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Greene and Biehl on Biko

Zach Greene ’16 – In Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like, he discusses white racism and privilege while specifically attacking the white liberal. Bearing in mind this was written during the Apartheid era in South Africa, he has one point that resonated with me. Biko writes, “The problem is WHITE RACISM and it rests squarely on the laps of the white society. The sooner the liberals realize this the better for us blacks… 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.”

I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to my own condition as a white citizen in the United States. While racism is not as prevalent in my generation as it was in prior generations, it still exists to some degree. In order for the United States to continue moving forward, the final coals of racism must be put out of a once raging fire. One hundred and fifty years have gone by since slavery was abolished and forty-seven years have gone by since the Civil Rights movement ended, yet there are still black children being shot in the streets and gross inequality in African-American incarceration rates. As Mr. Biko suggests, it is White America’s duty to make sure racism is blotted out, so real progress can be made.

Chris Biehl ’16 – In Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like, he analyzes the different problems in South Africa in terms of Apartheid and general racism. He writes about Black Consciousness and how it plays a role in South Africa’s immense racism. A passage that stuck out to me directly was his chapter about Black Campuses and their attitude toward Apartheid and racism.

The way he writes about these campuses directly parallels to the American Civil Rights Movement. Biko says that the young college students are less focused on ending segregation because it does not change the true racist attitudes of those in South Africa. He says, “These people realise now that a lot of time and strength is wasted in maintaining artificial and token nonracialism…artificial not in the sense that it is natural to segregate but rather because even those involved in it have certain prejudices that they cannot get rid of and are therefore basically dishonest to themselves,” (Biko 17).

In the American Civil Rights Movement, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. This made it illegal to discriminate in public, hire or fire based on race, and called for an integration of schools. On paper, this is everything a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement would want. Yet, in practice, the racial tendencies of Americans were in tact and did not magically change by the passing of this Act. This parallels with what Biko is saying about the attitudes towards desegregation on Black Campuses. Even if desegregation happened, it would not change the immoral attitudes of the individuals in South Africa.