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July 23, 2014
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The cold, hard face of power


They just sat there, these powerful men, stolid and apparently unaffected, with no flicker of emotion that I could detect. I suppose Kunene’s tales of repression and cruelty weren’t really “news” to them, of course, as they were to me, but still I found their diffidence difficult to comprehend.

And for perhaps the first time, I started to sense the connection between my comfortable and fortunate circumstances and the sufferings of others, however far away. As a scholarship student, after all, I was a beneficiary of those investments and therefore indirectly complicit in what those investments had made possible.

This was my introduction to the cold, hard face of power and the beginning of my radicalization.

The divestment movement would have some successes, eventually, and eventually, the apartheid regime would yield, due perhaps not so much to the divestment movement as to an unstoppable force named Mandela, and what Dr. King called “the moral arc of the universe.”

Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela, and thank you.

[Some history of the anti-apartheid struggle at Harvard can be found at www.thecrimson.com/article/2003/6/4/out-of-africa-on-a-cool/]