Race Inequality

Orania is a white-only town in South Africa and a reminiscent of Apartheid

Segregation feels like a practice that has been relegated to a period long gone. With racial discourse becoming a salient topic of discussion globally, a magnifying glass has been placed on societies around the world. From the issue of plantation weddings in America to Britain attempting to defend their racist statues, South Africa has not been spared.

South Africa, a country still ravaged by the aftermath of Apartheid; from a racial wealth disparity to colonial edifices ingrained in their institutions, is also the home to Orania. A small city of only white people – specifically Afrikaners – thrives in the Northern Cape. Afrikaners are the descendants of the Dutch who first colonized South Africa along the Good Cape in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were mostly responsible for the mobilization and implantation of Apartheid in 1948. Orania embodies everything Apartheid stood for,  Anna Verwoerd who along with her husband bought the land and “found” Orania, was the daughter of Hendrik Verwoerd, who has often been cited as the architect of apartheid. From its inception, Orania was built for the Afrikaners who still hold a candle for pre-1994 South Africa.

No-one likes to give up power. When it became apparent that a white minority rule would not last, many Afrikaners knew a reckoning would come for their opposition or indifference to the fall of Apartheid. The realization that their power would no longer hold the same value it did in a democratic South Africa had them running for a barren strip of land in the Northern Cape. They carved out a piece of South Africa that belonged to only people who looked, talked, and acted like them, thus disillusioning themselves into believing they still had their power.

At the end of Apartheid, affirmative action was a measure taken to close the wealth gap between people of color and white people. This initiative was seen as an act of war by the Afrikaners. These legislations passed by the South African government were seen as ‘reverse racism’ in the eyes of Joost Strydom, head of the Orania Movement. Yet statistics scream these fears are unfounded. White people make up 30% of the country’s population, yet they own 72% of the total farms according to the 2017 South African Department of Rural Development and Land Reform Audit.

In the small community on a hill, there are busts of revered historical figures; or to be more accurate, war criminals. These sculpted heads boast the legacies of former Afrikaner leaders such as Paul Kruger, Barry Hertzog, Hendrik Verwoerd, Daniel Malan, Hans Strijdom, and John Vorster. Each one of these men is responsible for the mass terrorism and displacement of Black South Africans during Apartheid.

Barry Hertzog implemented an economic regulation called Civilised Labour Policy, which involved replacing Black workers with white people. This improved the lives of many White people in South Africa but barred Black people from white-collar jobs and relegated them to be mine workers, domestic helpers, or farmhands. These racialized labor lines paved a way for the construction of the Apartheid state. Hendrik Verwoerd was famously known as being the architect of Apartheid for creating the unequal system that still reverberates in South African society today. John Vorster publicly supported the Nazi’s during WWII. These are the busts that are held as Afrikaner heroes.

In a world trying to move forward and heal from racial tension, a place like Orania which is so hell-bent on creating this utopia for themselves, makes me wonder if a truly peaceful world is possible. Although less than five thousand people live in Orania, there are people outside who still think the way they do.

Orania makes South Africa’s ‘rainbow nation’ dream unattainable, a mere aspiration they may never reach. I hope this is not the case.
The world is at odds, and through social media may feel like a cushion that things are changing – this is far from the truth. Hate, division, and social constructs create dissension amongst people in the world.

Race has never been more widely discussed in the 21st century than the time we are living in now. We are beginning to question, probe, and demand answers for what happens in this unjust system we continue to live in. Silence won’t be a fixture during this moment in history.

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History Wedding Weddings

Why are couples still choosing to get married on plantations?

When it comes to marriage, there are so many wedding venues in the world to choose from. The list is endless and inexhaustible. Plantation weddings are an enigma to me, more so the people who opt to have venues there. It’s inexplicable to me. I cannot imagine people celebrating atop the bodies of humans who died enslaved, tortured, and in chains. Arguing that a venue is beautiful and perfect for your big day only further negates the atrocities and heinous history that is seeped in that place. It says, ‘I don’t care about what happened here because it doesn’t affect me.’

Only people in privileged positions forget about the horrendous events of slavery and take pictures where families were torn apart.

If a person were to have their wedding at Auschwitz the outrage would be gigantic. So, why isn’t the same level of respect given to plantation weddings? People vehemently speak out against concentration camps and history, but they have a tendency to remain silent on the history of slavery. No trauma is worse than the other, yet the disrespect is shown when one is honored over the other.

It’s 2020 now, can we please cancel plantation weddings?

How can you relive antebellum times and ignore the horrors that came with it? The Antebellum era was marked by slavery, the Civil War, and tension between abolitionists and supporters of slavery. That’s why Lady Antebellum changed their name.

It is impossible to find a stunning southern mansion that didn’t house slaves or hold a harrowing history that remains so pervasive. The legacy of slavery still echoes in our systems. So, I wonder what the desire is to have a wedding on a plantation. A place where not only the picturesque mansion still stands but slave quarters are also around the corner.

In 2012, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds got married at Boone Hall plantation, where black people were forced to harvest peaches and make bricks. They have shown support for Black Lives Matter by pledging $200,000 to the cause but have never publicly apologized. Their support is appreciated, but how can they move forward if they haven’t openly addressed past mistakes?

Pictures of their wedding can’t be found on the internet and Pinterest has put in place restrictions on plantation weddings on their site. Though they are still searchable you may be found in violation of their guidelines. Pinterest commented on this decision and said, “Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things.”

“Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things.”

Plantation houses promoting these sites of human rights violations as ‘the best day of your life’ is a slap in the face. It’s insensitive, disgusting and perpetuation of the legacies of slavery that run rampant in institutions. These places should be relegated to purely historical sites. Museums that tell the story of what really happened in these places. Not just southern propaganda of a time when people drank sweet tea and courted one another.

A wedding venue may seem inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. But, these actions are offensive, ignorant, and hurtful to the Black community. The disregard for the tragedy that was slavery rings loud when people say ‘I do’ at plantations.