At Aephoria we use the work of Steve Biko in our leadership development processes and are often asked by participants: what relevance does Biko have for white people – did he not say that white people have no role to play in the struggle – was he not racist? Well, here is one very simple answer to this question based on my interpretation of his work.
Biko falls within the line of Existential philosophers who wrote about freedom including Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre and Fanon. These philosophers explore our responsibility as humans to take our freedom and move beyond our oftentimes belief and reality that we are trapped in a life not of our choice or making. Biko notes that only we can free ourselves, that it is our responsibility to take our freedom and that those that trap us cannot be expected to free us. We each need to step up for ourselves in our lives. No one will do this for us.
Stepping into our life and becoming responsible for the life we create for ourselves is never easy and Biko offers some tips on how to do this. He notes that we need to ask ourselves why we settle for what we have, and why we don’t ask for more. I am sure Biko is not meaning BMWs or Johnny Walker Gold, but more of life and the freedom to be ourselves, and all of ourselves. It is this that is our birthright and also the source of our value to the world.
This is not just a message for Black people but for all of us. We could all do with taking more responsibility for our lives; for both our successes and our failures. Believing we are not good enough is an easy way to avoid responsibility for the life that is possible for ourselves. And of course, there are external factors, but it is our responsibility as humans to try to transcend these, using our very human tools of flawed thinking, emotions and soul. It is this that we are here to do.