Mine Boy

Institutionalized Oppression in Pre-Apartheid Mine Boy College

Peter Abrahams’ Mine Boy illustrates in beautiful and haunting prose the oppression black citizens of South Africa faced in the years preceding apartheid. The country’s white minority imposed its power over black South Africans in several ways, the most significant of which are succinctly listed by Nelson Mandela in his book No Easy Walk to Freedom. According to Mandela, the most severe issues included “the grinding poverty of the people, the low wages, the acute shortage of land, the inhumane exploitation, and the whole policy of White domination” (Mandela 21). Indeed, the violence imposed by white police officers, the exploitation of black labor and the cultural narrative that defined ‘white’ as desirable all contributed to the injustice of the nation.

The first mode of oppression is also one of the most prominent in twentieth-century South Africa. The whites of Johannesburg, particularly those on the city’s police force, constantly abused their power by oppressing others with violence. In Mine Boy, one of Xuma’s first experiences upon arriving to the city is with an officer at the Malay Camp’s Saturday market. Without warning, a police van arrives and everyone at the market scatters as officers run into the crowd with their...

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