In light of the events of Ferguson, MO, I would like to take this time to write about some of my views regarding black radicalism, police brutality, and the necessity for a revival of a strong “black consciousness” in America…an aspect of which is a new found black militancy. Given how thoroughly dumbed-down, manipulated, and reactionary the current dialogue on race politics is in the media, it is high time that we look back on the African American experience with a sharp eye focused on what could be described as radical voices by today’s PC standards but are very worthy and necessary in understanding just what is going on today in the major cities of this country, where black people are actually worse off than they were some 50 years ago. Therefore, let us begin with a quote by the influential black intellectual and writer, James Baldwin, who wrote these words to his 14-year-old nephew:
“You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits to your ambition were thus expected to be settled. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity and in as many ways as possible that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence. You were expected to make peace with mediocrity.”
Certainly, this 2nd class citizenship continues today in a climate more rife with racial antagonisms than ever before. Besides racial hatreds that have persisted, albeit in perhaps more covert and hidden forms, what has changed since the Civil Rights era in black peoples’ relationship with the police? Well, for one thing, the police have become much more of a para-military force now and (thanks in large part to the Obama administration) have military-grade equipment and a wide assortment of so-called non-lethal weapons that they can use on violent or peaceful protestors, as you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut3xsdkIWhg
As you’re no doubt aware, immediately following the Darren Wilson (no indictment verdict)…the mostly black suburb of Ferguson, Missouri outside of St. Louis went up in flames with mass looting, shooting, and destruction of businesses and government buildings. However, the black teenager, Michael Brown, wasn’t exactly a poster child for good black citizenry. In fact, all indications showed him to be an amoral thug, who was even caught on video camera shortly before he was shot robbing a convenience store and pushing the clerk out of the way when he attempted to stop him. Later, he was reportedly walking down the middle of the street preventing traffic from moving when Wilson told him to get out of the street. Brown shouted an obscenity at the officer, and that’s when Wilson attempted to apprehend Brown. This is where accounts get fuzzy as to what occurred next. Some eye witnesses say that Michael Brown had his hands up in the air and was trying to get away when Wilson shot him. However, according to Darren Wilson’s account that apparently the grand jury agreed with, the much heavier Michael Brown attacked Wilson and tried to reach for his gun at which point Darren Wilson defended himself in the only way he believed he could and escape with his life…namely by taking Brown’s life.
Of course, arguments will naturally arise as to whether or not lethal force was even necessary at all. In other words, why couldn’t Wilson have shot him in the leg or something? Or, why didn’t he use his taser or pepper spray? Since I wasn’t there, and there isn’t any video of the encounter…we’ll likely never know for sure the details as to what really took place. However, the truth (more often than not) probably falls somewhere in the middle. What is pretty certain at this stage is that Michael Brown was a typical “thug” teenager, who like most have a sense of entitlement and like many of those in Ferguson will use any excuse to loot out of opportunism without really posing any threat to the establishment itself.
This is in sharp contrast to the Afro-Centric radicalism and departure from the white establishment that groups like the Black Panther Party represented. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the co-founders of the original Black Panther Party that started in Oakland, CA as a way to combat rampant police abuse, repression, and occupation of black neighborhoods…Mr. Bobby Seale. Along with Huey Newton, Bobby and Eldridge Cleaver’s genesis for the Black Panther Party grew out of a growing frustration among the black community to be unable to use the legal system in obtaining justice from wanton police harassment, arrest, and brutality largely just being black. Bobby Seale gave the keynote address at the “2nd Annual Police Accountability Summit” here in Austin, TX that I attended, which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRPi0UBNV-M
The Black Panther Party wasn’t just for self-defense, however, but taught black empowerment, opened up their own school to teach young black children, and even had a couple of businesses that they ran to profit the community. Again, their focus wasn’t simply on hating all white people as the New Black Panthers seem to only care about but rather to elevate the black people of their community beyond their ghetto circumstances and give them a sense of pride based on imparted self-worth and actual accomplishment. Before he was assassinated, Malcolm X also tried to point out the ways in which white society had corrupted the minds of black people into believing themselves to be inferior as you can see in this clip entitled “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?”. Unfortunately, J. Edgar Hoover launched a fierce campaign of violence and subversion against the Black Panther Party as part of the Cointel Program to neutralize what the Feds saw as threats to the American (that is to say rich white people) way of life.
Once the Black Panther Party and other Afro-Centric and militant black groups like MOVE were systematically destroyed, a new image began to emerge that is now so perverted, so vile, so thuggish, and so just plain stupid as to be diametrically opposed to everything Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X fought and were assassinated for, namely to free black people not merely from the shackles of segregation (King) and mental slavery (Malcolm) but to empower them to stand as equals among the fellowship of men and women. This is why the welfare state is so insidious to a poor black family given that it represents a new kind of slavery and servitude born out of an inability and unwillingness to raise family through gainful employment while at the same time keeping themselves tied like a baby’s umbilical cord to their new master, Uncle Sam. Much of this infantalism is now displayed with no sense of shame for all the world to see in way that previous generations would have openly mocked.
Chris Rock’s signature comedic bit seen in his HBO Special “Bring the Pain” was called “Black People vs. Niggas”. He explicates the problem quite well and humorously in this fantastic bit, since as a black man himself and a comic he’s poised to be able to speak frankly about race in a way that hardly anyone else in the limelight can. Prior to him, Richard Pryor used classic comedic bits to elucidate race in way that opened up a greater dialogue and showed how comedy alone can break down racial barriers once thought rigid. For Pryor, the word “nigger” was simply apart of the language of the black vernacular in the places he grew up in along with being an easy comedic device to generating laughs in his act. It wasn’t until he had the chance to visit Africa for the first time that his eyes and mind were opened up to seeing the use of the word “nigger” as not merely an affectionate term when used by your black friends and racist when used by white people but rather as something that black people themselves denigrate themselves with absent any white people, since it really signifies someone who is ignorant. It was a turning point in Pryor’s life for him to come to this insight, which he shared with an audience during his “Live on the Sunset Strip” performance. One of the most insightful and brilliant creations that I’ve ever seen that commented on this crisis within the American black populace to celebrate “niggerdom” (i.e. idiocy and infantile lunacy) was shown on an animated TV show called “Boondocks” in an episode that depicted what might happen were Dr. Martin Luther King to return from the dead to the modern world. Needless to say, he is thoroughly disgusted by what black people have become in the ensuing years since the Civil Rights era of the late 60s and in a moment of outrage at what he sees he speaks his mind at a party held on his behalf. The name of the episode is entitled “Return of the King”.
So, the question is, how did black people go from Richard Pryor to Tyler Perry? Or, from Marvin Gaye to Kanye West? Or, worse still Lil’ John? Black people have always been musical innovators from the early pioneers of Rock N’ Roll with Chuck Berry and Little Richard to the Soul Music of James Brown and Aretha Franklin to the great Blues musicians of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Robert Johnson…American music has always been filled with great black musicians. Now, it’s so-called hip-hop and rap that dominate the airwaves and what most black people listen to. However, the rap of today is a far cry from the early pioneers of rap that came to the fore in the late 70s and early 80s. Rappers like Grand Master Flash, RUN-DMC, and the Sugar Hill Gang were mixing funk and rock riffs and beats to lyrics that spoke to traditional themes of ghetto hardships, black empowerment, or simply having a good time spitting rhymes. Now, it’s dominated by thug posers like 50 Cent, big ass whores like Nikki Minaj, moronic hood rats like Lil’ John, and greed-obsessed exhibitionists like Jay-Z. This can’t be the best that black musicians have to offer, can’t it?
Professor Griff of Public Enemy would say that it is nothing short of conspiracy in order to lead the black man astray down the path of self-imposed ignorance, degradation, exploitation, and ultimately ruin in attempting to live out the opulent and extravagant fantasies show in rap videos these days. And, I’m inclined to believe that there’s probably some truth to that along with most of the stupid music industry following whatever moronic trend that’s going on at the time. One could certainly make the case for gangsta rap having started the trend back in the 80s, especially once the crack cocaine epidemic hit Los Angeles. Anyone wanting to know how crack was introduced into neighborhoods like Compton should read former San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb’s work, who shows how it was a CIA operation was part of the war with the Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua to funnel cocaine into this country and guns into Central America. So, we can trace at least the crack explosion to the CIA. But, what about the music industry? One way to follow the narrative would be to look at what happens when rappers like Tupac, who’s mother was a member of the Black Panther Party, attempts to shed light on the suppression and oppression of black people. He’s killed on the Las Vegas strip, and nobody is indicted for his murder? Or, how about the career of the sublimely beautiful Lauren Hill? Granted, she was chastised for taking the time to raise her son, but then she came to realize that she didn’t want any part of what she had correctly deemed as a wicked and corrupt industry along with much of the rest of the world as you can see her discuss in this revelatory Def Poetry recital.
So, we’ve come full circle now. From the LA riots after the Rodney King verdict in 1992 to the riots in Ferguson after the “no indictment” of Darren Wilson, expressions of rage against the police (whether justified or not) certainly shouldn’t be directed against businesses in your own community, where even black owned businesses were trashed. They should be directed against the police, their headquarters, and other government officials like the mayor, chief of police, and state representatives that you believe are oppressing your people. After all, it’s people like the governor that are bringing in the national guard against you not the corner liquor store owner. Besides, do you really want to be shot for stealing a pair of Nike sneakers or a bottle of Johnny Walker Black? Killed for mindless consumerism? To be a revolutionary means not accepting how the established order defines you, and what could be more status quo than keeping people identifying themselves as “consumers” of products made by Third World wage slaves many of whom are black? Liberation politics means a revolution of ideas, and the idea that I am proposing (which as a white guy I realize isn’t PC to propose but I’m doing it anyway) is that black people adopt some revolutionary ideas for someone in your impoverished condition.
That is- “Empower yourself by educating yourself (read to your kids), black men start actually raising your children as fathers and supporting the family you helped create, get off welfare completely, stop blaming white people for all of your problems as most of them are your own creation, learn to start your own businesses and manage your own money (there’s more to finance than shiny rims after all), understand how to be civil and honorable, take pride in your accomplishments instead of having an attitude of entitlement (you don’t deserve reparations because you were never a slave), and stop glorifying and celebrating the most depraved, ego-centric, and criminal aspects of a corrupted corporate culture.” Once you do that, you can now begin the long struggle back up to the top of that fabled mountaintop that Dr. King talked about and certainly didn’t end with an Uncle Tom getting into the White House. I’ll end with the man Ossie Davis rightly described as “our shining black prince”, Mr. Malcolm X speaking about why black people shouldn’t trust the house negro, many of whom you’ll see in the US government. I can certainly think of a few…can you?