We were saying that poor people should rally and organize against an oppressive government which oppressed us because we were poor, not just because we were black, but because we were poor. See, they could hear all the buy black, do black, think black, be black, black on, and black power. They could hear that, they didn’t care about that part. It was when poor niggers started talking about class struggle that they got frightened. And not just talked about it, but did something…No. They were worried about ignorant, poor niggers on the streets with guns talking about the haves and the have-nots.
It is most certainly a daunting proposition to be born black in a schizophrenic nation whose creation was made possible by the enslavement of stolen Africans yet steadily reminds its citizenry that racial matters are relatively inconsequential. Despite what American powerbrokers have repeatedly attempted to assert over the past several centuries, race still somewhat matters.
In many ways, it is surprising that in a nation where an elite class of white power-brokers has risen to power by exploiting all non-elites regardless of racial classification or ethnic identity that racial struggle and pride has not been abandoned by all. Nonetheless, Race remains the rallying point for American groups. Considering the overwhelming influence of Race in America, one is hard-pressed to dispute one of Malcolm X’s most truthful assertions of U.S. racial matters. In an often forgotten moment of commentary regarding the melting of new immigrants into the American fabric of whiteness, Malcolm X remarked that “the first word that European immigrants learn when they come to Ellis Island is Nigger!” From the perspective of Black America, “Nigger” was the secret password that allowed the Irish, Polish, and every other new immigrant group to cloak themselves in a socially constructed and politically expedient cover of bland whiteness. Unfortunately, whites have much company in allowing Race to serve as a rallying point for politico-economic solidarity.
Consider for a moment that racial matters are so central to the vision of black leaders’ that their followers would certainly abandon their camp if they ever de-emphasized racial issues for another variable such as Class. Put simply; within the African-American freedom struggle, any discussion not exclusively focused on Race is not only ridiculed but also dismissed as utter foolishness by an unproductive revolutionary cadre fixated on Race. Black America’s so-called revolutionary class fails to realize that their obsessive focus on Race significantly marginalizes their status as revolutionaries seeking to liberate their person from the misery and sorrow that attaches itself to the economically exploited in any Capitalist nation. Although Black revolutionaries must for their mental comfort resist the insinuation that their efforts to liberate Black America from its centuries-long marginalized status are not only futile but also poses no threat to power-brokers, the fact that power-brokers rarely respond to their efforts should serve as a major indicator of they being on the incorrect path. If they were engaged in the revolutionary process, power-brokers would react in a real manner to their activities. Just ask the remaining leadership of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense if my words are correct.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of my having studied the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense for the past twenty years has been the internal angst that occurs when I engage groups and individuals who have convinced themselves that they are some way a continuation of the original Panthers that Huey Percy Newton and Bobby Seale co-founded on October 15, 1966, in Oakland, California. After the publication of my book on the Black Panther Party titled Creating Revolution as they Advance was completed, I received the honor of being invited to participate in panel discussions and deliver lectures over the Black Power Era and the vaunted Panther Party; the Vanguard of America’s highly-volatile sixties protest culture.
Although I wish that I could say otherwise, the vast majority of the panel discussions that I have participated in have only highlighted how little many of the individuals who have desperately attempted to seize the Panther’s revolutionary mantle know about organizational principles and philosophies.
One of the most telling signs that many of the modern reiterations of the Black Panther Party are uninformed regarding Panther philosophies is their disproportionate focus on racial matters and utter silence regarding far more impacting class issues. This current cadre of Panthers fails to realize that the path to revolution is not found in the arena of Race, rather class warfare. Despite their inability to recognize it, the poverty that has enveloped so many Americans should be the rallying call to action, not a clumsy attempt by one group of poor people to take the limited resources that other poor people have gained temporary access to.
The failure to accentuate Class over Race reveals present-day Panthers as intellectual lightweights who have yet to find their way to the revolutionary road; such individuals remain mesmerized by icons and symbols such as guns, leather jackets, and berets that mean very little in regards to revolutionary struggle. Contemporary Panthers are seemingly enchanted by the seductive siren known as Race.
Consider for a moment why J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, directed the overwhelming majority of Bureau resources toward the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s destruction. Is the answer to this query found in the Panther’s carrying weapons? Most certainly not! If that were the case, then the Deacons for Defense and Justice or Revolutionary Action Movement — two other black groups that openly carried weapons in defense of their community — would have received similar treatment. The answer to why the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was singled out over their activist contemporaries is ironically their decision to de-emphasize racial matters and accentuate class issues that are more meaningful in a capitalist society.
Consider for a moment the following recollection of Panther leader Ericka Huggins regarding why J. Edgar Hoover’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) singled-out the Panthers for the brunt of their repressive activities. Huggins recalls that,
We were saying that poor people should rally and organize against an oppressive government which oppressed us because we were poor, not just because we were black, but because we were poor. See, they (the FBI) could hear all the buy black, do black, think black, be black, black on, and black power. They (the FBI) could hear that, they didn’t care about that part. It was when poor niggers started talking about class struggle that they got frightened. And not just talked about it, but did something…No. They (the FBI) were worried about ignorant, poor niggers on the streets with guns talking about the haves and the have nots.
If nothing else, J. Edgar Hoover understood the inherent dangers that would eventually manifest from Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale’s teachings regarding the exploitative nature of capitalism and the need for an inter-racial coalition of like-minded organizations to combat this odd beast that threatened all of humanity.
American power-brokers realized that the Panthers pursuit of like-minded groups interested in overthrowing Capitalist America was a unique and significant threat to their existence. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was convinced that Huey P. Newton’s manifestation as a revolutionary theoretician that managed to emphasize class issues without totally dismissing the impact of racial matters made him the most dangerous man in America, one capable of being a messianic figure capable of unifying not only the black movement, but also creating productive coalitions with like-minded groups of varying races and ethnicities.
To the chagrin of his opponents, Newton displayed an uncanny willingness to forge alliances with groups seeking to destroy American Capitalism, regardless of their race/ethnicity or sexual orientation. Therein lays the reason that J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO selected the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense for the bulk of their repressive activities. Unfortunately, contemporary “revolutionaries” are still entangled in a “racial bag” that limits their ability to conceive innovative activities. One thing is for certain until the new Panthers are able to unlearn the draconian lessons of their oppressor, they will never reach, let alone travel down the revolutionary road.
ALL POWER TO ALL PEOPLE!!!!!!!!
Dr. James Thomas Jones III