Race Relations. 1948 was an election year, and several pieces of civil rights legislation were introduced in Washington in an attempt to end racial discrimination in America. But how was it going in the rest of the world?
South Africa, long an opponent of racial equality of any sort, was steadfast in their policy of apartheid. But the picture was much bigger. With the post-War wave of independence movements going on throughout Asia and in Africa, European rule was quickly becoming a thing of the past. Although in some cases, as it was with South Africa, White minority rule was not going anywhere, and race relations were at an impasse. To the White Minority government of South Africa, the term Colored cast a wide net – Colored was anyone who was not European in origin (i.e. White) – and so Asians, Pacific Islanders, Arabs, were all lumped into the same category as Black Africans – they were colored, and they were discriminated against.
To get an idea of just how resistant South Africans were to change, and how some of those who felt apartheid was a relic and an outmoded social standard, were shunned and ignored, here is an interview with several Cultural Anthropologists who discuss the state of race relations throughout the world, but particularly in Africa. A recent change of government in South Africa saw an imposition of even stricter rules of segregation and employment. In this post-War atmosphere of independence and freedom and the right of self-determination, the new government in South Africa had taken a huge step backward in time – and the prediction was not good.
The United Nations had taken up the cause of Human Rights ever since their founding. And so this question of race relations, discrimination and apartheid, especially in South Africa, was an almost daily debate.
But listening to this discussion you get an idea of just how deeply rooted the idea of segregation and racial discrimination was – some of the comments are cringe-worthy, and would bring a storm of protest if spoken today. But this was 1948, and America was no bed of roses – with Dixiecrats and Poll tax and segregated schools and public facilities. We could shake our head in disgust at what was going on in South Africa in 1948, but we were hardly in a position to demonstrate our own attitudes towards race.
Here is that episode of The University Roundtable discussion on Race Relations, worldwide. from December 5, 1948