‘Black consciousness is an attitude of mind and a way of life… ’ (Biko, 2004: 101). It is about black people being proud of and embracing their ‘blackness’. It is about the self-realization of the black man where he breaks free from the white man as his eternal supervisor and ‘all-knowing master’ to a place where he can ‘innovate without recourse to white values’ (Biko, 2004: 106). Steve Biko, in his development of the black consciousness movement, was an advocate of black people leading the struggle against black oppression, ‘to do things for themselves by themselves’ (Biko, 2004: 17).
His famous saying ‘black man you’re on your own’ is quite indicative of this fact. He believed that the starting point and probably also the most important point of this struggle was first to deal with the way in which black people valued and saw themselves as a people. The qualities of national confidence, pride and assertiveness needed to be instilled in the African masses. Black consciousness aims to teach blacks that they cannot accept the concept of integration that white liberals speak of.
The so called ‘white man’s integration’ (Biko, 2004: 101) where blacks in their quest to achieve acceptance will have to adopt and conform to the white man’s values (Biko, 2004: 101). This idea speaks to important issues such as education and theology. The black consciousness philosophy placed a duty on ministers and priests to ‘[unite] the black man with his God’ and thus to reject the way that Christianity and religion had been introduced and taught by the white missionaries.
The formation of the South African Students Organization furthered this idea of black consciousness targeted particularly at non-white students. Broadly stated its aims were to establish a solid identity amongst the non-white students, to heighten their confidence in themselves and to contribute to the direction of thought on political, social and other current issues (Biko, 2004: 4).