As people continue to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela (Madiba) and celebrate his life, I keep hearing the words ‘humble‘, ‘forgiving‘ and ‘patient‘ when describing him..People are passionately talking about his ‘moral fortitude’ and how he took the high ground with his oppressors, but one has to wonder if Mandela’s uplifting ways have been embraced and emulated by many who praise him?
It seems like over the years, folks are less forgiving and more hostile than ever. Mandela forgave his oppressors and even fought his own people to prevent them from going all out against those who brutalized Black folks, stole their land and left many in dire economic straits.. The question is did those who oppressed us return the favor?
Did they take the moral high ground, or did they find new and improved ways to keep African people disempowered and oppressed? Did those who are touting Mandela’s moral fortitude and ability to empathize ever embrace his ways and show such traits when engaging us during our respective struggles?
We should not forget for a moment that in the hours leading up to us being told of Mandela’s passing that many including some who post on this board, were standing on their self-centered high horse and decrying and lambasting Fast Food workers who dared to walk off the job and strike asking for a higher wages from companies that make billions ever year in record profits..
Many were quick to down these folks and call them ‘greedy’. Others refused to listen to those workers and take into account their front line experiences and understanding of the situation.. Many bashed them. Others went to the fast food places and crossed the picket lines.. Others scoffed and made silly comments like ‘Go Get another Job‘, as if the people working there only want to be at low wage professions.. Many who praised Mandela in his death made a decision to overlook the fact that he was ardent supporter of unions. He always uplifted the workers, many of whom played crucial roles in him eventually being freed. Many are forgetting that he felt relief from poverty was a fundamental human right..
In short many were mean-spirited and had no empathy. It reminded me of the callousness I saw amongst folks back in the early 80s when South African miners were being brutalized for striking and asking us to boycott gold and diamonds. There were many at that time who were indifferent and brought the goods anyway, scoffing at their plight.. It was just last year 34 South African miners were killed by police as they protested the working condition of mines still owned by many of the same folks during Apartheid. Their killing was met with indifference by many who today are mourning Mandela’s passing..
There were a number of folks who refused to honor the Sun City Boycott back in the days including a number of Black performers who shrugged their shoulders and in spite international pressure and direct request of Mandel’s folks, tucked their moral compasses away to go perform…We see you OJays, Queen and yes we see you too, the great late Ray Charles.
We see the same shrugging and scoffing today when folks are asked not to perform in oppressive places like Israel. We saw that when people were calling for ban on Arizona after SB1070 passed. Hell we see this willingness to compromise our morals and be indifferent when our President orders the dropping of drones in Africa where hundreds of innocent folks are killed in so-called collateral damage..We applaud the President for leading the charge to kill Mandela’s friend and according to him, staunch support Gaddafi when we smashed on Libya and thousands of Blacks were run out the country, Yet we applaud Mandela for taking courageous stances against oppression that we have routinely violated or turned our backs to…
Sadly many who are running around talking fondly of Mandela and his moral and forgiving stance and desire to have a Rainbow Nation have done very little to push forth those principles with the Black, Brown and Native folks they live amongst.. There’s very little commitment to address systemic causes of poverty and inequality. If anything folks are quietly and not so quietly cheering on the building of more prisons and the increases removal of critical resources and safety nets to help those who have long been marginalized..
Hell, we still have folks running around justifying and defending the racist name ‘Redskins‘ for the NFL team in Washington, yet they running around shedding tears for Mandela, forgetting their continued complicity both direct and symbolic in the genocide that is at the root of this country’s existence.
One has to wonder if it was dreadful mistake for Mandela to forgive his oppressors and fight those who wanted them ousted once and for all..He forgave, but as we can see there has been very little forgiveness on the other side of the proverbial track..
Perhaps Mandela is so beloved not because of his ideals, but because at the end of the day the same oppressive forces that were in place prior to him being freed are still there, only difference now is there are a few extra Black and Brown faces sitting within those forces helping to continue that oppression. Maybe Mandela is being celebrated and mourned by some, because its fashionable and we are caught up in the cult of personality..
Perhaps Mandela is being mourned and celebrated because he has successfully been detached from the larger movement that he gave rise.. For many who cheer him while shunning his ideals he is now seen as ‘one of their own’ vs being seen as ‘one of us’..