Why the fight for race equality is not over, remembering Nelson Mandela6 December 2013
We are greatly saddened to hear the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing. Mandela’s impact on the racial equality movement is immeasurable. He changed the landscape of race relations in South Africa and across the world.
The dismantling of the apartheid regime, the introduction of inclusive democracy and the election of South Africa’s first black president are proof of the power of anti-racist movements and the triumph of justice.
We remember Mandela as a revolutionary and a peace keeper. He strove for national reconciliation and a harmonious multicultural democracy, despite being imprisoned for 27 years.
Mandela is an inspiration in our field, and has had a strong impact on the Runnymede Trust’s work. We were honoured to be visited by him in 1996 as part of our This is where we live project.
The end of apartheid was a monumental achievement that should be celebrated. However, in much of the coverage today, apartheid will be framed as a relic of history, alienated from our current reality. Apartheid will be presented as a problem which has been solved. This will detract from the very real and enduring legacy that South Africa’s history of racism has left. It will brush aside the enduring structural inequality that still exists in South Africa, and around the world, including in Britain.
Mandela started a dialogue about racial equality that is not over, and is just as relevant and important today. It is essential that we do not become complacent. Mandela’s refusal to accept a status quo of entrenched racial inequality must push us towards further action.
Racism and racial inequality still exist in the UK. We are currently living in a society where black and minority ethnic groups are over-represented in the criminal justice system and under-represented in the legal profession; where a black boy on free school meals with a behavioral problem is 128 times more likely to be excluded from school than a white middle class girl; and a black person is 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police.
This is not equality. These are just some of many ways in which your ethnic background still dictates your life chances in the UK.
Nelson Mandela shows us the profound difference that can be made by a person fighting for equality. Racism is everyone’s problem and everyone must be part of the solution. As Runnymede Trust continues our End Racism this Generation campaign, this remarkable man will remain in our thoughts.
Today, we want to hear from you. How has Nelson Mandela’s incredible life changed your values, or inspired you to make a positive change in your life? Tweet your answers to @EndRacismUK with the hashtag #MandelaLegacy