Concerning Man's Inhumanity To Man This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Note: This was written in response to a trip eight years ago when Lara's father was invited to a University in South Africa, and she and her mother joined him in Johannesburg.



At first glance you might think South Africa is just another English society set in a beautiful African country. Most of the white citizens speak English and everyone drives on the left side of the road. If not for its government, South Africa could have a booming tourist industry with its fascinating culture and numerous spectacular landscapes, ranging from the untamed bushveld to the rocky Cape of Good Hope that juts out between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Upon closer observation though, you will notice that this is not such a quaint, typical vacationland.

We stayed with white friends during our sojourn in South Africa, so we were allowed to ride in the white section of the buses, although at first my mother protested that we were not really white (we are Asian), and that we should sit in the colored section. Only recently had our host's black housekeeper been allowed to stay overnight on their property, but only in an apartment outside their house, of course.

Sometimes we are blinded by others, but more often we blindfold ourselves and plug our ears to cries of desperation from impoverished and suppressed people. Soweto, the black ghetto just outside of Johannesburg, is overcrowded, with a waiting list for entry even with its vast size. At the time our bus trip through Soweto bore little significance upon me, but as I recall my experience, with the aid of a videotape we made, I realize the inhumanity man can place upon others. In June, 1982, 34 percent of Soweto had electricity while the rest was supposed to receive it by the end of 1983. But it is not only the material deprivation and physical inhumanity that hurts. The fact that some of the white minority could believe that blacks are not equal to, or worthy of the same rights, that they are not even really people, is much more demeaning and burns deeper in the heart.

As we drove, our guide gave a history of Soweto and pointed out everything along the way as if apartheid were just and right, which makes me wish that I had stood up and demanded of him, "What gives you the right to act like you are better than these people just because you are white?!" A carbon-copy of our safari trip through Kruger National Park, the tour put Soweto and its residents on display daily, but this time there were people out there, not animals. Some of the notable sites among the endless array of colorless, square, brick houses and corrugated iron shacks were the richer houses of Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Tenants were allowed to alter their units, and some hopeful people redecorated them, but for the most part they remained in their drab state, amid the cramped, grassless yards.

The most disheartening, yet inspiring sight was the beautiful children who danced and sang cheerfully for us at the nursery school. My heart reached out to them with their innocent, smiling faces which did not yet realize what oppression they were to face. Then I saw a sparkle of hope in their bright, shining eyes, and thought that perhaps they would be the future of South Africa, the ones who might end the tyranny. But they cannot overthrow the powerful minority government alone, and we cannot turn our backs on them, ignoring the problem in hopes that it will solve itself. The government has slowly begun to loosen its grip, allowing for some desegregation, but not enough. It has taken all these years to even consider releasing Nelson Mandela, leader of the African National Congress. All the people want is freedom, equality and basic human rights. Is that too much to ask for? n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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