We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too….We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity…capitalism with socialism.—Fred Hampton, Deputy Chairman, Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party, 1969 (Hampton 1969).
The Roles of Whites
MOVEMENT: The Black Panther Party has had considerable contact with white radicals since its earliest days. What do you see as the role of these white radicals?HUEY: The white mother country radical is the off-spring of the children of the beast that has plundered the world exploiting all people, concentrating on the people of color. These are children of the beast that seek now to be redeemed because they realize that their former heroes who were slave masters and murderers, put forth ideas that were only facades to hide the treachery they inflicted upon the world. They are turning their backs on their fathers.
The white mother country radical, resisting the system, becomes somewhat of an abstract thing because he’s not oppressed as much as black people are. As matter of fact his oppression is somewhat abstract simply because he doesn’t have to live in a reality of oppression. Black people in America and colored people throughout the world suffer not only from exploitation, but they suffer from racism. Black people here in America, in the black colony, are oppressed because we’re black and we’re exploited. The whites are rebels, many them from the middle class and as far as any overt oppression this is not case.
MOVEMENT: Other black groups seem to feel that from past experience it is impossible for them to work with whites and impossible for them to form alliances. What do you see as the reasons for this and do you think that the history of the Black Panther Party makes this less of a problem?HUEY: There was somewhat of an unhealthy relationship in the past with the white liberals supporting black people who were trying to gain their freedom. I think a good example of this would be the relationship that SNCC had with its white liberals because they differ strictly from the white radicals. The relationship was the whites controlled SNCC for a very long time. From the very start of SNCC until here recently  whites were the mind of SNCC.They controlled the program of SNCC with money and they controlled the ideology, or the stands SNCC would take. The blacks in SNCC were completely controlled program-wise; they couldn’t do any more than these white liberals wanted them to do, which wasn’t very much. So the white liberals were not working for self-determination for the black community.
I don’t think they distinguished between the white liberal and the white revolutionary, because the white revolutionary is white also and they are very much afraid to have any contact whatsoever with white people.… If the mother country radicals are sincere then this will definitely add to the attack that we [the BPP] are making on the power structure. The Black Panther Party’s program is a program where we recognize that the revolution in the mother country will definitely aid us in our freedom and has everything to do with our struggle!
The Black Panther Party has NEVER been controlled by white people. The Black Panther Party has always been a black group…. We have never been controlled by whites and therefore we don’t fear the white mother country radicals. Our alliance is one of the organized black groups with organized white groups. As soon as the organized white groups do not do the things that would benefit us in our struggle for liberation, that will be our departure point. So we don’t suffer in the hangup of a skin color. We don’t hate white people; we hate the oppressor. And if the oppressor happens to be white then we hate him. When he stops oppressing us then we no longer hate him. And right now in America you have the slave-master being a white group. We are pushing him out of office through revolution in this country. I think the responsibility of the white revolutionary will be to aid us in this.
MOVEMENT: Do you see the possibility of organizing a white Panther Party in opposition to the establishment possibly among poor and working whites?HUEY: …Black Power is people’s power and as far as organizing white people we give white people the privilege of having a mind and we want them to get a body. They can organize themselves. We can tell them what they should do, what their responsibility is if they’re going to claim to be white revolutionaries or white mother country radicals, and that is to arm themselves and support the colonies around the world in their just struggle against imperialism. But anything more than that they will have to do on their own.
MOVEMENT: You indicate that there is a psychological process that has historically existed in white-black relations in the U.S. that must change in the course of revolutionary struggle. Would you like to comment on this?HUEY: Yes. The historical relationship between black and white here in America has been the relationship between the slave and the master; the master being the mind and the slave the body. The slave would carry out the orders the mind demanded him to carry out…He stripped black people of their mind. In the process the slave-master stripped himself of a body…So the slave lost his mind and the slave-master his body…The white man cannot…unite with the body because the body is black. The body is symbolic of slavery and strength. It’s a biological thing as he views it.
How far can the mind control the body? …Must we not at any rate admit that there is in human nature a higher and a lower principle, divided by no distinct line, which at times break asunder and take up arms against one another? Or again, they are reconciled and move together…And then the body becomes the good friend or ally, or servant or instrument of the mind…Reason and the desires, the intellect and the senses are brought into harmony and obedience so as to form a single human being (Plato 1908, 61).
HUEY: The slave is in a much better situation because his not being a full man has always been viewed psychologically. And it’s always easier to make a psychological transition than a biological one. If he can only recapture his mind…then he will lose all fear and will be free to determine his destiny. This is what is happening at this time with the rebellion of the world’s oppressed people against the controller. They are regaining their mind and they’re saying that we have a mind of our own. They’re saying that we want freedom to determine the destiny of our people, thereby uniting the mind with their bodies. They are taking their mind back from the omnipotent administrator, the controller, the exploiter.
MOVEMENT: Would you be willing to extend this formula in terms of white radicals; to say that one of their struggles today is to get back their bodies?HUEY: Yes. I thought I made that clear. The white mother country radical by becoming an activist is attempting to regain his body. By being an activist and not the traditional theoretician who outlines the plan, as the Communist Party has been trying to do for every so long, the white mother country radical is regaining his body. The resistance by white radicals in Berkeley during the past three nights is a good indicated that the white radicals are on the way home. They have identified their enemies. The white radicals have integrated theory with practice. They realize the American system is the real enemy…
Towards a Coalition of Revolutionary Solidarity
The Black Panther Party believes that the era in which we now struggle can be characterized as the Age of the Showdown—between Oppressed People Everywhere and the Racist Imperial Power Structure…. what we need is a revolution in the white mother country and national liberation for the black colony…. Ideally, we need a revolutionary organization that is able, guided by a revolutionary ideology and comprehending the necessity involved, to move in two directions at the same time. The coalition between our two fraternal parties is based upon Carmichael’s dictum of specific coalitions for specific purposes…. On the basis of this dictum, we think that ultimately we can develop a specific coalition for the specific purpose of destroying capitalism, exploitation and racism.
The Politics of Liberation
There is a strongly held view in this society that the best—indeed, perhaps the only—way for black people to win their political and economic rights is by forming coalitions with the liberal, labor, church, and other kinds of sympathetic organizations or forces… With such allies, they could influence national legislation and national social patterns; racism could thus be ended. This school sees the ‘Black Power Movement’ as basically separatist and unwilling to enter alliances. SNCC has often stated that it does not oppose the formation of political coalitions per se; obviously they are necessary in a pluralistic society. But coalitions with whom? On what terms? And for what objectives? All too frequently, coalitions involved black people have been only at the leadership level; dictated by terms set by others; and for objectives not calculated to bring major improvement in the lives of the black masses.
One of the most disturbing things about almost all white supporters has been that they are reluctant to go into their own communities—which is where the racism exists—and work to get rid of it…Where possible, they might also educate other white people to the need for Black Power. The range is great, with much depending on the white person’s own class background and environment.
On a broader scale, there is the very important function working to reorient this society’s attitudes and policies toward African and Asian countries. Across the country, smug white communities show a poverty of awareness, a poverty of humanity, indeed, a poverty of ability to act in a civilized manner toward non-Anglo human beings. The white middle-class suburbs need “freedom schools” as badly as the black communities. Anglo-conformity is a dead weight on their necks too. All this is an educative role crying to be performed by those whites so inclined.
It is hoped that eventually there will be a coalition of poor blacks and poor whites…and we see such a coalition as the major internal instrument of change in American society. It is purely academic today to talk about bringing poor blacks and poor whites together, but the task of creating a poor-white power block dedicated to the goals of a free, open society—not one based on racism and subordination—must be attempted. The main responsibility for this task falls upon whites…Only whites can mobilize and organize those communities along the lines necessary and possible for effective alliances with the black communities. This job cannot be left to the existing institutions and agencies, because those structures, for the most part, are reflections of institutionalized racism. If the job is to be done, there must be new forms created. Thus, the political modernization process must involve the white community as well as the black.
Message from the Grassroots
It is our position that black organizations should be black-led and essentially black-staffed, with policy being made by black people. White people can and do play very important supportive roles in those organizations. Where they come with specific skills and techniques, they will be evaluated in those terms. All too frequently, however, many young, middle-class, white Americans, like some sort of Pepsi generation, have wanted to “come alive” through the black community and black groups. They have wanted to be where the action is—and the action has been in those places. They have sought refuge among blacks from a sterile, meaningless, irrelevant life in middle-class America. They have been unable to deal with the stifling, racist, parochial, split-level mentality of their parents, teachers, preachers and friends (Carmichael and Hamilton 1967).
Ultimately, the gains of our struggle will be meaningful only when consolidated by viable coalitions between blacks and whites who accept each other as co-equal partners and who identify their goals as politically and economically similar. At this stage, given the nature of the society, distinct roles must be played. The charge that this approach is “anti-white” remains as inaccurate as almost all the other public commentary on black power.
The Roles of the Vanguard
We say that black people are the vanguard of the revolution in this country, and since no one will be free until the people of America are free, that black people are the vanguard of world revolution…We believe that black Americans are the first real internationalists; not just the Black Panther Party but black Americans. We are internationalists because we have been internationally dispersed by slavery, and we can easily identify with other people in other cultures. Because of slavery, we never really felt attached to the nation (The Movement 1968).
An Integrated Movement?
Negroes have irrevocably undermined the foundations of Southern segregation; they have assembled the power through self-organization and coalition to place their demands on all significant national agendas. And beyond this, they have now accumulated strength to change the quality and substance of their demands. From issues of personal dignity they are now advancing to programs that impinge upon the basic system of social and economic control. At this level Negro programs go beyond race and deal with economic inequality, where it exists. In the pursuit of these goals, the white poor become involved, and the potentiality emerges for a powerful alliance…Negroes hold only one key to the double lock of peaceful change. The other is in the hands of the white community (King et al. 1986, 17, 23).
Negroes have proceeded from a premise that equality means what it says, and they have taken white Americans at their word when they talked of it as an objective. But most whites in America in 1967, including many persons of goodwill, proceed from a premise that equality is a loose expression for improvement. White America is not even psychologically organized to close the gap—essentially it seeks only to make it less painful and less obvious but in most respects to retain it. Most of the abrasions between Negroes and white liberals arise from this fact (King et al. 1986, 17, 8).
Most of the so-called “movement” states that they recognize Brothers and Sisters of the Black Panther Party as the Vanguard Party—however, they do not follow their ideology and practice. The Patriot Party recognizes the Black Panther Party as the Vanguard by our practice. The people learn by observation and participation. The “movement” doesn’t even recognize that we exist. They are racist toward oppressed white people (Foner and Carson 2014, 241).
The Patriots were a group of white working-class and poor young people which originally formed in Chicago and many of them originated from street-turf gangs. Their chapters and Ten Point Program were modeled after the Black Panther Party’s and they were strong supporters of the Black Panther Party. They closely followed the Black Panther Party’s example and dedicated themselves to serving the basic needs of their communities, such as feeding hungry children with free breakfast programs. Many worked to establish free health clinics and other services in their communities. The Patriot Party, like the Panthers, published a newspaper (Howard 2006).
Black, Brown, White Power
Patriots showed me pictures of a rally held in Chicago jointly with the Panthers. A Confederate flag hangs behind the podium next to the Panther flag. Another slightly tattered Confederate flag on the wall behind us belonged to the Patriot Party Chairman’s family. “It was actually flown in battle,” boasts Roger, who looks about 17 but has worked with the Patriots “from the beginning” when they were a newly politicized gang of street kids in Uptown, Chicago (Goodman 1970).
Whereas, Turco was imperfect in his conflation of black and white racial histories in his use of the term “nigger” to describe both poor whites and blacks, his comments revealed the ways that the Patriots thought about class and capitalism through the lens of race, racism, and white supremacy. It also showed the flexibility of the BPP to build coalitions with white revolutionaries who were not perfect in their ideological articulations and was a testament to the resiliency of relationships across race within radical organizing. Turco’s phrasing of “organizing the lumpen-proletariat” also showed the influence of the BPP on the Patriots understanding of political economy and the revolutionary potential of those that Karl Marx otherwise considered “refuse, offal and wreck of all classes” (Marx 1913, 83).
American Revolution 2
American Revolution 2 shows this much clearly: in the aftermath of the Democratic convention, a group of formerly voiceless, even opinionless Uptown whites become galvanized into a community that was fed up. That these people were able to understand that their enemy was not the black man (or another stand-in target) but an establishment that dismissed them as poor hillbillies and, therefore, less than equal. That these people formed an alliance with the Black Panthers, borrowing their methods and organization and protest. And that this alliance has created, in the midst of a city largely without a voice (unless you’re white, unless you’re educated, unless you’re affluent, unless you have clout), a community that founds its voice and used it (Ebert 2007, 31).
Tracy: In Chicago, you formed the first Rainbow Coalition with the Young Lords and the Young Patriots organization. Was this controversial in the Black Panther Party? I don’t think it could have been easy for Black Radicals to accept working with whites who wore the Confederate Flag on their uniforms.Lee: …Many of the Panthers left the group when we built alliances. Some didn’t like the Patriots, some just didn’t like white people in general. They were heavy into nationalism. To tell the truth, it was a necessary purging, except [they] took themselves out of the organization. The Rainbow Coalition was just a code word for class struggle.
Drawing the Lines
It was at the Church of the Three Crosses. There was a meeting, and it was the one recorded in the movie American Revolution II. After the crowd left, the Patriots were still there. We asked the Minister if he could let us have his office. We asked the Patriots if they could work with the Panthers and they say yes. I didn’t even tell Fred [Hampton] for the first three weeks of meeting with these cats. It wasn’t easy to build an alliance. I advised them on how to set up “serve the people” programs—free breakfasts, people’s health clinics, all that. I had to run with those cats, break bread with them, hang out at the pool hall. I had to lay down on their couch, in their neighborhood. Then I had to invite them into mine. That was how the Rainbow Coalition was built, real slow. Then I contact Cha Cha Jimenez from the Young Lords (Tracy 2006).
It seems to me that a lot of the real intense government repression didn’t happen until the Black Panthers started building real coalitions. Once the party departed from the “hate whitey” trip and got serious about building real politics, we were a threat plan and simple. The FBI were always watching us. But the Rainbow Coalition was their worst nightmare (Tracy 2006).
The reference letter of May 1, 1969, was directed toward inhibiting an embryonic alliance formed locally recently between the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)…A careful review and analysis of BPP activities locally…reflects that the tenuous working relationship between these two groups continues to exist and the activities and programs…continue to be valid…. In recent weeks also the local BPP group has affected a similar coalition with the Young Lords, a near north side Puerto Rican youth gang and the Young Patriots, the latter an off-shoot of Jobs or Income Now (JOIN), an SDS affiliated group of young whites. Chicago will follow this and related developments closely and as the opportunity presents itself will submit appropriate counterintelligence suggestions (Churchill 2002, 210).