Forty-nine years ago this morning, somewhere along a several hundred mile journey by police paddy wagon, Stephen Biko died in the custody of Apartheid-era South African police forces. He had been repeatedly beaten, suffered multiple blunt force trauma injuries, was by then suffering from severe swelling of his brain (due to the blows which caused his brain injuries) and had been comatose for several days — yet had been left naked in his cell, and denied meaningful medical attention.
However, as I wrote last month, the spark of his ultimate sacrifice — around an idea worth dying for — became an unquenchable bon-fire for equality, in South Africa. His murder led very directly to Nelson Mandela’s ascension. He died, that a supremely worthwhile idea might. . . live.
[The young leaders of BLM would do well to closely study the writings and tactics of Steve Biko and Mr. Mandela. The campaign’s effective reach might be thereby broadened.]
As I did last month (on the occasion of his arrest) I’ll ask again that we each ponder which ideas — here in our nation — should “live on.” Should we remain the most-free nation on Earth? Or should we build walls, conduct religious tests at our borders (and even more ominously, inside them)? The ideas written in our founding charter are too grand, too revolutionary, and hard-won, to sacrifice — to a thin-skinned petulant man-child.
Please — we all know so many who have died — that these ideas might live on: “out of many, one. . .” That is what our currency says (in the original Latin) — and it is in a very real sense the capital that has distinguished our nation, many times. Don’t turn your back on it, America. And do pause to thank Bantu Steve Biko, too. And thank all who came before — and after — him, who were willing to die for the ideas of pluralism, and the progress of humankind.
The eyes of the world are watching now… watching now.