Apartheid & Jim Crow Compared
Following the Afrikaner National Party’s 1948 Election victory, in 1950 it passed the Population Registration Act which marked the inauguration of Apartheid in South Africa.
The Act grouped people into racial groups classified as White, Colored, Bantu (Black African), and other.
In America racial segregation especially in the South was enforced by a variety of racially discriminatory Laws between 1877 and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.
These were called Jim Crow Laws after the name of a popular Minstrel routine character.
It goes without saying that racial discrimination was the main feauture of both Jim Crow and Apartheid Laws.
Both systems were used to prop up White Supremacy and restrict Black access to Political and Economic power by placing limitations on the Black vote, providing a rudimentary education for Blacks meant only to prepare them to serve as servants and ensuring that Blacks in both America and South Africa did not participate meaningfully in the Economy.
In the case of South Africa, legislation was also passed specifically to dispossess Blacks of their land and to relocate them to reserves and other designated areas or ‘Townships’ through forced removals, the most infamous being the forced removals from Sophia Town and District Six.
A “Passbook’ system was also introduced to monitor and control the movement of Blacks in Urban areas so as to ensure that only the numbers required to provide Labour to Urban Industry would be allowed in the Cities.
Petty and humiliating social restrictions were also enforced in order to regulate the mundane aspects of everyday life including interracial marriages and the utliisation of Public facilities with preferential access given to Whites.
In South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church’s doctrine also served to justify Apartheid and presented it as a manifestation of the White Man’s divine destiny to rule and subjugate Blacks.
Resistance to Jim Crow & Apartheid
In America, resistance to Jim Crow was crystallised in the 1954 the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education in which segregation in public schools and by necessary implication all other public facilities was ruled Unconstitutional.
More Jim Crow legislation was declared Unconstitutional over time as the resistance to Jim Crow intensified with the Civil Rights Movement launching nationwide protest campaigns, rallies which turned the tide against Jim Crow.
By the 1950s, State sanctioned Racial Segregation had been abolished.
However, in South Africa’s case, the fight would last close to 50 years as the White Minority fought to maintain Apartheid amidst what began as peaceful demands for change but which turned to Armed struggle following the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960.
Following Mandela’s release from Prison in 1990, a fragile negotiation process commenced which eventually led to South African Independence in 1994.
Legacy Of Jim Crow & Apartheid
The effects of Jim Crow and Apartheid have been systemic and the pattern of inequality they entrenched is far from reversed.
In addition, Society still contends with the negative Psychological aspects of Racism as well as broader structural Economic disparities as the White Privilige engendered by both systems has seen Power and Economic control remain largely in the hands of the White Class that benefited the most under Jim Crow and Apartheid.
As with most Post-Colonial African States, South Africa finds itself struggling to address the long term effects of Apartheid as it tries to hold onto the ‘Rainbow Nation’ mythos.
Frantz Fanon’s ‘The Wretched Of The Earth’ also remains a stellar contribution on the subject of Race and Psychology.