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Afrikaner Nationalism

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The roots of Afrikaner nationalism can arguably be found in the Great Trek, when Boers, armed with a sense of racial superiority and difference from the British, embarked on their grand historical emigration. But how did these feelings morph into an extreme ideology that led to the severe oppression of the indigenous South African peoples? I cannot help but be reminded of the Germans after WWI, hyperinflation, and what they perceived to be a delayed national unification - ravaged by seemingly endless tragedy, they became susceptible to cultural mythologies that allowed for Hitler's ascent to power. In the same way, the suffering of the poor Afrikaners combined with codified discrimination from the British led to a surge in nationalism that set the stage for subjugation of an entire people.

Afrikaner nationalism surged after 1940; incidentally, it was during this decade that apartheid was instituted as a policy. Before this time, Afrikaners had largely been a scattered people with only language and religion in common. At the time of unification the British had hit hard against these points in the South African constitution. After the Anglo-Boer war, the already generally poor Boer population was in shambles: 25% poverty, rampant homelessness, and the emergence of a Bywoner population.

The stage was set for nationalism - but how would it eventually manifest itself? The two possible paths of Afrikaner nationalism are represented by Jans Smuts, who favored reconciliation with the British at the expense of native blacks, and J.B.M. Hertzog, who advocated that Afrikaners be allowed to carve out their own unique culture and national identity. As it turns out, the Afrikaners wanted to eat their cake and have it too, as they opted for both nationalism and the exploitation of black South Africans. It seems curious that the Afrikaners fancy themselves oppressed when they were so eager to tyrannize the black population. However, this feeling has evolved throughout the...