Tolerance by Example

When I was in high school there were some situations throughout the world that helped shape my world view. One of the most powerful examples of injustice of the time was South Africa. Apartheid epitomized the worst people could be. The movie Cry Freedom (about Steven Biko) is still one of my favorites. In my high school Amnesty International club, a bulk of our letters were sent to South Africa about various political prisoners. I watch from my safe little corner of suburbia as that terrible system was dismantled and cheered. It was a joy to watch Nelson Mandela become president.

Yesterday a student gave me an article from the newspaper I had missed online, South Africa bill aproves same sex marriages. I was intrigued, the student said it related to what we were currently studying – we are in the midst of our Imperialism unit and my students are writing poems that contradict the White Man’s Burden by Rudyard Kipling. She pointed to the following quote:

“When we attained our democracy, we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of color, creed, culture and sex,” Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula declared (CNN, November 16, 2006).

Wow. Now this is still a controversial law that many South Africans oppose (mostly on religious grounds) and throughout Africa gays and lesbians are often attacked for revealing their sexual orientation, but the message is clear.  South Africa has seen terrible discrimination and their vow to never relive any part of that past is enlightening and encouraging.  Regardless of your personal opinion on same sex marriage you have to admire the bigger point South Africa is making.

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