Friday, September 13, 2013

Steve Biko and the Fact of Blackness

"Without doubt, Steve Biko (18 December 1964 - 12 September 1977), the father of Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, read ‘The Fact of Blackness.’ The title of his fifth chapter of his book ‘I write what I Like’ echoes the terms employed by Frantz Fanon i.e. "Black Souls in White Skin"? It seems that Biko (1996), like Fanon, reached that point that forced a black person, out of the quest for self-identity and self-determination to make himself known. That is it to affirm his blackness. He agreed with Fanon that blacks were suffering from an inferiority complex. It seems that he agreed with Fanon that a black man was not a man: “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 the process of dehumanization has advanced. Black people under the Smuts government were oppressed but they were still men…. All in all the black man has become a shell, a shadow or man” (Biko, 1996, pp. 28-29). But while Fanon (1986) advocated the liberation of the black man from himself, Biko (1996) decided to advocate black pride: “ the first step is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity…. This is what we mean by an inward-looking process. This is the definition of black consciousness” (Biko, 1996, p. 29). However, a close examination of the conditions that necessitates the emergence of black consciousness as well as the difficulty Biko had in defining who was black in South Africa reveals that Biko (1996) was aware of the same dilemma of black essentialism that faced Fanon. Now wonder his 7th chapter of ‘I write what I like’ is entitled ‘Fragmentation of the Black Resistance’" - 'FACT OR FICTION? A CLOSE READING OF FRANTZ FANON’S ESSAY “THE FACT OF BLACKNESS"'
Biko, S. (1996). I write What I Like; a selection of his writings. Randburg, SA: Ravan

Fanon, F. (1986). Black Skin, White Mask. London, UK: Pluto Press.


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