The History of Apartheid: Discrimination in 20th Century South Africa - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  928 Words
Date:  2023-02-02


The apartheid regime made segregation a part of the law and was meant to make South Africa a white man's country with the black people only offering labor from controlled residential areas. Apartheid was introduced because of the ideas of racial superiority and fear that whites held. This paper aims to focus on the discrimination that got divided between whites and black Africans in the twentieth century and how the history of South Africa impacted apartheid until its eventual eradication.

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The apartheid regime in South Africa called for the separate development of the different racial groups that existed in South Africa. It was apart hated, which implies separating people into groups based on their differences so that ruling them becomes easy. The rule of apartheid started in South Africa in 1948 as a policy to govern the relationship between South Africa's white minority and the nonwhite majority. It was done by promoting both political and economic discrimination against the nonwhites. Apartheid had a lot of support, but it also got a lot worse than segregation because it was introduced at a time when other countries were walking away from racist policies. Afrikaans is the language spoken by Afrikaners who were descendants of the Dutch settlers who came from Holland. The regime institutionalized racial discrimination by categorizing South African races into whites representing people of European origin, blacks to represent native Africans, Indians, and lastly coloreds who were people of mixed races.

The events that led to the apartheid can be attributed to The Great Depression and World War II, which brought increasing economic woes to South Africa (Clark, 2013). These economic woes convinced the government to strengthen its policies on apartheid to maintain white domination. South Africans had their belief systems and religion which governed their way of life; the regime completely disrupted all this. Racial segregation is a term used to imply the separation of groups of people based on race and other ethnic traits. In other parts of the world, during the end of the civil war and the start of the 20th century, there existed a period when black and white people lived close together in cities. During this time, segregation had not been fully imposed. This cohesion later changed as whites felt superior and wanted to consolidate the power and influence over resources. The race was used for both political, economic as well as social purposes with whites being allowed to access state security and representation in the national assembly as well as rights to vote. Blacks, on the other hand, only followed the various legislations imposed on them.

Economically, blacks were restricted from accessing skilled labor since they were considered not capable of performing certain tasks which required a skill. Whites had access to office jobs and ownership of means of production, such as productive land. On the social side, different acts were put in place to limit the interaction between whites and blacks. An example is the immorality act which made sexual relations with a person of a different race a criminal offense. Moreover, whites and blacks lived in completely different neighborhoods. The understanding of ethnicity in the 20th century became widely known based on traits such as dialect or language (Maylam, 2017). The impact of the apartheid regime still visible even today is that no matter how famous or rich one is, if they are black in Cape Town, then they are still considered 2nd class citizens.

During the apartheid regime, many protests occurred, all of which attempted to provide an end to such racially oppressive regime but many of them were quashed with brutal force. On the 11th day of June 1962, the United Nations condemned apartheid policies as crimes against humanity, but it was only until the year 1994 that the regime came to an end. The government of president Klerk began to repeal most of the legislation that provided ground for apartheid. South Africa was not different from many other societies in terms of racial discrimination and segregational policies because during the first half of the twentieth century before the Second World War no European power ever considered that their colonies would enjoy full independence in the near future.

The abrupt ending of colonialism in Asia and Africa prompted the need to end apartheid because the rest of the world had changed their viewpoint. Asian and African states stressed to other members of the United Nations that apartheid was creating an explosive situation in South Africa, and this could be a threat to international peace. Such international criticism became popular because the South African government was trying to implement its apartheid policies more radically. It was until the 1980s that the world finally focused on apartheid and how oppressing and inhuman it was. It is during this period that South Africa disintegrated into a form of civil war as black opponents of the regime made it unworkable and the state ungovernable. The impact was a global cry for an end to the apartheid regime. South Africa had been divided by the apartheid on nearly every conceivable level; hence, many national languages in South Africa today. The whites recognized other languages as inferior. The Indians, Chinese and coloreds were a paradox to apartheid as such races exposed the regime as not complete. Some individuals got promoted to enjoy the privileges of the whites based on traits such as smooth hair.


Clark, N. L., & Worger, W. H. (2013). South Africa: The rise and fall of apartheid. Routledge.

Maylam, P. (2017). South Africa's racial past: The history and historiography of racism, segregation, and apartheid. Routledge.

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