Black Speakers Compare U.S, S. African Racism
The United States still shares some of South Africa's discriminatory attitudes and institutions, three Black scholars said at a symposium at the Education School last night.
"I don't think we have gained full equality of rights in South Africa and in this country as long as we don't have full knowledge of our own [the African] languages, culture and history," former Harvard professor Ephraim Isaac told an audience of about 70 in Longfellow Hall.
Author and activist Amiri Baraka and exiled South African lawyer Bojana Jordan joined Isaac at a "teach-in" at the Longfellow School of Education. The informal event was part of a ten-day celebration of the Education for Action (E4A) Committee's 20th anniversary.
"Knowledge is key to liberation," said Isaac, dressed in a white djellaba, traditional Ethiopian garb. "The denial of Black peoples as humans is at the root of apartheid." The Ethopian-born professor stressed the need for intellectual equality of opportunity in the United States and South Africa through the study of African heritage.
Isaac is suing Harvard for racial discrimination, alleging that the University refused him tenure because of his desire to teach African culture, language and history. He now heads the Institute of Semitic Studies in Princeton, N.J.
The struggle of Blacks for equality in the U.S. is similar to the plight of Blacks in South Africa, said poet Baraka, a professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stonybrook.
All three of the speakers said that United States universities have a moral responsibility to divest of their holdings in corporations that do business with South Africa.
The "teach-in" was sponsored by Harvard Educators for Justice in South Africa, the Black Students Association and The South African Solidarity Committee.