How did apartheid have an impact on World History?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although apartheid simply means apartness and has been practiced by a number of countries, including the US via racial segregation, it is usually identified with South Africa. Under apartheid, blacks in South Africa were legally second-class citizens who were persecuted, denied access to power, and forced to live in poorer, separate neighborhoods that lacked decent infrastructure or amenities.

Apartheid was largely condemned on the world stage for its injustice. It impacted world history in its collapse, which was due to both persistent internal resistance in South Africa and to external pressure through boycotts and protests carried out by countries such as the United States and Britain. The protest against apartheid also popularized the idea of divestment or withdrawing institutional funding and support for business ventures in an offending country. Many universities in the US were pressured by students into divesting. 

South Africa showed the world that moral pressure could be used to help collapse an immoral system. After the fall of apartheid, South Africa's president Nelson Mandela also influenced history, especially in other African countries, through reconciliation committees, which offered forgiveness to offenders in return for them honestly admitting to their crimes. The idea was to heal, not punish. While controversial, the idea of reconciliation did make an impact on the world stage. 

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Apartheid was a policy of racial discrimination and segregation used in South Africa from 1948 to 1994.  Apartheid impacted world history through its legitimization of racism and prejudiced ideals.  This policy of South Africa resulted in unintended outcomes.

First, this policy made the subservient treatment of an entire race of people within the country not only okay, but legal.  South Africa is definitely not the worst example of a political approach race relations in the history of the world, but it is pretty bleak.  The impact of this is far-reaching, because in our increasingly global world, other countries struggling to create just systems for race relations could be influenced by South Africa's system. Some countries might see the disparity between whites and blacks, and use it as a measuring stick for their own country, as a reason to or not to affect change, thinking, "Well, at least this country's race problems are not as bad as that..." 

The main impact and far-reaching consequences from Apartheid stems from its sheer longevity.  It lasted for almost fifty years, and ended less than twenty years ago.  Apartheid reminds the world that we, as a global community, are making strides for a better, more accepting future, but still have a long way to go.