Bongani Mahlangu: Mr. Biko, what do you mean when you say "Black man you are on your own"?
Bantu Biko: A Black man should be more independent and depend on himself for his freedom and not to take it for granted that someone would lead him to it. The blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves.
Bongani Mahlangu: To you what do you see in a Black man?
Bantu Biko: The Black man has become a shell, a shadow of man, completely defeated, drowning in his own misery, a slave, an ox bearing the yoke of oppression with sheepish timidity.
Bongani Mahlangu: Would you say that is why you formed the Black Consciousness?
Bantu Biko: Yes and more!
Bongani Mahlangu: How then do you describe or define what Black Consciousness is?
Bantu Biko: Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time. Its essence is the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression - the blackness of their skin - and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude.
Bongani Mahlangu: What is causing the Black man to doubt himself and how do you envisage changing that?
Bantu Biko: It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality. The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.
Black Consciousness seeks to infuse the Black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life. Liberation, therefore, is of paramount importance in the concept of Black consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain in bondage. Part of the approach envisaged in bringing about “black consciousness” has to be directed to the past, to seek to rewrite the history of the black man and to produce in it the heroes who form the core of the African background.
Bongani Mahlangu: Does a Black man relate to your ideas of Black Consciousness?
Bantu Biko: We try to get blacks to grapple realistically with their problems, to attempt to find solutions to their problems, to develop what one might call awareness, a physical awareness of their situation, to be able to analyse it, and to provide answers for themselves. The purpose behind it really is to provide some kind of hope.
Bongani Mahlangu: What does Black Consciousness seek to teach a Black Man?
Bantu Biko: The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity. By describing yourself as Black you have started on the road to emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.
Bongani Mahlangu: But is that a matter of being Black as in a skin colour?
Bantu Biko: Being black is not a matter of pigmentation but being black is a reflection of a mental attitude. Blacks are those who are by law or tradition politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group in South African society and identifying themselves as a unit in the struggle towards the realisation of their aspirations.
At the same time Black Consciousness seek to show black people the value of their own standards and outlook …to judge themselves according to these standards and not to be fooled by white society who have whitewashed themselves and made white standards the yardstick by which even black people judge each other.
Bongani Mahlangu: Does Black Consciousness have a problem with White people?
Bantu Biko: We have a problem with White Racism and it rests squarely on the laps of White society. White liberals must leave Blacks to take care of their own business while they concern themselves with the real evil in our society – White racism. No matter what a White man does, the colour of his skin is his passport to privilege and will always put him miles ahead of the Black man.
While the White liberal identifies with the blacks, the burden of the enormous privileges which he still uses and enjoys becomes lighter. Yet at the back of his mind is a constant reminder that he is quite comfortable as things stand and therefore should not bother about change. Even today, we are still accused of racism. This is a mistake. We know that all interracial groups in South Africa are relationships in which Whites are superior, Blacks inferior. So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior.
Bongani Mahlangu: But wouldn’t that be discrimination against the minority?
Bantu Biko: We do reject all forms of racism and discrimination. We are calling for a united and democratic South Africa, and an anti-racist society. We also believe that in our country there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority. Just People.
Bongani Mahlangu: How does South Africa then solve this problem?
Bantu Biko: If South Africa is to be a land where Black and White live in harmony without fear of group exploitation, it is only when these two opposites have interplayed and produced a viable synthesis of ideas and Modus Vivendi. We can never wage any struggle without offering a strong counterpoint to the white racism that permeates our society so effectively.
Bongani Mahlangu: What do you believe the Black Consciousness can achieve?
Bantu Biko: In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift—a more human face.
The power of a movement lies in the fact that it can indeed change the habits of people. This change is not the result of force but of dedication, of moral persuasion.
Bongani Mahlangu: To conclude this interview, any last words, Mr. Biko?
Bantu Biko: We are going to change South Africa. What we've got to decide is the best way to do that. And as angry as we have the right to be, let us remember that we are in the struggle to kill the idea that one kind of man is superior to another kind of man. And killing that idea is not dependent on the White man. We must stop looking to him to give us something. We have to fill the Black community with our own pride. We have to teach our black children black history; tell them about our black heroes, our black culture, so they don't face the white man believing they are inferior. Then we'll stand up to him in anyway he chooses. Conflict, if he likes, but with an open hand, too, to say we can all build a South Africa worth living in - a South Africa for equals, Black or White, a South Africa as beautiful as this land is, as beautiful as we are.