Apartheid is really so evil?

It depends on the definition and application

Ebony & Ivory - by choice (photo: current.com)

A strict definition of Apartheid, based on the South African model, is based on the concept of forced segregation by race.  I need to make it clear that this is not what my article is about.

To that extent, the title is deceptive. But the word itself has taken on such emotive connotations that it almost cannot be used, unless accompanied with expressions of disgust. Somehow, this word, from it’s Afrikaans origin, seems so much worse than the simpler “segregation”.

There is a world of difference between enforced and voluntary segregation.  One definition of segregation is: “the condition of being separated from others.” (1)

And separation, itself, has a meaning of “dissociation” (2). Is there something wrong with voluntary dissociation?  Is it morally or socially wrong?  I assume not, since most of us live our lives on exactly that basis. I cannot speak for the whole world, so I will relate to the two societies I know.

Israel, where I now live, and the United Kingdom, where I lived for most of my life. Both are multicultural societies, but created on  totally different bases. The historical origins of this mixture of ethnic groups, and how they fit into their respective societies, are different.

Part 1 – United Kingdom

Until the 1950’s the U.K. ( England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) was an almost completely homogenous society of White Christians with a tiny sprinkling of Jews. (Around 400,000 out of  50 million).

Then. the first Black immigrants arrived from former British colonies in the West Indies.

London Underground roundel logo

A place for immigrants to work

As is the norm for all developed societies, they began working in jobs that the white people didn’t want. They became the prime source of labour for the London Underground system  (Metro) and for the National Health Service, as nurses.

In later years, more ethnic groups came from other remnants of the British Empire. They were a bit less Black, being mainly of Indian, Pakistani  or Bangladeshi extraction. They gravitated. primarily,  towards small family businesses, and were well known as owners of convenience stores and launderettes.

White and Whitish immigrants included Irish, Cypriots ( Greek and Turkish) and Italians. The influx from Eastern Europe began after countries like Poland, Slovakia. Hungary and Romania (to name but a few) became part of the European Community. This entitled their citizens to work in any member country, and many chose the U.K. (3)

The Polish population in the U.K.  is estimated at up to 1 million! (4)

All of this information is not intended to inflame any racist emotions.

It is given as background to the main thrust of my proposition: that separation is not, by definition, a bad thing. Especially when that dissociation is undertaken voluntarily and willingly.

The reality is that ethnic groups feel more comfortable in a familiar environment that accommodates their cultural, religious and social needs. It is important, to them, that they have convenient access to places of worship, schools, social centres and shops and restaurants where they can find familiar foods.

Most of the Jews live like that.

Some would call them self created ghettos, which they are in many ways.

Chinatown, London. Taken by Adrian Pingstone i...

Chinatown in London

And the same is true for all other ethnic groups. Some areas, like Chinatown in London, have even managed to create an aura of glamour and excitement that has turned it into a major tourist attraction. (The reality is somewhat more sleazy).

In terms of equality as citizens, the situation is not so clear. The U.K has no written constitution so there are no rights carved in stone. There are norms that have evolved, with nominal freedoms and equality under the law. Specifically, there are draconian laws against racism, with severe penalties for offenders.

But I do not believe that legislation can force people to honour the edict to “love thy neighbour”. What is wrong with being different? Different doesn’t mean better – or worse; it just means different. The obsession with the concept that “the world is a global village” might work in some realms of behaviour, but it is impossible to suppress that aspect of the human spirit that craves for a specific identity.

We see every day, a world which is witnessing the rise of Nationalism after decades of attempts  to contain that spirit. Countries that were once part of the U.S.S.R demanded their independence. Each with its own history,culture,language,religion, and, even, currency. (How many wish they’d never joined the Euro?)

Whether in the world as a whole, or as a microcosm inside a country like the U.K., people want their own unique identity. They want separation to a considerable degree. Naturally, they need interaction on a commercial, business or work level. Maybe, to a limited extent, also on a social level. They want to be a part of the society, whether born into it or members by choice.

After all, “no man is an Island.” But they don’t want to lose their basic and individual identity. So they decide on the degree of their integration – each to their own level. They also decide on their degree of separation.



Voluntary Apartheid?

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!

                           Part 2 – Israel  – will be my next post!


(1) http://www.answers.com/topic/apartheid#ixzz1eY7V4f6u

(2) http://www.luminosity.com/

(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_Kingdom

(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_migration_to_the_United_Kingdom

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3 comments on “Apartheid is really so evil?

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