Nelson Mandela’s legacy is a call-to-action for social justice activists

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Nelson Mandela, former president and life-long fighter for racial equality in South Africa, has died at the age of 95.

Most of us young folks can’t fathom South African apartheid, although our parents might recall its American parallel: Jim Crow segregation. Most of us can’t imagine what it’s like to be forced — by legal and cultural practice — to live as a second-class “citizen” (South African Blacks were denied full citizenship during apartheid) in one’s own country, based entirely upon the colour of our skin. More importantly, we can’t conceptualize the courage it takes to see a social iniquity, to stand up, to fight back, to challenge that institution of oppression.

Nelson Mandela will, like a handful of other historical figures, always be remembered as a man who did just that. He stood up. He fought back. He challenged his country to be better than it was, even when it cost him personal freedom and earned him international revulsion for it.

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