Steve Biko: Black Man, You're Still On Your Own

The more I try to believe the hype around a multi-racial Rainbow Nation is the more I realize as a Black person that I’m still marginalized. Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness ideology seems as relevant now as it was decades before the dawn of Democracy.

While a typical Black man would delight in the aid or sympathy of a non-racist friendly white (Liberal), Steve Biko believed the best such a White could do was save their own race, where the heart of the problem lied:

[Steve Biko] “Instead of involving themselves in an all-out attempt to stamp out racism from their white society, liberals waste lots of time trying to prove to as many blacks as they can find that they are liberal.”

Steve Biko had an in-depth vision and perception of the political landscape. He was as such wary of the non-racialist approach of the liberal, that rather than a principled dogma, it was actually narcissist in claiming to know what was best for blacks:

“Thus in adopting the line of a non-racial approach, the liberals are playing their old game. They are claiming a "monopoly on intelligence and moral judgment".”

Steve Biko, who was killed in detention in 1977, recognized the typical liberal would then denounce both White Supremacy and Black Consciousness, calling both races into a melting pot of multi-racial democracy as the solution:

“They want to shy away from all forms of "extremisms", condemning "white supremacy" as being just as bad as "Black Power!".”

To Steve Biko, the White Liberals further propagate their supremacy by inviting the ‘intelligent’ democratic black over to their side of thinking so to dictate the dialogue and terms of progress:

“They call a few "intelligent and articulate" blacks to "come around for tea at home", where all present ask each other the same old hackneyed question "how can we bring about change in South Africa?".”

Steve Biko, who was founding member of the Black Consciousness Movement, had noticed White powers considered themselves superior to blacks, and as a result, a meaningful partnership with them would not take root. He disliked the Liberals because behind their cozy warming up to blackness was a derogatory sense of pity and an audacious belief that blacks could never progress without white input:

“Nowhere is the arrogance of the liberal ideology demonstrated so well as in their insistence that the problems of the country can only be solved by a bilateral approach involving both black and white.”

Biko was against a hushed integration of black and white cultures without having the both firstly redefining their previously imbalanced identities as nationalities. He feared otherwise that the previous inequities would continue to manifest themselves in the so called democratic integration:

“In other words the people forming the integrated complex have been extracted from various segregated societies with their in- built complexes of superiority and inferiority and these continue to manifest themselves even in the "nonracial" set-up of the integrated complex.”                         

The struggle legend Biko was not necessarily anti-white, but rather pro-black. He could not in his right mind envision a condition wherein the black nation united with others without first reclaiming pride and finding substance in its degraded identity:

“Hence what is necessary as a prelude to anything else that may come is a very strong grass-roots build-up of black consciousness such that blacks can learn to assert themselves and stake their rightful claim.” 

Biko further found it impossible for blacks and whites to begin building a democratic nation without first having mutual respect for one another. Since Blacks never doubted the abilities of Whites, it was the Whites who had a colossal task in clearing the negative misconceptions they nurtured in their own society concerning Black Africans:

“Out of this mutual respect for each other and complete freedom of self-determination there will obviously arise a genuine fusion of the life-styles of the various groups. This is true integration.”

Although Steve Biko knew and understood the ‘Democratic’, ‘Non-Racial’, ‘Multi-Racial’ views of activists like Nelson Mandela, he saw black consciousness as a fundamental step before entertaining colourful utopian ideologies. He was also of the opinion that such democratic blacks were victims of an inferiority complex which led to a hopeless desire to be accepted and acknowledged by the supreme whites:

“They have been made to feel inferior for so long that for them it is comforting to drink tea, wine or beer with whites who seem to treat them as equals. This serves to boost up their own ego to the extent of making them feel slightly superior to those blacks who do not get similar treatment from whites. These are the sort of blacks who are a danger to the community.” 

The visionary that he was, Steve Biko knew the Liberal’s call for integration was basically an intention to have the black majority willingly adopting white minority leadership, culture and language. This has ultimately led to black people neglecting their heritage and submissively copying the gothic pursuits of a narcissist white minority:

“For one cannot escape the fact that the culture shared by the majority group in any given society must ultimately determine the broad direction taken by the joint culture of that society.”

Twenty years into the ANC’s Multi-Racial Democracy, one can already see the critical cracks on the new structure, as according to Biko’s prognosis, which obviously fell on deaf ears in the comrades’ governance.

Only now are blacks beginning to realise the importance of BLACK UNITY and SELF-RELIANCE towards social and economic freedom. Only now do blacks appreciate the awful reality of Steve Biko’s fateful phrase – ‘Black Man, You Are On Your Own’.

(Visit And Follow My Blog on Twitter: @JustSmartRage)

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