Why The Term 'Black'?

Judge Boshof: But why do you refer to you people as blacks? Why not brown people? I mean you people are more brown than black.




Biko: In the same way as I think white people are more pink and yellow and pale than white.

Judge Boshoff: Quiet…but now why do you not use the word brown then?

Biko: No, I think really, historically, we have been defined as black people, and when we reject the term non-white and take upon ourselves the right to call ourselves what we think we are, we have got available in front of us a whole number of alternatives, starting from natives to Africans to Kaffirs to Bantu to Non-whites and so on, and we choose this one precisely because we feel it is most accommodating.

Judge Boshoff: Yes but then you put your foot into it, you use black which really connotates dark forces over the centuries?

Biko: This is correct, precisely because it has been used in that context our aim is to choose it for reference to us and elevate it to a position where we can look upon ourselves positively; because no matter whether we choose to be called brown, you are still going to get reference to blacks in an inferior sense in literature and in speeches by white racists or white persons in our society.


Extract from Steve Biko’s evidence in the BPC-SASO trial given in the first week of May 1976. Retreived from:
S. Biko. 2004. I Write What I Like. Johannesburg: Picador Africa

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