Monday, February 22, 2010

Remembering Biko and Black Consciousness during Black History month

(Edited excerpt from Research on, “Contextual Black Liberation Theology”, by Seth Naicker)

In engaging the South African journey of change and a theology of liberation, I have come to appreciate the work of Steve Biko. Biko prophetically propelled liberation through mobilizing Black Consciousness. Black Consciousness sought to edify the lives of people in South Africa who were being marginalized and dehumanized by the Apartheid regime. Biko was at the forefront of a mental reform that was and is and will continue to be of vital importance, as he propelled a message that taught, encouraged and challenged people to love themselves.
My opening remarks about Biko might seem simplistic, but it is this apparent simplicity which is the foundation of an ideology for human development as well as the foundation of South African Contextual Black Liberation Theology. There are those who might disagree as Biko was critiqued for being a communist. It seems that the concern that liberation leaders have for social reform is stereotyped with social Marxism, but Biko was as man of faith who spoke with confidence the central liberation message of the gospel. Bonganjalo Goba affirms my observations by stating:
“At the wellspring of black political thinking, black consciousness continues to be a dominant force. What Steve Biko and other leaders succeeded in doing was to promote a new revolutionary consciousness by inculcating in the minds of our young blacks a sense of pride and a clear commitment to values that arise from our experience. This has had a tremendous influence in the way we do theology.”

Goba’s reference to a revolutionary consciousness became a matter of concern for the Apartheid government and Steve Biko was put on trial with other leaders.
The trial had to do with a specific matter of resistance in the planning of a rally to celebrate the recognition of Frelimo as the de facto government of Mozambique. However it became clear that the Black Consciousness Movement itself was on trial.
In this trail that lasted through most of 1975 and all of 1976, one of the questions that were posed to Biko concerned the work of Black Consciousness in conscientising people. Biko explains:
“We try to get blacks in conscientisation to grapple realistically with their problems, to attempt to find solutions to their problems, to develop what one might call an awareness, a physical awareness of their situation, to be able to analyze it and provide answers for themselves. The purpose behind it really being to provide some kind of hope; I think the central theme about black society is that it has got elements of a defeated society; people often look like they have given up the struggle.”

Biko further explains that through conscientising people, there is intention to fight against people giving up and seeks to build up their humanity. Biko understood the role of Apartheid played in stripping people of their dignity and their belief in their humanity. Biko encouraged people to be aware and analytical of their demised and oppressive social existence.
Biko was able to initiate a revolutionary consciousness that caused those he influenced to claim their human rights, counter the dominance and question the injustices they faced under Apartheid. In remembering Biko may we remember the movement of Black Consciousness which simply suggested to the marginalized of South Africa “love yourself”. May inspiration offered to people all around the world today, “Love yourself and while you are at it, love others too.”

Resources: Bonganjalo Goba, “Emerging Theological Perspectives in South Africa”, Irruption of Third World: Challange to Theology, Virginia Fabella and Sergio Torres Eds.,( NY: Orbis Books, 1983), 22.

C. R. Alred Stubbs, Ed., I Write What I Like: Steve Biko (Craighall, Johannesburg, South Africa: Picador Africa, 2004), 127.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Reconciliation: No simple answers to complex situations

Reconciliation a word, a verb, a ministry, an action, an ideal. I am passionate about doing the work of reconciliation. As much as I have some understanding I am still learning about the length and breadth of this God ordained agenda of Reconciliation. Let us consider together "reconciliation," as a ministry, a theology and a way of life, where there are no simple answers to complex situations.

I find that reconciliation as a focus of our way of being within the realm of living faith, or living out our faith, needs to be defined and extended much further than the lines upon which races are divided, this may be a priority of the social disparity and the cause of much pain within society, but reconciliation must not and cannot be limited to the discussion and the concern for racial reconciliation alone!

There are many a social discord that is racial, but is also religious, cultural, socio-economic, class based, abilities based, gender based etc. The work and ministry of reconciliation must be so defined that reconciliation provides a framework that allows for our people: meaning our parents, our elders, our children and youth, and future generations to be able to grapple with this broad based definition of reconciliation.

For the purposes of an example, and to be transparent and authentic about my concern, I have found too many white people excited about having their, in USA wide terms- ‘persons of color'- friends, who they are willing to reconcile too and with, and even tolerate, but there is limitation concerning their ability to wrestle with the historic social injustice and social realities. The reality that under pins racism and the related matters concerning power and privilege etc, and moving from accepting an individual to accepting a community, is some how excluded from understanding reconciliation and embracing ‘authentic reconciliation.

On the other hand, I have noted persons of color, who have bought into becoming co-opted into a system of whiteness, instead of these persons of color being voices for and of the marginalized, we see people who play the system wide recognized social reality of bicultural operative-ness. They do the shuck and jive or the duck and dive, they do the divisive, detrimental, and demeaning dance, where everything is premised upon succeeding within the confines of a system, and very little thought is committed to transforming the system. If reconciliation is ‘watered down’ like this, we may as well just call it a work or ministry of 'weak reconciliation.’

I am not blinded to work of white persons, and persons of color who are seeking to make positive change, but I do believe that there must be a freedom of people's minds concerning their consciousness and their image of self. If people continue to operate in a world where whiteness is the standard then we will never be able to combat the matters of racial and other disparities on an equal playing field.

In my personal journey I was born into a society plagued by legalized racism through the governance of Apartheid, within South Africa. I have been immersed in a racialized society, from birth and even within a post Apartheid era, it is my work to un-work the mechanisms of ‘brain wash’, where white was categorized as superior. This ‘un-working’ process is the tough work of introspection and reckoning with my self concept that I must commit daily, as I journey seeking to live free of labels and stereotypes, and more especially a system that enthrones whiteness. I must, and we must together, consider that the great equalizer is the consciousness that we are created in God's image, and this fact must propel the mindset that 'I am not more than any one, I am not less than any one, and that my bank balance should not dictate my confidence and my belief in who I am!’

We must wrestle with the issue of consciousness and how much of whom we are is based on the social construct of whiteness, yet there is much greater diversity to which we are, where we come from, and our heritage. When we can grapple together with the hypocrisy and social evil of racism, religious intolerance, homophobia etc., without the time wasting process of an internal need to defend, we may arrive at a place of utter, complete and bold courage to do the sacrificial work of reconciliation: that calls us to lay down our right, to be willing to stand in the tension, and even be beaten and sworn at: like Gandhi, like Martin Luther King Jnr., like Malcolm X, like Steven Biko, like Roberta Menchu, like Nelson Mandela, and like Jesus Christ.

I believe that our world is in a season when authentic reconciliation can take place. We should seize the moment, to really get deep with this practice, ideology, theology and God's highest agenda "Reconciliation.” let’s stop beating around the bush and go deep with this work and ministry of coming together. In the words of Mother Teresa, we have the opportunity to 'make something beautiful for God.' May God give us the strength to deal with the complexity of life and the reality that 'there are no simple answers to complex situations!"