JAMES HULL: Mandela an example for all

All of us who live in Mississippi and, indeed, across this nation, continuously wrestling with the issues of race and racial animosity, could learn from the life of recently passed icon Nelson Mandela.

The thing I’ve learned first and foremost is that Mandela could have died a very bitter, vengeful and hateful man. But he didn’t. Far from it.

Let’s set aside all the accusations and beliefs about what Mandela’s radical anti-apartheid movement, the African National Congress, did or did not do before he was arrested, tried and imprisoned in 1962 for attempting to overthrow the oppressive South African government.

We can even move past – reluctantly – the 27 years Mandela served of a life sentence, enduring the harshest conditions imaginable. After all, Mandela used the time to his own benefit, however long and arduous that time may have been.

It’s in what Mandela did after his release from prison that we all can find insight and personal power. Because, while Mandela could have died holding on to the poison of racial hate, he did not. Instead, he died as the defining symbol of racial reconciliation.

When I saw Afrikaners – white South Africans, some of whom were former racists and separatists – openly weep at Mandela’s passing, I came to realize in a way I had never before considered, how one man’s spirit could change a whole nation.

By the time Mandela was released from prison in 1990, he had been locked away in the deplorable conditions of at least three dank prisons, suffering major illness from enduring those conditions. He was designated by the South African government as the most hated man in the country, with not even his picture allowed to be shown in public. For years, he was refused visitors and even denied attendance to his oldest son’s funeral. He was not accorded basic human dignities and afforded many human cruelties

Yet, by the time Mandela was released from prison, set to become the presumptive leader of black South Africa, and eventually, the South African government itself, he had devised the principle upon which he would lead and govern: Reconciliation.

The following is what one biographical sketch on the website, Wikipedia, said of Mandela’s effort to heal racial hatred in his country:

“Presiding over the transition from apartheid minority rule to a multicultural democracy, Mandela saw national reconciliation as the primary task of his presidency. Having seen other post-colonial African economies damaged by the departure of white elites, Mandela worked to reassure South Africa’s white population that they were protected and represented in “the Rainbow Nation.”

Mandela attempted to create the broadest possible [multicultural and multiracial] coalition in his cabinet, with[former apartheid leader, F.W] de Klerk as first Deputy President… Mandela personally met with senior figures of the apartheid regime… emphasising personal forgiveness and reconciliation, he announced that ‘courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.’”

It was once said that to engage in racial animosity against someone is like drinking poison and wishing the other person dies. Mandela had 27 years to meditate on that and decided against drinking poison.

The problem of race in this country remains, unfortunately, the problem of politics, education, economics and, yes, even religion. The answer to those problems in this country is what Mandela’s answer was to them in his country: reconciliation; the effort, the ability, the desire to live, work and advance together despite past racial hatred or present political differences or future societal obstacles; the willingness to live and progress as one people, not destroy and defeat each other then die divided.

Like I said, we could learn from the life of Nelson Mandela. The thing black people can learn is no matter how bitterly we have been treated, or no matter how long we’ve been mistreated, we don’t have to end up bitter. And we cannot resort to mistreating and hating others.

And the one thing white people can learn is when given the opportunity to lay down racial hatred, bigotry and animosity… take it.

Rev. James Hull is an award-winning journalist and Executive Director of Move Mississippi Forward. Contact him at JAMESHULL3@aol.com.

  • Ells Worth

    Yes, James look at the mass murders against the minority race in South Africa today.
    I am convinced that most racial hatred and animosity is caused by the so called civil rights leaders that keep racism alive because their bank accounts depend on making a big issue of even the slightest hint of racist. Just look at the loaded questions that was asked of Phil Robertson, then promptly used his statement of faith against him. thank goodness good conservative people made their disgust known with A & E and they reversed their decision. Then along comes THE REV. JESSIE JACKSON condemning Phil for his belief then attacked him because he said he never seen any black people mistreated. Well whoop e doo, I have never seen a black person mistreated. I am not saying it did not happen and neither did Phil. I just cannot imagine a person that is supposed to be a “REV” condemning a person that believes homosexuality is a sin.

    • Jack Makokov

      It takes a special person (emphasis on special) to shoehorn some hot takes about Reality Duck Schmucks Teevee and Jessie Jackson as a reply to a letter to the editor about Nelson Mandela. Classic Fails Worth post.

      1.75/10. Lots of room for improvement. In the future, try working in common internet simpleton tropes and crutches, such as:

      > Why is there no White Entertainment Television?!?!?

      > Something something Al Sharpton

      > YOU FOLKS ARE TEH REAL RACISTS

      > White History Month™: why don’t we have one?

      > MLK WUZ A REPUB

      > TEH LIBZ TAKIN MAH FREE SPEECH

    • TWBDB

      Has anyone actually found the questions that GQ asked Phil Robertson? I read the article and it reads as if these are statements he made with someone who was riding in a truck with him through the woods. Someone who was completely out of his element, quite intimidated, yet someone who by the end came to a type of reverence for the family in spite of the shocking way in which Mr Robertson framed his experiences and beliefs.

      Re: Nelson Mandela – - From what I’ve learned of this man, he sought peace and equality for all people. That alone makes him a hero to me.