How not to Fight for Justice

Eldridge Cleaver is well known as an early leader of the Black Power movement in the 1960’s and a leader in the Black Panther Party. Some praise him for moving equality forward and even the New York Times praised him for his essays in Souls on Ice, which was published after his serial rapes of women. I am hesitant to lay praise upon him. For him as an adult to delve so deeply into such corruptible forms of racial identity development is horrific. Such ignorance, hate, and fear that appears in these stages is hurtful to the movement for social justice not just the race being targeted. I mean the man didn’t just say it in passing that he would rape white women to break down a racist hegemony; he apparently insinuated it in a friggin’ book. It’s a very rare thing that the ends justifies the means and this is a perfect example of when the ends do not justify raping women. Sexual assault is already so prevalent I hope any decent person would abhor the suggestion.

Such pathetic and violent obsession with white women makes it hard for any moral person to resect, trust, or appreciate him for any penance or just acts he did later. The onus is on him.  He later drifted betwixt and between various religions and nations. Yes we all have different paths, but serial rapist? Please, I will not lower my standards in this instance.

Among the millions of decent hard working Americans who care for their families and are black, there are plenty others to lift up as a leader. Obviously there is. We have heralded Martin Luther King, Jr. among others. Even Malcolm X was praised though it’s only in the last stage of his life that he turned from racism after a trip to Mecca.

To address what I say about different paths, though I seek equality, I’m open to helping counter existing and historic discrimination beyond a group’s control, whether based on race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, or gender.

It’s important to shatter the assumption that blacks can’t be racist, or Asians or Arabs, or Latinos. Hatred that can be explained or for which you can feel empathy is still not justified; it does not lead to social justice. If it were easy it wouldn’t be such an uphill battle. In response to white cops beating Rodney King, black citizens beat Reginald Denny. No one ever remembers him. It was a far worse crime.

Someone I knew years ago through another friend would always ay racial slurs about whites in front of me. Eventually I confronted him. I told him yes my race is dominant culturally, politically, demographically, socially, but it doesn’t mean his words don’t hurt. As we learned form the women’s movement, the personal is political.

So, instead of me simply telling you who is a great American of African decent, who out there has black Americans they look up to from today or in the not too distant past? Tell of ones who had themselves beat internalized racism, not just those whose ide aof civil rights was hating white people.

 

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About Daniel Roddick

Daniel has a B.A. in American History with minors in both Ethnic Studies and Sociology. He also has an M.Ed. in College Administration and Counseling. Daniel has worked in the financial aid industry for over a decade. He has presented all over the country on financial aid issues related to equity, inclusion, and access to education. He is also a writer of poetry, fiction, and this blog, all of which touch on identity.
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