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What Really Separates the Tea Party from The Black Panther Party

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by Crystal Hayes

TheRoot.com, the online site targeted at Blacks but owned by the huge Washington Post corporation, recently ran an idiotic piece comparing the Tea Party to the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense – an insult to history and a painful affront to the author, the daughter of a Panther political prisoner. “When our history is so carelessly blurred, we do not know the right questions to ask or the right steps to take to rectify the societal ills that plague us today.”

 

What Really Separates the Tea Party from The Black Panther Party

by Crystal Hayes

This article previously appeared in Race Talk.

The truth of the matter is that the BPP and the Tea Party are nothing alike.”

I was three years old when I watched my father, mother, and three-week-old baby brother nearly murdered in a hail of bullets during a police raid on our home in September 1973.

My father, Robert Seth Hayes, was a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and ever since that day some 37 years ago, he has been a political prisoner in the state of New York. So when I read Cord Jefferson‘s article, “Is the Tea Party the New Black Panther Party?” on The Root.com, I could not help but remember, and relive, the pain and trauma of that day. I also became frustrated and angry because Jefferson’s article is ahistorical and continues the tradition of attacking the Party and misrepresenting its history and legacy. What’s more, it does so in a forum that prides itself on getting African American history correct.

Jefferson begins his piece predictably, by drawing on caricatures of the Party - images of armed, angry, Black men going to war against the US government. But the images that are used aren’t even of Panther members. His opening lines are accompanied by a photo of Malik Zulu Shabazz, a member of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), an unaffiliated group founded in 1989 that has no connection to the BPP other than the name that it appropriated.

In fact, original BPP members openly reject the NBPP because its ideology promotes violence, separatism, and nationalism, values my father and other BPP members have long abandoned as part of an effective political ideology and strategy. In fact, the NBPP was successfully sued by Huey P. Newton’s foundation in an effort to keep them from calling themselves the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the BPP’s original name.

Reducing the BPP to a crazy ‘fringe’ organization primarily characterized by angry, gun-toting radicals displays Jefferson’s lack of understanding of the BPP’s grassroots political philosophy.”

This is just one example of the article’s glaring inaccuracies; there are many more. Chief among them is the central argument that Tea Partiers waving guns, screaming racial epithets, threatening violence against Black elected officials, and holding anti-tax rallies is similar to the BPP’s response to systematic police brutality, which involved developing community-based projects that promoted self defense, Black political power, and freedom from economic exploitation.

Jefferson admits that “reconciling the…Marxist underpinnings of the [BPP ideology] with the laissez-faire philosophy of the Tea Party is impossible,” but appears determined to overlook this and other core differences in his effort to make the case that BPP and Tea Party political grievances are similar enough to legitimately link the two. Reducing the BPP to a crazy “fringe” organization primarily characterized by angry, gun-toting radicals displays Jefferson’s lack of understanding of the BPP’s grassroots political philosophy and commitment to community organizing.

The truth of the matter is that the BPP and the Tea Party are nothing alike. To begin with, the Tea Party offers nothing close to the sophisticated analysis of the political and economic condition of marginalized and oppressed people, whether Black, White, or anything else.

The BPP developed a 10-point platform that articulated better than any other grassroots group of its time a set of demands and reform proposals intended to improve the lives of ordinary people. The Tea Party, meanwhile, has a terrible understanding of the way current political and economic systems operate. They spend their time protesting stimulus programs and healthcare reforms, and recently have embraced Tea Party favorite Rand Paul’s advocacy of re-segregating private businesses, but that’s not the same as building a movement that enacts change through projects like the free breakfast program for children, as the BPP did. Whether you agree with BPP politics or not, they at least had an actionable agenda.

Tea Partyers spend their time protesting stimulus programs and healthcare reforms, and recently have embraced Tea Party favorite Rand Paul’s advocacy of re-segregating private businesses.”

Jefferson’s poor grasp of history and sloppy analysis reaches new, disturbing heights when he suggests that BPP and Tea Party paramilitarism are the same. He writes:

Where the Tea Party and the Black Panther Party appear to connect most perfectly is at their hips, where they keep their guns. The Second Amendment — and the arsenals it allows — is a cornerstone of both organizations, and for very similar reasons: fear of governmental authority. Paramilitarism was always at the forefront of the Black Panthers’ operations, mostly because they thought, rightly, that the government was out to destroy them. Factual or not, many Tea Partiers believe they are in similar danger…What is the difference between actually, wholly believing the government is after you and the government really being after you?

This question astounds me.  The difference is as stark and clear as being eight months pregnant and awaken by gunfire in the middle of the night to find your fiancé’s limp, bullet ridden body lying next to you as BPP member Deborah Johnson did in 1969. This versus living in a world of conspiracy theories and doomsday predictions. Johnson was one of the survivors of the FBI’s counterintelligence campaign (COINTELPRO) that claimed the life of several BBP members including her fiancé, Fred Hampton, and Mark Clark.  Their murders were one of the worst acts of violence against the BPP at the hands of police, who in Chicago and elsewhere had partnered with the FBI to target a broad array of civil rights groups and people, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

A serious analysis of the Tea Party’s core values, constituents, goals, and rhetoric reveals that the group is not a modern white version of the Black Panther Party, but is instead the very antithesis of the BPP.  Despite including former BPP Chairwoman Elaine Brown’s refutation of a parallel, Jefferson stubbornly insists on making this connection.  He even goes so far as to equate the physical, political, and economic oppression that BPP members and supporters faced with the imagined oppression of Tea Partiers.  As evidence of a link, Jefferson quotes Tea Partier Chris Littleton, who argues that current federal programs to ban foods high in salt and sugar from the lunches provided by public schools constitutes one of many serious denials of freedom. “Should the government be in control of the personal diets of families?” asks Littleton, who then concludes, “That’s…oppressive.” I can’t help but wonder if either Littleton or Jefferson ever heard of bag lunches?

The Tea Party is instead the very antithesis of the BPP.”

Jefferson’s clumsy historical analysis continues with his references to Eldridge Cleaver. Cleaver is mentioned several times in the piece and each time he is used to represent the entire BPP.  Cleaver, however, did not found the BPP, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton did.  While Cleaver did play an integral role in defining the group’s message and direction in its heyday, the BPP was not “his gang.”  Jefferson’s closing image of Cleaver running for US Senate as a Republican in his later years is also absurd. By that point, the BPP had long disbanded, and well before then, Cleaver had defected from the group.

Jefferson’s mishandling of history is not only dishonest, it’s also dangerous. In fact, it reminds me of the famous quote by Spanish American philosopher George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”  When our history is so carelessly blurred, we do not know the right questions to ask or the right steps to take to rectify the societal ills that plague us today.

Those who think concerns about historical accuracy are limited to academics need only look at Texas and Arizona, where lawmakers are attempting to erase important moments in our nation’s history from public school textbooks.  Indeed, it is a sad coincidence that The Root.com saw fit to publish this historically inaccurate, intellectually insincere article a year after its founding father, Henry Louis Gates Jr., came face to face with the very real vestiges of the unjust systems and structures that BPP members like my father fought tirelessly against.

As was the case for my family, and even for Skip Gates, these unjust systems and structures didn’t merely threaten to raise our taxes, they threatened our lives and livelihoods. But for my family especially, and for so many others like us, when those who represented these systems and structures came looking for us, they didn’t coming to our front doors politely, knocking first. They busted through, shooting first.

Crystal M. Hayes is an activist, writer, and proud mother of her 18 year-old daughter who will be a first-year college student in the fall. She is a dedicated anti-racist activist and trainer committed to eliminating structural and institutional racism and gender inequality in every aspect of the human experience. Crystal received her BA from Mount Holyoke College in African American studies and politics and a master’s degree in clinical social work from the Smith College School for Social Work. She lives in North Carolina and is currently researching a book on race and motherhood. Her research and writing interests include women’s health, Black life and culture, racial justice, and social policy.

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What in the Sam Hill kinda

What in the Sam Hill kinda dental plan IS this Tom Foolery?  I could not agree more with writer and think you can sum up the article nicely with the following quote:

"Jefferson’s poor grasp of history and sloppy analysis reaches new, disturbing heights when he suggests that BPP and Tea Party paramilitarism are the same."

IS THIS A JOKE?

Is this a joke, or is it intended to be a serious comparison? The last time that I checked in with the so-called mainstream media, many of them are actually shills for the teabaggers, and elements of the two interchangeable political parties were competing with each other to see how they can co-opt teaparty members, or incorporate some of their decidedly mixed "message" into their party platforms.

The Black Panthers were never embraced by the any major elements of establishment, which was far too busy trying to suppress them by via demonization, infiltration and assassination, instead of dealing with the issues of institutionalized and race based poverty and injustice that plagued the black community. One can question the shortcomings of their Marxist ideology, but one should do so within the realities and within the context of the times in which they lived.

The America of the middle part of the 20th century in all of its Christian, capitalist, cold war glory, was a very dangerous and ugly  place to be black. Poor whites and immigrants as usual, were either aligned with the oppressive power structure (check the newsreels) or were standing on the sidelines waiting to see how the so-called Civil Rights movement was going to turn out. In a world which offered no guarantee of change or of improvement, so-called black "militants" such as the Panthers were right to try to gain control over their own communities and over the destiny of their people instead of waiting for America to grow a conscience and to do the right thing by striking down discriminatory laws and reigning in bigoted and trigger happy police forces. One can speculate how things might have turned out for the people still trapped in America's ghettos if some version of the Panthers' self-help and self-defense model have gone forward instead of the accomodationist Civil Rights model, which allowed an escape hatch for a few, while leaving the oppressive structures of white control intact.

TexasTim and his hackneyed sophistry

TexasTim, you are a troll here. Don't come and insult our intelligence. Any movement that invokes the bill of rights of the United States Constitution yet says nothing about imperialist and aggressive behaviour of the United States government is nothing but fascist.  The whole platform of the Tea Party is reactionary.  Your rights? Your rights to deny the human rights of so called illegal immigrants? How could you talk about your rights when you denigrate the obvious struggle for social justice that the black panthers pursued.  They had marxist ideals, so what?  Didn't they have the right to invoke Marx if it explained the context of their oppression?  I laugh when I hear you complain about external forces burdening the U.S with debt? You are one of those ignorant morons who pretend to know but actually lack knowledge about international politics and economics and how it has benefited the U.S.  You might as well express gratitude to the other leaders of the world who continue and sustain the dollar regime.  The United States is a parasite.  It consumes more than it produces.  The United States knows it can go to the printing press and exchange dollars for the hard work, toil, and resources of the rest of the world. You want your country back? All you have to do is demand a stop to your imperial project.  The fact that the Tea Party does not is telling of their own demagoguery.  Tea Party is a white nationalist movement.  You can quibble all you want about its being open to all races.  The fact is it has a white supremacist agenda.  It is a laughable movement that draws most of its support base from its dislike and hatred of Barack Obama. Ironically, Barack Obama has been one of your best and secret assets.

The Communist fantasy

It's amazing how little advocates of Marxism know about Marxist atrocities.  Murder, starvation and oppression were and are the weapons of choice for Communist governments.  In the USSR, the Nomenklatura controlled distribution of goods.  Corruption there would make a Chicago thug like Obongo blush.  Even today, in North Korea, sitting on a newspaper with a picture of Kim Jong Il can put 3 generations of an offenders family in "re-education" camps.

 

You don't HAVE to join a Tea Party in your area.  We defend even our opponents' right to dissent so you have nothing to fear from us.  Your beloved commies, though, would be happy to throw you under a bus if you try to stand on your own.  They're more like an ant colony than a human society.

Sins of capitalism

Slavery, genocide of native peoples, racism, fascism. Add the apartheid, world wars -- the commies saved you from world war 2. Above all misery, misery, misery.

 

They talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?
Fidel Castro
 

Racism -v- race blindness

The Black Panther Party was afro-centric and Marxist.  The Tea Party welcomes people of all races to exert their individual human rights as defined in the US Constitution.  Any comparison between the 2 is purely superficial.

Welcome to all patsys

Like most "institutionalized" White thinking, you welcome those who carry your water and think like you.   For that you get an apple and pat on the head.  As much as I can't stand Obama who is more friend to the Tea Party than "Afro-Centric" types, the Tea Party's venom towards him can't be distinguished from their venon towards all "darkies" in general.

 

The Tea Party "welcome mat," is like a red carpet to a gulag, or a hangman's platform.  After you take a few steps the door opens, only it opens underneath one's feet to a hangman's noose versus a seat at the table.

Are you a man or a rabbit?

Why so scared, Cynic?  I live in a mixed race neighborhood in Texas and one thing has always intrigued me.  The Black Culture seems to teach fear.  Fear of dogs, fish, lizards, bugs, bats and open water.  What's all that about?  A local lady has a tiny dog that barks out a welcome to every passer-by.  One group of black kids passes on the other side of the street from her looking scared to death that the pup will tear them apart.  What's up with that?

 

We also have a large colony of bats living under a local bridge.  Every evening, people sit out on a lawn across from the bridge to watch the bats black out the sky as they come out to feed on bugs.  In my neighborhood, when the bats fly over, the Black kids look scared that they will swarm down and attack.  Many run indoors.  Can anyone explain that?

 

Here, Cynic says to BEWARE THE TEA PARTY like we're going to roast him over a fire.  Is it possible that Black fathers missing from their families has resulted in Black male effeminacy?  In other words, are you sissy-fied because you don't have a dad?  I'm teaching my son to hunt and fish and build and defend his home and family.  What do your sons learn and from whom?  No offense intended.  It's just a question.

TexasTim, the Great White Troll

"No offense intended."

You're not fooling anybody, brother. And I doubt you're really provoking anyone either. I understand that there's really nothing you can do other than race-bait, trifle, and posture, but you really might want to get some more realistic material. White men are more masculine than black men? Because you and your son go fishing? And you spend hours trolling the Internet with tall tales about effeminate black men to overcompensate for your own shortcomings?

You seem to consistently be the angriest and most contentious commenter on this site, constantly making bizarre, demeaning suggestions about the humanity of Black people under the guise of innocent questions with "no offense intended."

"Why don't black people go to tea parties, is it because their fathers abandoned them? Just asking no offense."
"Why don't black men hunt and build log cabins, is it because they're afraid of fruitbats and secretly gay? Just asking no offense."
"Why do black women laugh when I ask them out, is it because they're lazy welfare queens? Just asking no offense."

I think a better question would be: Why are white males so obsessed with the sexuality of Black people, and why do so many of you seem to spend most of your waking moments trying to convince everyone of how tough and manly you are?



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