It is important to this discussion of racism to make a distinction between the two types: individual racism and institutional racism. The first type consists of overt acts by individuals, with usually the immediate result of the death of victims, or the traumatic and violent destruction of property.
The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)
The New Abolitionists
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Black Power, A Critique of the System Of International White Supremacy & International Capitalism
By Stokely Carmichael
We have intended to prepare a written speech for this Congress, and had started to prepare it three weeks before the trip, but the US government thought that I was starving it would be better if they saw to it that I got some meals every day, so they confined me to their prison system, and I lost all the notes. So I tried to get another one together.
Now since I’ve been at the Congress from Saturday I’ve been very confused, because I’m not psychologist or a psychiatrist, I’m a political activist and I don’t deal with the individual. I think it’s a cop out when people talk about the individual. What we’re talking about around the US today, and I believe around the Third World, is the system of international white supremacy coupled with international capitalism.
And we’re out to smash that system. And people who see themselves as part of that system are going to be smashed with it—or we’re going to be smashed.
So that I’m not going to center on the individual—I’m not even going to talk about him at all. I want to talk about the system. I want to use some quotes to back up my feeling about talking of the system, and the first one comes from one of my patron saints: Frantz Fanon. His quote is that Freud insisted that the individual factor be taken into account through psychoanalysis. It will be seen the black man’s alienation is not an individual question. It is a question of socio-diagnostics. The Negro problem does not resolve itself into the problem of Negroes living among white men, but rather of Negroes exploited, enslaved, despised by the colonialist, capitalist society that is only accidentally white.
But since it is accidentally white, that’s what we talk about white western society.
Now the other reason that I don’t talk about the individual is that I feel that whenever you raise questions about racial problems to white western society, each white man says ‘Well don’t blame me, I’m only one person and I really don’t feel that way. Actually I have nothing against you, I see you as an equal. You’re just as good as I am—almost.’ And to try and clear that up I want to point out the difference between individual racism as opposed to institutionalized racism.
It is important to this discussion of racism to make a distinction between the two types: individual racism and institutional racism. The first type consists of overt acts by individuals, with usually the immediate result of the death of victims, or the traumatic and violent destruction of property. This type can be recorded on TV cameras and can frequently be observed in the process of commission.
The second type is less overt, far more subtle, less identifiable in terms of specific individuals committing the acts, but is not less destructive of human life. The second type is more the overall operations of established and respected forces in the society, and thus does not receive the condemnation that the first type receives.
Let me give you an example of the first type: When unidentified white terrorists bomb a black church and kill five black children, that is an act of individual racism, widely deplored by most segments of the world. But when in that same city, Birmingham, Alabama, not five but 500 black babies die each year because of lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities; and thousands more are destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally and intellectually because of conditions of poverty and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of institutionalized racism.
When a black family moves into a home in a white neighbourhood, and it’s stoned, burned or routed out, the latter is an overt act of individual racism, and many people condemn that, in words at least. But it is institutionalized racism that keeps the black people locked in dilapidated slums, tenements, where they must live out their daily lives subject to the prey of exploiting slum landlords, merchants, loan-sharks and the restrictive practices of real-estate agents.
We’re talking now about the US, but I think you can apply a little of it to London. But the society either pretends it does not know of institutionalized racism, or is incapable of doing anything meaningful about the conditions of institutionalized racism. And the resistance to doing anything meaningful about institutionalized racism stems from the fact that western society enjoys its luxury from institutionalized racism, and therefore, were it to end institutionalized racism, it would in fact destroy itself.
O.K. then, now I want to talk about de-mystifying human beings, and I’m talking about the Third World, I’m not talking about the white West. I think that the Third World are the people whom, at least in the US, black people are concern with. The white West has been able to do very well for itself. I want to talk, then, very specifically about a number of things under that.
The first is the importance of definitions. The second: we want to talk about cultural integrity versus cultural imposition. And then we want to talk about the US, specifically the cities and the rebellions (as opposed to ‘riots’ as they are called by the white press) that are occurring in the US, which are going to lead to guerrilla warfare. And we want to talk about violence because the West is always upset by violence when a black man uses it. Yeah.
I want to start with definitions by using a quote from one of my favourite books, which is Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. In the book there’s a debate between Humpty Dumpty and Alice around the question definitions.
It goes like this:
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘who is to be master. That is all.’
Now I think that Lewis Carroll is correct. Those who can define are the masters. And white western society has been able to define, and that’s why she has been the master. And we want to follow up with a lot of those examples, because I think that the white youth of my generation in the West today does not understand his own subconscious racism, because he accepts the writings of the West, which has destroyed, distorted and lied about history, so that he starts off with a basic assumption of superiority which is not even recognizable.
Frederick Douglas, the great black leader of the 1800s, said that when a slave stops obeying a master, then and only then does he seek his liberation. Camus said the same thing 100 years later on the first page of The Rebel, when he said that when a slave stops accepting definitions imposed upon him by his master, then and only then does he begin to move and create a life for himself. That’s very important, because what the people of the Third World are going to have to do today is to stop accepting the definitions imposed on them by the West. Let’s give some examples.
The first one is that the history books tell you that nothing happens until a white man comes along. If you ask any white person who discovered America, they’ll tell you ‘Christopher Columbus’. And if you ask them who discovered China, they’ll tell you ‘Marco Polo’. And if you ask them, as I used to be told in the West Indies, I was not discovered until Sir Walter Raleigh needed pitch lake for his ship, and he came along and found me and said ‘Whup—I have discovered you.’ And my history began.
But let us examine the racism in that statement. Let us examine it very closely. Columbus did not discover America. Columbus may be the first recorded white man to have set foot in America. That is all. There were people there before Columbus. Unfortunately, those people were not white—unfortunately for the white West, fortunately for us, they weren’t white. But what happens is that white western society never recognizes the existence of non-white people, either consciously or subconsciously. So that all around the world, the peoples of the Third World never did anything until some white man came along—and that’s why China’s non-existent, because Mao won’t let no white folk in there. Yeah. And pretty soon Hong Kong is going to be non-existent because they’re going to kick them out.
So that the situation you have is that history has been written—but indeed it has been so distorted. One of the biggest lies, I think, that western society could have told was to name itself Western Civilization. And now all through history we were studying Western Civilization, and that meant that all else was uncivilized. And white kids who read that today never recognize that they’re being told that they are superior to everybody else because they have produced civilization. At best, that’s a misnomer, at worst, and more correctly, it’s a damn lie.
Yes. Western Civilization has been anything but civilized. It has been more barbaric, as a matter of fact. We are told that Western Civilization begins with the Greeks, and the epitome of that is Alexander the Great. The only thing that I can remember about Alexander the Great was that at age twenty-six he wept because there were no other people to kill, murder and plunder. And if you’re not satisfied with that, you could always take the Roman Empire.
Their favourite pastime was watching men kill each other or lions eating up men. They were a civilized people. The fact is that their civilization, as they called it, stemmed from the fact that they oppressed other peoples. And that the oppression of other people allowed them a certain luxury, at the expense of those other people. That has been interpreted as ‘civilization’ for the West, and that is precisely what it has done. The only difference is that after the Roman Empire, when the British Empire—on which the sun never used to set, but today it sets, sometimes it don’t even rise—began to exploit non-white people, what they did was they let colour be the sole choice of the people they would exploit.
Now that’s very important because as we go along you can see one of the best examples you can see today. You see, because you’ve been able to lie about terms, you’ve been able to call people like Cecil Rhodes a philanthropist, when in fact he was a murderer, a rapist, a plunderer and a thief. But you call Cecil Rhodes a philanthropist because what h did was that after he stole our diamonds and our gold, he gave us some crumbs so that we can go to school and become just like you. And that was called philanthropy.
But we are renaming it: the place is no longer called Rhodesia, it is called Zimbabwe, that’s its proper name. And Cecil Rhodes is no longer a philanthropist, he’s known to be a thief—you can keep your Rhodes Scholars, we don’t want the money that came from the sweat of our people.
Now let us move on to present times. I’m always appalled when some white person tells me that ‘progress is being made’. I always ask him ‘progress for whom? And from whom?’ Progress for white people might be made, because I would say that since World War II they have learned a little about how to get along with people of colour. But I don’t think there’s been progress for the black people, there’s not been progress for the people of colour around the Third World. And progress will not be measured for us by white people. We will have to tell you when progress is being made. You cannot tell us when progress is being made, because progress for us means getting you off our backs, and that’s the only progress that we can see.
Now then, we want to talk about cultural integrity versus cultural imposition, because that stems from definitions. Because the white West felt somehow that it was better than everybody else—I remember when I was a young man in the West Indies,
I had to read Rudyard Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden.
I thought the best thing the white could do for me was
to leave me alone,
If a few settlers left England to go to Zimbabwe, there was no reason for them to rename that country after themselves, Rhodesia, and then force everybody to speak their language, English. If they had respect for the cultures of other people, they would have spoken the language of those people and adopted their religions. But what in fact happened was because the West was so powerful—that’s the word nobody want to talk about, power. It was the only power that made people bow their heads to the West, you know. They didn’t bow it because they liked Jesus Christ, or because they liked white folks.
No, Machiavelli said a long time ago that “people obey masters for one of two reasons. Either they love them, or they fear them.’” I often ask myself whether or not the West believes the Third World really loves them and that’s why they’ve obeyed them. But it’s clear that they feared them. The West with its guns and its power and its might came into Africa, Asia, Latin America and the USA and raped it.
And while they raped it they used beautiful terms. They told the Indians ‘We’re civilizing you, and we’re taming the West. And if you won’t be civilized, we’ll kill you.’ So they committed genocide and stole the land, and put the Indians on reservations, and they said that they had civilized the country.
They weren’t satisfied with that. They came to Africa and stole Africans and brought them to the USA, and we were being brought there to be ‘civilized’, because we were cannibals and we ate each other, and they were going to give us a better life, which was, of course, slavery.
Now I want to make just one clear distinction, before I move on, in terms of cultural integrity. Inside the countries of the West there was democracy for the whites, at least some form of it. But that democracy was at the expense of non-white people. While Britain surely enjoyed her papers, and her Parliamentary nonsense about constitutionality, she was suppressing all of Africa. The same thing holds true for France, and De Gaulle still suppresses Somaliland, I would like to inform him; and the same thing, of course, is true today for the US.
White people are very funny, you know. De Gaulle got out of Vietnam a few years ago, and now he’s gotten very broad-minded. But he’s still in Somaliland.
So what the West was able to do is impose its culture and it told everyone ‘we are better, we are civilized’. And because of its force, all of the non-white countries began to try to imitate Europe and to imitate its ways, and to try and copy it because nobody wanted to be uncivilized. … Our ancestors had recognized that they knew what civilization was long before Europeans even got out of their caves, and that they should have stuck to their way of life. Had they done that, perhaps we shouldn’t be in the shape we are in today.
So that all other non-western people have been stripped of their own culture. They have been forced to accept a culture that does not belong to them. And so messed up are the minds of people of colour around the world, that in certain sections of Vietnam today, and in Japan certainly, women who have slanted eyes are cutting their eyes so that they can get round eyes to look like the West. Needless to say what black people have been doing to their hair, especially females: they have been putting hot combs in their hair, straightening it, attempting to look like white people, because the West has defined beauty as that which was theirs—the white woman, who was supposed to be taboo.
And so the non-white world began to copy and to imitate, began to do all of these things of the West. I think what is happening in the world today is that there’s a fight for cultural integrity. Each group of people wants to retain its own integrity, and say ‘To Hell with the West and its culture. Let it keep it. We want ours.’ I don’t propose to speak for the Red Guards, but I would assume that that’s fight and it needs to be waged. I know in the US that one of the fights that we’re waging is the fight for our own cultural integrity. We want to be able to recognize the contributions that non-white people of the world have made. It’s amazing that, when you do some reading, you find out that they did most of what the white people claim that they did. They just distorted history. Pythagoras didn’t give you geometry, the Egyptians gave it to you.
I have something against England, I really do. Because when I was young I had to read all that rot about how good England was to Trinidad, while she was raping us left and right. And all I used to read about London when I was small was the beauty of London, and how peacefully everybody lived, and how nice life was—at my expense. And I used to say ‘I sure would like to get to London and burn it down to the ground.’ But that’s violence!
Now the trouble with the West is that it feels it has the right to give everybody their independence. That’s totally absurd. You can never give anyone their independence. All men are born free. They are enslaved by other men. So that the only act that the men who enslaved them can do is, not give them their independence, but stop oppressing them. There’s a very important difference, and I don’t think people make that distinction all the time.
I’m amazed when I pick up the paper and read that ‘England today decided to give independence to the West Indies.’ Who the hell is England to give my independence? All they can do is stop oppressing me, get off my back. But it sounds so much nicer when they say, ‘We’re giving you your independence. You’re ready for it now.’ Rather than for them to admit to themselves ‘We’re going to stop oppressing you because you’re becoming a little bit more civilized; or because you’re making it uncomfortable for us and we can no longer afford to oppress you at the price that you’re asking us to pay.’ Which is correct. But you wouldn’t expect self-condemnation.
So that you cannot grant anybody independence, they just take it. And that is what white America is going to learn. They cannot give us anything. No white liberal can give me anything. The only thing a white liberal can do for me is to help civilize other whites, because they need to be civilized.
Now in order to move on to the US—because I know what’s on everybody mind is the rebellions and the guerrilla warfare that is taking place inside the US—I’d just like to read some of the notes that I jotted down, so that you can maybe get a clearer picture, because you don’t live in the States. However, I don’t think you really need that much of a clearer picture, because England isn’t far behind.
It is estimated that in another five to ten years two thirds of the 20 million black people that inhabit the US will be living in the ghettoes, in the heart of the cities. Joining us are going to be hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, Mexican Americans, and people of the American Indian population. The American city, in essence, is going to be populated by the peoples of the Third World while the white middle classes will flee to the suburbs.
Now the black people do not control, nor do we own, the resources—we do not control the land, the houses or the stores. These are all owned by whites who live outside the community. These are very real colonies, in the sense that there is cheap labour exploited by those who live outside the cities. It is white power that makes the laws, and enforces those laws with guns and sticks in the hands of white racist policemen and their black mercenaries.
It does not seem that at any point the men who control the power and resources of the US ever sat down and designed those black enclaves, and formally articulated the terms of their colonial and dependent status, as was done, for example, by the Apartheid government of South Africa which both Britain and the US and France backs. Yet one cannot distinguish between one ghetto and another as one moves around the US. It appears as if each ghetto is the same.
Note that the US has, within its continental borders, forty-eight states, and each of these states has a ghetto in all of its major cities. As one moves from city to city it is as though some malignant, racist, planning unit had done precisely this; designed each one from the same master blue-print. And indeed, if the ghetto has been formally and deliberately planned, instead of growing spontaneously and inevitably from the racist functionings of the various institutions that combine to make the society, it would somehow be less frightening.
The situation would be less frightening, because if these ghettoes were the result of design and conspiracy, one could understand their similarity as being artificially and consciously imposed, rather than the result of identical patterns of white racism which repeat themselves in cities as far apart as Boston is from Watts—that is 3,000 miles.
We understand that capitalist system automatically contains within itself racism, whether by design or not. Capitalism and racism seem to go hand in hand. The struggle for Black Power in the US, and certainly the world, is the struggle to free these colonies from external domination. But we do not seek merely to create communities where, in place of white rulers, black rulers control the lives of black masses, and where black money goes into a few black pockets. We want to see it go into the communal pocket. The society we seek to build among black people is not an oppressive capitalist society.
Capitalism, by its very nature, cannot create structures free from exploitation.
The question may be asked, how does the struggle to free these internal colonies relate to the struggle against imperialism all around the world? We realistically survey our numbers and know that it is not possible for black people to take over the whole country militarily. In a highly industrialized nation the struggle is different. The heart of production and the heart of trade is in the cities. We are in the cities. We can become, and are becoming, a disruptive force in the flow of services, goods and capital. While we disrupt internally and aim for the eye of the octopus, we are hoping that our brothers are disrupting externally to server the tentacles of the US.
That’s very important, because Newark, New Jersey, is where Engelhart has his capital—and for the last five days he couldn’t do any work. Good move for the Africans. You know who Engelhart is, don’t you-you don’t—you should read about South Africa, he controls most of it, along with Rockefeller, the liberal; from the US.
It is sometimes said that the African-American movement in the US does not understand the true nature of the struggle in the world today; that the movement is involved in fighting only racial discrimination, and only with the weapon of non-violence. It used to be. As you know, the Black Power movement which SNCC initiated moved away from the movement for integration.
This was not only because the movement’s goals were middle class—such as job opportunities for college graduates, equal public facilities—and not only because white Americans’ concept of integration was based on the assumption that there was nothing of value in the black community and that little of value would ever come from the black community—and that’s very important, because the West doesn’t understand its own racism when they talk about integration.
When they talk about integration, they talk about accepting black people—isn’t that ridiculous? I had to talk about whether or not I want to accept them, and they’re never willing to talk about that, because they know they’ll come up losing. So that integration is absolutely absurd unless you can talk about it on a two-way streak, where black people sit down and decide about integration. That means if you’re really going to talk about integration, you don’t talk about black people moving into white neighbourhoods, you talk about white people moving into black neighbourhoods.
Because of the middle-class orientation of the integration movement, and because of its subconscious racism, and because of its non-violent approach, it has never been able to involve the black proletariat. It could never attract and hold the young bloods who clearly understood the savagery of white America, and who were ready to meet it with armed resistance. It is the young bloods who contain especially the hatred Che Guevera speaks of when he says, and I quote:
“Hatred as an element of the struggle, relentless hatred of the enemy that impels us over and beyond the natural limitations of man, and transforms us into effective, violent, selected and cold killing machines.’
The Black Power movement has been the catalyst for the bringing together of these young bloods—the real revolutionary proletariat, ready to fight by any means necessary for the liberation of our people.
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The Black Power movement in the US is exposing the extent of the racism and exploitation which permeates all the institutions in the country. It has unique appeal to young black students on campuses across the US. These students have been deluded by the fiction in white America that if the black man would educate himself and behave himself, he would be acceptable enough to leave the ranks of the oppressed and have tea with the Queen.
However, this year, when provoked by savage white policemen, students on many campuses fought back, whereas before they had accepted these incidents without rebellion. As students are a part of these rebellions, they begin to acquire a resistance-consciousness. They begin to realize that white America might let a very few of them escape, one by one, into the mainstream of a society, but as soon as blacks move in concert around their blackness she will reply with the fury which reveals her true racist nature.
It is necessary, then, to understand that our analysis of the US and international capitalism is one that begins in race. Colour and culture were, and are, key factors in our oppression. Therefore our analysis of history and our economic analysis are rooted in these concepts. Our historical analysis for example views the US as being conceived in racism.
Although the first settlers themselves were escaping from oppression, and although their armed uprising against their mother country was around the aggravation of colonialism, and their slogan was ‘no taxation without representation’, the white European settlers could not extend their lofty theories of democracy to the red men, whom they systematically exterminated as they expanded into the territory of the country which belonged to the red men.
Indeed, in the same town in which the settlers set up their model of government based on the theory of representative democracy, the first slaves were brought from Africa. In the writings of the glorious Constitution, guaranteeing ‘life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness’ and all the other garbage, these rights for white men only, for the black man was counted only as three fifths of a person. If you read the US Constitution, you will see that this clause is still in there to this very day—that the black man was three fifths of a man.
It was because white America needed cheap or free labour that she raped our African homeland of millions of black people. Because we were black and considered inferior by white Americans and Europeans, our enslavement was justified and rationalized by the so-called white Christians, who attempted to explain their crimes by spouting lies about civilizing the heathens, pagans, savages from Africa, whom they portrayed as being ‘better off’ in the Americas than they were in their homeland. These circumstances laid the systematic base and framework for the racism which has become institutionalized in white American society.
In our economic analysis, our interpretation of Marx comes not only from his writing, but, as we see it, from the relationship of capitalistic countries to people of colour around the world. Now I’m going to use the Labour Movement as an example to show what happens when people in a white country in the West organize themselves when they’re being oppressed. I want to use the Labour Movement in the US because it’s always quoted around the world as the real movement, or friend, of the black man, who is gong to be able to help him. This is true for all other little white countries when the white workers organize—here’s how they get out of the bind.
The Labour Movement of the US—while in the beginning certainly some of their great leaders in the struggle were against the absolute control of the economy by the industrial lords—essentially fought only for money. And that has been the fight of white workers in the West. The fight for one thing—more money. Those few who had visions of extending the fight for workers’ control of production never succeeded in transmitting their entire vision to the rank and file.
The Labour Movement found itself asking the industrial lords, not to give up their control, but merely to pass out a few more of the fruits of this control. Thereby did the US anticipate the prophecy of Marx, and avoided the inevitable class struggle within the country by expanding into the Third World and exploiting the resources and slave labour of people of colour.
Britain, France, did the same thing. US capitalists never cut down on their domestic profits to share with the workers. Instead, they expanded internationally, and threw the bones of their profits to the American working class, who lapped them up. The American working class enjoys the fruits of the labours of the Third World workers. The proletariat has become the Third World, and the bourgeoisie is white western society.
And to show how that works—and not only how it works just in terms of the bourgeoisie—I’ve watched the relationships of whites to whites who are communist, and whites to non-whites whom they called communist. Now every time the US wants to take somebody’s country, they get up and say ‘Communists are invading them and terrorist guerilla warfare is on the way, and we must protect democracy, so send thousands of troops to Vietnam to kill the Communists.’
Italy is a white country. Over one third of its population is communist. Why doesn’t the US invade Italy? Tito is an acknowledged communist. The US gives him aid. Why don’t they invade Tito’s country, if they really care about stopping communism? The US is not kidding anybody. When they want to take over somebody’s land who is non-white, they talk about communist aggression — that’s what they did in Cuba, in Santo Domingo, and it’s what they’re doing in Vietnam. They’re always telling people how they’re going to stop them from going communist. And don’t talk about dictatorship. Franco is perhaps the worst dictator in the world today, but the US gives him aid.
So that is clear it is not a question of communist invasion; it’s really a question of being able to take the countries they want most from the people, and the countries they most are obviously the non-white countries because that is where the resources of the world are today. That’s where they have been for the last few centuries. And that’s why white western society has to be there.
Now we want to make two distinctions, because when rebellions break out in the large cities of America, the first thing that people say is that they’re riots. And white western society is very good, the first thing they want is order; law and order. ‘We must have law and order.’ They never talk about justice, because they’re incapable of talking about it. Hitler had the most efficient system of law and order I’ve ever seen. He happened to have been a fascist. He did not have justice coupled with his law and order. The US knows about law and order, it doesn’t know about justice. It is for white western society to talk about law and order. It is for the Third World to talk about justice.
Now we want to talk just a little about violence. For God’s sake, I don’t understand how the white West can ever talk against violence. They are the most violent people on the face of the earth. They have used violence to get everything they have. And yet they’re the first to talk against violence. The armed rebellions and the guerrilla warfare going on in the US today is not the most violent thing going on in the world. Vietnam, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Aden, Somaliland—that’s where your violence really is. For violence takes many forms. It can take the form of physical warfare, or it can take the form of a slow death.
The Jews in the Warsaw ghettoes were suffering from violence. It didn’t take an actual physical form until they were put in the gas chambers, but they were suffering from mental violence. Wherever you go in Africa today, the Africans are suffering from violence, violence inflicted on them by the white West, be it that they are stripped of their culture, of their human dignity, or of the resources of their very land.
And it is crystal clear to the peoples of the Third World today that it’s time out for talk. There can be no talk about how to stop violence. That’s clear because even Camus talks about that, even though he cops out. Camus talks about executioner/victim. He says, well, there’s executioner/victim relationships in society, and the executioner uses force to keep his victim down. But the victim get tired of that. And what happens is that when the victim moves either to a position of equality or to try to conquer the executioner, he uses the force and the means and the methods that his oppressor used to keep him down. That happens to be violence. I never get caught up with violence.
As a matter of fact, one of my favourite quotes on that, to stop all the talk about it, is a quote from Sartre, which my patron saint used. Sartre says:
That’s Jean-Paul Sartre, not me.
We are working to increase the revolutionary consciousness of black people in America to join with the Third World. Whether or not violence is used is not decided by us, it is decided by the white West. We are fighting a political warfare. Politics is war without violence. War is politics with violence. The white West will make the decision on how they want the political war to be fought. We are not any longer going to bow our heads to any white man. If he touches one black man in the US, he is going to go to war with every black man in the US.
We are going to extend our fight internationally and we are going to hook up with the Third World. It is the only salvation—we are fighting to save our humanity. We are indeed fighting to save the humanity of the world, which the West has failed miserably in being able to preserve. And the fight must be waged from the Third World. There will be speakers. They will be Che, they will be Mao, they will be Fanon. You can have Rousseau, you can have Marx, you can even have the great libertarian John Stuart Mill.
I want to tell you why violence is important in terms of building a resistance-consciousness in the US. Now I want to use a quote which we learned from Germany:
The triumph of the Storm Troopers required that the tortured victim allow himself to be led to the gallows without protesting, that he repudiate and abandon himself to the point where he ceases to affirm his identity.
There is nothing more terrible than these processions of human beings going to their death like human beings. I’m afraid black Americans cannot afford to march to the gallows the way Jews did. If the US, white America, decides to play Nazis, we’re going to let them know the black Americans are not Jews, we’re going to fight back to the death.
And in case you think that sounds very violent, let me remind you of a poem that your great, great Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, read when you were getting ready to attack Germany, even though you were told that you were a minority. He read a poem, incidentally, I don’t know if he told you, which was written by a black man named Claude McKay from Jamaica, and he wrote it for black people.
It’s called ‘If we must die’. It is our poem today in the US. Its message goes something like this:
We have to extend our fight internationally, not only because such a consciousness would destroy within black communities the minority complex so carefully calculated by the American press, but also because we know that if the black man realizes that the counter-insurgency efforts of the US are directed against his brothers, he will not fight in any of their wars. He will not go.
Then it will become crystal clear to the world that the imperialist wars of the US are nothing less than racist wars. During the past year we have initiated a black resistance movement to the Draft, which is being led by our hero, the World Champion, Mr Mohammed Ali. Not only because we’re against black men fighting their brothers in Vietnam, but also because we’re certain that the next Vietnam will either be in the Congo, in South Africa, in Zimbabwe, Bolivia, in Guatemala, in Brazil, in Peru, or indeed in the West Indies. And we are not going to fight our brothers.
And to answer your question about violence, the African-American has tried for the past 400 years to peacefully coexist inside the US. It has been to no avail. We have never lynched a white man, we have never burned their churches, we have never bombed their houses, we have never beaten them in the streets. I wish we could say the same for white people around the world.
Our history demonstrates that the reward for trying to peacefully coexist has been the physical and psychological murder of our peoples. We have been lynched, our houses have been bombed, and our churches burned. We are now being shot down like dogs in the streets by white racist policemen. We can no longer accept this oppression without retribution. We understand that as we expand our resistance, and internationalize the consciousness of our people, as our martyred brother Malcolm X did, we will get retaliation from the government, as he did.
As the resistance struggle escalates we are well aware of the reality of Che’s words, when he says:
And to the end, we are going to work with our common brothers and sisters in the Third World to fight this oppression.
I would like to conclude, then, by telling you just precisely what black people in America are going to do, and when we’re going to do it, and how we’re going to do it, and why we’re going to do it. This is your only chance to hear it clear, because you’ll be hearing it from the BBC next time.
Black people in the US have no time to play nice polite parlour games, especially when the lives of our children are at stake. Some white Americans can afford to speak softly, tread lightly, employ the soft sell and put-off—or is it put-down?—because they own the society. For black people to adopt their methods of relieving our oppression is certainly ludicrous.
We blacks must respond in our own way, on our own terms, in a manner which fits our temperaments. The definition of ourselves, the road we pursue, the goals we seek are our responsibility. It is crystal clear that society is capable of, and willing to, reward those individuals who do not forcefully condemn it—to reward them with prestige, status and material benefits. But these crumbs of corruption will be rejected. The plain fact is that as a people we have absolutely nothing to lose by refusing to play such games.
Anything less than clarity, honesty and forcefulness perpetuates the centuries of sliding over, dressing up and soothing down the true feelings, hopes and demands of an oppressed black people. Mild demands and hypocritical smiles mislead white America into thinking that all is fine and peaceful; they lead white America into thinking that the path and pace chosen to deal with racial problems are acceptable to the masses of black Americans. It is far better to speak forcefully and truthfully. Only when one’s true self, black or white, is exposed can society proceed to deal with the problems from a position of clarity, and not from one of misunderstanding.
Thus we have no intention of engaging in the rather meaningless language so common to discussions of race in the world today. They say:
We reject the language and these views, whether expressed by blacks or by whites. We leave them to others to mouth, because we don’t feel that this rhetoric is either relevant or useful. Rather we suggest a more meaningful language—that of Frederick Douglas, a great black man who understood the nature of protest in society. He said:
Power concedes nothing without demands—it never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. And these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
He was a slave.
Black Power, to us, means that black people see themselves as a part of a new force, sometimes called the Third World; that we see our struggle as closely related to liberation struggles around the world. We must hook up with these struggles. We must, for example, ask ourselves: when black people in Africa begin to storm Johannesburg, what will be the reaction of the US? What will be the role of the West, and what will be the role of black people living inside the US?
It seems inevitable that the US will move to protect its financial interests in South Africa, which means protecting the white rule in South Africa, as England has already done. Black people in the US have the responsibility to oppose, and if not to oppose, certainly to neutralize the effort by white America. This is but one example of many such situations which have already arisen around the world; there are more to come.
There is only one place for black Americans in these struggles, and that is on the side of the Third World.
Now I want to draw two conclusions. I want to give a quote from Fanon. Frantz Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth puts forth clearly the reasons for this, and the relationships of the concept called Black Power to the concept of a new force in the world.
This is Mr Fanon’s quote:
Let us decide not to imitate Europe. Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth. Two centuries ago a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the USA became a monster in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe has grown to appalling dimensions.
The Third World faces Europe like a colossal mass, whose aim should be to try to resolve the problems to which Europe has not been able to find the answers. It is a question of the Third World starting a new history of man, a history which will have regard to the sometimes prodigious thesis which Europe has put forward, but which will also not forget Europe’s crimes, of which the most horrible was committed in the heart of man and consisted of the pathological tearing apart of his functions and the crumbling away of his unity.
No, there is no question of a return to nature. It is simply a very concrete question of not dragging men towards mutilation, of not imposing upon the brain rhythms which very quickly obliterate it and wreck it. The pretext of catching up must not be used for pushing men around, to tear him away from himself or from his privacy, to break and to kill him.
No, we do not want to catch up with anyone. What we want to do is go forward all the time, night and day, in the company of man,
in the company of all men.
Since there’s been a lot of talk about psychology, I’ve thought up a psychological problem. White liberals are always saying ‘What can we do?’ I mean they’re always coming to help black people. And I thought of an analogy.
If you were walking down the street and a man had a gun on another man—let’s say both of them were white—and you had to help somebody, whom would you help? It’s obvious to me that if I were walking down the street, and a man had a gun on another man, and I was going to help, I’d help the man who didn’t have the gun, if the man had the gun was just pulling the gun on the other man for no apparent reason—if he was just going to rob him or shoot him because he didn’t like him.
The only way I could help is either to get a gun and shoot the man with the gun, or join the fellow who doesn’t have a gun and both of us gang up on the man with the gun. But white liberals never do that. When the man has the gun, they walk around him and they come to the victim, and they say “Can I help you?.” And what they mean is ‘help you adjust to the situation with the man who has the gun on you’.
So that if indeed white liberals are going to help, their only job is to get the gun from the man and talk to him, because he is in fact the sick man. The black man is not the sick man, it is the white man who is sick, he’s the one who picked up the gun first.
So the psychologists ought to stop investigating and examining people of colour, they ought to investigate and examine their own corrupt society. That’s where they belong. And once they are able to do that, then maybe we can move on to build in the Third World.
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