As with Martin Luther King, Jr., we see in the remembrances and tributes to Nelson Mandela a certain oversimplification, appropriation, and white washing of not only the complexity of his political history but of his comprehensive social justice philosophy.
Former senator and failed Republican presidential candidate compared his party’s fight against Obamacare to the “great injustice” Mandela fought against, apparently unaware that South Africa has universal health care. The infamous man-on-man candidate would also take issue with Mandela’s support of LGBTQ rights, as the post apartheid South Africa enshrined in its constitution discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender, something the U.S.A. has yet to accomplish.
We should also accurately recall the U.S.’s reluctance to fully support the struggle against apartheid. Until 2008, our country labeled Mandela’s ANC a terrorist organization.
And just like King’s comments about economic inequality and in opposition to the Vietnam are glossed over for the safer parts of the I Have A Dream speech, largely ignored in the last few days have been Mandela’s critiques of American racism, warmongering and imperialism, and his unwavering support of the labor movement.
Moving beyond the superficial lip service tributes involves support of the comprehensive social justice philosophy Mandela embraced.