor: South African Violence Against Foreigners

The story of apartheid is one that we all know well. South African was segregated and torn between whites and blacks for decades. Nelson Mandela sat behind bars for decades because he was brave enough to fight for freedom and equal rights. It was noble fight and when apartheid tumbled in South Africa, most of the world rejoiced.

In the wake of apartheid is seems that black South Africans have learned well from their former oppressors. Instead of embracing diversity and enjoying the spoils of a country that would be beautiful minus the shanty towns and violence, South Africans are rioting and killing foreigners. At least 12 foreigners were killed in violence spurred by the idea that jobs are being taken away from those born in South Africa.

South Africa’s capital is one of the most violent cities on the planet. The city averages 50 homicides a day and has been riddled by drug use and prostitution. The AIDS epidemic has proliferated the city and the surrounding suburbs are mostly poor and rundown. I don’t believe that foreigners could be held responsible for all of that. There is something fundamentally wrong with the way that South Africa is being run.

First of all, in the wake of Apartheid South Africa reversed the roles of the oppressed and the oppressors by setting up affirmative action like laws. Blacks were given preferential treatment in an attempt to amend the wrongs of the past. No one stopped to think that a new wrong was being created by making it harder for non-blacks to find jobs and take advantage of opportunities. In the wake Apartheid many natives that could have helped reinforce the good things about South Africa and improve on the bad aspects left the country.

Zimbabweans are among the group of foreigners that are being accused of stealing jobs and causing violence. As always people try to combat violence with violence and the result is nothing but death and hatred. The idea that immigrants steal jobs is one that is seen on a regular basis around the world. The fact that immigrants create jobs and bring revenue to their new homes is rarely taken into account. There is a very strange belief that there is an us and a them. While it is most evident in countries were there is a racial or religion difference, it is still prevalent throughout communities where racial backgrounds and religions are very similar.

It is rather amazing that people can not see that they are always more alike than they are different. The cyclic nature of life and the earth has made us the same underneath these constructed identities. As I read more and more of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose I am enlightened to the trouble that the ego, or self has caused the world. We take ownership from constructions that are not really who we are such as race and religion and gender. It begins with individuals believing that they are singular and moves on to identification with certain groups and not others. The groups that a person does not find themselves identifying with are seen as a strange other. It is this sickness of humankind that has proliferated South Africa.

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