Mandela left us last week. Another page is turned. I will never forget that Thursday evening when strangely enough, for once I was not listening to the news on
France24. My belly was my first concern, guiding my movements in the kitchen when the bad news was dropped to me.
– So, Mandela died today.
– What? I haven’t heard that.
– It is not a question, I am telling you.
Waw, few seconds later I was in front of one of the TV screens of the house, watching, listening to the commentators working I am sure for the same media companies that had diabolized the African icon in the fifties and sixties in a racist campaign that finally led him to twenty seven years imprisonment.
A question was disturbing my mind then. I was eager to know how people in general took his departure. No doubt, Facebook was the ideal barometer to evaluate and to analyse people’s feeling about the sad news. I have about 272 friends in my Facebook account. My friends are also of all walks of life; all the ethnic groups are represented and the same thing could be said regarding their religious affiliations. On Thursday evening, when I opened my Facebook page, it was already full of loads of messages of condolences. The sociologist side of me also told me that I should analyse with more accuracy the different messages expressed. The messages were all left by black
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people. Among the more than 95 white Facebook friends I have, none of them had left a single message of condolences. Why was that? I found an interesting point to analyse and study here.
But fixing one’s opinion from this unique spontaneous experiment was a bit weak in terms of research and findings. I therefore decided to spend hours listening to the different commentators on the death of Madiba. I went from one TV channel to the other, listening more or less to the same comments. I compared the expression of the feelings of the white commentators on TV with that of my black friends on Facebook. The black community in France, like most ethnic minority groups, is scarcely -not to say « never »- given the possibility and opportunity to express itself on public media. Social networks such as Facebook and blogs are the only tools left with them. While the first group on TV praised Mandela for his humanity and capacity to handle the situation after the Apartheid regime, the second group on the internet social networks wanted to remember the sacrifice Madiba had made in order to defeat racism and racial discrimination. The difference was crystal clear. Blacks in general would remember Madiba or Tata -as some call him- as an activist who through his fight against racism and discrimination showed the younger generation the path to follow; while Whites only seemed to admire Mandela because he had refused to make the White community in South Africa experience the hardship they had made him suffer before he finally got to power in 1994.
Also, the following days, I was stroke with amazement when hearing the head of states of some of the most powerful countries in the world express their condolences to the South Africans and the Mandela Family. Among these hypocrite head of states many were those who, two years ago, had successfully planned the physical elimination of the only sincere African friend Mandela had. Muammar Gaddafi, had been the only financial support to Nelson Mandela’s ANC during the years of the Apartheid regime; and he was assassinated in 2011 by the French represented by Sarkozy, the British represented by David Cameron and the Americans represented by Barak Obama in a war against Libya that no one can explain or really justify the reasons why today. The fact that on the 10th of December 2013, these criminals were all flying to take part in the festivities organized in the honour of Madiba’s departure also made me laugh.
It is very important to make things clear here, especially for the younger generations who might not know about International Relations. The Apartheid regime which advocated complete separation between Blacks and Whites in South Africa started in 1948 and lasted until 1991. That regime which oppressed black Africans and other ethnic minorities was also supported by most Western countries until the mid-1980s. In 1963 the American CIA was gathering and delivering information to the Apartheid authorities, which would eventually lead to the arrest and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. At the time, the ANC, the main organization fighting against the racist laws of the Apartheid regime, received help only from few countries such as Cuba, and obviously Libya. In the 1980s, in Britain, the Prime minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher referred to Mandela and his organization, the ANC as terrorists: ‘The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land’ – Margaret Thatcher, 1987. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/from-terrorist-to-tea-with-the-queen-1327902.html >
On the 10th of December 2013, in the street of Paris, the gigantic screens erected for the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s funerals only attracted few people, most of whom, of course, were just passerby. There was no doubt that in the country that was recently repetitively condemned by the Human Rights Watch organization for its discriminatory policies affecting its ethnic minorities, it illustrated the small interest people showed to the death of the African icon. I was however pleased with the way South Africans and especially Mandela’s family had decided to receive their international guests for the occasion. No direct invitation had been sent by the family to the American and French presidents. Most European leaders of countries that had for some while supported the Apartheid regime were treated as second class guests. The crowd was not mistaken either, as it cheered President Robert Mugabe, while Raoul Castro unlike all white head of states from the West was given the opportunity to deliver a speech. Had Muammar Gaddafi been alive, no doubt that he would have been considered the most
I now turn to my Facebook friends and others who often criticise me for being too harsh or hardcore a revolutionary, as they put it. I know some guys who do not even want to be associated with me because of all the likes I leave on Facebook, or on posts illustrating controversial activists and revolutionaries. If Nelson Mandela, the man the whole world celebrates today, was friend with Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi, Luis Farrakhan, Mohammed Ali or Iran, why is it not okay for me to like these different characters’ Facebook profiles? Am I a better man than late Nelson Mandela, which I doubt?
If the living condition of black people in South Africa today is better than during the Apartheid regime, no one ignores that many challenges still remain in order to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots for example. Besides, in other countries such as France or the US, racism and racial discriminations are still
unsolved issues. So, to my Black, White and Arab brothers who admire Nelson Mandela but who at the same time think that I sometimes go too far in my denunciation of racism and injustice in the world: “if you sometimes feel disturbed by my activist posts, that means that maybe you are unconsciously part of those I combat. Therefore, what else can I say today other than: “Thank you Mandela and the South Africans for showing me the path to follow; and do not worry, I will carry on spiting on these conscious or unconscious racist people’s rectum.”
THE FIGFHT MUST GO ON