If you have been on social media in the past 24 hours no doubt you have seen at least one meme posted conflating Nelson Mandela and Morgan Freeman. These images are hilarious because they are such an effective troll of exactly the kind of empty, self-righteous, white liberal do-gooder that publicly praises the “courage” and “strength” of Mandela without actually knowing the first thing about the man or the history surrounding the fall of the White South African State. They call attention to the fact that for the average Western white liberal, Mandela is nothing more than an empty vessel for them to project their political and social fantasies onto. Most liberal whites probably have more of an emotional connection to the charismatic and grandfatherly figure of Freeman than they ever could to Mandela, which is what makes him so perfect for these images.
Some of the more daring and edgy folks on the right side of the political spectrum, that have less fear of the social repercussions of publicly countering the progressive narrative, have tried to rain on the parade of liberal media hagiographies of Mandela by pointing to his history as a Communist and a terrorist bomber. Others have tried to introduce some dissonance into the narrative by pointing out the deteriorating conditions for blacks in South Africa since the ANC has come to power, with skyrocketing levels of murder, rape and AIDS. (It goes without saying that pointing out the deteriorating conditions for whites is not going win any sympathy from liberal whites.) This is of course all true, but it misses the point. No one is listening. The man Mandela matters little. The reality of South Africa matters little. White progressives want the fantasy.
For the white progressive what Mandela represents in the narrative is the most important thing. He can easily be inserted into the story as a folk hero of “human rights” and “equality” bravely standing up to the forces of imperialism, racism and bigotry. This is how white children are taught to view black “leaders” in the public schools in the United States. The fact that the reality falls short of this ideal pretty much every time as black politicians are inevitably mired in corruption scandals and black-run cities fall into disrepair, crime and abandonment, is a source of perpetual disappointment and dissonance for whites truly committed to the egalitarian narrative. During periods of media-hyped racial tension in the US progressive white college students fantasize about a revolt of the “black working class” against their oppressors, only to see black communities either do nothing or burn down their own neighborhoods in senseless rioting that white people, no matter how liberal, just can’t understand or relate to. This no doubt becomes demoralizing after a while, which is why the Mandela myth is so necessary. It gives liberal whites something they so desperately want, a black man they can believe in, but don’t actually have to look at too closely.
Of course, in reality Mandela was an empty suit. Apartheid was brought to an end by political and economic pressure on the South African regime from Western Europe and the United States. Mandela did not win anything. His terrorist band could easily have been suppressed by the South African military. He became the darling of leftist intellectuals in the West and the focus of an intra-white ideological conflict. He and the ANC were gifted power they could never have won on their own. It is precisely this lack of agency that has allowed progressive whites to mold the Mandela image into an anti-racist fantasy.
Colin Liddel sums it up far more eloquently than I could over at alt-right:
“The essence of Mandela is not terrorism, a concept with which he was at best loosely associated, and the one tiny sliver of respectability in the man, but the act of being a prisoner, which, of course, is an ‘act’ of pure passivity, a passivity further heightened by the fact that he was a man of no real vision or intelligence whose writings – even the ghost-written ones – are void of ideas and interest.
This passivity is the essence of the man, as it created the perfect receptacle for the globalized White race to outsource its various passions of self-loathing, White guilt, ethnic inclusivism, and affirmative action into a conveniently remote and low cost symbol.”