Amadou: A Personal and Political Perspective
by Orlando Green
It was about 5:00pm on that Friday when I heard about the Diallo verdict. I was at the Queens Mall in Woodhaven. I was paying a bill for my mother when I heard from the Black cash register clerk that the four cops that murdered Amadou Diallo in the Bronx were all tried innocent by the jury. Being plugged into the city’s activist circles for the last 5 years, I immediately passed out flyers without a thought except to get Black people info on the day-after rally on 5th Ave and 59th St.
I began distributing flyers to the shoppers at the mall. I ran into two young sisters on the train…one of them wanted to be a cop. Four brothers in front of the Queens Mall…a brother waiting outside for someone…a couple of Black security guards. They were hired to protect the business property for paychecks they need, but they probably don't give a shit about the "crackers" they work for.
I passed out flyers on the way to Baruch for an important BSU meeting. During the whole afternoon I was trying to rush to get my stuff done so that I could make that meeting. For some people it was business as usual as rush hour at 5:30pm meant the beginning of the weekend for half of the city's workforce from daily exploitation. All the Black people seemed especially quiet from my standing. Some of the white people looked confused. Will there be a race riot this weekend? Will we send the shopping areas on FIRE?
An especially sad elderly Black woman was on the number six line and I overheard her bring up Diallo's case with a young brother. By all regular daily standards he would have been a stranger to her and she spoke to him and related feelings as though he was her son. I passed her a flyer and acknowledged her pain. It was written on her face. I could see the faces of some of the other older Black folks on the train and imagine how they must feel. Do they feel anything? Are they desensitized to all of this? It was then that I noticed that some white people on the train started staring at me. As I looked at them I wondered if they thought that I was going to "set it off" on the train.
As I got to Baruch, every step felt like 20 and I needed to speak to someone quickly from my circles immediately and do something. Walking up the block I ran into one of the security guards, who enforced my banning, from Baruch two years ago. As I passed this “Black” guard and we said hello to each other, I muttered to myself "Uncle Tom muthaphucker" quietly as I hurried to the entrance. Walking in I passed a flyer to the Latin guard, that I’m cool with, and told him where he was going to be tomorrow with his bewildered look. Walking along the corridor I ran into an older Black gentleman, who works as a doorman, and he asked me if I heard about the case and I told him about the rally tomorrow. He immediately sensed something about my deeper feelings and told me that we "should not do anything stupid…that's what they want you to do."
As I took the elevator up, I could not have felt worse about that statement because I wanted a riot. I wanted New York to be set on fire before the weekend. I wanted to turn on the news on Sunday night and see young people running with VCR's on their shoulders, climbing out of MACY's broken window. I'm going to the 15th floor and I hear music from a party that's going on. Doesn't anybody care?! What the Fuck?! I began to tear…than the elevator doors opened on the 14th and I snuck into the corner of the elevator so nobody would see me.
Mark walked in and said hello. Mark is the local "uncle tom democrat" on campus that is confused and wants to share his confusion with everybody by pushing the Democratic Party and electoral politics. I asked him if he heard, without looking at him, and he said that "he did" and "what can we do?" His bullshit was not something that I wanted to hear along with his watermelon smile.
As the elevator doors opened for the 15th floor, he asked me if I was all right and I told him "I feel like I'm going to cry." And I did. I walked quickly pass Nicole (who was standing outside the elevator) and other Black people on the floor, who are usually oblivious to being Black, and sped to the student paper office and ran to the back room and locked myself in there. I cried like a baby…I did not care…I cried like a baby. Nicole came in after me and we cried together venting the pain of growing up Black in America. It wasn't just Amadou's murder it was all of ours too.
A political perspective:
As Amadou Diallo was murdered by the physical violence of the police, the racist courts hit us with psychological and spirit breaking violence with the court decision. A court decision that says that it is alright to use Black people as target practice in America. Police brutality against people of Afrikan descent and people of color in the united states are sometimes won ONLY after community-wide mobilizations or agitations. Rallies, demonstrations, strikes, civil disobediences, civil disruptions and direct actions. From a march of 50,000 people to 30 people blocking traffic or communities taking an aggressive armed stance. Historically, we almost never win these causes in this legal "justice" system without these efforts.
State-sanctioned, racist police violence exists to murder and psychologically intimidate Afrikan people and the poor. By daily harassment, murders/executions and the function of legal state structures to allow white racist and ignorant Black and Latino cops to get away in the courts…the community is nurtured into forms of psychological dis-empowerment or FEAR (Read Fanon's THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH or Welsing's THE ISIS PAPERS).
In fact we are all confused on the issue of police brutality unless we understand the function of the state and government and it's role to separate those that rule from those that do not. What is the state? It is a psychological and physically violent mechanism in society that keeps a homeless family from occupying an empty building in Harlem. It is a violent mechanism that prevents the masses from righteously snatching those four cops and trying them guilty in a real people's court. It is the violence that protects the laws created to ultimately protect the rich.
According to V.I. Lenin, the state exist in society when it becomes necessary to defend those that have from those who have-not. What is the state again? The state is the police departments, the military, the educational system, welfare, the prison system and the courts. In this particular society all of these institutions were founded originally for the purposes of developing and maintaining the status of the White-ruling class of this particular society. It is a legal arrangement to control all the oppressed and have them serve in their own containment. This is not a criticism of all governments and states in history. It is a criticism of this particular euro-centric and imperialistic form of cohersion.
According to Lenin, the capitalist state is one of the biggest scams of all time because it forces the people that are oppressed to pay for their own oppression and brutality. TAXES. The White-ruling class of this country does not have to focus their wealth into anything else but making more wealth because we pay for our own brutality. Whether you work 40 hours a week or 60, taxes are forced from your labor and directed into the nightsticks that the cops beat us with. Your taxes are “jacked” from your paychecks for politicians, who are handpicked by the ruling class, to take away remediation from CUNY.
This state can adapt fluidly. It can adapt like a snake when it grows new skin for it’s new body. Business can flow as usual with uniformed Black and Latino faces pulling the trigger on their own people. It does not have to be that white cop. We have more Black and people of color mayors and police officers than 40 years ago and our communities our qualitatively worse. Kwame Nkrumah calls this phenomenon "neo-colonialism". Neo-colonialism exists to have the peoples' own face in seats of power in a system designed not to serve them…but to oppress them. This is why there is oppression and underdevelopment in Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia with black, brown and yellow faces in seats of power. The European colonizer would leave only to have our sell-outs take their place. In America, we have domestic neo-colonialism. Black and Latino mayors, congressmen, college administrators, police officers and social workers only serve to confuse the oppressed masses on the role of the white capitalist state. This is why David Dinkins can put more cops on the street in New York City than any other mayor before him. This why a Black Mayor, Wilson Goode, in Philadelphia can drop a bomb on innocent Black people and can get away with it. This is why an ignorant Black or Latino cop can look at his own community as criminals and have white supremacy in this country use his stupidity against his people.
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE! ALL POWER THRU THE PEOPLE!
Ultimately, the state is the organization of power for a few people to run our lives. What do we have to do? Organize our own. Power is the ability to carry out your communities' needs and wants without being oppressively dependent or having permission (as opposed to being independent or interdependent) from another body of people. This is the essence of SELF-DETERMINATION. The racist police that murdered Amadou Diallo and the "legal" system that supports them can only get away with injustice because Afrikan people and the oppressed do not have organized power to defend ourselves. I believe, (and this is not an exclusively original thought of mine) that this society cannot be reformed because the ruling class will not willingly give up power to begging, smiles or methods DEFINED BY THEM. We need to seize power in this country by employing means that does not conclude with the same master / slave relationship, with Blacks continuously being synonymous with the enslaved or colonized. Whatever the tactics used…it has to lead to the physical removal of those in power and the mechanisms that defend them. Unless we can creatively do this, we don’t have real organized power for the people.
What about White people? Do all white people rule? No. I said the white RULING CLASS. I'm not a racist and I am making a distinction. There is a difference. Billy Bob from the gas station down the road is not part of the ruling class in America. He does not decide anything in this country. He is a member of the exploited multiracial labor force in this country. His contradiction is that he can sometimes displace his bitterness towards his form of exploitation into forms of racism and a foundationless cultural thought and behavior of white supremacy that is based on nothing. Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party always stressed that righteous white people have to organize their own people. We cannot organize white people who will not relate to us from Benson Hurst or Bay Ridge. Also, righteous whites cannot organize people of color because that is OUR responsibility. When they try to organize our communities, it perpetrates that master/slave relationship. Even when their intentions are correct!
All oppressed people have to seek political unity within themselves in order to properly use their cultural and economic resources for the better interest of survival and liberation from organized white power. George Jackson said that this has to be done simultaneously with mobilizing with other oppressed people too. Not before or after. But SIMULTANEOULSY! Afrikan people (whether Black or Latino) need to seek the answers to the questions of oppression particular to our diverse communities amongst ourselves. Because Black and Latino people are not the only oppressed groups in the world, we have to seek alliances simultaneously with the other victims of this society in separate multiracial collectives with oppressed Asians and exploited whites. We share the same White ruling class oppressor…it is only logical that we build peoples' power together. This can be done because all people that believe in some form of spirituality, and are not blinded by prejudices and psychological handicaps, know that all forms injustice are foul in the hearts of good womyn and men. The struggle against injustice is a righteous one that can only win in the end.
I end this chat with you not necessarily proposing an inflexible answer, but to ask readers of my generation to find time to critically study Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, George Jackson, Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, the Black Panther Party and other (s)heroes in our history of resistance to all that is indecent. Human beings are creative. We can create freedom.