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Do A Mandela

The weekly socio-political commentary from activist, Perry Redd

The weekly socio-political commentary from activist, Perry Redd

I’ve watched with a jaundiced eye contorted attempts by America’s elite class to reconcile its transparent contradictions between morality and exceptionalism.  They just spent a week praising Nelson Mandela who passed from this life last week.  Good for him…because seeing these disingenuous shivs makes me want to puke.

The talk has been about the greatness of the late “Mandiba,” as though he’s now a close family friend—and how we all need to be more like him. What a tragedy that Americans are oblivious to the utter hypocrisy of this country; the mendacity to honor Mandela in death, when we—the United States— dishonored him during his life. 

It was a struggle between two natures: the progressive anti-racist America versus the covert, racist, mainstream America.  Those that turned a deaf ear, those that feigned ignorance or those that practiced sheer indifference—all, the vast majority of Americans—are the problem in this epoch.

Now, we all want to “do good” in the spirit of Mandela, while all the time ignoring his calls to justice.  We so conveniently ignore the fact that Mandela was labeled a “terrorist” by this country all the way up until 2008!  We were cool with that—all the time speaking with forked-tongue.  Mandela’s call to end the apartheid executed against the Palestinians—especially those in Gaza—are strongly ignored by the power structure, thus the American mainstream of America…but then, we want to “do a Mandela.” That is, “do good” in the spirit of Mandela. 

Quit it!  This country is so full of immoralists that I battle against throwing up!  Not just my hands, but any sense of ethics that is spoken over my citizenship of this country.  We tout pride in the historic sanctions against the Afrikaners who bowed to the economic sanctions that then-President Ronald Reagan fought against.  American Conservatives today treat Regan like a god when he governed like Satan.  He stood against racial equality—whether it was Black welfare mothers or native-born civil rights heroes—and we ignore the history of this man and in the same breath—the history of this country.

During this exercise in disingenuousness, America fails…politically, morally and economically.  Sure, we ought to be ashamed, but just like Christopher Columbus or Theodor Herzl, we’re not.  Taking other people’s possessions can never be seen as gallant, heroic or moral.  Who teaches that?  Oh, Christians, Jews, Muslims…people with a “moral” base, right?  Today, we “have an unbreakable bond with Israel,” knowing that they practice the same racial inequality and injustice that the South African government practiced against the indigenous Blacks of that land.

Think on this: In 1904, at the height of the Zionist Movement, Theodor Herzl, the “father of modern Zionism,” having been diagnosed with a heart issue earlier in the year, died of cardiac sclerosis. The day before his death, he told a high-ranking clergyman, “Greet Palestine for me. I gave my heart’s blood for my people.”  It is reported that his will stipulated that he should have the poorest-class funeral without speeches or flowers and that he added, “I wish to be buried in the vault beside my father, and to lie there till the Jewish people shall take my remains to Palestine.”  Palestine…not anywhere else…because there was no “Israel.” No shame. No contrition…just audacity.

But let me not focus on the injustice of Israel but on America’s disingenuousness.  Even bearing the knowledge that we came down on the right side of history by supporting the dismantling of apartheid, some still want to highlight the fact that Mandela was labeled a “terrorist.”  That’s just like the covert racists who want to remind Americans that Martin Luther King “had extramarital affairs.”  These history re-writers’ sole objective is to diminish the legacy and lifework of any Black man that decries injustice.

Just look at the mud-slinging that marred the work of Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Huey Newton, or Fred Hampton.  These revisionist history talking heads are the same ones who argue that a person’s private life has no place in the public domain—even if their target is a politician.  Whether a person’s private life should be off-limits, the problem exists in the unequal dispensation of that concept: it may apply to white men but always applies to Blacks.

And let me not neglect to recognize the haters; they’re coming out of the woodwork like roaches in a government-neglected housing project.  Conservatives are now talking about Mandela’s failures as a president.  They cite the “Freedom Charter” of the ANC which envisioned “land for every South African who chose to work it.” That “South Africa may have created a few wealthy Blacks after apartheid, but the vast majority of Blacks are still impoverished.”  So what?  That sounds strangely like the United States failure to achieve its ideals, doesn’t it?  In fact, the United States willfully disregarded the humanity of an entire segment of people—Blacks—in its apartheid. How disingenuous.  These critics don’t deserve the stage.

Then, Blacks—yes, Black folk—are yielding to Winnie Mandela’s criticism of the late president.  Granted, she likely knew him better than most, but like many of us, she became a turned page. Mandela had to move on.  Bitter, non-forgiving people cannot be trusted either, with the pen of revisionist history after a person’s death.  My mother used to say, “if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.”  I am always suspicious of those that speak ill of a man after he dies.

In line with the character of the peoples throughout the African diaspora, Mandela was most forgiving. He was the most forgiving ex-prisoner I’ve ever seen.  I was a unduly-held prisoner and I can’t forgive; he was a much better man than me.  I know he did it for his people’s sake and not necessarily his own.  That level of sacrifice is a “Mandela.”

The US has got a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who incarcerates people without due process and who uses the cowardly might of unmanned drones to kill the innocent alongside alleged terrorists. Yet, we live in a  country full of too many people with eyes closed to the most disparate wealth inequality this nation has ever witnessed.  If anyone ever needs to “do a Mandela,” it’s us—in our personal lives and absolutely as a nation.


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