Life After Apartheid | Business Standard News

The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa’s Racial Count

Author: Eve Fairbanks

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

worth: $27.99

pages: 399

It was nothing short of a miracle – this was what South African school children were taught when Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994 in the country’s first fully democratic elections. Apartheid, the brutal system of white minority rule that made South Africa a global pariah, ended. As Eve Fairbanks writes successorsHis new book, about the decades before and after that transition, says its miraculousness was “like math, wonderful but irrefutable.”

But Malaika, one of the central figures of this account, remembers that the flying language of her teachers seemed completely different from what she had endured in her daily life. Born a few years before the end of apartheid, she lived in a shack in Soweto, a black township on the outskirts of Johannesburg. He and his mother Deepu were still poor. He still had days when he was hungry. When Malaika was 11 years old, her mother sent her to a school in a white neighborhood; Malaika had only old shoes to wear, which had holes at the bottom. “Shine on top,” his grandmother would tell him. “People can’t see under your shoes.”

Others may not have seen it, but Malaika must have felt it. And how people feel has become an essential part of Ms. Fairbanks’ book, which took her a dozen years to report and write. successors The story of South Africa is told primarily through the experiences of Malaika and Deepu, along with Christo, a white lawyer who worked as a soldier before the fall of the apartheid regime as a young recruit.

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Ms. Fairbanks is too good a writer to resort to crude psychology, but she suggests time and again that there is a terrible price to pay for trying to ignore the way people see their circumstances; The indisputable physical facts of everything that happens to them are often inseparable from the emotional reality.

Ms. Fairbanks grew up in Virginia and moved to South Africa as an adult in 2009. She writes as both an insider and an outsider, spending years listening to the people she meets, not only what they choose to tell her but also what they take for granted. They slip because of prejudice which they take lightly.

Take the word “them,” for example: When she first came across, Ms. Fairbanks was shocked to hear how many white South Africans used the word as a catch-all for black people. She recalls how a friend of hers, “a left-wing political activist”, called her angrily when her car was stolen by unknown persons, yet insisted that “he” did it. He seemed confused when Ms Fairbanks pushed him on his guess: “It was a strange thing to say that it had never occurred to him.”

What he saw was a country so disfigured by apartheid that after it ended, some white people found it intolerable, when black people treated them with the tolerance they hoped for, rather than the retribution. “Things turned out better than almost any white person could have imagined,” writes Ms. Fairbanks. Even Christo, who initially faced terrorism charges for accidentally killing a homeless black man while he was on a mission, saw that his past “could be cleaned up.” You might think he would be grateful for such kindness, but he insisted it was a “subtle fallacy.” Ms Fairbanks recounts how Christo wanted to believe she was hated: “How dare you hold the mirror of grace that shows me the reflection of a man worse than you?”

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This “mirror of grace” was not something Malaika was particularly interested in providing. In college, she began writing scathing essays on Facebook, which were enthusiastically received by the white elite, whom she criticized most. She chuckled, and then got angry. She emphasized how some white people liked to show off their generosity—”celebrating their willingness to take a punch.”

Ms. Fairbanks tells these stories against the larger backdrop of a changing country – land reform, the AIDS crisis, brazen corruption and economic problems. Malaika and Dipuo felt frustrated by Mandela and the African National Congress, whose post-apartheid economic policies were skewed towards pacifying skittish international markets rather than implementing redistribution, which Dipuo, formerly an activist, said. had hoped. He repeatedly lectured Black South Africans about how it was his responsibility to reassure white people.

What Ms Fairbanks notices at the end of the book is a collective hardening, as a younger generation of white supremacists have brazenly appeared to be victimized, presenting Africans as an “endangered ethnic minority”.

In addition to being a beautiful writer, Ms. Fairbanks is unmistakably sympathetic; She brings out the ingrained emotions with such skill and sensitivity that I was astounded by some of the strangest similes—like when she recounts arguments with ex-lovers because they reminded her of the psychodynamics that She was looking into post-apartheid South Africa. That is more resonant in the current US situation, where multiple calculations are happening at once, but in comparatively slow motion. She writes, “South Africans have never had the luxury of succumbing to the psychological pressure of great change.” “In the blink of an eye, counting the votes, they were in it.”

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