Published in Issue 243 of The Black Commentator on September 6, 2007
Republished in on September 7, 2007

By Larry Pinkney

As the systemically corporate-driven Bush/Cheney US ship of state begins to founder in its self made sea of insatiable greed, callousness, opportunism, and cynicism; the system nonetheless continues mercilessly to grind the poorest people in US society and around the world. If nothing else, the federal conviction of Scooter Libby, and the announced high-level resignations of Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales, as the system grinds on, demonstrate that it is systemic, fundamental structural change that is seriously needed, not mere name or political party replacements. Name changes and/or the changing of the guard mean absolutely nothing without systemic change.

A short while ago, there was a collective sigh of relief on the part of justice-loving people world wide when the outrageously unjust death sentence upon Kenneth Foster, Jr. that was based on the flawed and racist so-called “law of parties ” in Texas, was commuted. However, the very fact alone that Foster,  who neither planned nor committed the offense for which he came within hours of being murdered by the state, was imprisoned and sentenced to death at all, speaks volumes. In fact, Foster, practically speaking, was not even present at the scene of the crime as he was approximately 80 feet away and unaware of what was occurring. Nevertheless, under the “law of parties,” this Black man was charged, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. The Kenneth Foster, Jr. matter, which despite the last minute commutation of the death sentence to life in prison, is far from over. The Foster case is an incisive, accurate, and chilling commentary on precisely how morally bankrupt and racist the entire US judicial and prison systems continue to be in the 21st century. Indeed, if a similar so-called “law of parties” were today applied to white America for its crimes of slavery, genocide, and lynchings against Black and Red / Indigenous peoples, the verdict against white America, collectively, would be one of resounding guilt, whether or not each and every white American was present at the specific scenes of these horrendous crimes.

Despite very important, limited successes thus far, the cases of the Jena 6  in Louisiana, Reverend Edward Pinkney (no relation) in Michigan, and the San  Francisco 8 in California, to name just a few, represent a continuing nationwide pattern of systemically racist judicial and prosecutorial persecution and harassment throughout America. It is no wonder that this nation incarcerates so many political prisoners including Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abul-Jamal, Marshall “Eddie” Conway, and a virtually endless list of lesser known men and women throughout America. Nor is it any wonder that the US imprisons more Black, Brown, and Red men, women, and children than any other nation on earth. We beg your pardon America. Excuse us while we puke.

Furthermore, let us remember that the overwhelmingly Black, Red, and Brown hurricane Katrina victims of US Government malfeasance continue to this very day to suffer appalling displacement, and physical and emotional neglect and murderous degradation. Moreover, racial, and economic justice, particularly for people of color in America, is well known to be a pathetically sick joke. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of people in this nation of both genders and of all colors and ages remain without decent or affordable health care. Home foreclosures and homelessness in America continue to increase at an alarming rate, especially as it impacts people of color and children. America’s tax-dodging, bloated corporations of the wealthy elite and its “economically drafted” war machine of the poor, ravage people throughout the planet. Internationally, many are viewing America with stark horror and contempt as they see her for precisely what she is, as this nation wantonly depletes and dishonors our mother earth. We beg your pardon America; excuse us while we puke.

America will never be changed unless and until the system which props it up is thoroughly dismantled and rebuilt upon a foundation that is devoid of white racism and all forms of social and economic exploitation. The unjust and deplorable scenario that we are witnessing and experiencing today in America is not new. This US system, which at its core is built upon massive and horribly debilitating slavery, genocide, and the thievery of a continent, will not change of its own accord. Real, systemic change, if it is to be made a reality will ultimately have to be led by, and emanate from, the people on the bottom, not the privileged at or near the top.

Those with color and/or economic privilege are the primary beneficiaries of this system, and far too few of these beneficiaries are willing to recognize, much less address and struggle against, their own systemic color and/or economic privilege. This also is not new. The scenario was very similar in the US prior to the 21st century, including during the so-called Vietnam era.

While the US war against the Vietnamese people in Vietnam was raging, it was well known inside the US itself that young men of color and of course economically poor young men were being massively and disproportionately drafted into the US military. The US Army would draft virtually any young man it could, as long as he could breathe and walk; and most especially, if he were Black, Red, Brown, and/or poor. It was during this period in the late 1960s that I became of military draft age and, despite my personal and publicly known political stance against that war, was sent a draft notice from the US Selective Service System, that was personally hand-delivered to me at my place of employment by two suit & tie wearing, gun toting US agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Thus, I decided to show up for induction where, to the shock and dismay of the authorities, I openly and vociferously refused to be inducted, loudly and clearly stating that I would “not participate in a racist, imperialist war of aggression against the Vietnamese people or against any people; and that the struggle for people of color and all justice-loving people in the US is right here in America!” When some other young inductees at that military induction facility, none of whom I knew, heard what I was proclaiming and joined in with me, the senior US Army officer present had me whisked away to a different part of the induction facility and after unsuccessfully making assorted threats against me, mysteriously decided that I was “not medically fit” for military service. In fact, thanks to my having met and spoken with brother Malcolm X years earlier in 1962, and then some years later having joined the Black Panther Party, I was in fact “not fit” in any way for the murderous tasks that the white American power structure’s military had intended that I, like so many other young men, carry out against the people of Vietnam and Cambodia as a part of an unjust, bloody, illegal American war of aggression, in the name of democracy.

Yet, systemically, today in the 21st century, the same story continues. America has not changed. As the US infrastructure [i.e. schools, public libraries, highways, hospitals, etc.] increasingly erodes, the more militarily belligerent this nation becomes. White America has become even more hypocritical and even more barbaric at home and abroad in the 21st  century.

Instead of resisting service in America’s huge military war machine, certain primarily white American categories of persons, who were considered by the US military to be supposedly “undesirable” in the 1960s, have insisted in the latter part of the 20th century and the beginning years of this 21st century on “the right” to, of all things, join and be a part of America’s bloody international military war machine. Today, these heretofore so-called “undesirable” categories of people, including men and women, can do their bit as part of the US military killing machine to torture, maim, murder, fire missiles, drop bombs, shoot people, destroy shrines, burn homes, and decimate villages and cities in Iraq and elsewhere in the world, all in the distorted name of “equality” and democracy. Indeed, America has systemically gone from bad to worse, and hypocrisy is its operative name. This murderous systemic cycle must be recognized for what it is and broken.

America continues to wage direct and indirect bloody wars of aggression against people of color internally and externally around the world. It is presently waging a direct war “of aggression” against the peoples of Iraq and the entire so-called Middle East, including Palestine, and indirectly against peoples in Africa, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, the Indigenous peoples of Mexico, and an endless list of other places – all in the name of a “democracy,” of which the vast majority of Black and other people of color are deprived, right here inside America. Democracy indeed. We beg your pardon America; excuse us while we puke.

It should be remembered that during the period of America’s intensified war of aggression against the people of Vietnam, and other parts of Asia, the ghettos, barrios, and reservations inside America were increasingly turned into violent internal demilitarized zones. Even more so today, with America’s external wars of aggression, the Black, Brown, and Red communities across America have been economically and socially marginalized by this racist, capitalist system and in large measure have become daily low-intensity killing fields. As a reader of The Black Commentator poignantly wrote to me, “The war in Iraq is on my block!” How true. This reality, however, is not a mere coincidence, nor is it self-induced. It is an integral part of callously and deliberately maintained, systemic, economic, social, and color oppression. It is a catalyst for frustration and despair that, in turn, ensure and perpetuate destructive habits and internal violence within our communities. I reiterate: this is no coincidence. Hating our people and ourselves is not the answer. Respecting and loving ourselves, based upon knowledge of ourselves and our true history, coupled with consistently studying and understanding the systemic causes as to why it is, for example, that “the war in Iraq is on [our] block[s],” is an urgent and important component in proactively addressing what we must do individually and collectively to reverse and eradicate this deliberately maintained systemic insanity. This is an important part of our answers, for there is no single answer. Wars, be they on our block or in Iraq, are nonetheless a form of insanity and what we need to remember is that the war on our block is, in actuality, an extension of the war in Iraq, or of any other military ‘adventure’ being waged by America.

The struggle for social, economic, racial, and political justice that some mockingly refer to as being from “back in the day” in fact continues today. This previous struggle is inextricably linked to the ongoing struggle for systemic change by Black people in the 21st century. We must never forget that the racist American genocide of Red / Indigenous peoples, the demonization of them and concomitant thievery of their lands is precisely that which far too many in white America today, regardless of their espoused ideologies, have clearly demonstrated their support, contrary to the desires of the vast majority of people of color in this nation and on this planet. We politically-conscious Black people and other people of color must never allow white America to succeed in culturally, physically, and politically annihilating us. It is imperative always to remember who the original occupants of this land, now called America, were when white slavers tore our noble ancestors, men, women, and children away from mother Africa and brought them in bloody chains, while enduring unspeakable horrors and degradation, to this stolen so-called “land of the free.” Moreover, we Black, Red, and Brown peoples must seriously find and build common ground with one another, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because our very collective survival is at stake. We Black Americans are  bound together in blood and history with our Red and Brown brothers and sisters, despite consistent efforts by the US media and “educational” institutions to have us believe otherwise. We must not fall prey to the dangerous divide-and-conquer tactics of those who would see us politically and economically weak, and ultimately, culturally and/or physically annihilated. It’s all about effective, collective struggle on every conceivable level, for justice and systemic change.

It is the 21st century and white racism in America is even deadlier and more insidious than ever before. It is in this vein that certain privileged whites in America apparently see it as their appointed right to publicly and viciously attack progressive elected Black spokespersons. Malcolm X warned of this very kind of divide, conquer, and control tactic on the part of whites when referring to his own position vis-à-vis an earlier US Congress member Adam Clayton Powell, who like Congress member John Conyers, was detested and/or publicly disrespected by many in white America. While addressing the second rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) brother Malcolm X stated, regarding Adam Clayton Powell, “I would never criticize him for the joy of white folks. They just go crazy when they hear you knock at Adam. If I thought he was wrong I wouldn’t say so, I wouldn’t give them that pleasure. In fact I’d go for him as long as they don’t go for him.” I shall always remember, when I met brother Malcolm X some years earlier, that he stressed the need for unity amongst progressive Black people and the necessity of resolving our differences whenever possible “in the closet,” not in public. Many, if not most, privileged whites in America couldn’t care less about this need for Black unity because they do not have or seriously share the interests of Black and other people of color and are busily enjoying their own systemic color privilege that our disunity assures them. Malcolm X, as a contemporary realist and a visionary, truly understood the demonstratively divisive and treacherous nature of white racism in America, and the unending actions by certain whites today (irrespective of their claimed ideologies or supposed objectives) to disrespect, divide, and control Black people, along with our Red and Brown brothers and sisters. We beg your pardon America; excuse us while we puke.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, there are certainly some examples of white Americans, albeit all too few, who have consistently attacked systemic white privilege and racism in the name of both justice and indeed their own humanity. Thus, in the book entitled, Saying No To Power [Introduction by Howard Zinn] written by white political activist, former fellow at the postdoctoral level of Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, and veteran broadcast journalist of over fifty years, William Mandel, this all-too-rare side of white American humanity and persistence in struggle is clearly delineated for all to see. In so doing, this book also makes specific reference to various Black political activists, including former “Black Panthers” Fred Hampton, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and myself (Larry Pinkney), in the context of the past and ongoing political struggle for justice. Moreover, as Howard Zinn wrote regarding William (“Bill”) Mandel, “His life story is not only dramatic, but instructive and inspiring.” In an even more detailed statement, Robert L. Allen, senior editor of The Black Scholar, and author of Black Awakening in Capitalist America wrote, “Bill Mandel is well-known for his courageous defiance of HUAC [the House Un-American Activities Committee] witch-hunters, but his autobiography also reveals his decades-long commitment to anti-racist struggles such as his defense of Angelo Herndon, Paul Robeson, the Martinsville Seven, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and black political prisoners including Mumia Abu-Jamal.” In short, William M. Mandel, as a time-tested and for-real White person is of that rare and sorely missed breed in America, of seriously committed whites, as shown by his repeated and unflinching part in the continuing struggle as ‘the people’s warrior’ that he is. For well over 70 years he has personally and repeatedly shown that even politically the adage, “The proof of the pudding is in its taste;” is accurate. He consistently has demonstrated that it is actions that are truly supreme, not dribbling, intellectual, white liberal bibble-babble. For this, Bill Mandel is to be saluted, honored, and respected, but most of all and most importantly, emulated. We Black and other people of color do not begrudge him his well-earned place in this struggle.

So yes, there have been and continue to be some few white Americans who are seriously and actively committed to structurally changing the system and ditching their systemic white privilege, both in the name of justice and their own humanity, but be very clear about this: they are few and far between.

Our Brown brothers and sisters are also busy intensely organizing and carrying on the struggle for justice and dignity as has been consistently demonstrated by the hard work being carried out by the autonomous chapter of the Watsonville Brown Berets, Watsonville, California. Moreover, the specific ‘Black and Brown Unity’ activities on the part of the Brown Berets is awesome, inspirational, and increasingly effective. They are demonstrating what some may have doubted: that the perceived viable unity between our peoples, based upon mutual respect and a clear historical and political understanding, can, in fact, be made into reality. In this matter too, the struggle continues, as there will assuredly be those who will attempt to thwart unity between Black, Red, and Brown peoples. We must not allow these unity efforts to be thwarted.

Let none of us speculate about the depth of love we must have for our fellow humans, irrespective of color; and as such, the incredibly deep love we must possess and show for our own brothers and sisters of color. We must not doubt for even a second the legitimateness, rightness, and necessity of loving ourselves and our own Black, Red, and Brown peoples, as we persist in political, social and economic struggle.

People’s struggles are, by their very nature, long, protracted and often dangerous affairs, which can last from decades to centuries. It is no simple task to struggle for systemic change, especially when there are those who have done and will continue to do all within their means to retain their color and/or economic systemic privilege. As brother Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “Lamentably it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.” The renowned physicist Albert Einstein, was even more blunt when, some years earlier, he declared at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, that, “Racism is a disease of white people.” This remains the case, and despite the failure of white America, including, unfortunately, much of the so-called white left, to address its own racism, color privilege, and the accompanying ongoing systemic racial and economic disparities perpetrated upon Black people and other people of color; we must not despair, or cease – even for a second – in our struggle.  As the late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop of Grenada, (who was assassinated under the auspices of the US during the Ronald Reagan regime but whose revolutionary spirit lives on) repeatedly said, “Forward Ever. Backwards Never!” This struggle continues and intensifies today. Denmark Vesey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and so very, very many others before and after them did not struggle in vain, nor do we.

In fact, we don’t beg your pardon America, and we most assuredly do not ask to be excused by you as we struggle to keep it real. It is white America that must ultimately beg the pardon of and atone to, the entire world that it has and continues to ravage, in the name of this American hypocrisy so erroneously  referred to as democracy.

We conscious Black people know that the active spirits and histories of Malcolm & Martin, Fannie & Rosa, Geronimo & Crazy Horse, Sandino & Zapata, Che & Tanya, John Brown, and so many other freedom fighters, are ONE. Do what it may, racist white America will not succeed in crushing & harnessing these spirits or in relegating to oblivion our collective true histories. For these histories belong to the people anywhere and everywhere on this planet who demand and insist upon justice. There is no higher calling than the continuing struggle to ‘keep it real.’

We must remain steadfast, absolutely refusing to allow our hopes and yearnings for justice and real social, economic, and political equality and freedom to be forever kept from us. Never! The “dream” as Langston Hughes might say, may have been temporarily “deferred,” but it grows stronger every day and it will never be destroyed. It must, and it will be, brought to fruition. There is no acceptable alternative.

Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities, Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS News Hour, formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, and more recently on the nationally syndicated Alex Jones Show. Pinkney is a former university instructor of political science and international relations, and his writings have been published in various places, including The Boston Globe, San Francisco BayView newspaper, Black Commentator, Intrepid Report, Global Research (Canada), LINKE ZEITUNG (Germany), 107 Cowgate (Ireland and Scotland), and Mayihlome News (Azania/South Africa). He is in the archives of Dr. Huey P. Newton (Stanford University, CA), cofounder of the Black Panther Party. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn]. (Click here to read excerpts from the book.)


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