The South African Blacks’ Ironic Employment of Apartheid

The South African Blacks’ Ironic Employment of Apartheid

Apartheid, the racial segregation system of South Africa imposed in the 1940s, sought to separate blacks from the whites. Composed of both physical and psychological segregation, apartheid attempted to not only distance the blacks from the whites geographically, but also divide them emotionally. The white population justified this segregation by arguing that blacks were inherently different. In fact, whites viewed blacks as inferior and unbeneficial to the development of South Africa. Although many conventional efforts were made in the past to challenge this inequitable system, it was not until the latter ends of the 1960s to the beginnings of the 1970s that witnessed a rise of a new philosophical movement called the Black Consciousness, which was designed to challenge apartheid in a new manner. Interestingly enough, even though the Movement was initially formed as a means to eradicate the apartheid, it deviated to a different form of segregation, this time blacks alienating the whites.

Steve Biko in his writings, I Write What I Like, wrote the Black Consciousness Movement promoted an adoption of a lifestyle dedicated to raising racial pride for being born black. With this new psychological mindset, many blacks began to distance themselves from the whites who appeared to naturally benefit from apartheid. Consequently, as explained by Steven Friedman in Building Tomorrow Today: African Workers in Trade Unions 1970-1984, various black consciousness organizations underwent a metamorphosis in their structure and their operations to remove whites from their activities. Soon enough, blacks began to consider whites as target adversaries who should be distanced once apartheid were to be removed. By both psychologically and physically distancing themselves, blacks, as a result, were essentially imposing strict guidelines of not to associate with whites. In such a sense, the Black Consciousness Movement of South Africa also created a system of marginalization which began to look very similar to the workings of the apartheid. Not only the racial gap between the blacks and whites widened, but the relationship between the whites and the blacks was exacerbated.

For example, the Black Consciousness Movement psychologically encouraged blacks to detach themselves from the whites by labeling them as antagonists. The movement encouraged blacks to live a life emphasizing, “group pride and the determination of the black to rise and attain the envisaged self.” For these protestors to combat apartheid, Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement found it necessary for them to conquer the “psychological aspects of white domination, arguing that as a prelude to successful resistance, blacks had to overcome the inferiority complex fostered by a racist government and institutions.” In the eyes of Biko, remaining close to the whites would only remind blacks of their inferiority complex. Consequently, whites, as individuals who encouraged this inferiority complex, were targeted as enemies to the revolutionary cause of removing apartheid. In addition, Steven Friedman in Building Tomorrow Today: African Workers in Trade Unions, 1970-1984 argues that organizations such as SASO, were largely influenced by such philosophical principles and moved forward to encourage formations of new workers’ unions that served as vehicles of protest against apartheid. Moreover, in the opinion of Massie, such formations of new organizations were “inversions of the apartheid mentality—racism in reverse.” By remaining aloof from the whites, blacks were encouraged by the Black Consciousness Movement to build camaraderie and a heightened sense of self-pride. Realizing that for apartheid to be removed, blacks now feverishly believed that they must psychologically overcome their barriers and take action. As consequence, there was a growing hatred towards the whites, eventually encouraging people to further partake in the liberation movement like ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe.’ The Black Consciousness Movement that “[articulated] a militant sense of blackness” supported such movement as well. was evident that such psychological preparation and change of mindset allowed blacks to take more radical measures to promote black pride and condemn whites who instigated the apartheid. At one point, black consciousness organizations such as SASO as well as the workers’ unions physically modified the structure of their organizations by removing white protestors to better assert black equality and dominance.

In addition to physically eradicating white activists from their structure, the operations of black anti-apartheid organizations further distanced themselves from the liberation movement. Before the Black Consciousness Movement came to dominate the social climate, several efforts were made to reestablish a colorless, concrete foundation of anti-apartheid unions and organizations. For instance, TUCSA unionists such as Harriet Bolton of the Garment Workers’ Industrial Union continuously made an attempt to promote colorless unions representing all workers in South Africa,: the collaborative efforts of blacks and whites combating apartheid seemed too ambitious. Eventually, Bolton and the other unionists turned to the student organizations of SASO that opted to remove white protestors who they viewed as unnecessary. As followers of Black Consciousness Movement, members of SASO genuinely believed that “whites benefitted from apartheid and would never make the sacrifices needed to end it.” Such antagonism successfully made blacks to ultimately encouraged distancing themselves from the white population.

While the segregation was being brewed, other racial minorities were brought together under a single cause of removing apartheid. For instance, by having a common enemy and clearly labeling whites as the sole adversaries behind the apartheid system, organization such as SASO influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement “attacked the enforced racial and ethnic divisions between Africans, Coloreds and Indians.” By doing so, many other minority groups were unified into a single opposition combating the whites. Furthermore, the words “black” began to be used to constituted all coloreds and Indians according to the Black Consciousness Movement. Consequently, these newly structured unions without white protestors reorganized themselves and worked alongside workers’ trade unions to combat apartheid and unfair governmental policies. As Friedman writes, “the students brought to the union movement an energy and enthusiasm it had not seen for years: in return, Bolton offered them…access to workers and registered union resources.” The Black Consciousness Movement, therefore, created a large and diverse force of protestors ready to combat apartheid.

The Black Consciousness Movement essentially created a separate system of racial discrimination aimed towards the whites in response to an unjust racial segregation imposed by the whites against the blacks. It is, however, noteworthy to examine the ironic similarity behind this methodology employed by the Black Consciousness Movement with apartheid. As a form of protest against apartheid itself, the movement utilized the same strategy that whites had used decades ago: a racial segregation that stemmed from instigating hatred of a specific race against the other. In an effort to remove the very system of oppression and the blacks’ inferiority complex, the Black Consciousness Movement encouraged its members to oppress and marginalize other ethnic groups. If viewed in such manner, the words of David Hirschmann are indeed true: “In a very real sense the B.C. Movement was, therefore, a stepchild of apartheid.”

Outline of the Paper
Proposition: The Black Consciousness Movement created a system of marginalization against whites.
Goal: To inform the audience of an interesting proposition backed by various reasons.
Plan: To write a coherent paper with a proposition supported by three explanatory reasons that are in return supported by the texts.
Audience: Classmates of Writing Seminar or those students interested in learning about Black Consciousness Movement.

Says: The paper delves into how the Black Consciousness Movement created a second apartheid against the whites. As support of this proposition, two explanatory reasons backed by all of the research texts are stated. The first explanatory reason says that the movement psychologically changed the mindsets of the blacks by labeling whites as enemies. Next, the second reason informs the audience that a physical restructuring also occurred as a result of the Black Consciousness Movement’s influence.

Does: The paper is structured with an introduction at the beginning, and then followed by two explanatory reasons. Each of these reasons is supported by various research texts to show evidence for claims. The overall essay attempts to support the proposition through three reasons that in themselves are supported by the sources.

Berger, Iris. South Africa in World History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Biko, Steve, and Aelred Stubbs. I Write What I Like. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. Print.

Friedman, Steven. Building Tomorrow Today: African Workers in Trade Unions, 1970-1984. Johannesburg: Ravan, 1987. Print.

Hirschmann, David. "The Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa." The Journal of Modern African Studies 28.1 (1990): 1-22. Print.

Howarth, David. "Complexities of Identity/Difference: Black Consciousness.” Journal of Political Ideologies 2.1 (1994). Print.