Friday, March 16, 2012

More Culture War Nostalgia: Khalid Muhammad Says "They Didn't Die Hard Enough!"

Kill them all!

Khalid Muhammad possessed amazing oratory skills, skills that still resonate across the years. Performance is not power. In following up on our conversation about Farrakhan and the Culture Wars, I had to return to Khalid Muhammad's legendary promo where he suggested "killing them all!" Here, "all," is white people.

It is easy to dispense with, ignore, and mock 1980s Black Nationalists such as Khalid Muhammad. For me, the more interesting question remains, what is the social context which made such voices resonate, what are the demographics of race and power that would compel some black and brown folks to support such rhetoric?

At the time, Khalid had "juice." With the wisdom gained by time, he is revealed as a clown. What does this mean? Were young folks like me who were captivated by him just desperate and weak? Caught up in the performance? Or was their something to his particular vein of Black Nationalist agitprop that was compelling across the generational divide?

As I have come to understand years later, bluster and words and rage and witty word play are not power. For that reason, I laugh at white conservatives' fears of human props such as the New Black Panther Party. The latter and their kin bark and snarl. They do not kill anyone. They do not have real power. As a group, and trust, many white Americans who are ignorant of their own history do not understand this most basic of facts, it is they who comprise the largest group of terrorists in United States history.

For example, "riot" is a word that was originally and almost exclusively used to describe anti-black violence by white people. The KKK is the largest terrorist organization the United States has ever known, with approximately 10,000 black people were killed by White Americans under the regime of lynch law.

Ultimately, a black man or woman pleading for the murder of white people is an "entertaining" curiousity; in reality, the history of black humanity in the United States has been one of peace and acceptance. Black people have never killed white people in mass...even when such retaliation and struggle could have been easily justified. African Americans have only wanted to be accepted as full and equal citizens. This was done through protest, pressure, resistance, the politics of respectability, service, and civic virtue as a means of advancing a claim on American expectionalism (and ownership of that creed).

In all, I still wonder why any white American would ever be afraid of jesters such as Khalid Muhammad or the New Black Panther Party. Is power that insular, narrow and precarious?


freebones said...

hello there. i am a new reader here and i like what i see. it is poignant. given the sociological nature of the material here, i feel like i should introduce myself. mid-20's. male. heterosexual. white. science grad student. atheist.

i have been reading your posts daily for a few days now, and i must admit that while i enjoy them, they are mostly outside my sphere of ability to comment critically and in a constructive way. after all, i am a white physical scientist, so i have never really studied or experienced any of the struggles this blog seems to deal with, and i don't like to assume i understand what it's like. this one, however, i feel i can comment on.

whenever anyone calls for the murder of anyone else in a public forum, most listeners understand that those calls are not whole-hearted plot hatching, but philosophical posturing. still, i would challenge any commenter of any background, to speak and preach the words, joke or not, that they wish they had been treated by.

does calling for the murder of all white folks, joke or not, really advance any cause? does it do anything but fuel the fire of the far-right racist underpinnings of the american south? of course not. it gives these ignorant hate-mongers more tools for indoctrination and incitement of violence. i condemn khalid's comment for these reasons. it hurts everyone. it emboldens the racist - hurting all believers in equality and also hurting the racist himself by making him feel his ignorance is justified, and leading him further from educating himself.

i am very interested in your writing. i'll be lurking!

chaunceydevega said...

@Freebones. Thanks for chiming in. And yes, you have lots to share and offer.

I am going to do a few these types of posts on occasion. Farrakhan sparked some memories, as we get older it is funny how what we take to be "politics" and "power" changes. Khalid and Farrakhan were/are magnetic voices. We can shake our heads now with the removal of time, space, and hopefully wisdom.

But, the fact that such theater was popular during the 1990s (and before) reveals much about that political moment. What? I am unsure, that is where we can help each other out.

Weird Beard said...

It still makes me really happy when I listen to Wesley Willis sing "Kill Whitey". I don't expect these sentiments to change the world, or move a cause forward, but I still find them inherently heart warming. If I was dropping a deuce in a public restroom and saw "kill whitey" scrawled in sharpie on the inner sanctum of the stall, it would bring a smile to my face. No need to shake your head..., shake your fist instead.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how white America remembers what they want to remember thousands of Black leaders preach love whitey

fred c said...

Dr. Khalid had great skills, it's true. Very enjoyable clip. But for all of the "kill!" rhetoric, let's face it, these exhortations were purely symbolic. Nobody was talking about killing anybody, not really.

I was a regular reader of "Muhammad Speaks" back in the (pre-Dr. Khalid) day, and ongoing. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was all the way into "White Devils" and such, all manner of very serious, angry formulations. Maybe he meant it, I don't know, but I never took it personally. (The Honorable Wallace M. eased off on it quite a bit when he took the helm.)

It was a good paper, the writing was generally good and they printed many dispatches from the Liberation News Service. I had many pleasant conversations with the bow-tied sellers, and I teased them about the rhetoric. They all got that not all White people were created equal, this was New York City, a fine laboratory in which to study such things. We knew that it was all show, no blow.

"White Devils," "kill them all!" It's one way to tell a story.

chaunceydevega said...

@Beard. Scat and "kill whitey." Perhaps, you could become the next
Basquait (sp?) or Warhol?

@Fred. You are a treasure. Can you please share some of those stories? How did the NOI brothers respond to you?

fred c said...

There's no real story to point to, no Eureka! moment.

One possible take-away is that the sellers and I, in my opinion, felt a certain communality of interest. I was one of the alienated, underground young people at the time, and I felt not only oppressed myself by the draft, and police, and politics, but I also understood that young Blacks had it much worse from all quarters. Similarly, in the service, I got along better with the Black sailors than the White ones, and it caused some tensions on our very small base.

I thought that I knew who the Honorable Elijah M. was referring to when he spoke of "White Devils," and I kind of agreed with that description. They're still around, making mischief.

I think that most of the boys that I went to high school with, and almost all of the girls, would not have been as comfortable as I was having a natter with the bow-tied sellers. I had no agenda, and you know that I make no claims to being particularly enlightened, mostly I just wanted a paper. Most of those guys were very friendly, and it felt natural to chat a little. The sellers responded to me just fine. I'm pretty sensitive to sarcasm and hostility, and I never detected any.