IntroductionBantu Stephen Biko who is widely regarded as the father of black consciousness, was a tangible thorn in the side of the government during the apartheid era. To some he was viewed or considered as a threat and to others as hero. However, what can be agreed upon is that he was an enigmatic character who put the suffering of his people above his own.
The aim of this essay is to outline Bantu Stephen Biko’s philosophical contributions to political philosophy and the role he played in contributing to political philosophy during his time through or with reference to his ideology of black consciousness.Bantu Stephen Biko philosophical contribution to political philosophy began at a very early age by him realising that a new psychological climate had to be created or introduced if the liberation of his country was to continue. His ideology touched or impacted on many lives through the African continent and it is still lived upon many Africans. Steve Biko’s main motives was to change the status quo of South Africa and Africa as a whole in how blacks/Africans viewed themselves. His ideology was to fight the dominant discourse or the inferiority that was restored among black people by the white man.
What was important to Biko was to awaken the people as to who they were by challenging them to state their identity, to recognise their identity, to be aware of themselves and who they are. He believed that if he could do that, then there was no stopping them from the revolution. His ideology of black consciousness was motivated by many other philosophers such as Franz Fanon of Algeria.
His ideology was based deeply on the concern about the unfair and harsh treatment of black people under the apartheid system in South Africa. Steve Biko became actively involved in politics when he was studying in Natal and soon after enrolling at university, Biko was voted onto the student representative council (SRC). In the Mid 1960’s the students played a big part in campaigning against the injustices in South Africa, and Biko at that time was a leader amongst these students and his ideology was influential and spread throughout the country (Kotton, 2002:23-24).
With the status quo in South Africa during his time in terms of the laws of the land and the lack of educational opportunities for black people, the seeds of black consciousness were being sown in his mind, and the mind of others. It was Biko’s role as an activist and his ideology that made him an enemy of the government and a hero to his people. Steve Biko ideology of Black Consciousness played a huge role in the lives of black people especially black students who were suffering the injustices of apartheid.
It led to a pivotal event in South Africa the Soweto student uprising, which were a turning point event to happen in the history of South Africa. Black Consciousness became a philosophical ideological contribution to political philosophy in Africa. Black consciousness as a revolutionary philosophy has contributed to a structural transformation which has resulted into the reorganisation of the way in which the social classes are structural within South African context and in how economic systems must be changed from a capitalist to a socialist one and how at it vital point blacks view of themselves whether social, economic, educational or in any other spheres of life that blacks found themselves oppressed.
The black consciousness’s ideology aimed to unite and strengthen black people and to overcome feelings of inferiority. Black Consciousness by Steve Biko encouraged feelings of pride amongst all those who were oppressed by the system on the grounds of colour or race, and therefore united all the oppressed people including Coloured, Indian and African. The ideology rejected the word ‘non-white’ which was used by the government, and instead used the word ‘blacks’. Black consciousness was nurtured through the BPC and its message and ideology was spread throughout the country to many young African students. Biko defined black consciousness as: “the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their operation-the blackness of their skin-and to operate as group in order to rid themselves to the of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude”. (Stubbs, 1987:49)According to Biko’s definition, it illustrate a number of things with regards to the meaning of being black and looking at how Africans were being oppressed and along with his ideological lines. For Biko, first being black is not a matter of pigmentation. Being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.
Secondly, merely by describing oneself as black means that one has started on a road towards emancipation, and have committed themselves to fight against all forces that seek to use their blackness as a stamp that marks them out as a subservient beings (Stubbs, 1987). Black consciousness is a revolutionary perspective that penetrates to the depths beneath the mask of blackness. Biko sought to develop a framework which would explain how it was possible that in a society with South Africa’s social injustices the masses were not involved in mass resistanceConclusionI agree with Steve Biko’s ideology. The role of black consciousness was to do with correcting false images of African in terms of culture, education, religion, and economics and to build hope and faith among African people. What black consciousness seeks to do is to produce at the output end of the process real black people who do not regard themselves as a curse or mistake to white dominated society. It seeks to challenge the notion of that white are superior in to such an extent that black people do not recognise themselves, that they end up not being aware of who they are and losing identity in the process. “In terms of the Black Consciousness approach we recognise the existence of one major force in South Africa. This is white racism” (Coetzee, 1998:361).
The system has allowed blacks to believe that white power presents itself as a totality not only provoking us but also controlling our response to the provocation. “Blacks are out to completely transform the system and to make of it what they wish. Such a major undertaking can only be realised in an atmosphere where people are convinced of the truth inherent in their stand. Liberation therefore is of paramount importance in the concept of black consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain bondage. “We want to attain the envisioned self which is a free self” (Coetzee, 1998:360).
I agree with Biko’s attitude as his ideology of black consciousness philosophy fulfilled the requirements for individual self-esteem by providing the black man with his own frame of reference from which to view reality. It did this by instilling pride within the black man as well as making his blackness unknowable to others thereby exempting himself from their judgement.Reference listCoetzee, P.
H and Roux, A.P.J.1998.
Philosophy from Africa. South Africa: International ThomsonKotton, D.A.2002.Bantu Stephen Biko: A Psychobiographical case study. South Africa: University of Port ElizabethStubbs, A(ed).1987.
Steve Biko 1946-1977: I write what I like. Berkshire: Cox and Wyman Ltd.