I’m proud to say that I have been to South Africa. One of my favorite people currently lives there now along with a lot of good friends I met while I was traveling. The country is beautiful. The food was phenomenal and the people were so warm, friendly and soulful. If I could afford a trip back I would go now to be with them during this time.
Last week I was rocked by the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing. I know it still hasn’t fully hit me yet. Honestly, I don’t think I want to accept it because he was a great man and a shining example of what it means to want better for your community as a whole.
Not just for some. For all.
He was willing to stop at nothing to secure justice and equality for everyone.
In the United States we have bore witness to a waterfall of stories involving violence, racism, homophobia and discord of all kinds. Our society is so disconnected that at times it feels like we’re brothers and sisters at war inside of the same house.
Whites vs. Everyone Else. Straights vs. Gays. Rich vs. Working Class. Old vs. Young.
We all have the right to be free and pursue our hopes and dreams because at the base we’re all human. There should never be exclusion from that dream based on one’s skin color, economic status or sexual preference. Yet, we like to use these differences as dividers.
As a black man I represent a community that is often looked upon with fear, condescension and misunderstanding. As a gay man I serve a community that is often looked upon with judgment, ridicule and misunderstanding.
And yet ironically within those two communities I am the minority.
That means I represent a minority within a minority, which speaks volumes about the ways we love to compartmentalize people with labels.
Are we all not the same? In spite of our differences we all love something or somebody. We’ve all cried at one time. We’ve all felt joy. There is something in life that makes us smile.
But those are never selling points used for keeping us united. Our similarities are ripped apart and scattered into the winds in comparison to how much we love to divide and separate ourselves from people that aren’t like us.
The problem with separation is that it begets more separation until everyone is ultimately segregated from each other. This year has been very divisive from Jason Collins, to Paula Deen, to Trayvon Martin and even television shows like Big Brother which had some of the most shocking and racist comments plastered all over the Internet.
It does us a huge disservice as a people to remain tied to our preconceived notions about different cultures and backgrounds because it leaves us with no room for unification.
Mandela fought for freedom and justice. He wanted better for his people because he knew that’s what they all deserved. He was the embodiment of the word Leader and there will never be another one like him in our lifetime.
However, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t attempt to emulate his example. Because sadly our world is decaying from too much emphasis on technology and not enough on the human spirit. We don’t love each other anymore because we don’t trust each other. We don’t want to be bothered with anyone who isn’t in our immediate circle because we’re too lazy to invest the time it takes to know someone beyond their millions of pictures or 140 characters on social media.
But the saddest part of Mandela’s passing is that it came days after Paul Walker’s fatal car crash and more people knew who Paul Walker was than Mandela. It’s a sign of how much we’ve forgotten to acknowledge our past to ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes in our future.
One must ask though; What kind of future awaits us when we worship dishonorable characters with no tact or class? At what point do we, the people, begin to ignore the facade of the rich and start to realize just how fucked up we are as a society?
Mandela wanted to make the world better and he did. His legacy lives on in those who knew him. His legacy lives on in those who understand his principles. His legacy will forever live in the hearts and minds of those who look at their world, say ‘This is some bullshit’ and do something.
And with his passing we are closing another chapter on what it means to be a true Leader.