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New Leadership Needed to Address White Nationalism in U.S., Stalled Progress in South Africa

Resource type: News

In recent articles, the Executive Director and South African Programme Director of the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity called for a renewal in civil rights leadership in the U.S. and in South Africa.

America’s Rising White Nationalism Calls for a New Type of Civil Rights Leadership

By Kavitha Mediratta, Executive Director, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity

In the months following the election of Donald Trump, the US has witnessed levels of racial conflict unseen in decades. White supremacist rallies have increased in cities across the country and hate crimes are on the rise (pdf). The resurgence of white nationalism is in part a backlash to the successes of the racial justice movement, which has seemingly emboldened white nationalists to come out of the shadows and advance an opposition narrative that aims to build support for their views.

White nationalism is not new in our nation’s history. What is new is how the Trump presidency has elevated white anxiety and resentment into mainstream political and social circles. Today, increasing numbers of white people see themselves as disenfranchised in their own country, fearful of wage stagnation and economic insecurity, and angry about what they perceive as reverse racism. A recent National Public Radio poll found that a majority of whites believe black and other people of color have a leg up on them, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

This backlash, anxiety, and resentment have plunged us into a crucial moment in our national struggle on race. We are at a time now when new forms of leadership are required to build on the progress of recent years and continue moving toward the ideals of opportunity, fairness, and dignity for all.

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What does civil rights leadership look like in present-day America? (Reuters/James Lawler)

Let’s Find Ways to Dream Freedom Anew

By Victoria J. Collis-Buthelezi, South African Programme Director, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity

More than two decades after the advent of democracy in South Africa, the legacy of former president Nelson Mandela sits at the heart of debates about the country’s progress, or lack thereof.

What we know now is that the negotiated settlement that preceded elections averted countrywide civil war and brought about the vote, and as such, political equality for all.

It made citizenship no longer dependent on one’s race and South Africa became nicknamed the “rainbow nation”.

However, given that the country is one of the world’s most economically unequal societies, in which race and poverty are inextricably linked, the rainbow idyll is no longer enough.

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The Atlantic Fellows Global Community

The Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity is one of six interconnected Atlantic Fellows programs, which together will create a global community of leaders for a better world.

The Atlantic Fellows program is funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, which will invest over $600M, alongside other partner organizations and governments, to support the work of the global network of thousands of Atlantic Fellows over the next two decades, and beyond. This investment–in both the Atlantic Fellows and the institutions that will support and nurture them–is the foundation’s final and biggest bet ever.