Please Someone Tell Me I'm Wrong (Connections between the Soweto Student Uprising and Black Lives Matter)

Please, Someone Tell Me I'm Wrong (Connections Between The Soweto Student Uprising And Black Lives Matter)

An opinion piece on the parallel between the 1976 Soweto Student Uprisings in South Africa and the current social climate surrounding youth of color in the United States today.

Joergen Ostensen

Only one time in my life have I felt as emotionally numb as I did when at the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto: that was when I was reading about how the Poles during WW2 burned Jewish children alive. The Afrikaans Medium Decree (1974) declared that English and Afrikaans would be taught 50-50 in Black schools in White areas (Boddy-Evans). Due to most of the students and many teachers in these areas not knowing Afrikaans, many students began failing their social studies, mathematics, and science courses in school; this prevented many from passing their matric. In reaction to this, students from many schools in Soweto on June 16th, 1976 marched in protest, where many, like 13-year-old Hector Pieterson, would soon meet their fate with God and fall to the gravel beneath them.

As I read the haunting accounts detailing how the Black children fled and fell to the ground by gunfire, and how the Police justified this, stating that they "feared for their lives," this all felt too familiar to me. Those words stayed with me as I walked the path of the students and when I visited Mandela's house; it reminded me of home. When shooting countless unarmed men of color across the country, police in the US have used this same excuse. When a 13-year-old Latino boy was shot in my hometown by police, they said it was because of the toy gun he was holding. When 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the police officer gave this same reason. When 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was hunted down and shot, George Zimmerman claimed the same. The Police who shot one of my older cousins while sitting in his car, at least 10 times, from at least 50 ft, stated this because they thought he had a knife in his pocket; it was his phone. While I do pray that I am wrong, I have found this striking parallel between the South African Apartheid Police and many police officers in the US today, as many have used this "I feared for my life" excuse to shoot unarmed children of color.

Someone, please tell me I am wrong.


Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "The Afrikaans Medium Decree." ThoughtCo, DotDash, 1 Mar. 2019,

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