Tuesday, August 25, 2009

White Folk Love Affairs

White folks carry on the love affair with black radicals, brothers in prison, past and present.

From the prison letters of George Jackson (1941-1971)
"Blackmen born in the U.S. and fortunate enough to live past the age of eighteen are conditioned to accept the inevitability of prison. For most of us, it simply looms as the next phase in a sequence of humiliations. Being born a slave in a captive society and never experiencing any objective basis for expectation had the effect of preparing me for the progressively traumatic misfortunes that lead so many blackmen to the prison gate. I was prepared for prison. It required only minor psychic adjustments."
Page 28
"I've been asked to explain myself, "briefly," before the world has done with me. It is difficult because I don't recognize uniqueness, not as it's applied to individualism, because it is too tightly tied into decadent capitalist culture. Rather I've always strained to see the indivisible thing cutting across the artificial barricades which have been erected to an older section of our brains, back to the mind of the primitive commune that exists in all blacks. But then how can I explain the runaway slave in terms that do not imply uniqueness?
I was captured and brought to prison when I was 18 years old because I couldn't adjust. The record that the state has compiled on my activities reads like the record of ten men. It labels me brigand, thief, burglar, gambler, hobo, drug addict, gunman, escape artist, Communist revolutionary, and murderer. I was born as the Great Depression was ending. It was ending because the second great war for colonial markets was beginning in the U.S. .."

-------- Born in Chicago, Jackson spent time in the California Youth Authority Corrections facility in Paso Robles for several convictions. He was convicted of armed robbery, a felony, for robbing a gas station at gunpoint and at age 18 was sentenced to serve one year to life in prison. While at Soledad prison in 1966, he founded the Black Guerrilla Family, a Marxist prison gang with political objectives. The BGF is still active today and still considered a prison gang.

On 16 January 1970 along with Fleeta Drumgo and John Clutchette, Jackson was charged with murdering guard John V. Mills, in retaliation for the shooting deaths of three black inmates by officer O.G. Miller from his guard tower; both the shooting and the retaliation took place inside Soledad Prison. The guard was not charged, a grand jury ruled his actions to be justifiable homicide in response to a fight that had broken out. Incarcerated in the maximum security cellblock at Soledad Prison, Jackson and the other two inmates became known as the "Soledad Brothers".

On 7th August, 1970, George Jackson's seventeen year old brother, Jonathan, burst into a Marin County courtroom with a machine-gun and after taking Judge Harold Haley, Deputy District Attorney Gary Thomas and three jurors hostage, he demanded freedom for the "Soledad Brothers".

Judge Haley and prisoners William Christmas, James McClain, and Jonathan Jackson were killed as they attempted to drive away from the courthouse. Eyewitness testimony suggests Haley was hit by fire discharged from a sawed-off shotgun that had been fastened to his neck with adhesive tape by the abductors. The DA and prisoner Ruchell Magee and one of the jurors were wounded. The shotgun was bought by Angela Davis, but she was acquitted of any crime in 1972 as ownership was not sufficient to establish her involvement in the plot. In August 1971 George Jackson was shot trying to escape prison. Jackson supposedly was armed with a 9mm which also was allegedly smuggled in by Angela Davis. (Davis ran on the Communist ticket for VP in 1980 and 1984, but since then Angie has pretty much been on the lecturing professor circuit tour. I once had her poster next to Che, what was I thinking.)

Yes, life is often unfair. Even so, not all black Americans condition their children to accept the inevitability of prison. Not all familial environments prepare their children for the gates of prison. The men below lived in hard times, sometimes harder, than prison brother George, yet these successful men were never "captured and brought to prison."

George Washington Carver - (USA, ca. 1864-1943) George Washington Carver was an agricultural chemist who discovered industrial uses for crop plants such as sweet potatoes, peanuts and soybeans. He developed methods for improving soil. Carver recognized that legumes return nitrates to the soil. His work led to crop rotation. Carver was born a slave in Missouri. He struggled to gain an education, eventually graduating from what was to become Iowa State University. He joined the faculty of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1896. Tuskegee is where he performed his famous experiments.

Percy Julian - (USA, 1899-1975) Percy Julian developed the anti-glaucoma drug physostigmine. Dr. Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama, but educational opportunities for African Americans were limited in the South at that time, so he received his undergraduate degree from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Later he moved to Massachusetts and enrolled in Harvard University, where he earned his master's degree in 1923. Denied the teaching fellowship that customarily led to a doctorate at Harvard, he received a Rockefeller Grant and enrolled at the University of Vienna in Austria where he received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1929. Returning to the US he taught at Howard University in Washington, DC, another historically black school, then returned to his alma mater, DePauw, where he completed his landmark work on the drug physostigmine in 1935. Physostigmine was used to preserve sight by lessening the build-up of pressure caused by glaucoma, and it had only been available from its natural source, the Calabar bean. Though the achievement earned Julian worldwide acclaim, DePauw declined to appoint him to its faculty. Disgusted, he left academia and joined the Glidden Company in Chicago (today best known for its paints) as head of its soy products division. Julian used his knowledge of chemistry to make a wide variety of products from soybeans, including sex hormones, other steroids, and foams to extinguish oil and gas fires. In 1948, he developed a new way to synthesize the hydrocortisone used to treat rheumatoid arthritis - the method most widely used to this day. By the time he died in 1975, his research had resulted in more than 160 separate patents. He also integrated the all white affluent Oak Park neighborhood in 1950, his family still owns the home.

Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (1877 - 1963) was an African American inventor who originated a respiratory protective hood (similar to the modern gas masks), invented a hair-straightening preparation, and patented a type of traffic signal. He is renowned for a heroic rescue in which he used his hood to save workers trapped in a tunnel system filled with fumes. He is credited as the first African-American in Cleveland to own an automobile. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Garrett A. Morgan on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

Lloyd Augustus Hall (1894 - 1971) An industrial food chemist, Lloyd Augustus Hall revolutionized the meatpacking industry with his development of curing salts for the processing and reserving of meats. He developed a technique of "flash-driving" (evaporating) and a technique of sterilization with ethylene oxide which is still used by medical professionals today. Lloyd Augustus Hall was born in Elgin, Illinois on June 20, 1894, and raised in Aurora, Illinois. Hall invented new ways to preserve food. In 1925, Hall was the chief chemist and director of research at Griffith Laboratories in Chicago. It was here that Hall invented his processes for preserving meat using sodium chloride and nitrate and nitrite crystals. Hall also pioneered the use of antioxidants. Fats and oils spoil when exposed to oxygen in the air. Hall used lecithin, propyl gallate, and ascorbyl palmite as antioxidants, and invented a process to prepare the antioxidants for food preservation.

Otis Boykin - (1920-1982) graduated Fisk College in 1941. He invented an improved electrical resistor used in computers - radios - television sets and a variety of electronic devices. Boykin's resistor helped reduce the cost of those products. Otis Boykin also invented a variable resistor used in guided missile parts, a control unit for heart stimulators, a burglar-proof cash register and a chemical air filter.

So why is it Bubba that white folks love to love black "political prisoners"? The successful black men above, and tens of thousands of other successful blacks are ignored by white (and black) progressives/leftists who prefer to drool over those inmates who cannot adjust to the "decadent capitalist culture," encouraging black men to rant about thieving capitalists, the imperialism-made-me-do-it defense. The evils of capitalism, which apparently forces many black men to rob the neighborhood store at gunpoint, to cap off a rap sheet they've been working on since age 13.

Oddly, capitalism works well for their backers, employed on the outside as authors, lecturers, celebs, weekend sign carriers. A cult of white do-gooders handing out excuses; and all they accomplish is keeping the prisons filled with mama's discarded children and who's yo daddy because the ignorant swallow this political b.s. Isn't it great that a few of those captives, who become literate and articulate with forced incarceration, are chosen by white folks to be poster boys?

Ever notice Bubba that the original field negro, ballot or bullet, any means necessary MX is the "left" hero - not the MX who returned from Mecca with the message that he would accept only "sincere whites" because "the solution for black Americans would not begin with whites, it would begin and end with blacks", self-discipline, self-help, self-respect, etc. MX criticized the "liberalism" of the '60s; you can see why looking at the results today.

You might ask yourself who your real friends are Bubba.

I wondered why white folks don't have a similar group of white prison heroes ... aren't there any screwed up anti-social white guys behind bars waiting to become pet political prisoners? Some Joe Blow willing to change his name and rage against the machine from an 8 x 12 room? What about Johnny Walker Lindh aka Abd-al-Hamid - he would make a fine white political prisoner poster boy. Just a mixed up talibony white boy fighting the system. Free Johnny Hamid free Johnny Hamid free Johnny now. Maybe they're afraid they'll create more Johnny white boys if they romanticize and poster them.


Mista Jaycee said...

Hey Kate!
I found your blog and I'm glad! I will be adding you to my blogroll. I read Soledad Brother when I was 11 because my Mother had taken a class at a Community College and the textbook included a excerpt.

I would not called Bro. Jackson a hero and neither would Bro. Jackson. He was honest in the facts that he committed criminal acts and wound up in prison for them. He pointed out that it the enviorment made it easy to do. He made a choice. It was a bad one as you pointed out, there are many folks who had it tough who chose not to go that route and succeeded.

But it should a noted that some of those same people never stood up for anything that liberated or made conditons better for Black Folks. That's a fair statement.

George is worthy of having his story told because he changed, he reformed, he organized, he opposed the system that is and was racist! That's why he remained in prison for 12 years instead of 1. Most folks don't even want to deal with how Prisoners are treated in America, just jail em and throw away the key. George dealt with it!

In his book Blood in my eye he chastised Eldridge Cleaver for causing division amongst the party and among the people. The letter is chilling even today. Your critique while empassioned is unfair. White folks show films to make money period. They make a new King film every other year. They make films about Irish revolutionaries, Scottish revolts and Early American uprisings all the time. John Adams for instance.

George's points and protest were valid and they do stand the test of time for anyone who has had to deal with the Prison culture and it's effects. He does not speak for you and that's cool. He doesn't need to, there are plenty who have spoken for you.

What I find is troubling is that we still have not dealt with the fact the George was murdered! How can a man who is shackled from hand to ankle attempt to escape? Witnesses said that a group of Black Men were marched out to the prison courtyard and George stepped out of line shackled when he was shot from the tower above. It was looked at as a sacrafice. Then, Gov. Ronnie Reagan signed off on the shooting. We don't even talk about it now.

Be well and come by. Your new blogger in arms.

Kate-A said...

Hello Mista
You say "But it should a noted that some of those same people never stood up for anything that liberated or made conditons better for Black Folks. That's a fair statement."

I would disagree - I think every one of those men stood by example. Decent, hard working men who overcame obstacles that were far, far greater than the 1960s or today.

As for Jackson's death, it is so debated and contested that unless I was an eye witness myself I would believe little of what I read. Jackson became a martyr. Bingham became a pop hero attorney, Angela Davis a pop hero lecturer and prof.

The rallying has been "about the need for people to understand who their oppressors are, and then to motivate them to act to change their condition." Done deal. Oppressors and conditions have changed greatly since the '60s. Today, we are our own worst enemy.

As for the prison system I'm of the mind that "don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Most folks in prison deserve to be there. The reason the US has so many incarcerated is because many nations just execute their felons, unless it's one of those silly European small population nations, mostly a gated community of white folks.

More blacks in prison per capita is not simply b/c whitey is racist - but b/c blacks put themselves in the system, and I go straight to parenting as the root of that. I grew up a sharecropper daughter in the segregated south - we were poor but not criminal. Poverty does not breed crime, parents breed criminals.

In my youth I was much more militant/radical - today that attitude is not necessary, in fact it's become self-destructive. Jackson's story is worth reading - but not emulating.

My choice of weapons: Education and motivation, with no excuses. I'm old school.

I'll drop by regularly.

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