Let the light of Mandela shine on U.S. Injustice
As the world celebrates Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, it is timely to reflect on his life, spent fighting for equality for people of color who long suffered under South Africa's apartheid regime. Mandela was arrested in 1962, a year before Martin Luther King Jr. would give his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. After 27 years in prison, Mandela was released in 1990. Four years later, he would become the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
We should use Mandela's incredible life to shine a light on injustice in the United States, as George Zimmerman is acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, and as a massive hunger strike envelops the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where scores of men have been held without charge for more than a decade.
When President Barack Obama visited South Africa recently, he took his family to Robben Island, the notorious apartheid-era prison off the coast of Cape Town. First lady Michelle Obama said of the experience, "It was amazing to see Mandela's cell, a tiny room -- about 6 feet wide -- where he spent 18 of the 27 years he was in prison. He slept on a thin mat on the floor, and when he stretched out to sleep at night, his toes touched one wall, while his head grazed the other. The walls were two feet thick with no decorations, and he was given a bucket to use as a toilet."