Photo Bio Series: Black Power Revisited (cont.)
The following is the continuation from part XI of the Black Power series published Friday, August 11, 2006. This excerpt is taken from literature written over 40 years ago. I hope the reader finds the articles as interesting as I have found them.
Fear of Isolationism
In the past there were never coalition- for coalition implies equal-or the recognition of the strength of each party. In the endeavors of the past, paternalism, or maternalism characterized the situation.
In former times, Blacks would approach the presence of whites with importunities and whites from the pinnacles of paternalism would toss Negroes what they wanted them to have.
Negroes would comfortably protest; or gladly receive whatever was offered; or accepted with the silent mutual understanding that they would be back again soon. And so it went!
I have observed three phases in the struggle. There was a time when whites would come together to discuss the “Negro problem.” After that, they decided to have a Negro leader, or leaders chosen by whites, at all the conferences- which were called by whites-to discuss an agenda- prepared by whites. The whole thing was really white controlled!
Now we have moved into another phase. It is the Black Power phase. Now Blacks choose their own leaders; call their own conferences; prepare their own agenda; discuss their own problems, and dictate their own terms.
It is not hatred. It is not Black supremacy. It is not Black Nationalism- not in the sense in which the term is generally used. It is not Black segregationalism. It is not black isolationism. It is simply Blacks shaping their own destiny, united to assert their strength; flex their muscles, if you will.
Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) put it this way, “That Black people have to politically get together to organize themselves so that they can speak from a position of strength rather than a position of weakness.”
The point is grasped well by Silberman. He wrote, “The crux of the matter summed up, is the difference between the words, conversation and negotiations. Whites are accustomed to holding conversations with Negroes, in which they sound out the latter’s views or acquaints them with decisions they have already taken. The Negroes insist more and more on negotiation-on discussion as equals, designed to reach an agreement, designed to come to terms especially in state matters.” As Webster’s Third International dictionary defines the word, “to negotiate means to recognize the other party’s power.”
When whites negotiate with Negroes, therefore, it not only helps solve the Negro’s “Negro Problem,” it helps solve the white man’s “Negro Problem,” as well; for whites begin to see Negroes in a different light-as equals or men.
The assertion of independence means that Blacks now have a healthy distrust of whites, a healthy desire for independence and a healthy desire to negotiate.
Fear of Violence
The people, who see violence in the Black Power philosophy, are not being realistic. They demonstrate an unwillingness to face the fact that conditions produce violence. The unwillingness of white Americans to see the seeds of violence in their racist attitude, and to look for scapegoats, when the explosion occurs, to hunt up “bugaboos” to blame, instead of looking at themselves and asking, “Is it I?” has paralyzed sincere efforts to recognize things for what they are, all of which makes progress impossible. A wrong cannot be corrected until its existence is acknowledged. It is for this reason that many feel pessimistic about racial harmony ever becoming a reality in America.
They say whites are too proud and stubborn to admit past and present sins. Even God cannot help a man until he acknowledges that he is a sinner. Whites exhibit too brazenly the universal artistry of blaming others. Even Vice President Hubert Humphrey could say that if he had to live as some Negroes, he would lead a revolt. But still whites look for a villain, when frustrated masses vent their frustrations in riotous acts. They blame the Communists, certain hoodlums, civil rights leaders, professional rabble-rousers; now Black Power has been singled out as the next instigator.
When revolts happen-and they will happen unless changes are made- Black Power will be the blamed. The fact that people have always rebelled against injustice, which even a worm will turn if you step on him, does not register at all. The wonder is that given the cruel conditions forced upon Blacks, they did not rebel often enough and with greater devastation. Another significant point that whites miss is the subliminal opportunities for Black hostilities presented by protest movements and philosophies.
Dr. King pointed this out when he told the good-hearted clergymen who felt that nonviolent demonstrations were unwise and untimely. “The Negro,” wrote Dr. King, “has many pent-up frustrations; he has to get them out. So let him march sometime; let him have his prayer pilgrimage to City Hall; understand why he must have sit-ins and freedom rides. If his repressed emotions do not come out in these nonviolent ways, they will come out in ominous expressions of violence.”
Now we have come to a new day. The hostilities and frustrations have reached such boiling intensity and quantity, that they can no longer, for the masses of blacks, be siphoned, or sublimated in large enough portions by prayer pilgrimages to City Hall, marches, sit-ins and freedom rides.
A more provocative philosophy, more militant movement, more fiery protagonists are demanded. Black Power is the idea whose time has come. Hence, by that reasoning, Black Power is really serving a useful, constructive purpose. It gives a voice-a-forum-an expression to Black discontent, which as Dr. King observed, must come out in acceptable ways- relatively acceptable, anyway- or explodes with catastrophic results. Black Powe has really purchased time. Whites' ought to recognize it and move to correct the wrongs-and do it quickly!
Unless some progress is made immediately-progress that reaches the masses-I do not believe that Black Power too much longer can serve as channels for this torrid passion which everyday waxes hotter and hotter, nor will it stay the destruction of the revolts. That would be another era and will demand new strategies.
Note: In 1968 – after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - more than 100 American cities experienced devastating revolts/riots. Dr. King was the spark that set ablaze the fire about which I was warning the American people in 1966. The conditions were a tender box waiting to explode. It could have been any match of ill treatment. Usually, police brutality is the catalyst.