Saturday, June 04, 2016

Little changes

22 years after apartheid, we find startlingly little change in South Africa. Black people do occupy virtually all positions of power in the government at all levels. And formal segregation has been eliminated. While this is incredibly significant, in the end, the whites were willing to accept that form of change. Yet conditions of living for the Black majority have not improved dramatically.
While there are a few Black millionaires and even a couple Black billionaires, there is greater economic inequality today than at the end of apartheid in 1995. The whites have clung to ill-gotten economic power. Perhaps even more strikingly, the prison population has gone up in absolute numbers by about 30 percent in the last 22 years. More surprisingly, whereas in 1995 there were about 400 people doing life sentences in South Africa, today there are more than 13,000. Democracy in South Africa has come with mandatory minimums, "truth in sentencing" laws and even private prisons owned by the GEO Group and G4S. White economic power and the punishment paradigm remain hegemonic. South Africa failed to heed the warning of a great US freedom fighter who transitioned recently, Daniel Berrigan, who once reminded us that "a revolution is interesting insofar as it avoids like the plague the plague it promised to heal."

No comments: