Racism is essentially described as the actions, attitudes and beliefs, which are harbored by people that the society should be segregated, based on the race and color of people. Different races have individual traits, which give definition to a certain race. Racism in South Africa was referred to as apartheid, which is derived from Afrikaans, a language used by the Dutch settlers who came to South Africa and colonized the country. It was a term used to refer to forced segregation of people based on race. The ruling government party comprised of only the Dutch settlers. The settlers enforced the racial segregation using legislation given that they were the rulers and lawmakers in the government. Apartheid mainly spanned from 1948 to 1994 when there was an existent racist government. The rights of the majority black people in South Africa had their rights curtailed by the minority Afrikaner rule in an effort to enforce their notion and beliefs of white supremacy (Eades, 1999, pp. 11).

Essentially racism or apartheid from a South African context came about after the Second World War through the National Party, which was dominated by the Afrikaners. The racial prejudice began with British and Dutch rule. Nevertheless, apartheid was essentially part of a campaign, which was actualized through legislation to racially and suppresses the majority black population. Apartheid was introduced in the year 1948 during the general election; it classified the population into four racial divides. The racial groups were natives for the black people, white people, colored people and the Asians. This is an express indication of the classifications, which were existent in such societies with the aim of ensuring that some races were subjected to the best resources while others languished in abject poverty.

As at the year 1970, non-white part of the populations was not subject to political representation. This meant that only white people were able to govern and propagate their interests within the political realm. During the same year, black people were deprived off their citizenship. They were legally considered as part of the ten tribes named Bantustans. Some of the four of the ten tribes of the Bantustans became independent states. The white supremacist government deprived the black population social benefits such as access to medical aid, education, beaches and transport as well as other social services, which were easily available to the white people (Smith Mckoy, 2001, pp. 33).

The racial segregation was a difficult period for the black people given that, they were unable to access basic services such as medical benefits and aid. This sparked off racial tensions and intolerance between the racial divides present between white and black people in South Africa. In addition, it resulted in an arms trade embargo imposed on South Africa due to the escalating violence mainly driven by the racial intolerance by the black people against the white supremacists’ government. From the 1950’s South Africa faced large protests and campaigns by the large majority black population.

This resulted in a ban of the opposition by the white supremacist government and the eventual imprisonment of the anti-apartheid black leaders. This proved to have a devastating effect on the momentum of the uprising in that the protesters were demoralized by capture and detainment of their leaders. The uprising in turn was met with severe force by the military and the repression of the groups through violence. This excessive use of force resulted in an arms embargo on South Africa by the international community as they used the same arms purchased to suppress and quell the opposition.

Racial classification was enforced in a manner, which was considered as legal given that the white supremacist minority. It began with the Population Registration Act of 1950 whereby racial classification of the population was formalized and legalized. Colored people in the South African society were disenfranchised after they were stripped off their voting rights and participation in political activities. They were initially only allowed to have only four individuals representing them in parliament. In addition, they were made as equal to the Blacks and Asians in matters related to political activities. This resulted in only one enfranchised race, which was made up of only white people.

Black people were essentially not allowed to operate and run businesses in areas, which were set out for white people without a permit from the government. They were also not entitled to start professional enterprises without approval from the authorities. Essential services were defined for specific racial groupings. The black people had their venues for receipt of social services and access to amenities. On the other hand, individual races had their own venues. This emphasized that some were inferior and others superior irrespective of their numbers within the overall population in South Africa. Black, Asian and Colored people accessed services and amenities, which were low in quality despite these two races constituting a sizeable part of the population; they were subjected to constrained services and social amenities. On the other hand, the minority white people were able to access the best social services and amenities given that their facilities were of high standards as they were essentially responsible for legislation and other governmental operations (Smith Mckoy, 2001, pp. 44).

The white people were unified by their common interests in suppressing the races and taking up all the mineral wealth, which had been discovered in South Africa. The white were also divided based on their origins and political inclinations. The division was set out between the Afrikaner pro-republicans and the English anti-republicans. This division was defined by the Anglo-Boer War. However, some leaders sought an end to the standoff between the two sides holding similar ideals but different sentiments. Their common front was aimed at ensuring that they protected their interests from the threats posed by the growing opposition and rebellion against apartheid.

Ethnicity is defined as a representation of a specific ethnic group. An ethnic group, on the other hand, is defined as grouping, which is made up of members who identify each other through sharing of common heritage, culture and more so sharing a language or dialect. Race and ethnicity have been forces of definition of the South African society for decades among the native South Africans as well as after the arrival of the Dutch and British settlers (Fenton, 2003, pp. 7).

Among the four identified racial classifications, which were used in South Africa, the black population was the largest. The black population accounts for more than 75% of the South African population. The black people in South Africa are mainly divided in other ethnic groups, which have been in existence in South Africa since the migration of the Bantus into South Africa. The black population mainly comprises of several ethnic groupings: Khoi-San, Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Sotho, Shangan, and the Venda (United Nations & Boutros-Ghali, 1994, pp. 48).

The identified groups have differences as well as similarities in terms of culture. During the apartheid period, there was an emphasis by the white supremacist government of the presence of ethnic differences. This was an aim to ensure that there was not unity amongst the various ethnic groupings making up the majority of the black race. The white supremacist regime used ethnicity as a platform for encouraging and growing discord amongst the black people. This is evidenced by the use of the term Bantustans as part of encouraging ethnic divisions amongst the black people. This created ethnic consciousness amongst the tribes or ethnic groups, which comprised of the Bantustans.

They black people were labeled based on their individual ethnicities. This classification was aimed at creating ethnic consciousness and signifying the existence of ethnic differences between the black people. Essentially classification was as a means of quelling the racial uprising against the white supremacists government in existence at that time. However, the racial classification did not change as people were still regarded as a black, but under different ethnic classification.

The ethnic divisions were enforced by the white people as they defined the various ethnic groups as part of individual nations. Hence, this was a platform for cultivation of hate and discord between the black people belonging to the different groupings. The Apartheid doctrines preached to the black population were that the black people, essentially within their ethnic groupings, would be able to attain self-governance and development if they assumed divided stands. The divided stand meant that the individual ethnic groups would identify themselves as certain nations within the black race. This is an express indication of the role of the white supremacists in sowing seeds of discord amongst people who were united by poverty and oppression from the white people (Evans, 2009, pp. 41).

The white supremacists were also divided based on their ethnicity. The Anglo-Boer war was an instigating factor for the sharp divisions between the Dutch and Englishmen, who had settled in South Africa, were driven by the need to farm, and use the resources availed in South Africa. In addition, the white supremacist government went ahead and allocated areas to the black population based on their ethnicity and emphasized on the use of certain languages in the assigned areas. Hence, ethnic groups were designated areas where they would only speak individual dialects for identification. This profound ethnic consciousness that was in cultivation by the white supremacists, was merely an aim of ensuring that the black people turned against each other and that they lost focus of fighting for equality and resisting the oppression instigated by the white government.

The ethnic segregation resulted in the development of what was considered as homelands. The white supremacists government, in the establishment of the homeland system, attempted to divide the country in numerous states based on race and ethnicity. This was essentially the use of “divide and rule” concept. They were allocated areas which economically and agriculturally unviable. The government stated that the divisions were because of separating individual nations to enable such nations, which were essentially tribes to grow economically and develop their states as was referred to by the government. It defended itself by stating that it did not create the homelands based on race and color of people. However, this was aimed at disintegrating the black people and enhancing disunity among the black people.

Furthermore, the black people were forcibly removed from the cities and the urban centers and moved to the homelands based on their ethnicity and dialects. This was due to the need to reserve the developed areas for the white people. They took the farms and the fertile areas for their individual purposes, as they were mainly farmers. The use of the homelands ensured that the black people were no longer citizens of South Africa but were essentially citizens of their respective ethnic homelands designated by the white supremacists government. They essentially had their citizenships stripped off and became part of the ten states designated for them.

Ethnicity has both positive and negative effects. Positive effects come into play in that people from a specific ethic group or divide are able to learn about their heritage. Cultural diversity is essential, as people are able to learn and preserve their heritages and pass the same to descendants. Ethnicity is usually regarded as an identity of people belonging to that specific ethnic group. Ethnicity has positive effects such as enhancing checks and balances in the political and governmental functions of a country. It ensures that there is equality in the government and that all the various ethnic groups are entitled to equal representation and resources from the government. When a single ethnic group is given the ability to rule or govern, the group is susceptible to unequal allocation of resources to the general population. This is because of the general consideration that

Ethnicity, however, has negative effects such as ethnic cleansing. This is whereby other ethnicities turn against each other in a fight for supremacy and eventual elimination of the other ethnic group. It also results in instability of a given country, as the country is prone to violence and economic ruin. Stability creates a good environment for business, and trade to take place. Hence, when such is absent, investors are unwilling to risk their finances because they are unsure about the future of their investments, which double ruined in the event of violence of war.

In conclusion, ethnicity and race are two components used to define societies given that they are intertwined. Race gives definition to a certain color, which might be divided further, into ethnic classifications. The two are important in society as they emphasize the aspect of diversity. Diversity plays a significant role in ensuring that the various races and ethnic groups are able to retain their cultures, which are part of heritage and identity of a specific ethnic group or race.

Racism has been an issue around the world. Hence, the character traits of a certain race make the race inherently inferior or superior in comparison to other races. This term was coined in the beginning of civilization when slave trade was a common issue. It was mainly used to justify segregation of people based on their races and to emphasize that some races were superior and others inferior. However, the aspect of racism has reduced due to multiculturalism by numerous societies around the world to allow people to celebrate their diversity. People are currently able to tolerate each other despite the presence of suspicions of racism against people of a different color.


EADES, L. M. (1999). The end of apartheid in South Africa. Westport, Conn, Greenwood Press

EVANS, I. T. (2009). Cultures of violence: lynching and racial killing in South Africa and the American South. Manchester, UK, Manchester University Press

FENTON, S. (2003). Ethnicity. Cambridge, UK, Polity.

SMITH MCKOY, S. (2001). When whites riot: writing race and violence in American and South African cultures. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press.

UNITED NATIONS, & BOUTROS-GHALI, B. (1994). The United Nations and apartheid, 1948-1994. New York, United Nations, Dept. of Public Information.

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