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   Chapter 33 Debbie Wolfe

Apartheid Rendezvous By Antonette Liebermann Characters: 5434

Updated: 2018-05-15 11:38


I grew up in apartheird South Africa. I was born in South Africa, under apartheid -- a white child with every privilege. It was the year 1969, five years after Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.

While my parents weren't wealthy, my dad was an engineer, and a graduate of the University of Cape Town. We had a pretty little townhouse in the suburbs of Cape Town. I had good food to eat. There were dolls to play with, and presents under the tree at Christmas. I went to ballet lessons, and my lovely preschool down the road.

I had never heard the name 'Nelson Mandela'. I was too little to understand what was happening in my country, or what apartheid meant. I got the faintest glimpse every couple of weeks, when we rode the train into Cape Town to meet my father for lunch.

Apartheid through a child's eyes

Those were the only days that I actually saw black children. But it was always from far away, or through the window of a train. In the first six years of my life, I never got to speak or play with a child whose skin was a different colour than mine.

On those train rides, my mother and I waited on a platform designated for 'whites' waiting to board the train cars for 'whites'. There was a separate platform for 'blacks'. Once on the train, we'd pass parks and beaches clearly marked 'white' and 'black'. In Cape Town, if we needed to go to the bank, we'd approach a different counter than families with black children.

"Why didn't I do something?"

There's a certain guilt that comes from my childhood under apartheid. How could I not have known what was happening? Why didn't I do some

e all over the world.

Mandela's legacy in my life

I don't want to feel guilty any longer, about my childhood under apartheid. But I'm determined not to let the experience be wasted.

It's played a huge role in bringing me to my work at World Vision, where I play a small part in helping break down the walls of poverty and injustice. In the school playground, my experiences under apartheid help me decide who to spend time talking with, as our children play together. I'm purposeful about crossing the tarmac to chat with someone with a different country or culture, and I love hearing what they think about everything from federal politics to what to make for dinner that night.

I'm also purposeful about talking with my sons about racism, discrimination, and the danger of erecting barriers rather than pulling up more chairs at the table. Tonight, I will tell them again about Nelson Mandela, and his courage, patience and forgiveness. I will allow my memories to keep teaching me -- then take up Mandela's challenge to help build a different future.

- Debbie Wolfe

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