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Frye and Cramer on Biko

Nick Frye ’16 – In Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like, there is a chapter labeled Black Souls in White Skins? that deals with the issues of whites helping the African movements in South Africa.  Biko labels these whites “the liberals”.  The liberals, in the context of achieving equality for Africans in South Africa, are doing more harm than good, according to Biko.  This is because the white liberals are trying to live in two separate worlds.  On one hand, they are trying to acquire more rights for the African community and, on the other hand, they are trying to save face with the white population by not overstepping their bounds.  Biko claims that these liberals cannot have the best of both of these worlds and says that even though they are trying to help Africans, they are still able to use their white privilege.  The use of their white privilege shows that they are truly not able to understand the hardships that the African community is facing.  Biko states that these white liberals should not concern themselves with helping the Africans directly with their movements, rather, Africans should lead their own movements so they can truly reach their desired goals and not assimilate into what the whites want them to. Whites should address the problems of white racism and privilege amongst the white population. In the times we live in within the United States we are still seeing racial discrimination.  There are many people fighting so that this discrimination can truly end.  Many whites are aiding these issues by joining campaigns and movements.  It is good that they are trying to end discrimination, but the white community is still unable to understand fully what is exactly going on.  They will not know the true struggles that some African Americans have to face on a daily basis and they, like the liberals that Biko talked about, can use their white privilege whenever problems arise for them.  They can still do well for these movements by educating other whites, but they cannot possibly lead these movements for they will not truly understand the struggle.  This is my interpretation of how Biko would see modern day Americans struggle with racial discrimination.

Ben Cramer ’17 – Throughout his life as an activist in apartheid South Africa, Steven Biko produced a substantial body of essays on the social issues that plagued his life. He wrote quite strongly about the police in South Africa and the environment of fear they created, and unfortunately those writings are still relevant today. “One frequently hears people say of someone who has just been arrested or banned – ‘there is no smoke without fire’ or if the guy was outspoken – ‘he asked for it, I am not surprised’. In a sense this is almost defying the security police; they cannot be wrong.” All too often in the last few years while police brutality has become more of a national conversation in the United States, African American men and women are consistently put on trial for their own deaths at the hands of white police officers. Biko’s writings become more and more relevant. It is agonizing to see the public readily accept that police officers are telling the truth about the events that led up to a shooting. Enough people doubt the narrative now, at least, that there is a push for body cameras on police officers, which is one advantage that we have over the 60s and 70s. Advancing technology is letting us hold everyone more accountable, and while that does nothing to bring back those who were brutalized, these advances should help to bring justice in the future, and eventually end the need to bring justice at all.