Opinion

The loss of a social justice giant

 An editorial from the Exponent-Telegram:

 CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela

Not since the death of Martin Luther King Jr. has the world lost such a social justice giant as Nelson Mandela.

The father of freedom in South Africa and the symbol of the fight against injustice, Mandela died last week at the age of 95. He will be remembered by South Africans and the world, beginning with a memorial service today.

Mandela is best known as the leading force against South Africa’s apartheid practices, beginning the fight as early as 1952.

As King and others led the march to social equality and justice in the United States, Mandela and others with the African National Congress fought the battle in South Africa.

Apartheid touched on virtually every social aspect in South Africa, putting control of the economy and government in the hands of white people. Laws were established to determine a person’s race, thus categorizing their rights according to the law as it existed then.

Eventually, laws were established that detained millions of blacks, sending them to “homelands” where they were denied the ability to vote on national leaders and issues.

An obvious attempt to retain power by the segregationists, who made up about one-fifth of the population, these steps, as well as the unequal distribution of land and wealth, led to heroic efforts by the afflicted, including Mandela, a prominent figure in the African National Congress.

But it was a long, slow journey, one that saw him charged and jailed for various “crimes,” including inciting public unrest and treason…

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