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      The Town That Racism Built

      January 19, 2010

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      There's a big motif in Afrikaner history about them being Israelites. It's not just in the stony-faced Calvinism of their Dutch Reformed Church. Ever since the Great Trek, when ancestors on ox wagons rode into the hinterlands in search of a life free of British control, the cry of "Let My People Go" has been a Boer mantra. In recognition of the Afrikaner pilgrimage, in the 1930s, the government built the massive Voortrekker Monument--a stuffily sacrosanct temple to this pseudo-Jewiness. Fifty years after the Voortrekkers, the Anglo-Boer War--a David & Goliath act, complete with its own British-made concentration camps--only served to emphasize the parallel (and heighten the persecution complex). In this light, the high noon of Apartheid could be read as one more Afrikaans attempt to secure self-determination--to wish away the simple fact that, in the long term, history is demography.

      Well, demography is now history. They fought. They lost. The end. Afrikaans--once the dominant language of state--is now a crab in the bucket with South Africa's ten other official languages. No longer the brahmins of the civil service, police, and army, Afrikaners now have to compete for jobs with the very people along whose backs they used to glide, handicapped further by a commonly held belief among the non-Afrikaner population that Afrikaners are a bunch of fucking dicks.

      But in the early 90s, even as the walls were coming down on the old ways, a small cabal of true believers were gathering up the laws and scrolls, putting bubble-wrap around the Ark of the Covenant, and making plans to trek once more. This time, though, the plan would work. No doubts. No fuckups. This time they'd thought of everything.

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      They would start again. In their new world there would be no need for the migrant-labor systems that had brought their downfall. Instead of having to deal with the tensions of a society that was economically integrated but socially segregated, Afrikaners would just go ahead and do all the hard stuff themselves. They would simply cut the Black Man out of the loop altogether. Selfwerksaamheid--literally "working together for ourselves"--would be the watchword of the new order. Their new home would be a place where Afrikaners could be free to pursue their own cultural traditions, where they could speak Afrikaans to themselves all day if they so chose, and where there would be ice cream for dinner every night.

      But if they were to establish this society of their own--the Volkstaat--first, they would need a place of their own. That's where Orania comes in.

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