Nelson Mandela Essay


Nelson Mandela Essay on Racism

Nelson Mandela Essay: Introduction

Nelson Mandela, the first black president of the Republic of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist, gave a three-hour speech at the Rivonia Trial called "I am Prepared to Die," which has become his most known speech. In this speech, he answered the accusations directed at him. Most importantly, he stated the hardships and injustices to which black South Africans were exposed and talked about how they fought to overcome these inequalities. We can also recognize similar difficulties far from the Republic of South Africa, in the case of African Americans in the United States, and the same types of movements to acquire their civil rights. This paper analyzes the struggle of the black South Africans by referencing Mandela's speech and examines the United States' similar race issue by including several examples that resemble the discrimination black South Africans had to cope with. Furtherly, it explains the similarities and the differences between the two instances and movements. Black nations struggle against discrimination in different countries worldwide, whether as a minority or a majority. Therefore, it is evident that racism is not occasional but rather is a systematic phenomenon.

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Nelson Mandela's Speech and Discrimination Against Black Africans

In "I am Prepared to Die" speech, Mandela states the issues and inequalities his people, Black Africans, suffer. Most of these revolve around political rights. Even though the country's population consists of 70% black Africans and 30% whites, the government disfranchises the black people. This law left the governing of the country only to whites. Black Africans replied to this move with stay-at-home protests organized by Mandela. However, people of South Africa were being discriminated against in their daily lives too. To fight with these inequalities, people tried lawful methods; however, the government also closed this door by legislation. In response, there was nothing left for black Africans but to start violent acts to be able to fight with the government. According to Mandela, "a government that uses force to maintain its rule, teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it (Mandela 4). Therefore, Mandela and his supporters formed the Umkhonto We Sizwe, meaning "Spear of the Nation." This was an armed force whose goal was to fight for black Africans' freedom. It was operated hand to hand with the ANC, a political party that Mandela was a part of. Together with the ANC, Umkhonto decided to engage with "properly controlled violence" to face the government. They used sabotages to ensure not to spill blood. Its volunteers were very strictly instructed not to harm white people.

However, black Africans were being killed all over the country; some instances were as following; Twenty-four people in Port Elizabeth Jail by the police and civilians, more than one hundred in the Bulhoek affair, sixty-nine unarmed at Sharpeville (Mandela 7). Despite these incidents, the State prosecutor said that these were "so-called hardships." Regardless of being the wealthiest country in Africa, black people were not getting any benefits while whites were living in wealth. Africans were suffering from poverty that results in various diseases, and they were unable to get a proper education. The government cut the school lunches of African kids.

Moreover, most Africans were living in "Reserves" that were isolated from the general public just for them by the government (Mandela 15). African people were not allowed to live wherever they want; they were locked in their ghettoes. They lacked human dignity as a result of "white supremacy" (Mandela 16). Pass laws resulted in unnecessary arrests as those laws enabled police surveillance on black Africans all the time . Police didn't need any permits to search or arrest them. As a result of these discriminations, secondary effects were harming the black African nation.

Children separated from their parents, and as a result, they were wandering in the dangerous streets and weren't getting any education (Mandela 17). African people were nothing but assets in the eyes of the government. They didn't have any political, social, or civil rights. The State systematically destroyed them. They suffered from discrimination, housing segregation, and educational hardships, while State left them with no ways of protesting and searching for their rights. Therefore, African people fought for their civil rights.

African Americans' Struggle Against Discrimination in the US

In another country, in the United States, black people were exposed to the same type of discrimination and racism. They have a long history of slavery under white Americans. They made up 10% of the United States' population when they didn't have the right to vote. After the Emancipation Proclamation, which was legislated to ban slavery, they were theoretically enabled to vote; however, they couldn't get until much after, in practice. Black people of the US contributed in every aspect to the prosperity of their country. When they tried to defend their rights, Lawman stated, "white called out troops to enforce their rules under the pressure of mob violence" (Lawman 205). It wasn't until 1965 that blacks were allowed to vote. President Johnson signed the "Voting Rights Act" with the black rights activist leader Martin Luther King.

Though, voting was not the only issue that African Americans were struggling with. They also suffered from daily discrimination in every part of their life. First, there was significant housing segregation. Low-income areas were distinctly black populated, whereas decent and expensive areas were white-dominated. Black people were forced either by economic hardships or public discrimination to create their ghettoes.

Moreover, housing segregation affected the education of black children heavily. Schools in the low-income areas offered worse education than White and Asian kids received (Orfield 41). They had limited places in a big country. Furthermore, for the leader of the black rights activist Martin Luther King, freedom meant equally shared job opportunities, political power, and decent wages (Jackson 155). But these opportunities were reserved for the whites. Black people were usually underpaid and were working in indecent jobs. They were practically banned from setting up unions, too; as Jackson wrote, Luther King was reminded that the police suppressed the interracial unions in Birmingham by beating, detaining, and killing them (Jackson 156). They didn't get paid enough, suffered from malnutrition, and most importantly, they were being oppressed.

Black people were also being arrested for no real reason. Bill of attainment enabled police forces to interrogate, detain and arrest people without any permission. This disproportionately affected black people as white police forces used this bill to oppress and silence Black Americans. All these sufferings affected the black nation. King stated deteriorating community services resulted in a lack of individual dignity and decreased family cohesion. Black children were left alone in the dangerous streets. Black women had to take care of whites' domestic works to feed their families (Jackson 255). But they didn't have time to do it.

There was an ongoing movement for this discrimination, though, the most important one led by Martin Luther King. He supported peaceful protests to change these violent discriminations. He told his followers not to resist in the cases of police brutality. He gave a speech where he states his ideal America, named "I Have a Dream!" which has become his most known speech. But there were many activists and political organizations to earn the civil rights of the black people. One of them was the Black Panther Party, whose aim was to bring revolution by armed means, to end poverty and oppression (Bloom and Martin 390). They were one of the main armed protest groups in the Black American community. They followed the words of Malcolm X, who thinks that without violence, social change is impossible. They organized violent acts to achieve their goals. In one incident, they stopped a police car with their heavily armed volunteers and confronted the white police officer (Bloom and Martin 45). Black people of the US tried both peaceful and violent acts.

Comparison of the Two Country's Issues with Race

We can say that both countries had the same issue of discrimination and racism against black people. They have several features in common. First, the inequalities that Mandela stated were valid for both the Black Africans and African Americans in the United States. They were both being oppressed by a white supremacist force. They didn't have the right to vote, although both had assistance in their country's wealth. Systematic and institutional racism was evident in both cases.

They were not just discriminated against openly, but also their nations were being undermined through educational, economic, and civil hardships. White powers blocked nonviolent protests ways for both of them with their arrests and legislations against black people. Governments systematically put them into certain ghettoes to prevent them from blending in with the whites.

Either government used their political, military, and social forces to oppress them. They interrogated black people without any valid reasons to silence them or any piece of opposition they might have. Both nations and communities had leaders to fight this discrimination. In South Africa's case Nelson Mandela, ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe, in the United States Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Black Panther Party. Both civil leaders, Mandela and King, supported peaceful protests when there is a chance. These nations wanted to become a part of the country; neither wanted to destroy white people.

However, there were differences between these two nations. First, South Africans were the majority of the country, but African Americans were the minority; no matter what, they suffered from the same issue. Secondly, South African's were oppressed in their land by an outsider force, colonial powers. In the United States case, Black Americans and Whites owned the land together. Last but not least, South Africans operated a much larger campaign to search for civil rights as a nation.


Nelson Mandela stated South Africans struggle against their apartheid government in his famous speech "I am Prepared to Die." Black Africans were being controlled and oppressed and discriminated against in every way, from voting rights to income inequalities by the white supremacist government. A similar issue was a significant problem for the United States, where Black Americans were exposed to racism and the same disparities such as housing segregation, disfranchisement, and poverty. This paper analyzes the racism issues of South Africa and the United States by referencing Mandela's speech and historical facts from the United States concerning discrimination. In the last part, this paper compares the two cases by explaining their similarities and differences. Black people are exposed to discrimination and apartheid all over the world, whether they are the majority of the nation or the minority. Consequently, it is unquestionable that racism is a systematic operation rather than being coincidental.


Jackson, Thomas F. From Civil Rights to Human Rights : Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. Univ Of Pennsylvania Pr, 2009,

Lawson, Steven F. Black Ballots : Voting Rights in the South, 1944-1969. Lanham, Lexington Books, 1999,

Mandela, Nelson. “An Ideal for Which I Am Prepared to Die Speech by Nelson Mandela given in Pretoria, South Africa.” ETHzürich. Rivonia Trial.

Orfield, Gary. Closing the Opportunity Gap : What America Must Do to Give All Children an Even Chance. Edited by Prudence L Carter and Kevin G Welner, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016,

Pea Bloom, Joshua, and Waldo E Martin. Black against Empire : The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party. Berkeley, University Of California Press, 2016,

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