"it has always struck me how excessively violent encounters between racial or national groups, or even individuals from the same group, have been"

Apartheid – racial segregation – was institutionalized in South Africa (then the Union of South Africa) in 1948, when the all-white, Protestant-Fundamentalist Nationalist Party came to power.  People were racially categorized as white, black, or coloured.

"Coloureds" were people of Asian origin, as well as anyone who was not “pure” white – a white person with a black parent, grandparent or great-grandparent perhaps. Where race could not be established through descent, officials from the Department of Home Affairs determined race by appearance. Only whites were considered citizens, and only whites could vote.

Throughout the Apartheid years, a few white people opposed the country’s racial laws. They were called “kafferboeties” – kaffer lovers. Kaffer, or kaffir, was the derogatory name given to black people.

In 1994 South Africa’s first multi-racial parliamentary election was based on universal suffrage. The election was won by the African National Congress Party and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black president.