Amid Mandela's Legacy, South African Youth Are Politically Apathetic

Nelson Mandela mural in Soweto (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Nelson Mandela mural in Soweto (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

News of Nelson Mandela's failing health has pointed a spotlight at the next generation of South Africans, writes Bolanle Omisore at Ebony, and they are not as politically involved as their forefathers.

"I came back to South African in 1994, before Mandela's election, and it was the beginning of liberalization," says Mandlesizwe L. Isaacs, an African business consultant from Johannesburg. "We wanted to move into a particular suburb and my mom had to get signatures from everyone on the block to prove that they didn't mind a Black family moving in."

Nineteen years after his release from Robben Island prison for agitating for the end of the racially divisive apartheid system, the generation of South Africans born since Mandela's release—widely known as "born frees"—are living in a radically different country than their parents; one where Blacks, Whites and Coloreds are no longer legally bound to occupy separate spheres. But there hasn't been much progress for the masses of Blacks in South Africa, and there is concern that the born frees are blind to the struggle.

"The born frees have reached adulthood, many of them with little or no interest in the momentous events that led up to the year of their birth," according to an editorial in the South African daily newspaper, The Star. "Many other, older South Africans have been left bitterly disappointed in what has been achieved since."

Read Bolanle Omisore's entire piece at Ebony.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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