In This Review

The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa’s Racial Reckoning
The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa’s Racial Reckoning
By Eve Fairbanks
Simon & Schuster, 2022, 416 pp.

In this often moving but sometimes rambling narrative, Fairbanks assesses the legacy of apartheid in South Africa through portraits of a handful of individuals and the people around them. She tells these stories ably, and a picture emerges of a South Africa battling various demons inherited from the institutionalized racism that benefited the white minority for a century. Blacks tend to be disappointed by the slow progress the country has made in eliminating social and economic inequalities, whereas whites are adjusting to their sense of their diminished status in a new order, rather oblivious to how they have retained much of their old privileges. Interestingly, Fairbanks argues that many whites feel a sense of guilt—and, in a curious way, a form of anger—over the fact that the Black majority has not exacted greater retribution for the crimes of the past. An underdeveloped theme in the book is the similarity between the United States and South Africa in their wrestling with the legacies of racial injustice.