Thanks for sharing Jacob Dlamini’s take on the dynamics of South African history and how powerfully influenced it is by the point at which the country has arrived today (“Revising the Revisionists,” September issue). I am an African American who calls South Africa my home, having come here first as an anti-apartheid lawyer initially conducting a one-woman fact-finding mission on the political violence here that raged in the early 1990s. I found Dlamini’s take on the different aspects of collective memories of pivotal moments and issues during the apartheid era fascinating. I only disagree with his assessment that Black South African history can be better equated to Native American history than African American history. I don’t disagree that there are some parallels to the former’s history, but one shouldn’t be discouraged from searching for the parallels in African American history.
As someone who has moved between the two worlds, the similarity I find most striking is how much keeping our eyes on the prize of civil rights and liberation, respectively, prevented us from anticipating the downsides like the middle-class Black flight out of townships and ghettos further impoverishing the communities they left, economically and intellectually. That is where there is a distinct departure from Native American history. In fact, I would love Dlamini to undertake a comparative study of the impact of Black flight from poor areas in both countries. My observation is that the incredible level of civil society organization during the struggles in both countries is a shadow of its former self.