Saturday, April 2, 2016


Now that I've read David Hilliard's and Elaine Brown's books on their experiences as Black Panthers, I wonder... 
Into the limelight
1967 Sacramento Protest

What would the Black Panthers have been like
if the male leaders of The Black Panther Partyhad put the same genuine effortinto changing their attitudes towards women
that they put into learning
Marxism and socialism,
helping create the 10 point program,
and doing honest work to help black people?

Didn't the Black Panthers
wind up hamstringing themselves
by layering
all of those positive ideals and effortson top of the same old poverty-side,
materialism based, object based masculinity?

If the male Black Panther leadership
had changed their attitudes towards women
which necessitates
an elimination or reduction of false masculinity,
wouldn't The Black Panthers still be here?


A False Masculinity 

Poverty Side Material Masculinity Says

-- the strongest man should lead
--tough guys with guns are real men
--men who answer nobody and have sex with multiple women at once are the "real men" (so long as "his woman" doesn't do the same.)

These measures of masculinity are still used today by too many men who think being masculine is all about competition. And a good percentage of black men wind up going into an underground economy (work at things not quite legal or illegal) to get the objects they need to materially prove masculinity. Sometimes the underground economy is about survival, eating sans welfare and having a roof over ones head. But sometimes underground economy jobs that require a gun are strictly about proving masculinity--- at the expense of everyone around him.

These actions by black men
are what happen
when a man is sans the money
to buy himself an education
that will get him enough money
to buy the things
that white men buy 

to prove their masculinity,
which would include houses, cars, boats, and enough feelings of personal worthiness to commit to another person in marriage.

It seems to me that this competition based model of masculinity is ALSO why ex-convicts and gangsters were some of the first men attracted to the Black Panthers.

Of course all black people wanted the white foot off our necks. Of course, we have had an adversarial relationship with white people. But wanting to end racism is not the same as wanting to replace white people as the people on top. And that's what a lot of the gangsters that initially joined the Panthers wanted-- to be the oppress-er instead of the oppress-ee. They had little or no interest in a better society.

As much as The Panthers sought out coalitions with white groups, it's clear replacing white men as the oppressor was not the organization's goal. But patriarchy, a competition based model of masculinity, attracted too many of "the wrong element" to the Panthers, the element that saw shooting whitey as the only goal worth pursuing.

Keep in mind that The Panthers were a lot more accessible to poor black people than some other black civil rights groups of that era. 

The NAACP and other middle class black organizations had college educated members and leaders. Martin Luther King, for example, was giving sermons at a church that supposedly served the highest and mightiest of black people in the mid 1950s, even before he was a civil rights leader.

Of course, high society black people weren't very high, overt white racism being what it was at the time, but Martin King's class of people had a lot more than the paycheck-to-paycheck money. They had a lot more money, class, and status than the people who gravitated toward The Panthers. King's class of black folk were not looking for underground economy type work. 

Sans a protest, SCLC and NAACP members were not the kind of people that wound up in jail trying make money any which way they could for want of a straight job.

So it's not surprise that a lot of the men,  poor men that got caught in the prison system, that first flooded into the Panthers wound up being the ones Eldridge called "jackanapes."

These were the men that Eldridge planned to use as cannon fodder in his crazy gun-to-gun overthrow whitey revolution --despite being so outnumbered. Eldridge's "jackanapes" weren't just black men trying to make money on the fringes of society, they were the out of control men fresh out of jail that got guns and wound up in the news, robbing people while using the Black Panther van, making the Panthers look like they were mostly about being gangsters?

Eldridge himself was out of control. It was his idea to fire on white officers the day 17 year old Bobby Hutton was killed. This means that first Black Panther casualty, was actually part of an actual criminal act led by Eldridge Cleaver, the admitted rapist. 

Kathleen Cleaver, wife of Eldridge Cleaver - routinely beaten by Cleaver
Elaine Brown - slapped by Huey, whipped upon orders of Bobby Seale
Angela Davis - never formerly joined the Panthers, reportedly due to the sexism.

Not pictured. Regina Davis. The woman that most responsible for the running of The Panther School, the Oakland School who was beat up by black male panthers, breaking her jaw, because she dared give orders and issue reprimands
per her position.

From where I sit, if the National Headquarters of The Black Panthers in Oakland had actually made an effort to live up to their ideals of equality with black women first, women would have been half of the BPP leadership. And with women as half the BPP leadership, the Black Panthers might still be here.



Think about it. The BPP had absolutely everything else going for them. 

They had opened a school.They were providing groceries to the poor; free health clinics (an idea that spread nationwide); free breakfasts for children at school (adopted by the United States Schools everywhere) The Panthers were also working cooperatively with other black groups and white groups to change society for the better. A central focus was to make the United States more hospitable to the poor.

But BPP fell apart because of internal and external strife, mostly competition (patriarchy based). The FBI is getting way to much credit for destroying the Panthers.

False masculinity created friction between the BPP and other black civil rights organizations.

False masculinity habits of the men undid male relationships with the women (the beating of the women in particular).

False masculinity even broke the relationship between Black Panther leaders, Huey and Eldridge in particular.

False masculinity was what allowed a tough talking Eldridge Cleaver into the Panthers in the first place --money from his book "Soul On Ice" or no damn money.

But the most important thing false masculinity did was give the FBI solid footing to sabatoge the Black Panthers.   

Again, The Black Panthers wound up being at war with another black group, namely,  Karenga's US Organization. 
The US Organization, also patriarchy soaked and therefore competition driven, actually wound up pulling guns on BPP Los Angeles leader Bunchy Carter at his house over cartoons drawn of Karenga and defaced pictures of Karenga.
Only men unsure of the masculinity do things like fight over "somebody drew a cartoon over that picture of me."   
There were other issues between US Organization and the BPP too. But the cartoons of Karenga added to or created the bad blood between the two groups. Karenga's group actually wound up killing Bunchy Carter and John Huggins.

If women had been half of the leadership of both Panthers and the US Organization, it seems unlikely that things like drawing on Karenga's poster would be allowed to lead to gun play  When women are strong enough to lead, be half of the leadership, their male counterparts have to be stronger too. Strong, feminist women don't allow "who is toughest" games to be played in the organizations they help run.
You know what else? The Panthers might have survived the FBI COINTELPRO too if women had been half the leadership. 

The men of The Black Panthers, 
having been forced to be stronger, 
which is equivalent to being more sure of their 
***without having to prove it all the time***
These would have been men that 
'the FBI could not provoke
by stoking the competition
and doing simple minded things like
drawing cartoons of Karenga 
then telling Karenga 
the Panthers did drew the cartoons of you 

Imagine what the FBI might say to Karenga in 1960s, 

using 1980s slang: 
"You gonna let them diss you like that?"

This kind of childish game only works when masculinity not sure of itself. The most important thing men unsure of their masculinity usually do is fail to avail themselves of half of the best leadership and half of the best ideas that a group has to offer because they are busy expending energy subjugating those they are supposedly sure of being superior to.

Who knows what other paths the Black Panthers might have taken with more brains working on problems?

Reading between the lines of Hilliard's book, much of what happened between Huey and Eldridge and also between The Black Panthers and the US Organization was essentially a form of "My d*ck is bigger than yours"

The argument about which person or which group is toughest or biggest was often expressed as "Not you but I AM THE REAL Vanguard of the Revolution" (Huey vs Eldridge)  or "Not your group but MY GROUP IS REALLY the Vanguard of the Revolution" (BPP vs US Organization)

It occurs to me that Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver were allowed out of jail rather easily. Maybe, for all the tough guy pontificating, they were allowed out because they weren't really the biggest threat. Maybe they were allowed out of jail so they could create havoc within the organization that was the BPP.

Martin Luther King was a threat to the status quo. He was assassinated
Medgar Evers was a threat to the status quo. He was assassinated
And within the Panthers it was Fred Hampton of the Chicago BPP that died at the hands of police -- not Huey, not Bobby, and not Eldridge.
Huey has been credited with much of The Black Panthers success. But I'm not exactly sure why. David Hilliard and Elaine Brown both obviously worshiped the man. I don't think I'll ever figure it out. I've never been able to fathom charismatic leaders. And that's clear what Newton had going for him.

From what I'm reading, charismatic or not, Huey was an out of control person whose leadership worked best when he was sending audio taped instructions from his jail cell, while he was under the control of prison*.

Out of prison, he became a ego tripping, drug fueled maniac.

The rock star status might have gotten to anybody I suppose. But it wouldn't surprise me if somebody actually comes out one day and says Huey needed daily psychiatric drugs to calm him dow, drugs he would have been prescribed had he been born 30 years later or maybe just born white. Something about Newton's childhood behavior sounds off in Hilliard's book.

Eldridge Cleaver's View Of Huey Newton
Newton reportedly hated this image of himself 

Huey Newton died in 1989 in what David Hilliard thinks was a drug related shooting. A lot of women, according to Brown, had gone in the mid 1970s when black panther men beat Regina Davis for giving an order and expecting it to be followed, in accordance with the BPP quasi-militaristic structure.  The Black Panthers died a long time before Huey physically died

I just can't help but think of how altered our black world might have been have had Huey had lived up to his own words on equality.

Link: Black Panther Women, A Taste Of Power


During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion.

I say ”whatever your insecurities are” because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the white racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest white person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you’re some kind of a threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society.

And what made them homosexual? Perhaps it’s a phenomenon that I don’t understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don’t know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.

That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn’t view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary.” Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women’s liberation movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that they are all reactionary or counter-revolutionary, because they are not.

We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are unrevolutionary or counter-revolutionary, then criticize that action.

If we feel that the group in spirit means to be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do not understand the dialectics of the social forces in operation, we should criticize that and not criticize them because they are women trying to be free. And the same is true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest. They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer from it. But the women’s liberation front and gay liberation front are our friends, they are our potential allies, and we need as many allies as possible.

We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have about homosexuality. When I say “insecurities,” I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long conditioning process which builds insecurity in the

American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me and female homosexuality is not.

We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms “faggot” and “punk” should be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as [Richard] Nixon or [John] Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.

We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women’s liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner.