Steve Biko vs. Malcolm X

Malcolm X and Steve Biko were one of the two most preeminent leaders in world history. These men changed lives and stood up for millions of Africans and African Americans during their short lives. These two men lived by a saying “black is beautiful”. They also believed that black people in the United States as well as Africans mainly in South Africa deserved the same rights and equality as any other man in the world. They lived through the rough era of the discrimination in the United States and Apartheid in South Africa.

Malcolm X and Steve Biko’s lives were ended shortly due to assassinations by people who hated them. Who was Steve Biko? Steve Biko was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960’s and 70’s. Steve Biko was born in Kingwilliamstown, South Africa in 1946. Biko was a very educated man, even though he had issues in the schools growing up. He later studied to become a doctor at the University of Natal Medical School in South Africa. Steve Biko was the creator of the famous phrase “black is beautiful”.

This amazing phrase he created was meant to generate pride in oneself and pride within the race. Specifically being the African race. In 1968 Biko formed an organization called SASO, which stands for South African Students’ Organization. He formed this group because he felt that black, Indian and colored students needed an organization of their own. He was then elected first president in July of 1969. Later in 1970 he was selected as the Publicity Secretary. This group SASO was later involved into the Black Consciousness Movement.

Black Consciousness to Steve Biko is defined as “the realization by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their operation” (Biko, 49”), he also said “It seeks to infuse the black community with a new found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion and their outlook to life” (Biko, 49). In an interview Steve Biko did he said “I basically think Black Consciousness refers itself to the black man and to his situation, and I think the black man is subjected to two forces in this country. ” (Biko, 100).

The Black Consciousness movement that Biko and other like-minded activists created the growth of Black Power in the United States. The Black Consciousness movement’s system was founded in black Christianity. This was a way to support non-violence action from his great influence from Mahatma Gandhi. In another interview when Steve Biko was asked about Black Liberation he replied, “Liberation therefore is of paramount importance in the concept of Black Consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain in bondage. We want to attain the envisioned self which is a free self”.

Steve Biko basically means that if you understand the Black Consciousness movement, you would realize that Black Liberation would not come from only imagining and fighting for political changes as the ANC (also known as the African National Congress) did. But, it would also come from a psychological transformation in the minds of black people themselves. Who was Malcolm X? Malcolm X was born by the name of Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother, Louise Norton Little was a homemaker that had to raise her eight children.

His father, Earl Little, was a Baptist minister and passionate supporter of the Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Malcolm’s fathers’ civil rights involvement stimulated death threats from the white supremacist organization Black Legion, forcing the family to relocate twice before Malcolm’s fourth birthday. Growing up, Malcolm had much to deal with. He had to get over the death of his father, his mother being sent to a mental home, being separated from his family and siblings, and most of all he had to brush off the racism that was being thrown at him from early ages.

Malcolm was also a very smart student. He graduated from junior high at the top of his class. Malcolm’s life did a complete one hundred eighty degree turn. He was convicted to 10 years in a federal prison and while in prison he converted to Nation of Islam. He was already influenced by his family members to convert to the Nation of Islam, but when he was in jail he became heavily influenced by a man by the name of Elijah Mohammed. His younger brother Reginald also had a great influence of Malcolm. Reginald began telling Malcolm more about the Nation of Islam’s spiritual leader, Elijah Muhammad.

Elijah Muhammad’s main message was to teach everyone that all white men are devils. After hearing what Elijah says, Malcolm thinks of all the white people he has come across in his young life. He remembers the social workers who split up his family, the teacher who discouraged him from becoming a lawyer and his customers when he worked as a porter and a pimp. He also considers the white policemen, judge, and guards who have united to lock him away in jail. Every one of these people has done him harm to him in some way.

He begins to undergo an overpowering change and accepts the truth of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm once said, “If you’re afraid of Black Nationalism, you’re afraid of revolution. And if you love revolution, you love Black Nationalism’’. He believed that nationalism brought freedom to those in the people in Africa, and he also believed that nationalism would bring freedom to the African Americans in the United States. Even though Malcolm X was a non-violent activist, he still believed to an extent that violence was a way to solve problems going on. He said that non-violence was the “philosophy of the fool”.

He believed that African Americans would have to regain their national identity, clinch the rights covered by the Second Amendment, and defend themselves from white domination and extrajudicial violence. Malcolm also believed that African Americans must create their own society and ethical values, community-based businesses such as the Alcoholics Anonymous. These were some of that acts that the black Muslims supported. He also thought that African Americans should reject integration or cooperation with Caucasians until they could achieve internal cooperation and unity. Black Consciousness became important to Malcolm X once he got into prison.

Black Consciousness in the eyes of Malcolm X was quite similar to Steve Biko’s points in Black Consciousness. For example, in the Autobiography of Malcolm X told by Alex Haley, Malcolm said, “I reflected many, many times to myself upon how the American Negro has been entirely brainwashed from ever seeing or thinking of himself, as he should, as a part of the nonwhite peoples of the world” (Malcolm X, 352). In this particular quote made by Malcolm X, he showed his commitment to race relations and oppression. Malcolm continuously blamed the whites for the problems that African Americans faced in the mid-1900’s.

He felt that that blacks needed to come together as a community to work together to overcome white oppression that was taking place. Even though Malcolm X said, “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society ‘the race problem’”. He felt that the only way for change in America was to have a faith in the Islam religion. Malcolm’s view on liberation was simple. He believed that that African Americans should embrace their heritage, avoid substances that poisoned the mind, and avoid interaction with whites. He once said, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us”.

When he said this, most people questioned his word. He simply meant that slaves didn’t “land” on America, but America “landed” on the slaves. By doing that, America ended the hopes and dreams that were in the minds of Africans and African Americans. Steve Biko and Malcolm X shared liberation ideologies to a certain degree. They both felt that Africans and African American cannot be aware and able to expand themselves while having a mindset of being under control by white people. One difference between Malcolm X and Steve Biko was their views on white people and how their views changed in their short lives.

Steve Biko didn’t have a great sense of hate for white people in South Africa as Malcolm did in America. Steve Biko was as non-violent as you could get. But, Malcolm X once said, “Non-violence was the philosophy of a fool”. Malcolm’s views on white people changed drastically throughout his life. When he was young, his parents taught him and his siblings to not take abuse from white people. While in foster care, he became quite comfortable with his situation living with the Swerlins who were white. Once Malcolm moved to Boston, he began treating white people just as they treated him and other blacks in his past; which was horrible.

Once Malcolm was in jail his hatred toward white people remained the same due to the fact that his movements toward joining the nation of Islam ended up brainwashing him to think that all whites are the devil. This all changed when Malcolm was released from jail and later took his trip to Mecca where he met white Islam’s who were unprejudiced. Malcolm X and Steve Biko were a lot alike though. They had a genuine love for their race. They also had a ton of courage. They both lived their lives knowing that they had people on their back who wanted to kill them on a daily basis.

Malcolm said in the Autobiography, “I could suddenly die at the hands of some white racist. Or I could suddenly die at the hand of some Negro hired by the white man” (Malcolm, 388). With the amount of death threats being received, they still pushed forward to try and change the lives of their people. One of the greatest things these two men have in common was the fact that they were men of substance and that they gave their own people hope of survival and change. They helped restore self-respect that was lost in their people and carried their selves with the greatest amount of dignity.

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