Column Written 3/14/97
1997 Mumia Abu-Jamal

White supremacy by its very nature and intent requires the continuing oppression and subordination of African peoples and, in time, may require their very lives. Subordination by a people requires that that people in some way or ways be violated, dehumanized, humiliated and that some type of violence by perpetrated against them. The violently oppressed react violently to their oppression. When their reactionary violence, their retaliatory or defensive violence, cannot be effectively applied to their self-liberation, it then will be directed at and applied destructively to themselves. This is the essence of black-on-black violence. --Ames Wilson, Black-On-Black Violence(1990)

For black youth, the dizzying aura of death pervades their expanding consciousness as two of their heroes, the lean, angular Tupac Shakur, and the broad, obese Notorious B.I.G. (nc Chris Wallace), both targets of high-powered drive-by shootings, are lowered into the moist, cool earth. For millions who bounced to their beats, and who nodded to their raps, the lesson slams home that even million of dollars can't buy one minute of more life, and for those in their teens or early twenties, life, which once seemed everlasting, becomes chillingly precarious.

Media reports that Tupac and Biggie were slumped by black men causes many to shake their heads in muted anger, at the ugly madness that turns black men into deadly enemies of other black men. Again.

Over a generation ago, when the Black Panther Party was regnant, with chapters and branches in over 40 U.S. cities, that same kind of madness would express itself, with tragic consequences. As early as March 4, 1968 then-FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover issued a memo describing the goals of its COINTELPRO program as, "to prevent the coalition of militant Black Nationalist groups which might be the first step toward a real mau mau in America," and "to prevent (nationalist) groups and leaders from gaining 'respectability' by discrediting them to the 'responsible' Negro community, to the white community and to Negro radicals" (FBI memo to Special Agent-in-Charge Albany from FBI Director, March 4, 1968). For the BPP, this meant a government campaign against it, including 'brownmail', where the government secretly wrote letters to Panther leaders, in the names of other Panthers, each threatening the other, which led to deadly conflicts. It also included outright government murder, where, as in Chicago, IL, state and federal agents conspired to shoot and kill Panthers like Fred Hampton, Sr., and Mark Clark, in Dec. 1969.

At the height of these conflicts, the Black Panther Party split, with East Coasters against West Coasters, resulting in the virtual death of the organization. Good brothers like Sam Napier and Robert Webb died as brother attacked brother. The youth grew to manhood amidst hustlers and drug merchants, many having never seen a living Panther, or any other revolutionary.

In such an environment is it any wonder suck young bucks as Tupac and Biggie would proudly call themselves "Thugs" or "Hustlers?" They have never seen nor realized a liberation movement, and that energy, that power is turned inward, until it erupts against those who look the most alike. Black men against Black men. As the late, great Frantz Fanon noted in his classic Wretched of the Earth on the impact of colonialism;
When the (white) settler or the policeman has the right the livelong day to strike the native, to insult him and make him crawl to them, you will see the native reaching out for his knife at the slightest hos- tile or aggressive glance cast on him by another native: For the last resort of the native is to defend his personality vis-a vis his brother.

The oppressed condition of blacks in America engenders the same kind of self-hatred that Dr. Fanon observed in colonial Algeria, before the liberation.

Tupac and Biggie, although ostensibly millionaires, were a hiccup away from prison and felt they wouldn't live very long. As with too many of their generation, they didn't. For the lives of the oppressed are too often held cheaply, even by the oppressed themselves.


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