Death of a white racist

P.W. Botha died Tuesday evening. As the president of South Africa from 1978 – 1989, he was a champion of the system of institutional racism in South Africa known as apartheid. When black South Africans asked for freedom and demanded to be heard, he told the Afrikaners not to listen. He refused to free Nelson Mandela. And P. W. Botha said he had no regrets.

On our trip to South Africa almost three years ago we stayed in Pretoria for a few days and we got a glimpse of Afrikaner culture, especially on our visit to the Voortrekker Monument. Learning about Afrikaner history from their perspective made it much clearer why the Afrikaner people in particular were so vulnerable to the idea of apartheid. Not all Afrikaners, of course, and there were, and are, many other racists.

To be clear: none of what I learned in any way justified or even completely explained apartheid, or any form of institutionalized racism. But I found it worthwhile to learn more about Afrikaner culture.

Beyond the Voortrekkers and the apartheid legacy, I found a resourceful, modern, complex people that’s slowly adapting to a new social and political reality. But I also clearly recognized the shadow of the “old South Africa” in the looks we got when our kids played with a gaggle of black kids on a Pretoria playground, or when we showed up as a mixed-race group on a beach in KZN.

I see Botha’s death as another milestone on the path to the new South Africa, and to a new Afrikaner culture. A culture that contributes its patriotism and resourcefulness to the leadership in South Africa. And a culture that cheerfully shares playgrounds and beaches with all South Africans.

3 Responses to “Death of a white racist”

  1. john andrews Says:

    Afrikaner culture demands some things and it will be, to be honest, contaminated if blacks are allowed to enter, I’m sorry to be offensive but blacks will ruin it.

  2. john andrews Says:


  3. yovo Says:

    Uh – thanks, john andrews for your – hm – “comment” there …

    I sincerely doubt that many black South Africans have ANY desire to “contaminate” Afrikaner culture. Seriously.

    How about BRAIN POWER?!!