A quest to revive Black Consciousness Movement

2014-05-13 13:48

As South Africa celebrates its 20 years in Democracy, and its 5th democratic elections this year, it has came to my attention and I had to ask myself of what would be the best way for post-apartheid South Africa to re- ignite the spirit of the Black Consciousness philosophy.

As we all know that in 1969, when organized black opposition to apartheid was virtually quiet, university students formed an exclusively black student organization, the South African Students Organization (SASO). This was the beginning of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) that focused on cultivating the ability of black people to change the oppressive situation in South Africa by rejecting the ideology (and eventually the system) of apartheid. Black Consciousness adherents sought to liberate black people psychologically through “conscientization,” or the realization of black self-worth and the need for black activism. They stressed economic self-reliance and a return to African culture and values. They also redefined “black” to include all people of color who experienced racial discrimination under apartheid, and they worked to create a united black front. The BCM re-energized resistance to apartheid and spawned a number of political and community organizations. For example, the Black People’s Convention (BPC) acted as an umbrella organization and political wing and the Black Community Programs (BCP) focused on black community development. The emergence of the BCM in South Africa was a response to the political vacuum that prevailed after the silencing of political organisations and the imprisonment of political activists in the 1960s.

When we celebrate our 20 years in democracy, we need to reflect, dig deeper, and look into the life challenges of Black people under the umbrella government which is led by leaders who should be the custodians, and agents of the philosophy of black consciousness. South Africans should be on a quest to revive the Black Consciousness Philosophy and it should become acceptable as a key mechanism to the liberation of the black people in quest for both economic liberation and social identity.

It is a common thing that black South Africans, hatred, animosity and envy reign supreme. This vicious relationship between South Africans has left our country in crises and more impoverished. These negative attributes were what Black Consciousness tried to correct through its philosophy of black consciousness. It is becoming increasing acceptable that the philosophy of Black consciousness may hold the key to the Economic liberation of Black South Africans politically and otherwise.

We must acknowledge that liberation is at the head of Black Consciousness. Economic Liberation therefore, is of paramount importance in the concept of post-apartheid Black consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain in economic bondages. We want to attain the envisioned self which is a free self and economic free society of all South Africans.

This suggests that we should use Black Consciousness Philosophy as an organising principle which is conceived at the level of the individual and takes the need for a form of psychological reassessment. This psychological attitudinal reassessment prepares the groundwork for a reflexive political program which presents the relationship between self and society. The inferiority complex of black people, and their continued tendency to idolise whites as their role models in a modern society like ours is un acceptable as if black people have given up on their quest to become to view themselves as people of certain standards. In our quest, we should aim primarily at organising the physically and psychologically oppressed people of our respective societies, to rise up and retrieve their self-identity and “true humanity” and thus resume their rightful place as respected members of society.

An analysis of Black Consciousness in a modern society and a young democracy like South Africa should begin with its definition, which would serve as a context within which this investigation will explore the psychology of Black Consciousness philosophy in the lived experience of blacks in South Africa. The conditions and legacy of colonial racism, which affected the black people adversely, will determine the emergence of the rebirth Black Consciousness. In explanation Black Consciousness signifies the search for self, affirms it in positive terms, and places it within a social context, which is black solidarity. The phenomenon embodies the quest by black people to claim particular values as their own; expresses an identity of the subjugated black person within a social environment of racial and economic domination; and also proposes a political strategy for doing this.

The basic tenet of Black Consciousness is that the black people must reject all value systems that seek to reduce them in any form of repression whether it’s human dignity, socio-economic or otherwise. Therefore in realizing the need to revive Black Consciousness, black people will have to build up value systems and see themselves as self-defined. This suggests that the black people will be aware of the significance and the importance of their own value systems which define socio-economic, political and cultural values.

When agents of the then repressive Apartheid government in South Africa snuffed the life out of Steve Bantu Biko years ago, they heaved a sigh for relief. But rather than pour champagne for removing the man they considered an impediment to entrenching White supremacy rule they succeeded in re-inventing the black man. The apartheid enforcers re-ignited in the black people through the death of Biko, the desire to protect his dignity and imbued in him the desire to stand for his convictions rather than kowtow to the suppressive tendencies of the oppressor. Hence, in the process, they made Biko an icon of sort for the black struggle and helped in no small measure in reviving Black Consciousness which Biko lived and died preaching.  The philosophy of Black Consciousness should become increasingly acceptable as a key to the socio- economic freedom of black people in their quest for both economic emancipation and social identity.

My pontification on Black Consciousness is both apt and far-reaching in proffering the way forward for the black people amidst their self-imposed belief that their problems are colour- associated. The resort of black people to see their black skin as a disadvantage rather than advantage is what made me to express the need to revive Black Consciousness. The need to rally together on a quest to revive the philosophy of Black Consciousness is the dissatisfaction of Black people who are landless, unemployed, living in poverty stricken environment, economically repressed and that has remained an impediment to the desire of black people to achieve economic freedom in their country of birth.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the urge to emulate anything white at the expense of black ideologies has left the black man at the peril of imitation which breeds limitation. Biko says it all when he emphasized that black consciousness is a “manifestation of a new realization that by seeking to run away from themselves and to emulate the white man, blacks are insulting the intelligence of whoever created them black”.

However, after Biko and Black Consciousness demise black people appears to still wallow in crass social ignorance and would still betray a fellow black in a bid to garner applauds from their white masters. But Biko also acknowledged that due the comfort the black man enjoys in a white-made world, he has become adapted to living a lie that he is a white man “However, tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security and prestige it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and to accept it as normal that it alone is entitled to privilege. The driving trust of the rebirth of Black Consciousness  is to forge  pride  and unity amongst  all the socio-economical exploited communities, groups and race  to foil  the strategy  of corrupt leaders, who self-enrich themselves and continue to enjoy the expensive life at the expense of the poor, the marginalized people of this country, to engender  pride amongst  the  mass of our people  and confidence in their ability to throw off their subjugation.

Gone is the overt, violent apartheid, and legal racism government. It has been replaced by a subtler version of black majority government. It is a government that is easier to ignore, easier to deny, and consequently almost as dangerous.

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