Last night there was the strange few moments when CNN especially suddenly called it like the camera showed it. They took on the police. They admitted, even charged that the protesters were doing nothing while the police were egging them on by donning gas masks, by pointing weapons at the crowd, by driving armored vehicles into the crowds, by suddenly, and for no reason tossing stun grenades and firing tear gas. For a moment there CNN correspondents couldn't help themselves (or, perhaps, their masters realized that the WHOLE WORLD REALLY WAS WATCHING and that the blatant oppressive actions of the police, of the police state, were no longer exactly corresponding with the longer term interests of the STATE). Who knows? I remember when that happened for a moment in 1968 when the police rioted at protests outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago. It was too much and the media couldn't avoid what everyone was seeing on camera.
It doesn't last though.
Then, they changed their tune again. All of a sudden every network began talking about the "rotten apples" in the crowd. Every network using the same language. Every network taking their "eye" off the police and focusing it on rotten apples from out of town. I am not here to say there are no "rotten apples," but that is not and was not the story. The real "rotten apples" remain the people in uniforms, with guns, grenades, tear gas, armored vehicles and helicopters. They are the real agitators NOT FROM THE COMMUNITY who are stirring up the pot by clamping down on the pot, so to speak. You know that, I know that, we all know that. For a briefest of moments there, even CNN knew that.
Now, I want to say the following. Let me start off it by making perfectly clear that I realize throughout history (and I have personally heard it too many times to count) whenever a community militantly fights back up comes the canard of outside agitators (see rotten apples above). There are always claims by the authorities and the media of these nebulous, shadowing people who come from somewhere mysterious (and return somewhere equally mysterious) who are stirring up the good local people and making a bad show for all of us. Do outside agitators exist? Sure, there must be some. However, it doesn't take outside agitators to explain to anyone that when the State is gunning down your children, your people on the streets, something must be done. It doesn't take outside agitators to create anger. Hundreds of years of experience with white supremacy and the State takes care of that. There is always a split between the more militant and the less militant, between those who want "legitimate" protest and those who want something more. I cannot pass judgement on who is doing what in Ferguson. I will not do so. It is not my place to do so. The community of African Americans there will decide and they will deal with it all as they feel is necessary. I can pass judgement on the media and the authorities, and I do.
That said I have something else to pass along to my white brothers and sisters on the left.
Any white people, regular folks, anti-racists, activists, communists, anarchists, whomever who are in Ferguson absolutely must act only under the leadership of the community, of African Americans. This is no place for some white, leftist agenda. I have no clue if there are people violating that principle, hopefully not, but if there are, that is shit. I have seen some things that make me wonder. I understand the desire for solidarity. I understand the desire to stand up. It is a good thing to stand together with the black community of Ferguson, but you must do so under the leadership of the people of the community. If you are a white person or organization with your own political agenda, then take it to the white community. African Americans do not need white people to explain any of this to them. African Americans understand this shit better than any white person of any political orientation.
That may sound like some sort of arrogant command, but it is merely meant as a statement of principle. I can't command anyone to do anything.
Malcolm X can though, and he did. In a 1964 speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity he said,
Now, if white people want to help, they can help. But they can't join. They can help in the white community, but they can't join. We accept their help. They can form the White Friends of the Organization of Afro-American Unity and work in the white community on white people and change their attitude toward us. They don't ever need to come among us and change our attitude. We've had enough of them working around us trying to change our attitude. That's what got us all messed up. So we don't question their sincerity, we don't question their motives, we don't question their integrity. We just encourage them to use it somewhere else in the white community. If they can use all of this sincerity in the white community to make the white community act better toward us, then we'll say, "Those are good white folks." But they don't have to come around us, smiling at us and showing us all their teeth like white Uncle Toms, to try and make themselves acceptable to us. The White Friends of the Organization of Afro American Unity, let them work in the white community.
Want it put more succinctly, Malcolm said in 1965 in an interview for the Young Socialist,
Whites who are sincere don’t accomplish anything by joining Negro organizations and making them integrated. Whites who are sincere should organize among themselves and figure out some strategy to break down prejudice that exists in white communities. This is where they can function more intelligently and more effectively, in the white community itself, and this has never been done.
Or how about this also from Malcolm,
If a white man wants to be your ally, what does he think of John Brown? You know what John Brown did? He went to war. He was a white man who went to war against white people to help free the slaves.If we want some white allies, we need the kind John Brown was, or we don't need any.
Malcolm wasn't alone in trying to pass along this message to would be white allies. Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (known still to many as H. Rap Brown), put it like this,
Everybody in the black community must organize, and then we decide whether we will have alliance with other people or not, but not until we are organized.
I am not presenting all this as some sort of general prescription for the destruction of global capital, of capitalism. So don't go there with me, okay?
The following is from "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," pp. 383–384.
You may not like what Malcolm says below. It may sound too separatist for some of your ears. You may not understand it. You may not have been alive in 1964. You may not understand the context or how it relates to now, to you. You may not like the book the quote is taken from. But here it is anyway. Think about it. Yes, I know about class. Yes, I realize the problems with separatism and all that. No, I am not endorsing every single word that left the mouth of Malcolm X. I am presenting this to you as something for white leftists to keep in mind as they so often, almost always with the best of intentions, substitute their own agenda, be it one of some sort of vanguard communism, or one of anarchism, for the wisdom of the multitude itself. In this case, of course, we are talking of/to white folks who just can't get it through their thick skulls that African Americans actually do not need their leadership, white leadership, in the struggle against white supremacy and racism...no matter in what framework it comes.
Finally, let me just say, I find the tenacity of the people of Ferguson struggling for justice is quite simply amazing.
“I tell sincere white people, 'Work in conjunction with us—each of us working among our own kind.' Let sincere white individuals find all other white people they can who feel as they do—and let them form their own all-white groups, to work trying to convert other white people who are thinking and acting so racist. Let sincere whites go and teach non-violence to white people! We will completely respect our white co-workers. They will deserve every credit. We will give them every credit. We will meanwhile be working among our own kind, in our own black communities— showing and teaching black men in ways that only other black men can—that the black man has got to help himself. Working separately, the sincere white people and sincere black people actually will be working together.