POLS2021 Research Paper
This essay will focus on analysing the relationship between white liberalism and Black Consciousness by questioning the consequences and impact of Black Consciousness challenging white supremacist attitudes in the liberation movement. This will be done by investigating the philosophy of Black Consciousness and the inferences made about the attitudes, intentions and actions of white liberals as viewed by Steve Biko. Secondly, a response to these inferences made by Biko will be compared to those presented by Joyce Harris, a white liberal. Thirdly, the complexity of the relationship will be discussed by looking at reactions of white liberals to this different, metaphysical and psychological stance of black activism being led by black people. By presenting these viewpoints and argument, the essay aims to investigate and reflect the impact of Black Consciousness as an ideology and liberation movement for black people.
The late 1960s represented heightened political activity in the liberation struggle with the emergence of the Black Consciousness Movement in the 1968 which lasted until 1977, “dying” along with its leader, Steve Biko. These events occurred approximately two decades before my birth. My family does not have any political affiliations with the Black Consciousness Movement, both on the maternal and paternal side – with the maternal side not being politically active at all and the paternal side being affiliated with the African National Congress. My knowledge of Black Consciousness prior to tertiary education was acquired in History class in Grade 12 where it was taught. Black Consciousness was taught at a foundation level, focusing and prioritising more the facts, origins and development of the Black Consciousness Movement rather than critically analysing its beliefs, philosophy and impact. At first, it seemed distant and removed from my life due to its contextual setting however, my position in society as a black, middle-class, tertiary educated woman has made one more conscious and aware of how my identity affects my experience of the world socially, economically and politically. The extensive academic and theoretical exposure to Black Consciousness has prompted me to investigate and raise questions about how the function of the structures of society, in essence, have not changed much since the times of the Black Consciousness Movement, highlighting that what the movement advocated and fought for is relevant and significant to this day.
The nature of South Africa during apartheid catalysed immense political activity and resistance to the apartheid government. Apartheid South Africa was a highly racialised society in which the nature of the system was created to the benefit of white people by marginalising, oppressing and exploiting black people. Its goal was not merely only about physical segregation of races but also to uphold and exert white power and dominance. This...