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Following his historic takeover of Twitter, a new investigation has delved into Elon Musk’s upbringing to understand a little more about the man who is now in charge of such a powerful social media platform.
The Tesla founder doesn’t talk too much about his upbringing, although he has revealed details here and there, including the bullying he suffered at school and the tumultuous relationship with his estranged father.
By speaking to relatives and former classmates, The New York Times has dug a bit deeper into his past, including the reason he was bullied at school – and it’s not for what you might think.
It’s no secret that the 50-year-old tech boss, who recently bought Twitter for $44 billion, was raised in South Africa before moving to Canada at age 17.
What he hasn’t discussed in much detail is that he was raised as a white youth during the country’s racist apartheid legislation, with the publication noting how suburban communities like the ones Musk grew up in were ‘largely shrouded in misinformation’.
The article goes on to tell how white South Africans were hoodwinked by the government's propaganda campaign, with newspapers arriving to readers with whole sections blacked-out.
Elon Musk grew up in elite white communities in South Africa, detached from apartheid’s atrocities and surrounded by anti-Black propaganda.— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 5, 2022
He sees his takeover of Twitter as a free speech win but in his youth did not suffer the effects of misinformation. https://t.co/bciCJDWGGP
Speaking about what it was like during those times, Stanley Netshituka, the first Black student at Pretoria Boys High School where Musk attended, told the NYT that while there were some white families who knew what it was like for Black people at the time, this wasn’t commonplace.
“I would say the majority were blissfully ignorant and happy to be blissfully ignorant,” he said.
However, another takeaway from the investigation is that Musk is said to have opposed the racial prejudices present amongst his classmates, resulting in him receiving ridicule from others.
Nyadzani Ranwashe told the outlet that Musk befriended his brother Asher Mashudu, who sadly passed away in a car crash, and when a white pupil used a racial slur Musk berated the offender and he was subsequently bullied.
When Mashudu died in 1987, Ranwashe said he remembered the SpaceX founder was one of just a small group of white people who attended the funeral, saying: “It was unheard of during that time."
Although the feature explores these aspects to Musk’s upbringing, it also highlights the allegations of racial discrimination at Tesla’s flagship plant and, ultimately, suggests growing up in the environment he did may have shaped his intense defence of free speech on Twitter.
In South Africa, if you publicly opposed apartheid, you went to jail. In Russia, if you publicly oppose the war, you go to jail. @nytimes are you going to blame children for decisions made by governments? #StopTheWar 🇺🇦 https://t.co/4wJt1ui0st— Maye Musk (@mayemusk) May 5, 2022
While the entrepreneur is yet to respond to the accusation, his mother Maye Musk has since hit back, writing on Twitter: "In South Africa, if you publicly opposed apartheid, you went to jail. In Russia, if you publicly oppose the war, you go to jail. @nytimes, are you going to blame children for decisions made by governments?"
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