Tuesday, December 05, 2017

How dare they?

Between the movie and two books, I got pretty caught up in the story of Ruth and Seretse Khama.

It was interesting to view the story through three different pairs of eyes. Generally it didn't make a lot of difference. I believe Michael Dutfield gave more information on the history of the Bamangwato tribe, while Susan Williams gave a better sense of how the rest of the world was viewing the conflict, and the general African presence in London.

The London information was interesting, not only because it gave the impression of a diverse and vital community that I had never heard of, but also because as some of those participants went on to lead other countries on the continent, it becomes not just a story of one city at one time but many countries over many years. That also showed Seretse Khama to be uniquely forward thinking in his efforts to train future leaders and establish stable succession processes.

There was one other way the two authors diverged, and that was on the reason for British interference. Some months have gone by now, so my memory may be fuzzy, but for all three sources it was a question of South Africa's relationship with Great Britain, already a fraught one.

If I recall correctly, the film just focused on stability, Dutfield mentioned concerns that losing British influence over South Africa would make their racism worse, while Williams focused on British concerns about South African uranium deposits.

Just for background, though minority rule had been the case in South Africa for many years, and was becoming further codified all through the 40s, Apartheid became official in 1948. That is also the year in which Ruth and Seretse married.

Racism has such a long history of fearing the unions of white women and Black men that it should not be at all surprising that South Africa had a problem with it, but that it should be the case in the royal marriage of a country just above them and sharing borders felt like a threat; something that could give their own residents ideas.

The South African factions that would have been happy to completely cast aside the British relationship were gaining popularity. Nationalism and racism have always had a natural affinity anyway.

To Dutfield's credit, I am sure that when any South African influence was admitted, the government official doing the admitting would be more likely to credit the desire to help the people of color in South Africa than fears of price gouging on uranium or fears of communists getting their hands on South African uranium. (To be fair, the South African nationalists tended to hate communists also.)

I can't help but think it was more about the uranium. It's hard to demonstrate that their careful treatment of South Africa did much to ameliorate Apartheid anyway. Regardless, Britain didn't like admitting any South African influence on the British government's opposition, first to the marriage of Ruth and Seretse, and then to Seretse taking his place as chief and king. Interfering with the sovereignty of one country at the behest of a third country for racist reasons is not a good look for any government.

I can sympathize with worrying about the long-term effects of damaging diplomatic ties with a country. If there were true worries about Apartheid, and worrying that taking a stand would do more harm than good, I can totally sympathize with that. I'm not denying that the decisions of various government officials didn't make a certain sense.

What angered me (and led to this post's title) was the utter indignation that so many of these officials demonstrated. How dare these two single people who are in love get married? How dare a legitimate ruler want to take his throne? We told them not to!

That's something that comes up again and again with women and with people of color -- with anyone lower on the power structure -- how dare they be so insolent? Where is their gratitude?

How dare they?

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