The Biko Route

By Kevin Boswell
2010 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to South Africa
University of Cape Town, M. Phil. Justice and Transformation

I had just finished the compilation of Biko’s writings, I Write What I Like. I was struck by what a precise and logical thinker he was. Even his contemplation of issues that could only have been of secondary importance for him were incredibly sharp. For example, the book contains clips of correpsondence he had with a local priest over theological issues, and with some chagrin, I noted his grasp and explanation of theological issues was probably superior to my own, even after three years of intense study.

Of course, his primary historical importance concerned his ideas on the nature of the black struggle against apartheid. He is considered the father of the Black Consciousness Movement, which asserted that in order to be free, blacks in South Africa need to free themselves from an ingrained inferiority complex (thanks to colonialism and apartheid).

His eludication of issues has caused me to reflect on my own country’s racial history. For example, Biko argued for a black solution to apartheid, i.e., an exclusively black organization fighting for an inclusive future. He likened the liberal white insistence on a multiracial solution to “expecting the slave to work together with the slave-master’s son to remove all the conditions leading he former’s enslavement.” In the United States, you will often hear people lambasting something like the Black Entertainment Network with the line, “If there was a White Entertainment Network, somebody would get sued.” Biko disavowed me of these notions...
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