On Aug. 5, 1962, on Obama’s second birthday, South African authorities arrested Mandela at a hideout, reportedly with the help of a CIA informant. It is clear that the Kennedy-era CIA saw Mandela, then the leader of the National Action Coalition that organized demonstrations and strikes to protest white rule, as a troublemaker and communist sympathizer at the very least.
While Mandela languished in prison, the United States maintained a cordial relationship with Mandela’s jailers, relying on the staunch anti-communism of South Africa’s white leaders to try to blunt Soviet expansion on the continent — particularly in Angola, where large numbers of Cuban troops were deployed to fight in that country’s civil war, and deteriorating situations in white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South African-occupied Namibia.
Indeed, not even the Soweto uprising of June 1976 — during which nearly 200 people, many of them students, were killed while protesting the required use of Afrikaans language in black schools — was enough to prompt anything more than slow and halting policy shifts from Washington.
Carter’s election in 1976, partly on a platform of protecting human rights, saw the introduction of the ‘constructive engagement’ policy, which relied on limited sanctions aimed at quietly promoting reform in South Africa. Its impact is still debated, but Reagan’s election in 1980 with a foreign policy focused on defeating communism initially saw South Africa reform drop off the White House priority list. As international calls for Mandela’s release and apartheid’s end skyrocketed and gained major popular momentum, Reagan resisted.
In 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Congress that Mandela’s continued presence on a U.S. terror watchlist was ‘embarrassing’ and should be changed.
To be clear, the US government was always cool with apartheid because the US was literally built upon the same white supremacist anti-Black Africa-gouging colonial ideology as apartheid. Any concessions or gestures that Washington made to supposedly oppose apartheid were coerced by the pragmatic politics of popular activism, meant to calm the angry masses even while it was white supremacist business as usual behind the scenes. Truth is, if the US government fully had its way, Mandela would have been murdered just like Lumumba and Guevara and Allende and countless other revolutionaries. Unfortunately for the US powers that be, Mandela survived and rose to power and lived a long fruitful life, gaining global respect, causing the present awkward moment of a US government pretending to be on the right side of history.
for anyone interested in reading more about how schizophrenia moved from being a diagnosis assigned to white, middle-class women to one used to pathologize and institutionalize noncompliant black men in the 1960s, jonathan metzl’s the protest psychosis: how schizophrenia became a black disease is a good place to start. i have a PDF scan of it, too — just ask.
Let the record reflect the conclusive result of empirical research spanning 27 studies from 10 countries: healthy eating is fucking expensive and people who deny this reality are annoying and full of shit.