”Who Is Black?” Editorial by Steve Biko, SASO Newsletter, September 1970”

"Who Is Black?" Editorial by Steve Biko, SASO Newsletter, September 1970

There is something to be said about the question "who is black?"

In his talk at the SASO Symposium on "Black is beautiful" Mr Mphahlele warned that people should resist the temptation of being preoccupied with defining "how black is black." To me it would seem that this is just what people are doing--not necessarily at student level, although to some extent this is true of students too, but more so with the public at large.

Some Coloured and Indian people are refusing to identify with African people in calling themselves black. They see this as a disadvantageous categorisation that will limit chances of assimilation into the more affluent group--the white world. Others do so because of a fear for the unknown-- the rise of African nationalism and its possible effects. They point to what is happening to the North of us as the example of what lies in store for Indian people in this country. Needless to say, their source of information is ill-informed and deliberately distorted accounts of events there as reported in South African newspapers and other agencies of government propaganda.

On the other hand, the African community too--being at the bottom rung of the ladder--has become over-sensitive to anybody who has a slight advantage over them. They point at the large and "highly successful" Indian middle class as a strong obstacle in the way towards full emancipation of black people. Because of this, they tend to bundle together all those not like them by way of privilege.

In the midst of all this confusion, certain people are talking about "black"

• Karis, T.G & Gerhart, G. M (eds)(1997). From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary history of African politics in South Africa, 1882-1990, Volume 5: Nadir and Resurgence,1964-1979, Pretoria: Unisa.

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