Start by marking “I Write What I Like: Selected Writings” as Want to Read: Like all of Steve Biko's writings, those words testify to the passion, courage, and keen insight that made him one of the most powerful figures in South Africa's struggle against apartheid. Stephen Biko was. I Write What I Like is a compilation of writings from anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. I Write The book includes a preface by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; an introduction by Malusi and Thoko Mpumlwana, who were both involved with Biko in. I Write What I Like is Biko's only published work. this book is living and eloquent testimony to Biko's own profound humanity, passionate conviction, humor and.
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This book covers the basic philosophy of black consciousness, Bantustans, African culture, the institutional church and Western involvement in apartheid. I write what I like: a selection of his writings. User Review - Not Available - Book Verdict. "Readers will find his essential humaneness, intelligence, and lack of. I Write What I Like: 40th Anniversary Edition by Steve Biko (Picador Africa) ISBN: Steve Biko is widely accepted as the father.
Black people, though 86 percent of the population, still own less than 10 percent of the land that is held by the white minority and less than 1 percent of the nation's economy.
The book is specifically relevant for its publication of the perspicacious and candid insights by Biko, one of the most brilliant African thinkers of the twentieth century, whose life was literally beaten from him by apartheid police in September Biko was the unequivocal symbol of the radical segment of black resistance to apartheid colonization in South Africa.
The Black Consciousness Movement that he, along with other black radicals, engineered in the late s and through the s was responsible for the eruption of the Soweto insurrection in s, a watershed in resistance politics to white supremacy. The Black Consciousness Movement was underpinned by some of the most creative intellectual and political organizations of the time, such as the South African Students Organization, the Black Peoples' Convention of which Biko was honorary president and which he helped found in , and Black Community Programs in Durban Thekwini in the southeastern province of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
He was banned by the apartheid regime in , but refused to submit to the draconian system of banning and banishment. He continued to be active in his hometown of King Williams Town following his banning, founding the Zimele Trust Fund Zimele means "Stand on your own feet!
The Impilo Community Health Clinic successfully provided medical services to the indigent Black community in the area, many of whom were deprived of basic health care under the insouciant system of apartheid. I Write What I Like is not only a foundationally informative and instructive educational book; it also is poignant in that it recalls us to the days of one of Africa's greatest sons whose life could not be spared under any circumstance by colonialism, since he was too intelligent, too revolutionary, to be contained in any singular apartheid prison cell.
Biko signified the most radical potential of clack confrontation with oppression, albeit in a non-violent mode. His appeal to the masses of the black poor, especially the youth, was irrepressible, the result of which inevitably was the fostering of subversive black revolution; he therefore had to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom, as Stubbs describes it, "a martyr of hope" p.
The philosophy and rationale of Black Consciousness is clearly articulated in the book, with the detailed outlay of SASO the South African Students Organization , its role and function in the rebuilding of a liberated Azania the term used to describe a future and independent South Africa within the Black Consciousness and Pan Africanist movements, derived from the old African-Asiatic word zang that was used to describe the southern tip of the African continent by people from the fourteenth century.
Biko's well known phrase, that "Blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines of a game that they should we playing They want things for themselves and all by themselves" p.
I Write What I Like: Selected Writings
Black Consciousness was critical in checking the onslaught of white liberals who both pretended and claimed that they fully understood the suffering under apartheid and how best to overcome it, an arrogance that Biko found abominable since whites were in a clear defined minority and were colonial invaders of a land belonging to Indigenous African people.
White liberals were the people who, in the words of Biko, "say that they have black souls wrapped up in white skins" p. It is Biko's forthrightness about this anomaly of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa that is so cogent, when he asseverated that whites calling for integration and reciprocity was like "expecting the slave to work together with the slave-master's son to remove all the conditions leading to the former's enslavement" pp.
Biko's incisive critique of the fundamental pitfalls of white liberalism that myopically refused to see the role that white liberals themselves played in apartheid's perpetuation and from which they all benefited regardless of class, philosophy, and culture, is a bitter pill to swallow for many white activists in solidarity movements with oppressed people of color today.
Biko's rationale was crystal clear: the problem was not with black people, but with "WHITE RACISM," and that until such time that white liberals summoned the courage to challenge the edifice of white supremacy and the white racism of their own communities, they had no business in making pious recommendations for action to black people.
Biko was adamantly opposed to any group of settlers determining the values and culture of an Indigenous people that the settlers have colonized p. What Biko demanded was a vigorous opposition by the black community to the white colonial system as opposed to the existing reticence and diffidence that was characteristic of much of the black community in that era, a passive adjustment to the anomaly of apartheid as opposed to a ceaseless resistance against it.
As he put it, black people had to face up to the truth squarely that they had become complicit in the crime of allowing themselves to be abused in their ancestral land p.
Hence his clarion call for the philosophy of Black Consciousness that "expresses group pride and the determination by the Blacks to rise and attain the envisaged self Black Consciousness sought to inculcate independent standards for black civilization uncontaminated by the pathology of white oppression and colonialism, and to establish a liberated and independent society predicated on Indigenous African values and social evolution.
Integration into white society that was predicated on exploitation was not healthy for black society, Biko argued p. For those recent historical and contemporary critics who charge that Biko was obsessed with "racial essentialism" and that he did not fully advocate the overthrow of the capitalist system, it is critical to note that Biko rejected white values that were synonymous with the culture of domination, oppression, and exploitation as extant in colonialism and capitalism.
This is precisely why he contended that the integration that whites were calling for and urging black people to join was fundamentally flawed: "an integration based on exploitative values Biko was conscious that those from the white capitalist world, the corporate world of "Coca-cola hamburger cultural grounds" p.
The black solidarity that Biko called for was revolutionary, fully aware that there were elements within the black community who were willing to assume the role of middle men and women in the white man's system of slavery and capitalism. He would argue that a black policeman serving the forces of apartheid ceased to be "black. Biko was also conscious that the Eurocentric system foisted on black people entrenched alien values of individualism and selfish materialism.
For instance, he pointed out that universities were largely propagating such values in conditioning students to pursue individual vocations with money as the prize p. The observations in my preceding paragraph underscore that Steve Biko akin to Pan African revolutionary thinkers and strategists like Patrice Lumumba and Malcolm X, and in the tradition of freedom fighters like Nehanda and Sojourner Truth, Lilian Ngoyi and Harriet Tubman was keenly aware of the manner that the capitalist system would tantalize and seduce members from the oppressed group with the perks offered by joining the ranks of the oppressor ruling class.
His interview in chapter 18 with a British journalist points to his insistence that the liberated Azanian society be an egalitarian society, rooted in a socialistic dispensation where there was a radical redistribution of wealth. He never writes to boast or show-off. His intention is to change the thinking of Africans. He is committed to engaging with the ordinary person.
He wants to be understood. This is reflected in a response he gives to an interviewer in Our Strategy for Liberation. The teacher, the educator, in him is obvious. The lucid exposition of the Black Consciousness Philosophy in the book speaks for itself. These articles appeared in the SASO newsletter which was the theoretical organ of the Black Consciousness Movement; it was the medium used to disseminate ideas and educate its adherents and the wider society.
Despite his experiences with the apartheid police and subjugation by the regime, Biko is not bitter. This text lacks bitterness. He maintains an objective perspective which indicates a sense of fairness. He retains that rare humane trait exhibited by philosopher kings or prophet intellectuals. He transcends the vanity created by the apartheid regime and its dehumanisation of the indigenous people. It is the first time that a leader in South Africa articulates a liberation ideology or philosophy that addresses the psychological emancipation of the people.
Most leaders merely concentrated on the external factors such as unjust laws, toyi toying, violent struggle, sabotage, etc. Biko digs deeper than the skin and addresses the mind. Therefore, he has a hard sell because his ideas are new. Unlike other leading intellectuals or those who use their intellectual powers of persuasion to uphold the status quo, and cloud their message through the use of abstract terms, or the language of academia to make their work accessible to the privileged minority, Biko writes in a simple, concise, precise and fluid manner.
Therefore, he keeps his writing accessible to the audience he is addressing. Rather it addresses the conditions of the oppressed and exploited.
He also elaborates how language is used and received by people from different cultures because of our different ways of reading or interpreting the context and contents of a speech. For example, in response to a question about a document circulated at the funeral of an activist which the court believes the language can be interpreted as inciting violence or anger, Biko replies:.
You in the middle who is an Englishman, who looks at words you know piecemeal, you may have problems, but the person who perceives it within the crowd has no problem.
They are at one, they understand what they are talking about. You may not understand it because you are looking at the precise meaning of words. Because it is accessible, it is persuasive especially to people who understand the apartheid context and the historical period. The longevity of I Write What I Like bears testament to its persuasiveness and relevance decades after it was published. That he writes so simply and persuasively reflects his clarity of mind, his ideas and his ability to communicate complex ideas at the level of a layman to a layman without watering down the strength of the argument.
His clarity of thought is a hallmark of a philosopher. He is not interested in the abstract ideas numerous philosophers pursue.
It tackles the realities of the oppressed and creates a fighting philosophy in the process. Firstly, we forget that he was only 23 years when he began to develop his own ideas and thinking about Black Consciousness. Not many people at that age have such a clear conception of society or the world to start formulating such strong ideas. To say he did it alone is untrue. He worked with friends like Barney Pityana and other fellow students.
Together they formed an intellectual cell where they debated and discussed issues and exchanged ideas. Out of that cell emerged the Black Consciousness Movement. Its genesis and development follows similar lines of social change and revolutionary intellectual movements throughout the history of the world. In addition, I alluded to how Steve was a lover of wisdom. Steve was a medical student but he could debate the finer points of literary criticism with Barney who was an English major.
His voracious reading expanded his intellectual horizons and allowed him to engage proficiently and intelligently with numerous disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, psychology, religion, history, politics, current affairs, etc. That he was widely read, is evident in his comfort and ability to discuss different subjects, quote from myriad sources or bring together an amalgamation of ideas and apply them to the South African context and mould them into Black Consciousness.
We take our access to books, research papers, historical documents and the internet for granted. However, his voracious reading of what he could lay his hands helped him forge an international perspective and ideas that were universal in their appeal.
He was an astute observer of the events unfolding in the world such as the politics of decolonisation of Africa and India and the African Diaspora. He was well versed in the local South African history and the resistance the locals put up against the British and Dutch settlers. All these various struggles that preceded him informed his ideas and helped to shape his philosophy. The politics of the Civil Rights Movement in the US was also crucial to his learning and developing certain tenets of the Black Consciousness Philosophy.
He despairs at the role Christianity plays in the subjugation of Black people and calls for its reformation borrowing ideas from Black Theology and modifying them to suit the South African context. Black theology is historically an American product emerging from the Black situation there. While not wishing to discuss Black Theology at length, let it suffice to say that it seeks to relate God and Christ once more to the black man and his daily problems.
It wants to describe Christ as a fighting God, not a passive God who allows a lie to go unchallenged. It grapples with existential problems and does not claim to be an ideology of absolutes. It seeks to bring back God to the black man and to the truth and reality of his situation.
This is an important aspect of Black Consciousness, for quite a large proportion of black people in South Africa are Christians still swimming in a mire of confusion — the aftermath of the missionary approach. There are very few surviving audio or video recordings of Steve Biko. He never got the opportunity to pen his own memoirs or autobiography to tell his own story.
However, a lot has been written about him. There are numerous articles, essays and books about him or his work, critiquing it. Songs have been made about him. Documentaries and films too. All these individual narratives are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that build a composite picture of the man, the legend, the tragic hero and the revolutionary. They aid us in understanding how the world embraced him and what he represented.
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They illustrate the internationalist appeal of his work and the peoples it touched. Furthermore, they reinforce his enduring legacy. There are those who accused him of racism. Others who used that approach tried to undermine his legitimate concerns by attempting to portray him as a racist were the secret police and the state to undermine his message and uphold the status quo.
The text speaks for itself. Rather Biko preaches non-violence. He preaches understanding. He addresses the concerns of those who claimed Blacks were racists. He made it clear:. This is a favourite pastime of frustrated liberals who feel their trusteeship ground being washed off from under their feet.
They have been doing things for blacks, on behalf of blacks, and because of blacks. When the blacks announce that the time has come for them to do things for themselves all white liberals shout blue murder… What blacks are doing is merely to respond to a situation in which they find themselves the objects of white racism. We are in a position in which we are because of our skin. We are collectively segregated against — what can be more logical than for us to respond as a group?
Biko explains why they chose to go at it as Blacks only. The definition of Blacks is not a matter of pigmentation or a lack of it but a mental attitude of declaring oneself as Black. It is an inclusive term including oppressed groups such as the Coloureds otherwise referred to as mixed race in other countries and Indians.
These three groups were often referred to as non-white in South Africa and used as buffer layers between Blacks and whites but Biko and the BCM rejected that classification because it treated them as an inferior subspecies or subhuman of what was considered the norm — white. This definition is both political and strategic to build up a powerful alliance between oppressed and exploited groups. We are grateful because it is the closest we can get to his own thinking without the use of an intermediary.
Nothing is lost in translation or interpretation. The text remains unaltered except for the brief paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter that provide a basic commentary putting the articles into context.
It provides us with insight into the evolution of the BCM from a small students union [SASO] through to its transformation into a fully fledged movement with various organisations linked to it such as the BPC. However, in chapter 4, the word is obliterated from their vocabulary or conscience. It is nonexistent. From then on they refer to themselves as Black. It is a manifestation of a new realisation that by seeking to run away from themselves and to emulate the white man, blacks are insulting the intelligence of whoever created them black.
It seeks to infuse the black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their religion and their outlook to life. This is precisely what Black Consciousness is about. It is about self determination. It rejects the idea that the lives and fate of black people can be defined by a tiny settler minority. It is about reaffirming and reclaiming the Black system of beliefs and values, allowing Black people to assert their own personal outlook or viewpoint without coercion or persuasion by others i.
There are many ways of seeing the world. There are many ways of relating to the world. None is more superior or inferior than the other.
The intention is not to subjugate white people. In fact, it is to free them because they are also enslaved by their racism. Biko argues that the system of apartheid was created specifically for the purpose of subjugation of Black people to exploit them and entrench their privileged position in society and benefiting from the riches of the country.
Biko opposes racism. His whole text is absent of racial incite. Rather he illustrates the pitfalls of racism and the harm it inflicts on both the racist and the victim. They are both enslaved by it. This form of institutional racism was further developed and explained by American sociologists like Robert Blauner.
The definition of racism above illustrates that exclusion of whites from the Black Consciousness Movement is not an act of racism. There is no intent to subjugate or maintain subjugation. Therefore, it is not racist. It is merely an act of solidarity among the oppressed to rid themselves of the shackles that enslave them. It is a genuine attempt to facilitate a very strong grassroots build-up of black consciousness such that Blacks can learn to assert themselves and stake their rightful claim.
In his attempt to justify apartheid or separate development Vervoerd stated:. If we agreed that is the desire of the people that the white man should be able to protect himself by retaining White domination, we say that it can be achieved by separate development. This is what Biko is rejecting and resisting. This is what he is fighting. This is the totality of white power he is against not the individual.
Furthermore, Biko not only objects to the white liberals trying to hijack the liberation movement, but to their paternalism in constantly treating Blacks like perpetual under 16s, and supplying them with solutions which suit the white liberals but are not what Blacks necessarily envision. Like Carmichael and Hamilton, Biko dismisses the integration the liberals eschew because it is artificial.
According to him, the integration they talk about is a response to a conscious manoeuvre rather than to the dictates of the inner soul. Biko accepts an integration that is organic, mutual. He believes each group must be able to attain its style of existence without encroaching on or being thwarted by another. 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.
He also rejects Black leaders who cooperate with the apartheid regime. Bantustans, or Bantu homelands, were independent or autonomous African homelands set aside by the regime for different tribes or ethnic groups. It is probably the only time one can detect some anger in Biko. He rips into the leaders and exposes the futility of their plans by allowing the people who are oppressing them to offer solutions to the problems they created.
Biko uses the following analogy to illustrate the futility of the apartheid regime prescribing solutions for the Bantustan leaders: He is against the idea of these homelands.
He sees them as a great injustice inflicted on the Blacks regardless of the propaganda the regime spins to make them look like there is genuine progress. Biko denounces them in the strongest terms.
He accuses these leaders of subconsciously aiding and abetting in the total subjugation of the country. They are exonerating the country and giving the process legitimacy. He advocates for Black people to provide their own initiative and to act at their own pace and not one created for them by the system.
Apart from these leaders who are helping maintain the status quo, confusing the masses and fragmenting the resistance to apartheid, Biko rejects Black policemen, security forces or those who collaborate with them.
He views them as a danger to the community and he is not afraid of stating that publicly. They might as well be outsiders or Judas Iscariot to Biko:. These are colourless white lackeys who live in a marginal world of unhappiness. They are extensions of the enemy into our ranks. He says this without any equivocation and he says this to a room-full of policemen. One has to remember that the apartheid police was one of the most feared institutions in the country then.
They can arrest people without any charges and detain them. They kill with impunity because they have guaranteed state immunity.
They beat people and they have no recourse to justice. The black man is only incensed at the white man to the extent that he wants to entrench himself in a position of power to exploit the black man. The transcripts illustrate how Biko uses the trial as a platform to spread Black Consciousness.
He transforms the charge of terrorism against the state itself. He walks a fine line between walking and talking revolution and inciting treason which can earn him a jail or death sentence. Not only does he defend Black Consciousness, but he addresses white misconceptions of Black Consciousness.
He reinforces the movements commitment to non violence, anti-racism, anti-exploitation, unity and creation of an egalitarian society which Biko seeks to create. The trial was a result of members of the BPC holding a pro Frelimo Rally to celebrate Frelimo as the de facto government of Mozambique. However, the way the indictment is formulated, makes it clear that Black Consciousness is on trial.
Biko turns it around. Both these trials showcase the fearlessness of the leadership and the content of the message that both trials send out to the Black community and the world at large. The trial also illustrates how Biko handled hostile interrogation or cross examination by being always quick to take the route of humour and respond to what was human in his persecutors as illustrated in this short exchange. Confrontation leads to violence. Do you approve of violence?
No, confrontation does not necessarily leads to violence. You and I are now in confrontation, and there is no violence. Black people though remain his main concern. The whole philosophy of Black Consciousness is the remedy Biko believes will cure the patient and rejuvenate them back into health.
He turns his attention to them in We Blacks. Biko was a medical student and at times uses medical terms to scrutinise the problem. Black Consciousness therefore is his way of diagnosing the ailment, establishing the root cause and setting up the remedy as he puts it in his own words:.
They have taken a brief look at what is, and have diagnosed the problem incorrectly. They have almost forgotten about the side effects and have not even considered the root cause. Hence whatever is improvised as a remedy will hardly cure the condition. By this, Biko means that other organisations ignore the premise that apartheid is tied up with white supremacy, capitalist exploitation and deliberate oppression so it makes the problem more complex.
He also notes that spiritual poverty is also part of the cocktail of social ills that creates mountains of obstacles in the course of emancipation of Black people. Biko asks probing questions of the Black man. Is he convinced of his own accord of his own inabilities?
Does he lack in his genetic make-up that rare quality that makes a man willing to die for the realisation of his aspirations? Or is he simply a defeated person?
He answers these questions and articulates them well. Like a doctor, and Fanon his inspiration who also studied medicine [psychology], he understands the effects of apartheid and colonialism. In characteristic style, Biko proclaims: This is what we mean by an inward-looking process. The seeds of the Black Consciousness Philosophy speak for themselves when in , school children reject Afrikaans as a medium of instruction and take to the streets in protest.
The apartheid police retaliates by shooting them down in a hail of bullets on the streets of Soweto. They are not defeated people. They have that rare quality that makes a man or woman or child willing to die for the realisation of his or her aspirations. They are conscious. They are militant. They are proud of their blackness and totally reject the white yardstick as the standard to judge themselves. They are prepared to die for their ideals.
His aim to remove the fear factor in Black people is evident. The children are not the only ones who are prepared to die. Many members of the Black Consciousness Movement are hunted down and murdered by the apartheid regime too.
Some are murdered while they are being held by the police. Biko is one of them and the most high profile of the lot. He believes in his ideas and dies for them.
He dies for his conviction: He talks about death casually in an almost detached manner, like a man who is used to death. He talks about it like a man who has reconciled himself with death. Like many of his comrades and school children murdered by the regime, he also answers his own question when the regime murders him: The opening paragraph of the last chapter illustrates that rare quality in his genetic make-up that makes a man willing to die for the realisation of his aspirations.
This paragraph I am about to quote is quite poignant. It is ironic because months later he is murdered and his words ring true. And your method of death can itself be a politicising thing. So you die in the riots. Again Biko is correct. His death shows up the brutality of the apartheid regime. South Africa loses a young statesmen who could have gone on to become an influential leader in post apartheid South Africa.
South Africa loses a visionary who wanted to build a new society as he said: And those people will have the same status before the law and they will have the same political rights before the law. His words, his ideas are the spark that light a veld fire across South Africa. With his simple messages Black is Beautiful!
Be proud of your Blackness! Assert yourselves and be self reliant! His work is complete. Black people shed their feeling of inferiority and they walk tall. You might not agree with everything he says partially because time and circumstances have changed and there have been material changes in South Africa.
However, that is not entirely true. Biko warns about the dangers of the integration that the white liberals are pushing for. He warns them that it is bound to be a disaster if it is not done properly:. Biko is correct. Recent reports in the media have highlighted how people are going for days without food to eat because of the high unemployment and lack of structural changes.
The changing of political power from white leaders to black leaders did nothing economically for Black people. Our society will be run almost as of yesterday. As a matter of fact, the great compromise made by Mandela benefitted foreign capital and their compradors. Under the current leadership there is no distinction between public authority and private interests.
Corruption has become endemic and striking workers are shot down or dispersed with brutal force, something reminiscent of the apartheid regime. Today there are those like the Economic Freedom Fighters and others who claim validity for their ideas by claiming a lineage to Biko.
They are calling for genuine economic transformation and are seeking to address the land question which has seen the majority of the land remaining in the hands of a tiny minority.
Steve Bantu Biko and the Black Consciousness Philosophy remain relevant to our generation because of the lack of reorganisation of the whole economic pattern and economic realities in Africa. He remains a politicising factor today because Black people remain at the bottom rung of every society we live in. His writing displays the many facets that are Steve Biko.
Chapter 17, American Policy towards Azania , showcases Biko at his diplomatic best. It is a masterclass in diplomacy. He walks a fine line between telling the greatest superpower off and pricking their conscience: Steve wrote the memorandum after he was released from days in detention under section 6 of the Terrorism Act less than a week before his meeting with Clark.
He had no access to books, newspapers, the radio while he was held in isolation. He only had access to a Bible. The coolness and tact he displays in the memorandum illustrates Biko speaking with a mature and conscious authority as leader of the real opposition to the Nationalists in Pretoria.
He makes a passionate and penultimate plea to those who can bring about a nonviolent end to the tyranny of apartheid. The only reason apartheid continued for so long is because America supported this totalitarian regime. America has a long history of supporting dictators , totalitarian regimes and masterminding coups in Africa and South America, Israel and Asia. Heavy investments in the South African economy, bilateral trade with South Africa, cultural exchanges in the fields of sport and music and of late joint political ventures with the Vorster-Kissinger exercise are amongst the sins with which America is accused.
This Biko now speaks with the an air of diplomacy and statesman-like air.You in the middle who is an Englishman, who looks at words you know piecemeal, you may have problems, but the person who perceives it within the crowd has no problem.
Again Biko is correct. One should not waste time here dealing with manifestations of material want of the black people. 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. Possibly a little should be said about spiritual poverty. Deprived of spiritual content, the black people read the bible with a gullibility that is shocking.