Dec 09 2013

Uncovering Mandela’s Radical Legacy Amidst the Mythologizing

Just hours after Nelson Mandela’s death was announced to the world last week, the mythologizing had begun. Tributes poured in from leaders around the world who offered up a sanitized image of a man who helped bring about the end of apartheid. Politicians who had once held Mandela at arms length now waxed eloquently about his contributions to the world and issued heartfelt condolences.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush, whom Mandela called “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly. All that Mr. Bush wants is Iraqi oil,” issued this statement after Mandela’s death. Bush said, “President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time . . . and our world is better off because of his example.”

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gushed, “Nelson Mandela was among the greatest figures of our time. He was the father of his country, a man of vision and a freedom fighter who disavowed violence.” Netyanhu seemed to ignore the fact that Mandela had denounced Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinian people and never shied away from armed resistance when he deemed it necessary.

While apartheid no longer exists in South Africa, the majority of the Black population continues live as second class citizens under conditions of extreme poverty. What is the real legacy of this complex figure who was imprisoned for 27 years on Robben Island before becoming South Africa’s first Black President?

GUEST: Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College. Vijay Prashad is the author of eleven books including, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World. His latest available in April is Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. He is currently the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at American University of Beirut

Click here to read Vijay Prashad’s article in Colorlines.

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