Throwback Thursday college essay: Jim Crow to Apartheid, a role model for Africans?

*DISCLAINER: This was written for a political science course while I was in college. The assignment had specific parameters. I got a B- on this one so it is cringy but clearly written by someone who is not well informed yet.

Is America really so unique? In the course of nearly two and a half centuries the United States of America has stood as a shining force for Democracy and the world. Having built up an ideology based on a belief of superiority, the United States has attempted to install Democracy in regions that have failed to embrace the principals as tightly as they would hope. Yet this begs the question, how democratic is the USA really? Also to what benefit does installing democracies benefit the United States as a world power?

Before you can look at other democratic regimes propped up by the U.S., you must first look at how Democracy is practiced in the States. When the British colonists first settled the region they encountered indigenous people already settled on the land they had laid claim to. The same British Empire that established colonies in North America, colonies that would later become Canada, and the United States respectively, had also established colonies on the African continent, particularly due to the need to get into the coveted slave trade.

Once the British forces were toppled by the American rebels they quickly turned to tightening their grip elsewhere to hold onto the empire they had built. Seeing the British as a threat to freedom the United States began providing assistance and support to any colony of Great Britain that sought independence. In doing so they set a precedent that would be a beacon of hope for the entire world. Sadly the United States was not entirely equipped to be such an example, for they had a cancer that was eating at their entire soul.

During the colonial period the British settlers actively engaged in the same slave trade with the very African nations they would latter attempt to befriend. Even after abolishing slavery it would be another hundred years before the United States would extend equal rights to their black citizens. There was a culture of suppression and racial inequality as it related to the people of African descent.

After the end of the Second World War, the British Empire began to fall piece by piece. The colonial remnants began breaking apart into their individual states once again and were looking to establish a democratic system that would bring stability and order to the regions.

There can be no mistake that the scars left over from the slave trade, and then colonization of their continent by white settlers, has had an impact on their perspective of democracy. This is further evident by the small minority of Whites in South Africa who were able to establish an Apartheid system that went even further than the unfortunate “Jim Crow” laws of the U.S.

Apartheid allowed a small group of individuals, backed up for a time by the US and British Governments, who strongly enforced policies that would suppress blacks and gave the white elites power to rule unopposed. There is obvious racial motivations for what happened in South Africa, yet this does not explain the situations in other African countries where race is not an issue.

A more likely explanation would be the lack of a central cultural identity. In the countries with the strongest forms of Democracy, their citizens tend to share a strong cultural bond. Even though there are fifty unique states that make up the USA, and citizens come from all over the globe, they share a common history as well as common goals.

The USA has always been famous for their ethnic diversity and open door policies of letting immigrants from all over the world enter their borders. They have had different levels of regulations over the years, but essentially they have always been ethnically diverse yet culturally they tend to share common beliefs such as Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

In addition to their strong cultural bonds, Americans enjoy strong institutions that shape their culture from the National Football League, American Red Cross, to the Boy Scouts, all of these and more tie the Americans from the farthest stretches of their territory, “from sea to shining sea.”

However this is not the case in Africa, where they are still dealing with their colonial past, their tribal people, and different ethnic groups often unwilling to cooperate. There is no central African authority that ties all Africans together and the small scale countries still have to contend with different tribes all having to get along. Africa perhaps is what the United States would look like had not the Europeans intervened? It would take a strong government with the support of the people to establish binding institutions that would unite all Africans under one banner.

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Stephanie Bri

A transgender writer who also does podcasts and videos.