Why We Call Them Pigs: Huey P. Newton Explains the Black Panther Party’s Use of the Term Pig

I have always considered it extremely important to understand each and every aspect of the Black Power Era. Anyone who has studied this era will tell you that the language used by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was not only used to convey a message but also intended for that message to be delivered with laser-like precision. Considering the Panther Party’s never-ending conflict with law enforcement agencies at the Federal, State, and local levels it is not surprising that Huey P. Newton’s cadre would have their unique way of referring to law enforcement personnel that was often behaving lawlessly.

While researching my book, Creating Revolution as they Advance, I came across the following explanation and justification for the use of the term “Pigs” by Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton.

We thought up new terms for them. At first I figured that the reverse of god – dog – would be a good epithet, but it did not catch on. We tried beast, brute, and animal, but none of them captured the essential quality we were trying to convey…Eldridge showed us a postcard from Beverly Axelrod. On the front was the slogan “Support Your Local Police”; there was a sheriff’s star above the phrase, and in the center of the star a grinning, slobbering pig. It was just what we were looking for. We began to show policemen as pigs in our cartoons, and from time to time used the word. “Pig” caught on; it entered the language…

“Pig” was perfect for several reasons. First of all, words like “swine,” “hog,” “sow,” and “pig” have always had unpleasant connotations…”Pig” has another point in its favor: in racial terms “pig” is a neutral word. Many white youths on college campuses began to understand what the police were really like when their heads were broken open during demonstrations against the draft and the Vietnam War. This broadened the use of the term and served to unify the victims against their oppressors. Even though white youths were not victimized in the same way or to the same extent that we were, they nonetheless became our allies against the police. In this case the ruling circle was not able to set the victims against each other, as the racists in the South had done by setting poor whites against Blacks.

Huey P. Newton, Revolutionary Suicide

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