I came across this little gem the other day in a debate about affirmative action: “Ten years after world war 2, hardly any Jews still held a grudge against Germany. People just wanted to build a better future, they had put the horrors of the holocaust behind them. Why then is it that, nearly 20 years later the Afrikaners still haven’t been forgiven for appartheid – which was a far lesser crime than killing 6 million people in cold blood. More-over, like the Germans, the vast majority of Afrikaners had no idea of the true cruelty of apartheid until after it ended.”.
Actually, I paraphrased that a little, the original wasn’t quite so eloquent but rather than being accused of quoting out of context I tried to quote it with every bit of subtext spelled out so that readers could see what the author of this line of reasoning was getting at.
Now if you forget for a moment that back in 1989 we let a man out of prison who had every moral justification to demand a full-scale war on us – and instead spoke a message of tolerance and forgiveness, then I suppose it’s a valid question. So let me see if I can answer it.
-After world war 2 – the vast majority of Germans sincerely and deeply
apologized for Nazism.
-After 1994 – the vast majority of Afrikaners became apologists for appartheid
-The new German government’s first order of business was to drag all the people who committed the atrocities before an international tribunal, denounce them and have them face justice.
-The Afrikaners cannot even bring themselves to denounce the few Afrikaners who actually did not get amnesty from the TRC and were convicted in a court of law for their atrocities. In fact, they still think it’s appropriate to promote these people as candidates for leadership in our culture !
-The new German government then instituted a constitution in which human dignity and non-discrimination was simply the most important rights and which declared outright that, in the event of a conflict with another right, these rights would take precedence. On this basis do they make Nazi propaganda illegal despite that being an intrusion on freedom of speech. The vast majority of Germans embraced this as a symbol of the sincerity of their remorse and their genuine commitment to never let it happen again.
-The new South African government made a similar constitution (if slightly less severe), the vast majority of Afrikaners have consistently ranted and raved whenever a law restricted one of their rights even slightly in the interest of protecting dignity and preventing discrimination.. Yet ironically the same Afrikaners who rant and rave against these laws all the time have perhaps been the population group who has brought the most cases before the human rights commission and the equality court charging others with breaking them.
-Finally the German people then made genuine and significant reparations so that the next generation of Jewish children born in Germany would not continue to suffer in poverty brought about by the atrocities already committed.
-The Afrikaners were not asked to make any reparations – just to accept affirmative action to help undo some of the damage so the next generation of Black children would not need to suffer as much poverty due to the atrocities committed on the previous generation. The Afrikaners have been ranting and raving about this ever since.
In short, the Afrikaners haven’t been forgiven like the Germans were because the Afrikaners have not atoned or shown remorse. It’s far beyond the capabilities of the majority of people to forgive and forget something terrible you did if you aren’t prepared to admit it was wrong.
Only when the Afrikaners start to acknowledge that they committed a crime against humanity which should be atoned for and showing that they understand how wrong it was by showing genuine and sincere commitment to ensuring it never happens again – only then will we deserve, or get, forgiveness.