Author’s Note: This essay was written and published in 2016. I reprint it in honor and remembrance of “Soledad Brother” George Jackson, who was murdered by San Quentin prison guards on August 21, 1971.
Like political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal today, Jackson was the 20th century black (nee’ African American) revolutionary of the first order. It wasn’t that he was just a brilliant writer. But, indeed, his writings, his polemics, his example…and, yes, sadly but necessarily, his martyrdom set the standard by which all people who are serious about “fundamental change” in this American society and throughout this earth must meet.
Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution. Pass on the torch. Join us. Give up your life for the people.
— George Jackson, Blood In My Eye
A s the entire world bears witness to more never-ending snuff-black-people videos, this time by this nation-state’s police forces in Tulsa, and yet another in Charlotte, NC, it is crystal clear that white America is not serious about reigning in its police forces, and has no intention whatever of “reforming” in any substantive way its white supremacist-based “criminal justice system.”
Just as the cops’ self-serving “investigations” always reveal, they and their enablers never fail to somehow find the vast, vast majority of killer cops’ actions against black people to be not merely “justified,” but very often praiseworthy.
The justification process begins before the dead black body is even cold. As in Ferguson, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco, New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore, and so many, many more places and spaces where blackness intersects the deadly white core of this nation-state, the conveniently dead black body is blamed forthwith for his or her own death — especially when any previous “contact” whatsoever with “law enforcement” is dredged up from as far back as one’s elementary school days to last night.
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For several years now, America’s police abuse of black people has been played out on an international stage, courtesy of high-tech video gadgetry. Yet, these now routine revelations of deadly encounters with “law enforcement” practices and policies have not had the same effect upon white people today that mid-20th century televised depictions of these selfsame “events” once had.
Long before cellphone and dashboard cameras, social media, and the Internet, Dr. King argued that forcing white folks to face the reality of police brutality on the 6:00 news would “shock” white consciences into meaningful action. Action that would hasten the end of not just police brutality, but, finally, begin to dismantle the scaffolding, the structure itself of four centuries of deadly, systematic white racial ideological and material superiority (“Manifest Destiny” at home, and the “White Man’s Burden” abroad).
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And, King was right — to a point. In my own lifetime, I have witnessed with clockwork regularity the spectacle of black women, black men, black girls and black boys being hosed by firemen and beaten by Southern cops; black children jeered and spat upon by white mothers as these kids stoically traversed visible, tangible barriers of hate and scorn (occasionally with the aid of heavily armed National Guard troops) just to enter “all white” so-called “public” schools; or as white and black college students were firebombed and beaten into bloody messes on “Freedom Rider” buses — finally these nightly “news” spectaculars became too embarrassing for even many so-called right wing white “conservatives” of the day.
And so, many of us thought — hoped — that these new-fangled 21st century technologies would achieve the same results as those flickering black-and-white televised images of white resentment, white paranoia and white hatred vis-a-vis black suffering.
Surely now that cops know — today — that they are being filmed they will temper their anger, control their angst, sensitive nerves, and visceral fear of black skin. Indeed, why would they risk their jobs, personal freedom, ridicule and shame by becoming instant, if unwilling, YouTube stars?
White people today have generally become acclimated to and even expectant of, watching the continuing abuse and murder of black people by their vaunted “first responders” and frontline social control agents — the cops. These videos are reminiscent of the gruesome postcards sent through the mails right up until the 1970s of black lynchings performed by picnicking, grinning, partying mobs of white men, white women and white children. They sent these talismans to friends and relatives throughout the country and across the sea — to “the Old Country.”
The recipients of these blood-soaked missives got a special vicarious charge…a reassurance, a feeling of closeness — and participation — by ogling these “Wish You Were Here” pics of revelry and relief in celebration of black death and white triumph.
In this century, though, these postcards have been supplanted by black-snuff-videos. These moving, “live and in color” videotaped murders are updated lynching pictographs. Rather than the post office, the Internet and social media now serve as the medium through which these images are disseminated. And, like the lynchings of old, today’s murders have also been, at once, reduced and elevated to spectacle. They are, in fact, a commonplace “reality show” with an all too familiar plot. They feature interchangeable and instantly recognizable characters.
The most salient feature of black-snuff videos is that their conclusions are known by all before the video starts: Despite “peace” marches, or righteous black outrage which sometimes spills over into a frustrated violent response, not a single material condition of the masses of black people improves. Yes, yes. We “protest.” And then do what we do: survive these latest official lynchings — and wait for the next one.
And so, as Lenin famously asked in a slim but powerful tome entitled What Is To Be Done?, let me end with an extended, powerful prescription from a martyred revolutionary writer and political prisoner — writing from the desperate solitude of a Soledad prison cell.
George Jackson’s warning and direction was aimed at all people of good conscience, but most particularly at the now nearly 50 million black people caught up in “the belly of the beast”:
International capitalism cannot be destroyed without the extremes of struggle. The entire colonial world is watching the blacks inside the US, wondering and waiting for us to come to our senses…We are on the inside. We are the only ones (besides the very small white minority Left) who can get at the monster’s heart without subjecting the world to nuclear fire. We have a momentous historical role to act out, if we will. The whole world for all time in the future will love us and remember us as the righteous people who made it possible for the world to live on. If we fail through fear and lack of aggressive imagination, then the slaves of the future will curse us, as we sometimes curse those of yesterday.
Finally, Jackson wrote not just of the legacy that our Black Struggle must leave, but of the meaning of revolution itself; that is, of what a world cleansed of materialism, militarism and racism would mean, would look like…would actually be:
I don’t want to die and leave a few sad songs and a hump in the ground as my only monument. I want to leave a world that is liberated from trash, pollution, racism, nation-states, nation-state wars and armies, from pomp, bigotry, parochialism, a thousand different brands of untruth, and licentious usurious economics.
Originally published at https://dissidentvoice.org on September 26, 2016.