Category Archives: African-American History

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

“Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?”: How Desegregation Played a Pivotal Role in Removing Black Male Teachers from the American Classroom

I have come to understand that when I teach the Civil Rights Movement, there are several things that I can expect. One of the most prominent is that the vast majority of my students believe that the desegregation of America’s schools was an undeniable positive occurrence in black education. From their myopic perspective, school desegregation provided a highly sought after route to black liberation with its infusion of better materials, facilities, and teachers. Trust me when I say that the vast majority of my students believe that the U.S. Supreme Court mandate to desegregate the schools “with all deliberate speed” was an unequivocal positive for Black America. As I am confident that you can imagine, my viewpoint conflicts with such a perspective.

The manner in which my students battle against my nuanced criticism of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision reveals a shocking emotional investment that shows a strident belief in meritocracy; the idea that if you work hard in America, success will eventually occur. Experience has taught me that the most certain way to undress school desegregation is via the following query; “How many of you had an African-American male teacher during your K-12 experience? Please do not count any teacher who was involved in school athletics in that number.” There may be a few students who indicate that they have had such an indicator by raising their hand. However, a brief survey reveals that very few students have had more than two African-American male teachers who were not attached to some athletic sport during their K – 12 educational endeavors. This unfortunate reality provides a perfect opportunity for me to query, “To what do you attribute that fact?”

As I am confident that you can imagine, there is a litany of excuses/explanations for the absence of African-American males from the teaching profession.

  • “Teaching doesn’t pay, so they refuse the work.”
  • “Being a teacher is woman’s work.”
  • “Too many of them end up in prison and not college.”

I am confident that the flawed explanations would continue into infinity if I did not stop them.

None of my students possess enough knowledge to trace the absence of African-American male teachers to the cause of this matter, the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

When discussing this issue, I frequently take Malcolm X’s position and ask my charges if they are confident that it was a wise decision to abandon black schools to integrate with a hostile white community? I remind my students that they are integrating with a community that has publicly articulated a non-desire to have African-Americans anywhere near them unless it was in a subservient role that bolstered their monopoly upon limited politico-economic resources. My students are not alone in their myopic view of school desegregation. Integrationist oriented Civil Rights leaders also failed to understand that the integration of American schools would have an unconscionable impact upon not only the minds of African-American children but also ensure the disappearance of black male teachers. Malcolm X considered the decision to integrate so unwisely that he admonished his moderate Negro leaders that “Only a fool would let his enemy educate his children.”

Over sixty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered school desegregation, it is evident that African-American male teachers are the primary victims of desegregation. Consider for a moment that before the Brown v. Board of Education decision, educators made up over fifty percent of the black professional class; male teachers were approximately half of that population. Things have certainly changed since Brown in regards to the presence of African-American male educators. At this present moment,

  • 75% of American teachers are female
  • 83% of American teachers are white
  • Less than 2% of American teachers are black men

In hindsight, it is evident that Brown blocked a robust pipeline that consistently delivered black male educators to black schools.

After Brown, white school administrators efficiently replaced black male teachers with white women. The alluded to occupational displacement was motivated by an extreme desire by white managers to avoid an agreed upon racial taboo that forbid the placement of African-American men in positions of authority over any white, most notably a white female. An irrational paranoia that reduced African-American males to a monolithic population whose greatest desire was sexual contact with any white woman motivated this decision. Put simply, the pipeline that routinely produced black male educators before Brown was not only halted but also deconstructed by the Supreme Court order.

It is this historical reality that has forced a consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Southern University, Tuskegee University, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Alcorn State University and Claflin University) to join in an endeavor that is ironically being called Project Pipeline Repair: Restoring Minority Male Participation and Persistence in Educator Preparation Programs (Project PR).

Project PR, supported by a $1.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is seeking to “eliminate social and economic barriers” that preclude the presence of African-American male teachers in today’s classrooms.

I hope that Project PR is a resounding success as we are in dire need for African-American male teachers who could serve as educators and mentors to the next generation of American youth, regardless of their race, gender, or ethnicity. However, as an individual who has studied Race in America for the better portion of his life, I am slightly perturbed that this movement to restock this nation’s schools with African-American male educators is occurring without any discussion regarding why there are so few of them at this present moment. The historical record shows that their absence is not due to social dysfunction or personal flaws, rather it results from white school administrators discriminatory hiring practices in the wake of Brown. It was their dastardly decision that facilitated the disappearance of black male educators from American schools and the subsequent decline of a quality education for African-American students.

The historical record definitively proves this matter. Until this nation places this conversation within its proper historical context, it is not only doing itself a severe disservice but also extending one of its greatest traditions of conveniently excluding significant aspects of its storied tradition of discrimination and racism. Until we tell the truth about American racial matters, this nation will continue to be haunted by this demonic spirit.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Underground Returns: The Epic Series Returns

There is undoubtedly no more anxiety producing historical subject for Americans than the institution of American chattel slavery. The manner in which the vast majority of Americans, regardless of their race or ethnicity, avoid any contact with this dastardly, yet crucial period of their history reminds one of the lengths that Greeks would go to avoid even a glancing gaze at the mythological character Medusa.

As an educator who routinely teaches courses that traverse the issue of American chattel slavery, I now recognize the detached, even embarrassed look adorning the faces of my African-American students the moment that the enslavement of stolen Africans was raised; during previous moments I mistakenly identified their iced over gaze and slumped posture as indifference regarding this portion of their historical record.

Quite possibly the most illogical involuntary psychological decision that the vast majority of African-Americans make regarding the enslavement and exploitation of their ancestors is to care the shame and burden of the African Holocaust on their broad shoulders, a tremendous burden that other Holocaust victims such as the Jews and indigenous populations of the West have never carried.

There is little room to debate the obvious reality that African-Americans are ashamed of their ancestors’ enslavement, a past that is made significantly more robust considering that their refusal to associate with Africa, their ancestral homeland, means that their story begins in either the hull of a slave ship or on some unidentified slave plantation.

It is a collective shame flowing from American chattel slavery that facilitates the vast majority of Americans failure to understand a period of history that forged the very foundation of this so-called democratic nation. Despite the in consternation that this time of history instantaneously causes, the truth of the matter is that the story of American chattel slavery is a dynamic story with unexpected twists-and-turns, villains, and heroines. Trust me when I say that it is imperative for every American to tune into the groundbreaking show Underground.

Although I realize that there are many who will without viewing the show consider Underground yet another show depicting the domination of persons of African descent by Europeans, they could not be more incorrect. The writers of Underground have succeeded in displaying the depth of this period of American history by not only displaying the resistance of enslaved Africans at every turn but also tapped into the diversity of thinking regarding ‘the peculiar institution’ within the white community. Viewing this show leaves one with the realization that not only did the institution of chattel slavery affect not only the stolen African, but also the Europeans who were invariably divided regarding not only the presence but also the utility of masses of black laborers.

So do yourself a favor and tune into Underground, trust me when I say that it is not only an emotional rollercoaster ride but also an unusual path to enlightenment that every American desperately needs.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2017.

NAACP Plans Diversity Workshops with Dr. James Thomas Jones III

MANSFIELD — The Mansfield branch of the NAACP is hosting two cultural diversity workshops and a town hall meeting to discuss how to improve race relations in Mansfield and across the county.

The idea for the workshops, titled “Embrace Diversity: A Model for the Nation,” formed during discussions between Mansfield NAACP President Geron Tate and James Jones, a Mansfield native and associate professor of history at Texas’ Prairie View A & M University specializing in race and African-American studies.

Tate was Jones’ Sunday school teacher as a child, and the two reconnected through Jones’ successful blog about gender and race, “Manhood, Race, and Culture.”

“America needs to not only have a discussion about race, America needs to in many ways have an education about race,” Jones said.

Tate said Mansfield’s race issues include few people of color in schools, businesses, police and fire departments and city government, calling them “segregated societies within the society.”

It’s easy to identify the problems in race relations, but it’s difficult to propose solutions, Tate said.

“We build up our walls around us, and then we look at our own culture, how we’ve been raised and value systems and all of those things, and that has a tendency to prevent us from moving forward to really addressing the real issues,” he said.

The workshops are meant to start honest discussions about cultural diversity, the history of race in the U.S. and how racial divides started, conversations that are often difficult to start.

“I liken it to that moment where African-American children have to deal with the issue of slavery. They get nervous, they get anxious…They don’t want to deal with it. They don’t want to be embarrassed. It’s anxiety-fueled for them,” he said.

“If slavery is the issue for African-Americans to behave that way, race is the issue, and racial diversity and what have you, those are the issues for all of this nation. All Americans get very, very anxious, very disturbed, in regards to dealing with those matters,” he continued. So it’s most certainly conversations that need to occur, but these conversations need to be (based on) historical fact, reality and truth, and people must get over that initial involuntary reaction of being so disturbed about race.”

Jones said it’s important to look at race from a historical perspective. Many of his college students believe all white people were slave-owners, but he says race was not initially a contributing factor, mentioning indentured servants in Europe.

“When I say America, i’m not referring to just white America,” he said. “You have to look at a profit motive, which is motivating people regardless of race, creed, color or even religion. This was about profit. This was about money. And the African, unfortunately for him, lined up very well with the labor needs of this nation.”

These conversations serve to educate citizens about others who come from different backgrounds and the history of other cultures to help them understand race from a different perspective.

“I see education as being the first step because without the idea of informed an informed citizenry, we’re going to continue to talk past one another and blame one another,” Jones said.

But Jones said education is only the first step in changing the dialogue about race in both Mansfield and the U.S.

“Education has to be followed with a commitment to correcting what’s going on,” he said. “If we haven’t educated ourselves, it’s as if we’re wandering around in a wilderness because without education, we can’t have a realistic and righteous goal….Hopefully we can get to a point where we’re talking about healing.”

The workshops serve as a starting point, but the conversations should be ongoing to work toward solutions like ending racial profiling and discriminatory hiring practices, Tate said.

Both Jones and Tate said the discussions are not just black and white; they include religion, gender, sexual orientation, class and immigrant status.

“If we look at the recent attacks on Jewish cemeteries…what does that say about the living for them to treat the dead that way?” Jones said.

Tate said people should start embracing their differences and accept the differences of others rather than being fearful of those differences.

“”People do usually things they’ve learned, and what happens is we start creating fears. There are so many myths about people, and we sometimes make our decisions based upon things we’ve heard and we have never really experienced,” he said. “Muslim brothers and sisters should not be fearful like they are now. The Jewish community should not be fearful the way it is today. All of it is has been because of people creating fear among groups.”

ejmills@mansfieldnewsjournal.com

419-521-7205

Twitter: @EmilyMills818

If you go

The workshops are Tuesday, March 14 and Wednesday, March 15, with the town hall on Thursday, March 16, all from 7 to 9 p.m. in the community room at Mansfield Senior High School, 124 N. Linden Rd.

Registration is not required, but Tate said participants are asked to call the NAACP office at 419-522-9894 so organizers are prepared for the number of attendees.