Biko on Social Integration

Social integration has become an interesting point of contestation for South Africa’s Rainbow Nation. Many have argued South Africa is a global sign post for a truly reconciliatory democracy where all members of society are working as one for unity and oneness. They have argued that the republic is progressing very well in a move towards becoming a non-racial integrated society.

While this is the case, let us examine social integration as the movement and assimilation of social groups into a common set of values for their society. Now in order for such integration to happen, these groups must be coming from a point of equality for mutual contribution in moulding and building these values. Biko further defines integration as “…free participation by all members of society, catering for the full expression of the self in a freely changing society as determined by the will of the people,…” Are there yet? Are we even heading this direction?

There is a bit of a problem with the ways that our society is moving. The integration that we see is of blacks doing the moving into the white set of values or the so called ‘mainstream’. Biko calls this “…a breakthrough into the white world by blacks, an assimilation and acceptance of blacks into an already established set of norms and code of behaviour set up and maintained by whites,…” he further says this form of integration is artificial in that people forming it are “…extracted from various segregated societies with their inbuilt complexes of superiority and inferiority and these continue to manifest themselves even in the ‘nonracial’ setup of the integrated complex. As a result the integration so achieved is a one-way course, with the whites doing all the talking the blacks the listening.”

This is where the problem is with our version of integration. Biko says “those who believe in it are living in a fool’s paradise.” We need to revisit the meaning of integration as we go Back to Consciousness.

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