Biko showed the way forward
THE curse of white supremacy struck South Africa, with its practiced and routine omnipotence, on a sombre day 40 years ago.
It was a particularly dark day, when on September 12, 1977, a black god was slain on the pulpit of white tyranny.
His revolutionary life horribly and painfully snuffed out after weeks of agonising torment at the hands of his oppressors.
Steve Bantu Biko cut through the very lifeblood of white supremacy, exposing it as one of the most perilous maladies for South Africa and its people. His political thought was of such potency that its widespread prescription would have put to death white supremacy and domination.
Yet the life of this 30-year-old son, husband, father, activist, student and writer, was, like so much in South Africa, taken by brute force.
He was killed because he had an antidote to the ravages of apartheid and colonialism and before he could treat the lingering levels of white wealth and black poverty.
A healthy dose of black consciousness should have been administered in 1994.
But we chose reconciliation, the white man’s medicine, which has harmed rather than healed our nation, even if that was not the original intent.
The artificially sweetened happy pills of racial reconciliation has not been effective in treating the social ills and chronic casualties of apartheid and colonialism, and the heady dose of rainbowism will always be an ineffective political placebo for those afflicted by a daily ration of economic exclusion and deprivation.
Non-racialism and reconciliation can never be a remedy for social ills in a post-apartheid society still in the capture of white mastery.
A healthy measure of non-racialism and reconciliation can only form part of the healing protocol of a country after stolen land has been returned and when radical economic transformation is not seen as a bitter pill by those who hold economic control.
Biko recognised that as long as whiteness dominates and dictates, the well-being and dignity of black South Africans would remain in a critical condition.
Not only did Biko reject the centrality of whiteness economically and politically – but he also snubbed its cultural, spiritual and intellectual power bank.
His politics challenged the festering of white centrality and relevance across organs of society, belief systems and minds.
Biko said: “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.”
This week, black consciousness academic and activist Athi Mongezeleli Joja said a true Bikoist could be detected by his or her “demonstration of attitude towards the malaise of white supremacy and imperialism”, and by his or her ability to “actively step out of norms so as to take an active stance against white oppression and institutionalised arrogance”.
As we mark the 40th anniversary of Biko’s death, there are a host of generic and populist analyses on Biko, many of which dilute and temper his political radicalisism.
Joja observed the many “regressive and consumerist maledictions of Biko” and of how “memory becomes an instrument of facilitating a sanctuary for white racism”.
Biko was unequivocal and clear in his diagnosis of the white condition. He recognised and articulated, with perfect political precision, that “no matter what a white man does, the colour of his skin – his passport to privilege – will always put him miles ahead of the black man”.
“Thus, in the final analysis”, Biko says, “no white person can escape being part of the oppressor camp”, or partner blacks in the struggle for liberation in South Africa.
Biko’s diagnosis of whites in South Africa, as an undifferentiated, undeservedly privileged society, was correct, for as long as the phlegm of privilege shows a lily-white contamination, the earnest “left-wing white academic”, the liberal mainstream white journalist, the hobbyist white activist, and the everyday white South African who nurses racism daily, are indeed one.
Biko gives no special licence or favour to whites who say they have “black souls wrapped up in white skins”, in fact he showed particular disdain for this particular affliction of privilege.
None, he argued are able to conceive of or respect black consciousness or participate in liberation.
Biko pleaded for whites to stay out of the black struggle and urged conscious whites to rather disrupt whiteness.
Biko would not have sat comfortably in the Rainbow Nation. He wrote of the dangers of “hastily arranged integration” and was against any dosage of reconciliation between “unequals”.
“It is rather like expecting the slave to work together with the slave master’s son to remove all the conditions leading to the former’s enslavement,” Biko said.
If we had had a strong dose of Biko’s black consciousness in 1994, we would be a healthier, more liberated nation today.
True Bikoists cannot allow the revolutionary wisdom of this great tower to fade, rather they must ensure it is imbued across every facet of society in the depletion of white supremacy and in restoration of black vitality and dignity. Consciousness is liberation.