Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“…a living embodiment of faith in action, speaking boldly against racism, injustice, corruption, and oppression, not just in apartheid South Africa but wherever in the world he saw wrongdoing. …” Desmond Tutu Foundation (

The quiet death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu this morning (December 26) gives us pause as we close out 2021 — a year that has been filled with health and social pandemics.

He will be missed as a champion of social justice and arbiter for truth and reconciliation. No one believed decades ago that South African apartheid would ever be dismantled. Yet, it is gone today. And the honorable Tutu was on the forefront of that battle.

South Africa is still healing, but on a path to recovery, where the Black South African majority are gaining footholds in the country’s social and political capital. There is progress, but change is processual and takes time.

South Africa is still struggling with transition and has a need for visionary leadership, like that of the late Mandela and now his beloved friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as it battles greed, lust for power, and the legacy of inequality created by the unequal racialized apartheid system. It is a country still figuring out how to redistribute the country’s wealth and resources held by so few —a white minority — for so long in an equitable fashion.

The United States would do well to look to South Africa as it grapples with a majority white population realizing it is becoming a minority and using every legislative, economic, law enforcement means at its disposal to maintain white cultural, political, and economic superiority — e.g., redlining districts to diminish the power of Black voters, promoting white historical innocence by banning Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project in schools, sanctioning white supremacist violence when possible, legitimizing white police violence against Black and Brown communities, and not reauthorizing the Civil Rights Acts.

White America would be wise to heed the lesson of white South Africa. No matter how long you may have a yoke on the neck of a people to oppress them, it is only a matter of time before they rise up to demand freedom and liberation.

Because of people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died peacefully today, December 26, 2021, a racial bloodbath was avoided. He helped to guide the transition of power from a white minority to a Black majority with compassion and empathy. He was a kind and wise humanist who will be missed.

May the social justice heirs of this former Nobel Peace Prize laureate and drum major for peace carry forth his legacy.

It is up to us now — who believe in freedom, who believe in equality, who believe in democratic principles — to carry on Tutu’s work. It is up to us to ensure that the change and transformation towards a more equitable world the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu committed his life to continues. Condolences to his family and all who knew him well.

Rest in power. Your lifeforce may have ended, but your legacy continues to inspire.

*December 26 is the first day of Kwanzaa, on which the first principle “umoja” (unity) is celebrated. ( )

(c) 2021 Irma McClaurin

Irma McClaurin ( is the Culture and Education Editor and free-lance columnist for Insight News, an activist anthropologist, award-winning writer, CEO of Irma McClaurin Solutions, and founder of the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive ( at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Her book, JustSpeak: Reflections on Race, Culture and Politics in America, is forthcoming in 2022.

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