LETTER | Let’s think what we like, that’s the Biko way
He belonged to a generation that could not be bypassed
When Steve Biko said, “What Black Consciousness seeks to do is to produce at the output end of the process real black people who do not regard themselves as appendages to white society,” he signalled a revolutionary uprising against more than two centuries of a racist ideology that had been used to justify slavery, imperialism, colonialism and apartheid.
He argued black people had to reassert their self-worth and confidence in themselves as makers of history, reclaim their human dignity and define themselves rather than look at themselves through the eyes of others. He argued the masses had the obligation to undo the damage that had been done by “white systems that have produced throughout the world a number of people who are not aware that they, too, are people”.
As the nation continues to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Biko’s death in detention, we remember him as someone who lives on in the galaxy of brave and courageous leaders who helped shape democratic SA. May we never cease celebrating his life.
To celebrate the life of Biko is to invoke a vision that has over the years inspired all freedom-loving South Africans to defeat the monster of apartheid and racism and realise the dream of liberation
To celebrate the life of Biko is to invoke a vision that has over the years inspired all freedom-loving South Africans to defeat the monster of apartheid and racism and realise the dream of liberation.
As it must, our commemoration resonates with heroism, a steely human resolve and a remarkable vision for human freedom, the antithesis of the intolerable racism in our country which the entire world came to characterise as a crime against humanity.
As black people we are indeed entitled to feel bitter at the needless snuffing out of the pulsating life of a freedom fighter by small-minded human beings who had arrogated to themselves the absolute right to determine, with impunity, who should qualify to be considered and treated as a human being.
Biko’s life was defined by the apartheid reality of separate development, which the National Party sought to create from the first day of its electoral victory in 1948.
He said: “I was born shortly before 1948. I have lived all my conscious life in the framework of institutionalised separate development. My friendships, my love, my education, my thinking and every other facet of my life have been carved and shaped within the context of separate development. In stages during my life I have managed to outgrow some of the things the system taught me.”
Biko understood that to attain our freedom we had to rebel against the notion that we are a problem, that we should no longer merely cry, “Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house?” That we should stop looking at ourselves through the eyes of others, and measuring our souls by the tape of a world that looks on with amused contempt and pity.
He understood that to defeat the brutal racial oppression of the apartheid system, we had to rise above the very ideology of racism, to internalise in our hearts and minds as the critical driving force inspiring the risen masses a complete and thoroughgoing repudiation of all racist ideas and all their consequences.
Biko, like many other liberation martyrs, belonged to a generation that could not be bypassed. When he died at only 30 years old, his life’s work had just begun. But he left us with the task to translate into our programmes intended to give birth to a new society the hints about the dead young men and women of his generation, and the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
Every single South African should honour his memory.
• You too can join the discussion. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep your letters to 350 words or less. Include your name, contact number and where you are writing from. Letters will be edited before publication. While we appreciate your feedback, submissions that don’t adhere to our comment policy will not be considered.