Bantu Stephen Biko was the first Chairman of the South African Student Organization and the key spokesperson and founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. Born on December 18, 1946, he grew up in a period of full racial segregation. When Biko was young, his brother was imprisoned by the authorities for nine months for participating in Pan African armed groups. He was also interrogated and expelled from school. This made young Biko hate racism and fight against it for his entire life (Till 3). This has a great influence on his later political beliefs. Biko then entered the medical school in 1966. It was during college that in 1968 he initiated the establishment of the South African Student Organization and committed to the Black Community Project. Biko’s remarks and movements were regarded as a threat by the authorities. In 1973, he was banned from public speaking or publishing. He returned to his hometown to create a branch of the black community program and was arrested again in 1977 (Till 35). Due to repeated tortures, Biko died in prison in September of the same year. He became the pioneer and a martyr for the black movement.
Biko elaborated on the core idea of the Black Consciousness Movement. The movement initiated by the student organization filled the gaps in the black movement during this period, and paved the way for the rebellion. Biko believed that since there were white racists, there must be a black collective body correspondingly. Because they suffer oppression because of their skin color, they must unite together to get rid of the shackles that caused them to be enslaved. But confrontation was not the ultimate goal. The Black Consciousness Movement was not a movement that excluded whites, but a process that sought to liberate human nature. “Ubuntu”, which means generosity, hospitality, friendliness, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm, also means that one’s personality is closely linked with the personality of others (Nengwekhulu 7). The Black Consciousness Movement also embodies this spirit. The segregation system destroyed the humanity of every South African, including the whites. The ideal South Africa should be a society that respects each person’s humanity, diversity, and racial equality.
The life of Biko is closely linked to the course since they both cover the issue of social justice and equality among all members of the society. After the Second World War, the winds of change spread throughout the African continent. The national liberation movement in Africa was surging, and the independent voice became an irresistible historical trend. However, the government in South Africa intensified its fear of losing its privilege and used all means to consolidate the skin barriers (Till 13). Obviously, this violated the basic principle of catholic social teaching of solidarity. The struggle against segregation was very difficult. The government continued to issue decrees to suppress rebellion. While legislating to support the system, it also used a large number of repressive machines to target resistance and maintain the racist regime. The brutal act did not allow the rebels to breathe freely. This is of significant value to examine even in the present day.
Biko’s promotion of the Ubuntu spirit is also related to this course because it shows that collective effort and beliefs are able to make fundamental changes in the political and social structures. In the early 1960s, the South African authorities had continuously strengthened the police force, formed an intelligence website, and continued to suppress the fight against segregation by means of detention, torture, and assassination. After the movement was transferred underground, the right of the blacks was controlled by the white liberals, and even the ideals of the blacks were expressed by them (Nengwekhulu 6). In multi-ethnic organizations, white libertarians always occupied the leadership position. They used a condescending attitude to tell black people what to do, and pursued a harmonious, long-term system with no substantive change. Biko thought this was actually a new type of racism. This is why SASO, the core organization of the Black Consciousness Movement, excluded white liberals, aiming to bring back the voice to the Black people.
Personally, I believe that the most pressing issue in social justice today is discrimination, because discrimination has so far produced too many social problems. For example, uneven distribution of social wealth, unequal opportunities for education and employment, and stereotyping between different groups of people. If the problem of discrimination can be solved, the world will be much more peaceful. This is why I resonate a lot with Biko’s vision of a just society. On the individual level, I believe that everybody should learn the Ubuntu spirit and apply it in their daily lives. Instead of focusing on the differences, people should simply focus more on the similarities among all people, while respecting individual personalities and differences. The actions of generosity, hospitality, friendliness, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm will indirectly contribute to a harmonious society and social justice.