Memorable Quotes by Steve Biko

Wise words from one of South Africa's most prominent activists

in front of the East London City Hall, Eastern Cape.

Bfluff / Wikimedia Commons

Steve Biko was one of South Africa's most significant political activists, a prominent figure in the anti-apartheid struggle and a leading founder of South Africa's Black Consciousness Movement. Read on for some of Biko's most powerful and inspiring words of wisdom.

On the Black Experience

"The Blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves."
"Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the Black world for a long time. Its essence is the realization by the Black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression — the Blackness of their skin — and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude."
"We do not want to be reminded that it is we, the indigenous people, who are poor and exploited in the land of our birth. These are concepts which the Black Consciousness approach wishes to eradicate from the Black man's mind before our society is driven to chaos by irresponsible people from Coca-cola and hamburger cultural backgrounds."
"Black man, you are on your own."
"So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior."
"The basic tenet of Black consciousness is that the Black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity."

On Political Activism

"You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can't care anyway."
"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."
"Being Black is not a matter of pigmentation — being Black is a reflection of a mental attitude."
"It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realize that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality. The first step, therefore, is to make the Black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth."
"Merely by describing yourself as Black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your Blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being."
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Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "Memorable Quotes by Steve Biko." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Boddy-Evans, Alistair. (2021, February 16). Memorable Quotes by Steve Biko. Retrieved from Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "Memorable Quotes by Steve Biko." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).