“I come from a beautiful land, richly endowed by God with wonderful natural resources, wide expanses, rolling mountains, singing birds, bright shining stars out of blue skies, with radiant sunshine, golden sunshine. There is enough of the good things that come from God's bounty, there is enough for everyone, but apartheid has confirmed some in their selfishness, causing them to grasp greedily a disproportionate share, the lion's share, because of their power. They have taken 87 of the land, though being only about 20 of our population. The rest have had to make do with the remaining 13. Apartheid has decreed the politics of exclusion. 73 of the population is excluded from any meaningful participation in the political decision-making processes of the land of their birth. The new constitution, making provision of three chambers, for whites, coloreds, and Indians, mentions blacks only once, and thereafter ignores them completely. Thus this new constitution, lauded in parts of the West as a step in the right direction, entrenches racism and ethnicity. The constitutional committees are composed in the ratio of 4 whites to 2 coloreds and 1 Indian. 0 black. 2 + 1 can never equal, let alone be more than, 4. Hence this constitution perpetuates by law and entrenches white minority rule. Blacks are expected to exercise their political ambitions in unviable, poverty-stricken, arid, bantustan homelands, ghettoes of misery, inexhaustible reservoirs of cheap black labor, bantustans into which South Africa is being balkanized. Blacks are systematically being stripped of their South African citizenship and being turned into aliens in the land of their birth. This is apartheid's final solution, just as Nazism had its final solution for the Jews in Hitler's Aryan madness. The South African Government is smart. Aliens can claim but very few rights, least of all political rights.”—Desmond Tutu, Nobel Lecture, delivered December 11, 1984
On this date in 1985—less than two months after his searing indictment of the apartheid regime of South Africa that I quoted above—Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu was appointed the first black Anglican bishop of Johannesburg. A year later, he was chosen Archbishop of Cape Town. It would not be until almost a decade later that the system of apartheid that he had opposed, with all his moral fervor and eloquence, finally came to an end.
In May 1982, at my commencement exercises at Columbia University, an empty chair was left to signify the South African white government’s refusal to allow Tutu to accept an honorary degree from the school. The regime’s fear of granting a passport to one of its most prominent critics became a huge cause celebre, until he was finally allowed a temporary passport later in the year.
(Photo of Archbishop Tutu taken by Elke Wetzig at the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag in Cologne 2007.)