As a rule, I try to stay away from racial matters publicly. For years, I’ve generally tried to steer away from the kind of humor and comments that have been a staple of infinitely more talented comedians than myself, such as Paul Mooney and Katt Williams, specifically the kind that deal with race relations. I’ve always thought it could stir up too much controversy and too many ugly feelings if done poorly. Point blank, I was scared. However, I came across something that now forces me to speak out. My views may even be considered controversial, but I don’t care. I am part of the Alarmed Crew; I live for this.
On Thursday, December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela, the man who helped to bring about the end of the apartheid regime of South Africa, passed away. He was 95 years old. I remember first being told about Mr. Mandela in grade school. I couldn’t have been much older than eight years old. A woman from South Africa came to our school, spoke to us about him and led us in a song written his honor. Over the next twenty years, in my view, he became ingrained in our national consciousness, particularly after his release from prison after twenty-seven years. I had always heard him spoken of reverently, and sometimes irreverently, but always with a certain amount of respect. There was a certain line one did not cross when speaking of Nelson Mandela.
Of course, all that went out the window when, after his death, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) paid tribute to the deceased former South African president on Facebook. What history will inevitably leave out is that many people from Senator Cruz’s own party were opposed to Mr. Mandela and the African National Congress’ efforts to end apartheid. Then-President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Dick Cheney, then representing the state of Wyoming in Congress, outright refused to give them support or call for Mr. Mandela’s release from prison, calling him a terrorist. As late as 2000, when Mr. Cheney was running for the second-highest office in the land alongside George W. Bush, he expressed no regret for his views. Apparently neither President Reagan nor Vice President Cheney was alone in this view. Immediately after Senator Cruz paid his public respects to Mr. Mandela, many of his supporters clutched their pearls and derided him for it.
The overall message was, “Nelson Mandela was a communist terrorist who set fire to nuns while sodomizing puppies. How could you pay any kind of respect to him?” You know what? I probably made half of that message up. Probably.
Naturally, when I read those comments, I was angry. But then, I started to think, what if they’re right?
The word “terrorist” has three definitions on Dictionary.com (research!):
- A person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.
- A person who terrorizes or frightens others.
- (Formerly) a member of a political group in Russia aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror.
Terrorism itself is defined by the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. I don’t know off-hand if Mr. Mandela ever used violence against the white oppressors of South Africa, despite his time as a boxer. I also doubt he was in Russia trying to demoralize the government there, as he spent a good chunk of his life behind bars and by the time he got out, the Soviet Union was well on its way out anyway. Besides, you think it’s hard enough taking on one government? Try two! But a person who terrorizes or frightens others? Hell yeah. And I’m proud that he was.
See, dear reader, even to this day, there are people who are scared of black people. They do not know us or understand us, and because they do not know us or understand us, they fear us. I personally don’t have a problem with the fear, as I cannot control what another person thinks of me. All I can control is what I do. Where I take issue with fear is when it causes people to pass laws that severely restrict the freedom of the people being feared. Like apartheid. When someone stands up and challenges a government that espouses that kind of oppression, like Mr. Mandela and his followers did, it scares the bejesus out of people, or terrorizes them, if you will.
See? Aren’t you glad you let me explain?
I don’t blame Senator Cruz for jumping on the “We Love Mandela” bandwagon. He is a politician, after all. Nobody really wants to be on the wrong side of history. I don’t even blame his followers for ripping him a new one. All it shows is that a man like Nelson Mandela, who President Obama said now belongs to the ages, continues to scare certain people, even in death. And he should.