Widgets Magazine


Slavery and apartheid by another name

IN SOUTH AFRICA COLONIAL SLAVERY CONTRIBUTED TO A SOCIETY BASED ON RACIAL OPPRESSION..In the later 1800s the demand for cheap labor by the mining industry entrenched segregation and promoted a low-wage society which greatly benefited ‘white’ South Africans.


“Slaves living at the Cape were emancipated on 1 December 1834,” a third display said, before adding: “BUT THEY WERE NOT FREED.”

Such were the words I read on three displays in the foyer of the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum in Cape Town two weeks ago.

(From Iziko Slave Lodge Museum – Cape Town, South Africa)

(From Iziko Slave Lodge Museum - Cape Town, South Africa)

(From Iziko Slave Lodge Museum – Cape Town, South Africa)

(From Iziko Slave Lodge Museum - Cape Town, South Africa)

(From Iziko Slave Lodge Museum – Cape Town, South Africa)

Taken together, this narrative is the most explicit connection I have seen a publicly funded institution make between former and modern-day racial oppression, class exploitation and multinational enterprises. 

With these displays in mind, I expand upon the ideas I raised in last week’s column “Overcoming the Racist State.”

The more refined questions I seek to ask are:

Why do institutions that enabled structural inequality under slavery, apartheid or Jim Crow remain unchanged after such systems become illegal? How can we expect to eradicate structural inequality when oppressive structures remain firmly intact?

The South African apartheid regime enacted a series of zoning laws by race. In Cape Town, the regime evicted all Coloured and Black people from valuable land in and around the city center, demolished their homes and relocated them to sandy plains far outside the city.

The result today?

Clifton Beach – Cape Town
(C/o National Geographic)

A segregated Cape Town geography that features mostly white people living in the condos and villas near the city center and along the city’s beaches, while the majority of the Coloured population lives 20 miles outside Cape Town in the township of Mitchell’s Plain and the majority of black Capetonians are relegated even further to Khayelitsha (now the fastest growing township in South Africa), many living in informal settlements (ironically enough deemed illegal by the government whose constitution guarantees adequate housing for everyone). 

Khayalitsha - Cape Town (c/o Photobucket)

Khayalitsha – Cape Town (c/o Photobucket)

Even though apartheid policies have ended, its effects are still in place. The regime that displaced and structurally underdeveloped these groups has been ousted, but the displacement and structural underdevelopment remain.

I spoke last week about the economic effects of apartheid — guaranteeing a permanent and exploitable black labor force and guaranteeing economic security and profit for whites. As the famous strikes of the last few months have demonstrated, living wages are still not a reality within South Africa’s largest and most important industries: farming and mining.

Farmworkers’ wages are still far below the bare minimum they need to survive. Wages went up from R69/day to R/100 day after workers striked in January demanding R160. The crisis here is that after wages of roughly R105/worker/day, it becomes more cost efficient for farmers to use mechanized labor.

As we discussed with a facilitator at the Slave Lodge Museum, slavery has not disappeared; it has been replaced with wage labor and rent control.

Next, we turn to the United States.

Very simply put, nearly every local, state and federal office of law and “justice” is guilty of enacting or enabling everything from the rape of black women, to the forcible separation of families, to the legal murder of thousands of African Americans, to the structural underdevelopment of the race.

Most of these things may now be illegal, but that does not change the fact that the institutions that were designed to “serve and protect,” “defend the Constitution” and “educate” failed to do any of these things, were not punished or held accountable for such actions and continue to exist with the same fundamental structures that they had during slavery, during Jim Crow, during apartheid.

Accordingly, we cannot have any illusions that “democracy” or “justice” have ever existed in our contexts. We might have something like “democracy” or “almost justice,” but not the things themselves.

And we won’t have the “real deal” until we recognize and root out the inherent structural connection between racial oppression, class exploitation and the profit of the state and/or corporation.

The same racist capitalism and “democracy” that utilized coerced slave labor for profit and murdered indigenous Americans for land then underdeveloped black life for the purposes of low-cost wage labor. Following civil rights legislation and the globalization that we’re used to today, the racist logic of profit acquisition shifted south, west and east, to utilize the third world labor (which is necessarily black and brown) to serve the same ends. So we wind up with underemployment and structural unemployment of poor and working-class blacks (who are no longer needed by the system), the use of migrant groups and the global south for cheap labor.

Class oppression becomes tied up with racial oppression across most minority groups. Poor whites, who have historically resisted organization under unions out of refusal to work with black workers, also get the short end of the stick due to racism.

Slave labor has been replaced by (low) wage labor, and we can’t be blinded by the success of individual minorities — or by their recent inclusion in formerly exclusive structures — so long as this success is supported by the structural failure (or “almost success”) of other people.

At the root of this nation is genocide and slavery — a country founded on these inhumanities can never be just, be free, but we can strive to rectify these injustices.

As one of the panels at the Slave Lodge Museum concluded, “THEY FOUGHT FOR THEIR SURVIVAL AND INSPIRED OTHERS TO RESIST SLAVERY.”

We have to start and keep fighting for a better world, and that means an unwavering commitment to fighting and resisting class exploitation, racism and all other forms of oppression. 

(From Iziko Slave Lodge Museum – Cape Town, South Africa)


About Kristian Davis Bailey

Kristian Davis Bailey is a junior studying Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. A full time journalist/writer and occasional student, he's served as an Opinion section editor, News writer and desk editor for The Daily, is a community liaison for Stanford STATIC, the campus' progressive blog and journal, and maintains his own website, 'With a K.' He's interested in how the press perpetuates systems of oppression and seeks to use journalism as a tool for dismantling such systems.
  • Jay

    January 10, 2013

    South Africa Leads World in Rape Cases, Voice of America

    About 175 girls and women are raped every day in the Rainbow Nation.

    January 8, 2013

    Horrifying Story of Pregnant South Africans Who Are Deliberately Binge Drinking… So They Get More Welfare for the Babies They Harm, Daily Mail (London)

    Brew made from yeast, water, and battery acid is the drink of choice.

    January 7, 2013

    Dear White People, Thought Leader

    South African white woman: “Be grateful that you are still welcome in a land that was stolen.”

    January 2, 2013

    Africa: Where Black Is Not Really Beautiful, BBC News

    “I wanted to see what it would be like to be white and I’m happy.”

    December 28, 2012

    Soft Targets in U.S. Mirror South Africa, Daily Herald

    Strict gun control hasn’t stopped that country from leading the world in gun homicides.

    December 13, 2012

    South Africa Still a Chronically Racially Divided Nation, Finds Survey, Guardian (London)

    44 percent of South Africans rarely or never speak to someone of another race

    December 10, 2012

    Nelson Mandela ‘Proven’ to Be a Member of the Communist Party After Decades of Denial, Telegraph (London)

    New book claims he was in the senior ranks of the South African Communist Part.

    December 6, 2012

    In South Africa, Lethal Battles for Even Smallest of Political Posts, New York Times

    Because even low-level officials get kickbacks.

    December 3, 2012

    South African Farmers Fearing for Their Lives, Telegraph (London)

    Protesters want black-on-white farm attacks declared “crimes of national priority.”

    November 27, 2012

    British Engineer Hacked to Death on His South African Farm, Telegraph (London)

    There have been more than 3,000 killed in post-apartheid black-on-white “farm attacks.”

    November 27, 2012

    South Africa Broadcaster Bans Reference to ‘Zumaville’, Telegraph (London)

    President Zuma is no fan of the free press.

    November 12, 2012

    Stricter BEE Code Could Crush Non-Profit Sector, MyPE

    A proposal to force South African charities to serve blacks only.

    November 9, 2012

    Will the US Follow South Africa Down the Path of White Decline?, AR Opinion370 Comments

    The fate of the West may be at stake.

    By Dan Roodt

    November 7, 2012

    South Africa’s ANC, Whites Agree to Silence “Shoot the Boer”, Reuters

    The end of a two-year legal battle over anti-white song.

    September 7, 2012

    Sudanese President Calls for African Space Agency, Guardian (London)

    Good luck.

    August 20, 2012

    Genocide Looms for White Farmers, World Net Daily

    . . . and no one cares.

    August 17, 2012

    South Africa Police Defend Shooting That Killed 34 Miners, CBC News

    78 more were wounded.

    August 14, 2012

    Nine Killed in South African Platinum Mine Union Riots, NBC News

    Battle is between rival unions, not with management.

    August 13, 2012

    Parliament Seeks Answers over Submarine’s Inaction, The Star

    What happens when blacks operate South Africa’s submarines.

    August 3, 2012

    Falling through Cracks: Anti-White Discrimination on Rise in South Africa, Russia Today

    “It’s whites who now feel they’re second-class citizens.”

    August 1, 2012

    Johannesburg: Extreme Home Security, YouTube

    Homes in wealthy neighborhood look more like fortresses.

    July 31, 2012

    Louis Theroux, Law and Disorder in Johannesburg, YouTube

    Documentary about private security in South Africa shows widespread lawlessness.

    July 30, 2012

    July 26, 2012

    South Africa in Shock over Horror Killings as Parents Are Murdered in Their Own Home and Son, 12, Is Drowned in Boiling Water, Daily Mail (London)

    The family’s gardener and domestic servant were among the perps.

    July 25, 2012

    The Death of Johannesburg, YouTube

    How majority rule turned South Africa’s capital to ruins.

    July 20, 2012

    Divided South Africa Honors Mandela’s Birthday, Yahoo! News

    South Africans pretend everything’s all right.

    July 20, 2012

    Experts: Africa Countries Lose Out on AIDS Funding, Yahoo! News

    Westerners shamed because Africans can’t solve their own problems.

    July 6, 2012

    South Africa Keeps Miners in Dark on Nationalisation, Yahoo! News

    ANC may pursue a policy of “strategic nationalisation” of white property.

    June 27, 2012

    Jacob Zuma Faces Losing £1.2 Million Support for Four Wives, Telegraph (London)

    Government will support only one.

    June 25, 2012

    ‘Whites Must Give Up Wealth’, The Citizen

    June 20, 2012

    Land Reform Needs an Act as Forceful as War: ANCYL, News 24

    White farmer is murdered following the ANC pronouncement.

    June 1, 2012

    ‘Not One Euro to Corrupt ANC-Regime’ Says Euro-MP,

    “European Parliament must provide . . . for the protection of the Afrikaner’s identity, security, and independence.”

    May 23, 2012

    Black Farmworker Acquitted Of Murdering Eugene Terreblanche, Telegraph (London)

    Even though he confessed his role in the crime.

    May 23, 2012

    Polygamous Jacob Zuma Marries for Sixth Time, Telegraph (London)

    Par for the course in the new South Africa.

    May 18, 2012

    Race War Rocks Grabouw, Cape Times

    Sounds just like blacks and Hispanics in Los Angeles.

    May 14, 2012

    FW De Klerk: Not All Aspects of Apartheid ‘Morally Repugnant’, Telegraph (London)

    Former South African president reviled for not condemning apartheid vigorously enough.

    May 7, 2012

    Model Axed from South African FHM After Sparking Outrage with Racist Tweet About ‘Disrespectful Kaffir’, Daily Mail (London)

    In South Africa, blacks may insult whites but not vice versa.

    April 26, 2012

    Businessman Tells of South African Prison Rape that Left Him HIV Positive, Metro

    He was gang raped multiple times per day for months on end.

    April 25, 2012

    A South African Rape, Captured on Video, Exposes an Epidemic, Los Angeles Times

    There are an estimated 600,000 rapes each year in South Africa.

    April 19, 2012

    Gang Rape Video Goes Viral, Shocking South Africa, Yahoo! News

    “More than one quarter of South African men admitted to raping a woman or girl.”

    March 9, 2012

    SA Failing to Empower Blacks, Says Mugabe, News 24

    Land grabs would help fix the problem.

    February 28, 2012

    Occupy Oakland Clashes with Pro-White Group, USA Today

    Group was protesting black-on-white violence in South Africa.

    February 20, 2012

    Three European Parliament Members Decry White Farmer Murders in South Africa

    Would any American congressmen ever do the same?

  • Piero Scaruffi

    The fact that so many minorities still name whites “the greatest or most significant or most influential” race ever only tells you how far CSRE still is from becoming a serious major. Philosophy critics have long recognized that the greatest philosophers of all times are Wittgenstein and Kant, who were not the most famous or richest or best sellers of their times, let alone of all times. Mathematicians rank the highly controversial Leibniz over mathematicians who were highly popular in schools around Europe. Minorities are still blinded by hegemonic success: whites enslaved more than anyone else (not true, by the way), therefore they must have been the greatest. Philosophers grow up reading a lot of philosophical works of the past, mathematicians grow up reading to a lot of mathematical papers of the past. Minorities are often totally ignorant of the patriarchy of the past, they barely know the best oppressors. No wonder they will think that whites did anything worth of being saved.