Selwyn Duke attempts to place apartheid in perspective:
Most people would never guess it, but the arrival of whites in SA dates back further than that of the ancestors of many of the nation’s blacks. The first Dutch settlers (who became known as “Boers” or “Afrikaners”) landed on Africa’s shores in 1652, while many blacks in SA arrived later. After all, since life in “racist” SA was vastly preferable to that in surrounding nations, it had long been attractive to black migrants. In fact, due to this factor and blacks’ higher birthrates, SA’s black demographic has increased 920 percent since 1913; this is the main reason the nation’s population increased from 6 million a century ago to 52 million today, as the white demographic increased only 3.3 million during that period.
The relevant point, however, is that the Dutch settlers found in southern Africa a vast and beautiful land with great wide-open spaces. They then did what Erik the Red did in Greenland, what countless groups have done throughout history: they set up shop — their own shop. Of course, there were Xhosa and Zulus about, but they did their own thing as the Europeans did theirs for the same reason why the Sioux and Cheyenne stayed separate in North America, the Lombards and Alans remained separate in barbarian Europe, or the Smith and Jones households live separately on their block: the default for different groups, with different values and cultures or even just different blood ties, is to live apart. They naturally, instinctively, reflexively maintain “apartness.”
This worked well and was unquestioned for a very long time. But then something happened.
Southern Africa started moving into modernity.
As the Afrikaners and British developed the region, a country known as “South Africa” emerged. And as the blacks were integrated into this European creation — being hired by whites, receiving at least some Western education and learning European languages — they, too, developed a sense of belonging to this “South Africa.”
This created an interesting situation. If the whites had maintained complete separation — if they would have and could have avoided all contact with the African tribes — there would have been no Nelson Mandelas (for the same reason why Amazonian natives who know of nothing beyond their forest canopy don’t lobby for voting rights). If, as occurred with the Japanese and their islands’ indigenous people, the Ainus, the SA whites came to outnumber and largely subsume the tribes, there would have been no one of note around to lobby for anything. But since SA is not an island and African migrants could easily cross the border in large numbers, this was a non-starter.
But neither of these things happened. Rather, SA blacks moved into modernity and became part of South Africa, a democracy — and outnumbered the whites 10 to 1. What were the whites to do? Granting the blacks full citizenship rights would usher in the whites’ political, and perhaps physical, destruction. Given this, is it surprising that what always ensured cultural preservation and group safety, that naturally ordained “apartness,” was replaced with the government-ordained policy of “apartheid?”
The point here isn’t to make any moral statement about segregation in general or SA’s version in particular. It is, rather, this: regardless of the extent to which white South Africans were inhuman — as all peoples can sometimes be — they did nothing unhuman. Their social policies were exactly what could be expected from any group of humans in their situation.