Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Steve Biko, fully Stephen "Steve" Bantu Biko

South African Human Rights Anti-Apartheid Activist, Founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, Assassinated

"The myth of integration as propounded under the banner of the liberal ideology must be cracked because it makes people believe that something is being achieved when in reality the artificially integrated circles are a sophomoric to the blacks while salving the consciences of the few guilt-stricken whites."

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

"Apartheid—both petty and grand—is obviously evil. Nothing can justify the arrogant assumption that a clique of foreigners has the right to decide on the lives of a majority"

"Black Consciousness therefore takes cognizance of the deliberateness of God's plan in creating Black people black."

"Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time. Its essence is the realization by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression - the blackness of their skin - and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude."

"Being black is not a matter of pigmentation - being black is a reflection of a mental attitude."

"Even today, we are still accused of racism. This is a mistake. We know that all interracial groups in South Africa are relationships in which whites are superior, blacks inferior. So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior. quoted in the Boston Globe"

"Black man, you are on your own."

"In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift - a more human face."

"Black Consciousness is in essence the realization by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression."

"It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realize that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality. The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth."

"So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior."

"It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die."

"The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity."

"The blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves."

"The logic behind white domination is to prepare the black man for the subservient role in this country. Not so long ago this used to be freely said in parliament, even about the educational system of the black people. It is still said even today, although in a much more sophisticated language. To a large extent the evil-doers have succeeded in producing at the output end of their machine a kind of black man who is man only in form. This is the extent to which the process of dehumanization has advanced."

"Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being."

"Sure there are a few good whites just as much as there are a few bad Blacks. However what we are concerned here with is group attitudes and group politics. The exception does not make a lie or the rule - it merely substantiates it."

"The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

"The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

"Tradition has it that whenever a group of people has tasted the lovely fruits of wealth, security and prestige it begins to find it more comfortable to believe in the obvious lie and accept that it alone is entitled to privilege."

"The system concedes nothing without demand, for it formulates its very method of operation on the basis that the ignorant will learn to know, the child will grow into an adult and therefore demands will begin to be made. It gears itself to resist demands in whatever way it sees fit."

"The power of a movement lies in the fact that it can indeed change the habits of people. This change is not the result of force but of dedication, of moral persuasion."

"We do not want to be reminded that it is we, the indigenous people, who are poor and exploited in the land of our birth. These are concepts which the Black Consciousness approach wishes to eradicate from the black man's mind before our society is driven to chaos by irresponsible people from Coca-cola and hamburger cultural backgrounds."

"We regard witchcraft, as part of the mystery of our cultural heritage"

"Whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior."

"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 appendages to white society."

"You and I are now in confrontation, but I see no Violence."

"You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can't care anyway."

"Being black is not a matter of pigmentation but being black is a reflection of a mental attitude. Blacks are those who are by law or tradition politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group in South African society and identifying themselves as a unit in the struggle towards the realization of their aspirations. At the same time Black Consciousness seek to show black people the value of their own standards and outlook ?to judge themselves according to these standards and not to be fooled by white society who have whitewashed themselves and made white standards the yardstick by which even black people judge each other."

"A Black man should be more independent and depend on himself for his freedom and not to take it for granted that someone would lead him to it. The blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves."

"A game at which the liberals have become masters is that of deliberate evasiveness. The question often comes up `what can you do?`. If you ask him to do something like stopping to use segregated facilities or dropping out of varsity to work at menial jobs like all blacks or defying and denouncing all provisions that make him privileged, you always get the answer - `but that's unrealistic!' While this may be true, it only serves to illustrate the fact that mo matter what a white man does, the color of his skin - his passport to privilege- will always put him miles ahead of the black men. Thus in the ultimate analysis, no white person can escape being part of the oppressor camp."

"Double consciousness is knowing the particularity of the white world in the face of its enforced claim to universality. Double consciousness is knowing the history offered up to black people?its many interpretations and echoes of white superiority and black inferiority, of white heroism and black cowardice, and even the temporal and geographical location of history?s beginning as a step off of the African continent?is a falsehood that blacks are forced to treat as truth in so many countless ways. Double consciousness, in other words, is knowing a lie while living its contradiction."

"In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift?a more human face. The power of a movement lies in the fact that it can indeed change the habits of people. This change is not the result of force but of dedication, of moral persuasion."

"His heart yearns for the comfort of white society and makes him blame himself for not having been educated enough to warrant such luxury. Celebrated achievement by whites in the field of science which he understands hazily serve to make him rather convinced of the futility of resistance and to throw away any hopes that change may ever come. All in all the black man has become a shell, a shadow of a man, completely defeated, drowning in his own misery, a slave, an ox bearing the yoke of oppression with sheepish timidity."

"Black Consciousness seeks to infuse the Black community with a new-found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life. Liberation, therefore, is of paramount importance in the concept of Black consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain in bondage. Part of the approach envisaged in bringing about ?black consciousness? has to be directed to the past, to seek to rewrite the history of the black man and to produce in it the heroes who form the core of the African background."

"Instead of involving themselves in an all-out attempt to stamp out racism from their white society, liberals waste a lot of time trying to prove to as many blacks as they can find that they are liberal."

"The Black man has become a shell, a shadow of man, completely defeated, drowning in his own misery, a slave, an ox bearing the yoke of oppression with sheepish timidity."

"I've devoted my life to see equality for blacks, and at the same time, I've denied the needs of my family. Please understand that I take these actions, not out of selfishness or arrogance, but to preserve a South Africa worth living in for blacks and whites."

"We do reject all forms of racism and discrimination. We are calling for a united and democratic South Africa, and an anti-racist society. We also believe that in our country there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority. Just People."

"We must realize that prophetic cry of black students: "Black man you are on your own!""

"We have a problem with White Racism and it rests squarely on the laps of White society. White liberals must leave Blacks to take care of their own business while they concern themselves with the real evil in our society ? White racism. No matter what a White man does, the color of his skin is his passport to privilege and will always put him miles ahead of the Black man. While the White liberal identifies with the blacks, the burden of the enormous privileges which he still uses and enjoys becomes lighter. Yet at the back of his mind is a constant reminder that he is quite comfortable as things stand and therefore should not bother about change. Even today, we are still accused of racism. This is a mistake. We know that all interracial groups in South Africa are relationships in which Whites are superior, Blacks inferior. So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior."

"We are going to change South Africa. What we've got to decide is the best way to do that. And as angry as we have the right to be, let us remember that we are in the struggle to kill the idea that one kind of man is superior to another kind of man. And killing that idea is not dependent on the White man. We must stop looking to him to give us something. We have to fill the Black community with our own pride. We have to teach our black children black history; tell them about our black heroes, our black culture, so they don't face the white man believing they are inferior. Then we'll stand up to him in anyway he chooses. Conflict, if he likes, but with an open hand, too, to say we can all build a South Africa worth living in - a South Africa for equals, Black or White, a South Africa as beautiful as this land is, as beautiful as we are."

"We try to get blacks to grapple realistically with their problems, to attempt to find solutions to their problems, to develop what one might call awareness, a physical awareness of their situation, to be able to analyze it, and to provide answers for themselves. The purpose behind it really is to provide some kind of hope."

"What Black Consciousness seeks to do is to produce real black people who do not regard themselves as appendages to white society. We do not need to apologize for this because it is true that the white systems have produced through the world a number of people who are not aware that they too are people."