7 powerful Steve Biko quotes on oppression, apartheid, education and freedom

7 powerful Steve Biko quotes on oppression, apartheid, education and freedom

Remembering Steve Biko quotes and sayings reminds one immediately of the legend's movement for the emancipation of South Africa especially when white racism was so much pronounced. With his Black Consciousness movement, he has been quoted on different occasions in his effort to help the black man come to himself and infuse life back into his "empty shell". Interestingly, even though the freedom had been achieved; yet, reading through the following quotes can awaken you to life again as well as inspire you to take full control and responsibility for the events of your life.

Steve Biko quotes

SOURCE: canva.com (modified by the author)
Source: Depositphotos

While he was alive, Steve Biko saw the oppression of the black people as a problem that must be solved at all costs. With the dehumanisation of the blacks by the white people who had dominated the country, he knew that the apartheid must end, and to achieve that; his people must first of all have the consciousness of freedom and an accurate picture of who they are. As you read through this article, you can recognise the passion with which the legend spoke and how much he could not wait to see his beloved country of birth delivered from the influence of these white colonists.

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Steve Biko quotes on oppression

  • If one is free at heart, no man-made chains can bind one to servitude, but if one's mind is so manipulated and controlled by the oppressor, then there will be nothing the oppressed can do to scare his powerful masters.
  • The revolutionary sees his task as liberation not only of the oppressed but also of the oppressor. Happiness can never truly exist in a state of tension.
  • 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.
  • 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 soporfic to the blacks while salving the consciences of the few guilt-stricken whites.
  • 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.
Steve Biko quotes on oppression

SOURCE: canva.com (modified by the author)
Source: Depositphotos

  • The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.
  • 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.

Steve Biko quotes on apartheid

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The fact that apartheid has been tied up with white supremacy, capitalist exploitation, and deliberate oppression makes the problem much more complex. Material want is bad enough, but coupled with spiritual poverty, it kills.
  • We are concerned with that curious bunch of nonconformists who explain their participation in negative terms: that bunch of do-gooders that goes under all sorts of names - liberals, leftists, etc. These are the people who argue that they are not responsible for white racism and the country's 'inhumanity to the black man.'
  • 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.
  • 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 apologise 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.
  • 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.

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Steve Biko quotes on freedom

  • We feel that Black people of the world in choosing to reject the legacy of colonialism and white domination and to build around themselves their own values, standards and outlook to life, have at least established a solid base for meaningful cooperation among themselves in the larger battle of the third world against the rich nations.
  • 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.
  • 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 realisation 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… 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 great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial look, but the great gift still has to come from Africa - giving the world a more human face.
  • 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 colour of his skin is his passport to privilege and will always put him miles ahead of the Black man.
  • 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.
  • It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise 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.

Steve Biko quotes on education

  • In a government where democracy is allowed to work, one of the principles that are normally entrenched is a feedback system, a discussion in other words between those who formulate policy and those who must perceive, accept, or reject policy. In other words, there must be a system of education, political education.
  • We were accused of being anti-white. But with many more whites at university, the non-racial students’ union was dominated by white liberals. They made all the decisions for us. We needed time to look at our own problems, and not leave them to people without experience of the terrible conditions in the black townships or of the system of Bantu education.
  • 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.
  • We must realise that prophetic cry of black students: Black man you are on your own!
Steve Biko quotes on education

SOURCE: canva.com (modified by the author)
Source: Depositphotos

  • I entered the University of Natal as a preliminary-year student in 1966 and stayed on to June 1972, when I was expelled from the university. I was then doing third-year medicine.
  • People must be aware of their problems in a realistic way. They must be able to analyse their problems and to work out common solutions. In other words a community is easily divided when their perception of the same thing is different
  • There's no transformation process that could bear the desired outcomes without women throwing their weight behind that change initiative, and the same holds for the nation-building process.

Steve Biko biography

Bantu Stephen Biko was known as a South African anti-apartheid activist who stood at the forefront of a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign which he named the Black Consciousness Movement. Born on 18 December 1946 in Kingwilliamstown, Cape Province, South Africa, he was raised in a poor Xhosa family.

After he completed his primary and secondary education, he got admitted into the medical school of the University of Natal in Durban in 1966 and later joined the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). However, due to the dominance of the white liberals, he backed out and became a leading figure in the formulation of the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) in 1968.

Until his death on September 12th, 1977 in the police custody, Steve Biko remained one of the significant prominent activists that stood against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Before his death, he was a leader of the Black Consciousness movement. Also, he got an Honorary appointment as the President of the Black People’s Convention in January 1977 before his arrest six months after.

Without a doubt, the few years that the late Steve Biko spent on earth was such an impactful one. More so, even though he is long gone, Steve Biko quotes are full of inspirations and can bring a personal or collective awakening to responsibility by merely reading through them. Apart from that, anyone who carries a mindset like Steve Biko's can also make a significant impact on his generation.

READ ALSO: Apartheid: A (very) brief history

Source: Briefly.co.za

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