Tag Archives: Police

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

The Gaze: What the Loss of Innocence Looks Like

One of the primary reasons that I hate the voluminous amounts of ‘technology’ that I am forced to interact with is that it is quite simply unreliable. I am certain that you agree that when the alluded to technology is broken, there really is not a quick way of fixing it. Just yesterday my entire day was disrupted by a computer glitch that forced me to leave the comforts of my home as grades were due at a local college that I teach on a part-time basis at. As look would have it, on my way to manually turn in grades, I was pulled over by the police.

Now I want you to understand that this is not a story regarding ‘police brutality’ or some type of violence or disrespect that I received at the hands of this or any other officer. I will admit to something that is certainly unfashionable in today’s contemptuous climate between Black men and white officers, “I was in the wrong.” The inspection sticker for my car was expired. However, I do still think that the stopping of a law-abiding citizen such as myself for such a mundane reason is unjust, yet, I digress. However, the routine traffic stop merely frames this post, it is actually about something that I term “the gaze.”

The definition of gaze is as follows: To look steadily, intently, and with fixed attention.

Anyone who has ever been under the gaze of another can definitively tell you that a gaze isblack boys 3 markedly different from a look or stare. As the aforementioned definition highlights, an integral aspect of a gaze is the fixation that one puts toward another. While I sat in my car, I became aware that I was under the gaze of a complete stranger. The “gazer” was a young African-American male child approximately 7 or 8 years old who doggedly refused to break his gaze from my plight.

It was purely happenstance that when the officer pulled me over, I was alongside a private elementary school in a relatively wealthy part of town, only a few blocks away from Houston’s vaunted cathedral of materialistic consumption and idolatry, The Galleria. The elementary school on my right was apparently letting black boystheir younger children out for recess, these kids looked no older than third-grade. All of them, except one, the one with the gaze, were white. I initially thought it humorous to see all of these children emerge wearing the traditional flags that denote a game of flag football, and then I saw him; a lone African-American child who had emerged with all of the exuberance that his counterparts had for recess, abruptly stop in the midst of his peers and begin gazing at me. During the twenty-minutes that I sat in my vehicle waiting for the officer to complete this relatively routine stop, the gaze never ceased. Not even the vibrant game of flag football occurring around him caused the gaze to stop.

Now I would love to be able to state that I definitively knew from whence this particular gaze emerged, however, that is impossible for me to know. However, it did make my mind run regarding its genesis. Did I resemble a family member? Was he frightened by the entire scene and anticipating that he would see another African-American male brutalized or even killed by a white officer? Had he been instructed by a parent to watch out for other African-Americans when he witnessed the police detaining them? Who knows? Only the possessor of the gaze can answer that question. However, I must admit that the gaze provided as much comfort to me at that particular moment as when I travel to lecture, debate, or participate in some academic exercise at a foreign campus and have my slight ‘what’s up?’ head nod returned by anonymous African-Americans.

After reflecting on this event, I realize that we all possess the gaze. However, it is only used for things that we deem truly black boys 1important. For African-American men and women, this gaze is more frequently being used to monitor those, most notably the police, that we feel are a danger to those we care about.

Although I would like to trace the genesis of my gaze to a specific event or instruction from my father, the truth of the matter is that the gaze, particularly when it is used to monitor external threats, is not bestowed upon anyone, rather it flows from years of personal experience and observation of others. One thing is certain; I know that neither I, nor my peers, possessed the gaze prior to our high school years. We were incubated within a Black community that protected our childhood from hostile external forces ‘by any means necessary.’ Apparently, those days are long gone as African-American elementary school age children now possess the gaze. And for that reason, each of us should be ashamed as the appearance of the gaze only occurs after childhood expires.

James Thomas Jones


©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016


Rarely have I had a discussion with sisters regarding what qualities they desire in a man that does not include them stating that two of their top three requirements are that he must be a provider and a protector. Put simply, he needs to be able to bring home the bacon and provide a modicum of protection for those under his charge. Failure to do so will most assuredly compromise one’s standing as a man within the African-American community.

It is this contention that a “real man” offers protection that makes the shooting down of African-American males all the more troubling and disconcerting. One does not have to delve into this matter very far to come up with the query that if African-American males can not protect themselves against marauding police officers, how in the world will they protect those looking to them for leadership and protection.

One could very well fashion an argument, although I believe that they would be wholly incorrect, that ‘the boys in blue’ emasculate African-American males on a daily basis. Many African-American males are understandably afraid of officers and will take evasive action anytime America’s storm troopers arrive in their midst; including Baltimore 5running away without having committed any crime at all. However, the alluded to fear fails to curtail the innate desire of the vast majority of African-American males to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. Many privately muse, if only they had the opportunity to exert their agency and show that they are protectors, that their lives matter. For many of them, their participation in the Baltimore rebellion is the closest that they will ever come to their political voice being heard by a hostile white majority that usually ignores them.

I have lived long enough and studied history diligently enough to recognize that perspective means everything during any conflict. The recent urban rebellion in Baltimore Maryland is a classic case of how perspective affects our judgment.

For example, if one viewed the American Revolution from the colonists’ perspective, Baltimore 2George Washington is a heroic figure that should be lauded by all of those who love freedom, while the British would consider this same figure a treasonous traitor who learned military science at their foot and then used it against them. The divergent perspectives are attributable to perspective.

Maybe another example will convince you of my general point. An individual who throws a Molotov Cocktail into a crowded café that results in the deaths of innocent civilians is simultaneously hailed as a hero and villain for the same action by those who have a differing relationship to the reason, or cause, that the bomb was hurled.

It is this issue of perspective that causes Americans to either denounce the aforementioned rebellion as a case of thugs having their two minutes of fame or assume H. Rap Brown’s perspective that the action is a valorous revolutionary statement that must be replicated throughout the nation by all oppressed populations.

After much reflection, I am now certain that I will never understand why many Americans are so shocked that a population of individuals who perceive their destinies to be inextricably woven together took the initiative and struck out against those who have oppressed them for centuries. Ironically, those who willingly entered Baltimore’s mean streets are operating out of the tradition that birthed this nation; put Baltimore 4simply, they are assuming the role of this nation’s ‘founding fathers’ and fighting against tyranny ‘by any means necessary.’ The ‘founding fathers’ determination to not be the slaves of Great Britain caused figures such as Patrick Henry to publicly express their angst by shouting, “give me freedom or give me death.”

There is a popular mantra that exists within activist circles that states ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ It is obvious by their repeated actions that have led to the repetitive occurrence of African-American male’s deaths throughout the nation that law enforcement agencies have been absolutely corrupted; even ‘good cops’ understand that their careers, if not their lives, are dependent upon them towing the company line.

So as white America seeks to generate a plausible explanation that contradicts the commonsense conclusion that Mr. Freddie Gray was murdered by officers, Black Baltimore, who has witnessed several generations of people who look just like them have their righteous indignation muted via a wicked cocktail of oppression that includes, among other things, a lack of education, absence of political connections, and a gross lack of economic resources take their angst to the streets. Maybe now the nation will finally hear them.

And for those who out of fear will automatically relate that riots are not the way to get their point across, I will close this piece with the reverberating words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who MLKremarked. “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

I ask again, “CAN YOU HEAR THEM NOW?”

Or do they need to repeat their statement throughout this nation? I am absolutely certain that they would honor such a request.

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D.


©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015

It was only a Matter of Time: The End of the Peaceful Protest in Ferguson

I have lived long enough and studied history diligently enough to recognize that perspective means everything during conflicts such as the extended racial fight that is occurring in Ferguson Missouri. It is the alluded to matter of perspective that informs our judgment of conflicts.

For example, if one were to view the American Revolution from the perspective of colonists, George Washington is a heroic figure that should be lauded by all of those who love freedom, while the British would consider this same figure a treasonous traitor who learned military science at their foot and then used it against them. The divergent perspectives are attributable to perspective.

Maybe another example will convince you of my general point. An individual who throws a Molotov Cocktail into a crowded café that results in the deaths of innocent civilians is simultaneously hailed as a hero and villain for the same action by those who have differing perspectives of the event.

It is this issue of perspective that has caused Americans to either denounce the recent ferguson1shooting of two officers in front of the Ferguson Missouri Police station as a despicable cowardly act or celebrate it as a valorous revolutionary statement that must be replicated.

As an African-American male who is guided by a moral principle that leads him to execute acts of kindness to complete strangers, regardless of race/ethnicity, and does his best to stay within the confines of the Law, yet has been harassed and ‘roughed up’ by law enforcement officers on several occasions, this action places me in a moral quandary. In the words of W.E.B. Du Bois,

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He WEBwould not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.

So at moments such as these, there is a patriotic side of many African-American males that urges them to denounce such seditious activities, while there is also another side that causes them to rejoice at the strike for liberation.

However, I am at a loss for words for why many are shocked that someone individual(s) took the initiative and struck out against those that have served as the military wing of the rich and wealthy in this nation for Ferguson 2centuries. Ironically, the individual(s) that committed this act are operating out of the tradition that birthed this nation, put simply, they are actively resisting tyranny. It was the ‘founding fathers’ determination to not be the slaves of Great Britain that caused figures such as Patrick Henry to publicly yell, “give me freedom or give me death.” It is the pursuit of freedom that led colonial leaders to throw off the yoke of British oppression ‘by any means necessary.’

So there is no doubt that the gunman who pulled the trigger and fired the bullets that seriously wounded two officers last night was operating out of the same tradition that  Patrick Henry related via his often cited mantra and struck a revolutionary and liberating blow for the oppressed huddled masses. And if you can not see that, you may need to look from another perspective.

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D.


©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015

An Open Letter to White America: ‘If you do what you always did, you’ll continue to get what you always got.’

As this nation awakes from what was for the vast majority of its African-American citizens a tenuous slumber, there should be no doubt that America most certainly did not enter into a post-race period as many alleged with the WEBelection of Barack Hussein Obama. Clearly, W.E.B. Du Bois admonishment that “the problem of the twentieth-century is the problem of the color line” is holding sway into the new millennium.

One of the most revealing aspects of this nation is the reality that there are multiple Americas being experienced by a racially diverse and class-stratified citizenry. The noted public intellectual Andrew Hacker’s manuscript, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal, published in 2003, illuminated this issue. Despite the best efforts of the more privileged segments of this society to deny this reality, the truth remains that neither I, nor my eleven year old son, live in the same America that our average white male peers navigate.

As innumerable scholars have shown in their studies, it is psychologically difficult and morally exasperating to be ‘Black’ in America. It is a struggle that not even those living in close proximity are able to comprehend or kkk2sympathize with. Unfortunately for African-Americans, time does absolutely nothing to lessen the affect of race and racism within this nation; the racial divide is apparently here to stay. A poll conducted by CNN/ORC prior to the Ferguson Grand Jury decision verified this reality with the following findings.

  • 54% of nonwhites say Wilson should be charged with murder
  • 23% of whites say Wilson should be charged with murder
  • 38% of whites say Wilson should not be charged with any crime
  • 85% of nonwhites say Wilson should be charged with a crime
  • 19% of whites said some or most police officers are prejudiced against blacks
  • 67% of nonwhites believe that most police officers are not prejudiced
  • 50% of all whites say that “almost none” or “none” of the police in their areas are prejudiced against blacks
  • 65% of nonwhites disagreed with the above view.

These findings reminded me of an earlier mid-1960s Gallup Poll conducted in the Bay Area, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The study revealed a racially divided Bay Area over a half-century ago. The alluded to poll revealed a hopelessly separate and unequal Bay Area, one portion occupied by poor African-Americans and the other by wealthy and politically powerful whites.

  • African-Americans were five times more likely to believe allegations of police brutality than white residents.
  • African-American youth were nine times more likely to believe in occurrences of police misconduct, particularly brutality, than the average white citizen.

The National Commission on the Cause and Prevention of Violence, published in 1968, shed light upon nation wide problems occurring between African-Americans and law enforcement personnel.

“For the black citizen, the policeman has long since ceased to be a neutral symbol of law and order…blacks perceive the police as hostile, Charliprejudiced, and corrupt…Many ghetto Blacks see the police as an occupying army…In view of these facts, the adoption of the idea of self-defense is not surprising.”

The head of the Oakland Police Department Welfare Association declared that African-Americans’ unceasing agitation for a citizen review board related a “deep suspicion of our entire system of government since the advocates, by asking for a review board, are saying that they are unable to obtain justice through normal established democratic processes.”

Unbeknownst to our white contemporaries, this issue of police brutality has been as much a hallmark of American history as ‘Apple pie.’ So white America, please forgive us if we have no faith in the ability of a particular Grand Jury system or the entire judicial system to offer a modicum of justice for African-American victims; we have become used to it, not necessarily desensitized to the occurrence of grave miscarriages of justice.

We only ask that you, and your kind, honor the popular saying of ‘if you do what you always did, you’re gonna get what you always got.’ Impoverished African-Americans are simply following your lead and expressing decades of personal frustration and collective anger upon this nation in response to the racial injustice lynch2that you feel so comfortable doling out to them. As they have repeatedly stated, “no justice, no peace.” As usual, the ball is in white America’s court and as long as they continue to serve no justice, the African-American masses will return their service with a volley of no peace.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III