Confronting Genocide: The New Black Panthers - by Mark E. Smith

It's easy to talk of police brutality, but when your own people are being killed by your own government for the color of their skin, it is genocide. Genocide is much more difficult to confront and resist than something that is often dismissed as the actions of individuals or small groups of mercenaries carrying out murders they're paid to commit. When somebody pays to have someone else killed, they are just as guilty as if they pulled the trigger themself. In the case of the United States, it is the world's sole superpower that murdered, enslaved, and is still killing millions of Black and brown people, not the police who are the "little Eichmanns" just doing their jobs.

There were Jews in Nazi Germany who dismissed the facts they were told by people who had escaped the concentration camps because they simply could not bring themselves to believe that their own government would do such a thing. Most people in the USA are in denial, because the truth is unbearable, but the Black Riders, many of whom had their own friends and family murdered in cold blood, have not only come to terms with reality, but are determined to resist. These are the most serious, studious, and disciplined people I've ever seen.

Although they are primarily located in Oakland and San Francisco, the Black Riders visit San Diego on occasion, and I was fortunate enough to see them last night. Their leader, General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalists Out) has a unique presence, and when he calls, "Power!" and the crowd roars "Power!" back at him, it is like hearing the word for the first time and suddenly having a glimpse of what it means. "Pow-wuh!" "POW-WUH!" It is still echoing in my ears and in my heart. "All power to the people," is more than a slogan, it is the wake-up call of people who know that they can be murdered at any time by the state, regardless of where they are or what they are doing, and would rather die for a cause than because they accidentally happened to be a convenient target.

The Black Riders are not pacifists. They will intervene if they see someone being attacked by the police, and they believe in everyone's right to self defense. The film they screened last night put the audience where Black people have been many times, looking on helplessly as an innocent person shot by the police is left on the street to bleed out and die, while the cops who shot them stand around and prevent paramedics or anyone else from offering assistance. This should not be happening every day in the streets of any civilized country, but it will continue to happen here unless we organize to stop it. You can't call the cops when the cops themselves are the criminals, and the US legal system is useless as it always absolves the pigs of any responsibility.

Although they are few in number, it is the commitment of the Black Riders, their willingness to put their lives on the line to save our lives, that makes them effective. Knowing that they can't possibly win, they go for small victories whenever possible, just so that people will know that passive submission is neither effective nor necessary. The logic of genocide isn't complex--if you submit, you will always be murdered by the state; if you resist, you will eventually die anyway because we all will (as one of the women Riders in their film stated in a very matter-of-fact way), but you won't always be murdered by the state--you might get run over by a car, succumb to some deadly virus, or die of old age instead, and at least you'll know that you fought back against the genocidal status quo. One of the meanings of "All power to the people!" may be that while we might lack the power to win in cases like this, we are never without the power to resist, and that only by using our power can we gain any possibility whatsoever of winning.

These men and women are the heroes of our time and place in history. They are the resistance to our oppression. And history tells us that given enough popular support, sometimes the resistance wins.

General T.A.C.O., Sir, I may be only an armchair activist, but I salute and support you and the Black Riders Liberation Party. Because you have understood the problem and fixed upon the only possible solution, I wish you long and healthy lives and hope that the victory you so richly deserve is yours, because the status quo of continuing state-sponsored genocide is unacceptable.

All power to the people!




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