30 Years after His Death, We Are Still a Long Way from Biko's Vision of Liberation

Article excerpt

Mosibudi Mangena

Tomorrow, September 12, marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Steve Bantu Biko in detention in 1977.

When we commemorate his death, there is a strong need to consider his contribution to the struggle for emancipation.

Biko was a leading pillar of the Black Consciousness ideology, which exhorts blacks to liberate themselves from physical and psychological oppression which results from living for centuries in oppressive society.

Black Consciousness galvanised black people, particularly young people, in the '70s and '80s to fight against oppression, resulting in the crumbling of the white racist regime.

However, it seems as if the inferiority complexes induced in us by centuries of negative propaganda against our personality and natural attributes remain stubbornly in us. After colonial conquest, generation after generation of black people were told that we are an inferior version of the human species, our features very ugly, our intelligence suspect, our culture backward and our languages inferior.

So many of us have internalised these negative perceptions of ourselves. This was evident during many years of white racist rule and it is still a feature of our lives under this new democracy. Instead of using the political power we now wield to liberate ourselves mentally, we now use our freedom to run as far away from ourselves as possible.

In fact, many things are under greater pressure in the democratic order than before. We shun the use of African languages for education, broadcasting and discourse. Black parents resist the use of African languages as a medium of instruction, even if this blunts the cognitive abilities of their own children.

They are happier to have their children speaking English better than their own languages.

Departments of African languages at our universities are on the brink of collapse. There are hardly any newspapers in African languages and the little there is on television does not reflect the fact that that the medium belongs to the majority and is supposed to reflect the majority. …