Death Toll: 5,000,000 – 17,000,000 in the Slave Trade; Millions Dead from Colonialism
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
When WE speak of the genocide being committed against Afrikan people on a global scale, this is the work of the system of white supremacy and the individual whites of which this system is comprised. How can I say this? On what basis? In what ways is this genocide manifested?
This is manifested in the form of the French who trained Hutu extremists before the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
This is the death penalty being the rule when the accused is Black and the victim is white.
WE are speaking of the King Alfred plan drafted by the United States government to incinerate Afrikan (Black) people in the event of a large scale “breakdown in social order”.
What is meant when WE charge genocide? WE are speaking of the disease and virus creation program of South Africa aimed at the isolation or creation of a virus that selectively kills Black people.
WE are speaking of the Tuskeegee Syphilis experiment.
WE are speaking of the origin of gynecology.
WE are speaking of the complete and utter decimation and extermination of the Black people of Tasmania.
WE are speaking about the decimation of the Herrero people in Namibia in Germany’s Black Holocaust.
WE are talking about the CIA bringing crack into Black communities.
What are WE speaking of when WE are speaking of genocide? WE are speaking of De Beers fomenting civil war atrocities in Sierra Leone for blood “conflict” diamonds.
WE are speaking about racial profiling.
WE are speaking of the disproportionate amount of Afrikan children in special education.
What is meant by the term genocide when WE charge the system of white supremacy and the individuals of which it is comprised with genocide?
WE are speaking of the past and current lynching of Afrikan people.
WE are speaking of the murder of Fred Hampton.
WE are speaking of police brutality in prisons.
WE are speaking of King Leopold chopping off the hands of hundreds of thousands of Afrikan people for rubber.
WE are speaking of Hurricane Katrina evacuees being turned back to desolation and ruin at gunpoint.
WE are speaking of population control through AIDS.
WE are speaking of the Tulsa Race Riot and domestic terrorism.
WE are speaking about the FBI COINTELPRO program and the war against Black people.
WE are speaking of the white supremacists swooping down on oil-rich land after it has been conveniently “cleansed” by the CIA supported Sudanese government.
WE are speaking of five-year-old little Black girls handcuffed and taken by the police.
WE are speaking of dogs being trained to maim and kill Afrikans.
WE are speaking of the role of Halliburton and other multinational corporations in the Congo genocide that has killed more than 3.2 million Afrikans since 1998.
WE are speaking of the murder of Kenneth Walker.
WE are speaking of Amadou Diallo, Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba, the more than one hundred million long rotted Afrikan corpses at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean from the “Middle Passage”.
WE are speaking about Mary Turner’s belly being cut open as her unborn fetus was crushed by a white supremacist’s boot heel.
WE are speaking about drugs that have failed human safety testing in the United States being sent to Africa for use.
This list could go on ad infinitum.
By Obadele Kambon
All Diamonds are Blood Diamonds
- Africa and all its resources are the birthright of African people everywhere All Diamonds are Blood Diamonds
- The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has forced us to recognize the terrible price paid by peoples around the world the oil reserves necessary for the daily functioning of the U.S. economic life. The slogan is “No blood for oil.”
- In the Niger Delta of Nigeria African people living in dire poverty are fighting shell Oil for control over the multi-dollar oil industry on their own land. 70 percent on less than a dollar a day. The poverty, lack of electricity and sanitation and profound pollution. Yet Shell Oil and other oil corporations have made more than $300 billion on Nigerian oil. White people live in mansions with big SUVs in the same area. The people of this area are waging armed struggle. They say if they cannot benefit from the oil, no one will benefit from the oil. They call it “blood oil.”
- The U.S. and European controlled chocolate industry in Africa is a bitter reality. Ivory Coast produces 40 percent of the world’s cocoa and in West Africa there are more than a quarter million young African children working in enslavement in the cocoa plantations. All chocolate is blood chocolate.
- We can even show that even aluminum foil can be called Blood aluminum . In Guinea Conakry earlier this year there was a general strike for over a month. Guinea has 40 percent of the world’s bauxite, the mineral needed to make aluminum, but the average income of those considered “middle class” is $500 a year. Alcoa, Reynolds and other corporations are making billions of dollars but the people are forced to live under a repressive government and cannot even afford to buy rice in a country where gas costs almost $5 a liter.
- In Congo 5 million people have been killed in the past few years in U.S. and imperialist backed wars over Coltan the mineral that is the electrical conductor necessary for cell phones and computers. 80 percent of the world’s coltan is in Congo. So we say all computers and cell phones are blood computers and cell phones. Coltan worth over $400 a pound in a world where 1.7 billion people have wireless phones–one out of every 4 on the planet. Child labor, murder, dire poverty–a few dollars a day at best–rape, death in the mines–thousands die in the mine shafts and also from starvation–mostly children.
- Blood cell phones and computers
- We don’t have to go to Africa or other places. The U.S. is built on African enslaved labor. IIn the U.S. a multitude o products such as office furniture, jeans, clothing, bedding, clocks and signs are made by slave labor inside of prisons. The prison industry has half a million workers more than any Fortune 500 corporation. With more than 2 million mostly African and Mexican people incarcerated With more than 2 million mostly African and Mexican people incarcerated inside the U.S. facing Three Strikes and mandatory minimums, one in three African men between the ages of 20 and 29 is either in jail, on probation or parole. In a private Texas prison guards were videotaped beating, shocking, kicking and setting dogs on prisoners—what u.S. soldiers did in Abu Ghraib has been practiced against African people in U.S. prisons for years. So we can say all prison products are blood products.
- In a system built on centuries of the enslavement of African people, on genocide, oppression and colonialism in this country and around the world we can say that beneath the sparkling veneer of every resource that we take for granted is a very ugly story.
- So this is the context that we say that All diamonds are blood diamonds!
- We are sold the idea that diamonds are a symbol of beauty and long-lasting love. “Diamonds are forever,” “a girl’s best friend.”
- The truth about diamonds is not beautiful—diamonds are steeped genocide, colonialism, poverty and oppression–controlled by the brutal DeBeers diamond cartel.
- In 1938 DeBeers cartel hired a Philadelphia public relations firm when sales were sagging– to market to Americans that diamond rings were a necessity for engagements and weddings. In the past diamonds were relatively rare as engagement rings. To do this they launched slogan “A diamond is forever,” and promoted the myth that a diamond ring should cost two months salary.
- The reality is diamonds are not particularly valuable. They can be found around the world. Their value is created by manufactured scarcity—forcibly keeping diamonds off the market to increase their value. Unlike most other precious stones they do no appreciate with age and have a poor resale value.
- Finest large gem-quality diamonds come from Sierra Leone, along with Angola, Namibia and Congo.
- Diamonds are not just for jewelry–it is the strongest material in the world.Used in cutting, in airplanes and in defense–ESSENTIAL to the U.S. military industry. Industrial diamonds worth $10,000 a pound.
- DeBeers is a cartel which is a monopoly that controls every aspect of the economy of the product. DeBeers controls not only mining but cutting, polishing, setting into jewelry, pricing and selling world wide. Millions of children and very young people involved in diamond industry.
- The concept of blood or conflict diamonds came about in reference to the brutal imperialist backed wars in Sierra Leone and West Africa in the 1990s.
- Sierra Leone is a former British colony on the West Coast of Africa.
- British colonialism In the 1700s Bunce Island in the Sierra Leone River was called the “slave factory.” From here the British supplied captive Africans particularly to Charlestown South Carolina and to Georgia. Americans. The North American slave ships that called at Bunce Island were sailing out of Newport (Rhode Island), New London (Connecticut), Salem (Massachusetts), and New York.
- More than 50,000 Africans were kidnapped from Sierra Leone mostly into South Carolina and Georgia. They were called the Gullah people–worked in rice paddies in cotton plantations in the U.S. They were fierce fighters and many escaped from enslavement by joining the Seminoles in Florida where they built thatched roof houses as in their homeland. Thatched roof–environmentally sustainable!
- Sierra Leone won nominal independence from Britain in 1961 with the establishment of neocolonialism as in the rest of Africa.
- Sierra Leone is one of the most impoverished countries in the world–most of the people live on less than a dollar a day. It has the highest infant mortality in the world and the life expectancy for men is 38 years.
- Yet Sierra Leone has immense natural resources Diamonds-some of the best in the world Titanium ore (red)– ･ in the aerospace industry – for example in aircraft engines and air frames; ･ for replacement hip joints; ･ for pipes, etc, in the nuclear, oil and chemical industries where corrosion is likely to occur. Bauxite used for aluminum Gold Chromite (green) used in stainless steel.
- Chromite–stainless steel. As in the rest of Africa the profits and benefits of Sierra Leone’s natural resources are in Europe and North America. Although the resources are on their land, the people are deeply impoverished. 80 percent of households in Sierra Leone must use charcoal and wood for cooking. . In the world 2.4 billion people still cook over wood , charcoal or dung fires.
- Neocolonialism. Former British colonizers continue to control the economy, the military and the governing of Sierra Leone — neocolonialism leaving only crumbs. Along with other imperialist states they continue to extract the wealth.
- In the 1990s The Revolutionary United Front emerged led by Foday Sankoh. At first the people thought they were fighting in the interest of the people. But they were imperialist influenced fighting for crumbs of the colonial plunder. They launched a brutal war against the people of Sierra Leone with 50,000 murdered and tens of thousands of mutilations. It is said that DeBeers and Israel were the biggest benefactors of the war.
- By cutting off the people’s hands-signature torture used by the Belgian colonizers against African people in Congo during Belgian colonialism.
- The RUF forced young children to fight and to carry out most of the atrocities–often against other children The child soldiers given tea, coffee and stimulant drugs.
- RUF took over some of the diamond mines–this is a picture of one — and began selling diamonds on the open market outside of the control of DeBeers.
- From DeBeers website Because this served to depress DeBeers artificially high prices for diamonds based on manufactured scarcity, the DeBeers cartel was threatened. This prompted DeBeers to come up with the concept of the “blood” or “conflict” diamond–not because of concern for the people but because they did not want to see the price of diamonds go down.
- So DeBeers diamond cartel set up the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme–that would supposedly determine if a diamond is “blood” or clean. Police policing themselves–like Alberto Gonzalez policing himself.
- The reality is DeBeers is the key figure behind the issue of blood diamonds. Under the “legitimate” diamond mines of Sierra Leone–meaning the DeBeers and imperialist controlled mines–African miners are forced to work for almost nothing. Most of the diggers must work “independently getting only a tiny percentage on any diamonds that they find which are taken by the mine. Only a few workers actually get a salary–from 30 cents to $2 a day. Nicky Oppenheimer and CEOs of DeBeers–one world’s richest men worth 3 billion dollars–eats organic foods and farm.
- According to an international trade union report 72 percent of the children of Sierra Leone between the ages of 5 to 14 are forced into paid or unpaid labor–in the legitimate diamonds mines or other industry. In that region nearly a half million children are forced into labor. Childhood is a result of privilege.
- There is no electrical grid. Only oil lanterns at night. Only electricity is from generators and 82% of that is in Freetown. In sierra Leone only 1% use generators and 85 percent use oil lamps.
- Sierra Leone has no running water, no water purification system, little hygiene or few toilets.
- Sierra Leone has no system of roads, few paved roads and most roads are impassable in rainy season.
- How things got the way they are
- Africa is the birthplace of civilization–all science, mathematics, art, philosophy, religion and archeology originated in Africa. Sierra Leone and most of West Africa was part of the African civilization of Mali (the people called it Manden) from 1235 to 1645 — ended by the enslavement of African people. It had enormous influence in the whole world. One of its cities Timbuktu was a center of learning–people came from everywhere to study and to enjoy the lively social and artistic culture. There was a medical school that taught delicate eye operations to remove cataracts. Mansa Musa was one of the famous rulers of Mali in the 1300s. He brought architects and scholars into Mali. His rule was known for prosperity and stability of the country as well as for artistic, educational and technological achievement.
- Europe in the middle ages was backwards, disease ridden, poor oppressed and warlike.
- In the 1300s the plague swept through Europe killing up to a half of the population and destroying the already impoverished agricultural economy of feudalism.
- Europe rescued itself by its assault on Africa. In 1415 Henry the Navigator (never sailed a ship) sent Portuguese fleets out to the west coast of Africa to attempt to gain control of the wealthy African trade in gold, silver and other resources–trade that had gone on for centuries–millennia–connecting trade routes to the Middle East and Asia. They found African people themselves to be their most valuable commodity. The Arabs had a trade in African people as slaves for a thousand years. The slave trade started almost 80 years before Columbus sailed for the Americas By 1500 Portugal had extracted 700 tons of African gold, shipping it to Portugal and had kidnapped more than 81,000 African people into slavery.
- Men, women and children in chains were stacked on top of each other on pallets in the holds of ships with the hideous stench of open pits of human waste. The pallets (seen on the lower left) were no more than 15 inches high. Hundreds of thousands of African people died of disease or starvation, or were murdered for attempted resistance and thrown overboard. The ecology of the Atlantic Ocean was changed by the slave trade. Schools of sharks would follow the slave ships to feed off the African men, women and children who died and were murdered on board and who were thrown overboard.
- The trade in African people was the key ingredient in the triangular trade bringing captives from Africa as forced labor for the plantations of the Americas, transporting resources such as cotton, sugar, tobacco and rum to North America and to England.
- Along with the assault on Africa was the genocide against the Indigenous people and the theft of their land and resources. Above is aftermath of U.S. slaughter at Wounded Knee in 1890. And VOLUNTEER cavalry.
- This slaughter, genocide, rape and plunder of the peoples of the Earth brought unprecedented wealth into Europe for the first time.
- This is what brought about the industrial revolution and transform Europe from feudalism to capitalism.
- In the U.S. the “founding fathers” were slave masters, owners of African people and instigators of the genocide against the Indigenous people. This is the “founding values” of America. This slide shows an idealized, falsified serene picture of the treatment by George Washington of enslaved Africans who was known for his brutality. Washington “owned” more than 300 African people, giving them meager daily rations of a few ounces of grain and fish by-products.
- There were tens of thousands of burnings and lynchings like this one in Kansas City.
- Children at lynchings
- As Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party and leader of the Uhuru Movement states all classes of white people sit on the pedestal of the enslavement of African people and colonized and oppressed peoples around the world.
- Wall Street was the center of New York’s slave auction blocks. In the 18th and 19th centuries enslaved Africans were one fifth the population of New York. When the civil war was declared, New York was so dependent on the cotton industry that the city considered joining the Confederacy. It is telling that an African cemetery was found in recent years under the high rise buildings of Wall Streets—American wealth resting literally on the bodies of African people.
- White people sit on the pedestal of slavery and genocide.
- Throughout Africa and the Americas the resistance of African people was fierce and powerful. We do not learn enough about that–covered over in history books. On the slave ships resistance was the major cause of death for captain and crew. The African Revolution in Haiti in the early 19th century, resistance by the Maroons in the Caribbean and South America the resistance of Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, two city-wide African rebellions in New York City, Gabriel Prosser, Cinque, Harriet Tubman. In Brazil, Surinam–everywhere Africans were enslaved they were in a state of resistance.
- The Shona, Zulu, Chokwe and many other African peoples waged fierce resistance to colonialism and the colonial borders imposed by the Berlin conference. The Ashanti people in Ghana waged armed resistance to the British for 200 years.Above is Yaa Asantewaa, the Ashanti woman resistance leader in 1900.
- King Leopold of Belgium was a leading Abolitionist of his day. He was responsible for turning Congo into a rubber plantation to provide tires for bicycles and the newly emerging automobile industry in Europe and the U.S. in the 1890s. At least 10 million Africans were slaughtered by Leopold’s forces before there was even a word for genocide. Millions had their hands chopped off for resisting being enslaved on their own land. People were sexually assaulted and mutilated. Children were stolen from their parents and taken into camps to be groomed as a colonial army–genocide under international law. Leopold GAVE Congo to Belgium–it was his personal business!
- The scramble for Africa and Africa’s resources. At least two million Africans were killed in the scramble for ivory tusks for piano keys and billiard balls–the center of the ivory trade was Connecticut.
- 80 percent of the Nama and Herero peoples in Namibia were wiped out by the Germans They were rounded up and left to die in the desert without food, water or shelter to die a slow torturous death. Germany has never recognized this genocide or paid reparations even as they paid billions in reparations to Israel. Same methods used by Hitler.
- During this same time the British colonizer Cecil Rhodes came to southern Africa. Rhodes was an ideological colonizer. He believed in British imperialism and promoted it. He said to “prevent civil war you must become an imperialist “ among the workers of England….He created the Rhodes scholarship.
- His goal was to install British imperialism from Cape Town to Cairo and built the Cape-Cairo railway.
- His vision was part of the British empire on which they boasted “the sun never set” because it went around the world. The British empire included 77 countries including India and15 countries in Africa. 458 million people were oppressed in this empire–one quarter of the world’s population at that time under British colonialism. At that time England had the highest standard of living in the world based on the near starvation of the people in Africa, India and the other colonies.
- Cecil Rhodes was a perpetrator of genocide, responsible for the displacement of millions of African people for the benefit of white settlers and enslavement of African people on their own land. White people came from Europe and became wealthy from the theft of the gold and diamonds in Southern Africa. Pass laws.
- Cecil Rhodes founded DeBeers diamond cartel. Rhodes went to south Africa from Britain when he was 18 years sold–he took over the diamond mines at Kimberley south Africa and others in the area. By his early 20s he was a millionaire but he did not retire–he believed in subjugating Africa for the benefit of England.
- Rhodes went to Zimbabwe, the land of the Matabele and Shona who launched fierce resistance led by their leader Lobengula.
- Rhodes paid a mercenary army from England and stocked them with Maxim machine guns. With just 5 machine guns the English slaughtered 5,000 African people in one afternoon alone–then they celebrated with dinner and champagne.
- Winston Churchill and Baden Powell boy scouts. Cecil Rhodes, gay, said he, “thoroughly enjoyed the outing.” Saw the slaughter of Africans as sport and adventure.
- The Chokwe, Shona and Zulu people were among those who led powerful struggles against the European invasions.
- Cecil Rhodes helped set up the apartheid system in south Africa and the pass laws–based on the Jim Crow laws of the United States.
- Pass laws, colonial taxation of African people to force them to work to be used as near slave labor in the diamond mines.
- Africans in the diamond mines were forced to stay away from family and wife, in compounds with only cold tea and bread.–much the same conditions today.
- When Cecil Rhodes died the DeBeers diamond cartel was taken over by the Oppenheimer family.
- The atrocities that took place in Sierra Leone and West Africa were what DeBeers itself has done to African people for a hundred years. On knees Africans, with cans, body cavity searches, Zulu forced to pull rickshaw for owners.
- Diamonds have long played a role in neocolonialism in Africa. Mobutu’s villa on the Riviera , his diamonds, Mobutu one of richest men in the world which says something about the worth of the resources in Congo. CIA worked with Kennedy, Eisenhower and DeBeers to assassinate Lumumba.
- Neocolonialism continues today. Mandela with Nicky Oppenheimer in front of statue of Cecil Rhodes. Mandela has praised DeBeers and Cecil Rhodes. Below: Mandela with Mobutu
- Under Mandela and the ANC the conditions are worse for African workers and better for white people. Today 12 years after the end of apartheid, 61 percent of African people live below the poverty line in South Africa, while only one percent of whites. 96 percent of commercial arable land is still in the hands of whites. Conditions are 14 percent BETTER for white people than they were under apartheid.
- Africa also has up to 90 percent of the world’s reserves of cobalt, manganese, chromium and platinum–in West and Southern Africa. U.S. military needs these to function in the defense industry. Pentagon report say they would do anything to maintain those resources.
- U.S. military and AFRICOM in Africa–says its in the name of “war on terror” U.S. military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations.US has more than 700 military bases–growing to 1000 by end of decade in 130 countries around the world.
- What is the solution?
- Our lifestyle requires the suffering of African people–in this country There is colonialism inside the U.S. Two Americas Wake up to reality.
- In Africa–our lives are at the expense of African people.
- African people are a colony inside the U.S.–not racism- not ideas inside our heads–political and economic relationship–same as in Iraq, Palestine etc. Two Americas.
- Uhuru Movement is led by Omali Yeshitela, leader of the African People’s Socialist Party, united African People around the world for one united and liberated Africa. In the spirit of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba.
- Africans are one people all over the world.
- Not charity, not peace corps, missionaries, movie stars adopting African babies.
- African resources belong to African people everywhere!
- Building the African Socialist International around the world. Touch One! Touch All!
- Africa in the hands of African working class people, not neocolonialists.
- Unite with the struggle for reparations to African people!
We have to see the world through the eyes of the peoples of the planet struggling for control of their resources, land and lives.
Return your diamond to Africa! Return diamonds to Africa!
Black Genocide? Preliminary Thoughts on the Plight of America’s Poor Black Men
By Robert Johnson and Paul Leighton
Journal of African American Men, v 1 #2, Fall 1995
Downloaded from http://paulsjusticepage.com > Class, Race, Gender & Crime
ABSTRACT: Our aim in this article is to offer an examination and preliminary defense of the claim that poor African American men are subjected to conditions of life that are sufficiently destructive to amount to an instance of genocide. To make our case, we define the term genocide and apply measures of this phenomenon to the life experiences of poor black American men. Our focus is on grossly disproportionate death rates among this group, which we examine as one of a number of products of social deprivation. The emphasis is on understanding indirect genocide (which involves creating life conditions which destroy a group and facilitate black on black violence), and the problem of inferring direct intent because of ideological racism.
“Not since slavery,” notes former U.S. Secretary of Human Services Dr. Louis Sullivan, “has so much calamity and ongoing catastrophe been visited on Black males” (Majors & Gordon, 1994:ix). The calamities and catastrophes to which Dr. Sullivan alludes fall disproportionately on poor black males, especially the poor young black men who inhabit our nation’s ghettos. This has led many observers to characterize poor black men as an endangered species (see Gibbs, 1988). Mortality data and other social indicators, discussed in this article, suggest that Dr. Sullivan’s observation is fundamentally correct, particularly when it is applied to the plight of poor black men. The notion that these men comprise an endangered species is, however, a misleading and ultimately counterproductive one.’ A more accurate view, though we can offer only tentative proof and argument at this juncture, is that such men may be victims of genocide. (We believe this claim holds for poor black women as well, but that takes us beyond the confines of this article.)
Those who identify poor black men as an endangered species do so out of concern, to raise an alarm and move society to compassionate action. The term is thus used with the best of intentions. Yet one can’t help but note that the very notion of an endangered species of people is dehumanizing. Reference to any group or subgroup of people as a “species,” let alone a species at risk, sets them apart, implicitly, as less than fully equal with other human beings. Such labels may inadvertently reinforce harmful stereotypes of poor black men, making it harder for outsiders to fully appreciate the scope of the pressures affecting their lives, pressures that we suggest may well reach genocidal proportions.
As a general matter, people are strongly inclined to deny genocide wherever and whenever it occurs, and to do so firmly, and even passionately, when the group at issue can be readily dehumanized (see Chalk and Jonassohn, 1990:7). This is clearly the case with the black men in our inner cities. It is a bitter irony that, for many in the larger white society, they comprise not only different species of men but a distinctly predatory group that is largely if not entirely responsible for their impoverished, violent, and shortened lives. Few care to invest time or money in the preservation of this endangered species.
It is to be expected, then, that the subject of black genocide has not been assessed in objective or dispassionate terms. White scholars have essentially ignored the issue, viewing the claim as a type of lunacy. An earlier black scholar named Patterson formally charged the United States with the genocide of blacks in the United Nations during the 1950s (see Patterson, 1970, 1971). Later black writers have tackled the issue (Weisbord, 1975; Welsing, 1974), but they have done so in a piecemeal fashion and have failed to ground their arguments in the intellectual tradition of genocide research.
There can be no doubt that many African Americans sincerely believe that the more marginal members of their community, if not indeed all black Americans, are actual or potential targets of genocide in America today. Some observers state these beliefs quite bluntly, decrying conspiratorial plans to annihilate the black race. The typical reaction to such accusations among white Americans, observed a Newsweek writer, is outright rejection of claims seen as nothing less than bizarre: “The ideological wagons are drawn into a circle with sensible mainstream American reason inside, threatened but valiant, and the crazy assault of black-American paranoia without” (Cary, 1992:23). A recent article in U S New & World Report was entitled “The return of the paranoid style in American politics” (March 12, 1990:30). The aim of the article was revealed in the subtitle, which read in part, “why some blacks … fear ‘genocide.'” We find it significant that the term “paranoid” was used literally (without quotations) while the term “genocide” was used figuratively (within quotes). The implication is that one must be crazy—and more specifically, paranoid—to think that some black Americans are victims of genocide. We contend that it is entirely possible that the paranoia alluded to is figurative and the feared genocide is literal.
The issue of black genocide should not be dismissed as “mumbo jumbo,” as occurred in a prominent Time magazine essay (White, 1990:20). Poor black men are subjected to many disabling conditions that restrict opportunity, inflict pain and suffering, and shorten lives. It is of course true that black males are not slated for the death camp and institutionalized slaughter. Nevertheless, the evidence, though still incomplete, strongly suggests that the plight of poor African American males goes beyond simple political oppression and indeed crosses the threshold of genocide.
DIMENSIONS OF GENOCIDE
Ervin Staub. drawing on a wide-ranging study of the subject, defines genocide as “an attempt to exterminate a racial, ethnic, religious, cultural, or political group, either directly through murder or indirectly by creating conditions that lead to the group’s destruction” (1989:8). Terms like “exterminate” harken back to the Holocaust and bring to mind Nazi death camps replete with ovens and gas chambers as settings of mass execution. But a careful reading of Staub’s definition makes clear that the methods used to achieve genocide span direct violence (such as individual and mass murder) as well as indirect violence (primarily systematic deprivation).
The targets of genocide, Staub reminds us, are diverse and need only comprise a recognizable social group. Critically, the key concept at the core of the notion of genocide—destruction of a group—is not limited to physical violence. As Staub explains:
The essence of evil is the destruction of human beings. This includes not only killing but creation of conditions that materially or psychologically destroy or diminish people’s dignity, happiness, and capacity to fulfill basic material needs. (Staub, 1989:25)
The notion that genocide need not entail physical violence is reinforced by Lemkin, who coined the term genocide—from the Greek work genos (race or tribe) and the Latin cide (kill)—and helped draft the United Nations Genocide Convention. At the heart of genocide, Lemkin writes, is “the destruction of the essential foundations of the life” of the group (see Kuper, 1985:9). This means that the systematic degradation of a group, with resulting psychological and material impoverishment, is an instance of genocide when it results in the widespread destruction of human lives. Thus, creating conditions in which a group will be destroyed, and not only direct violence against such a group, is a form of genocide.
The image many people have of genocide is limited to extreme and direct violence, perhaps best exemplified in the Nazi Holocaust. This image is misleading. The Nazi Holocaust represents the extreme or limiting case of genocide, not the paradigm, just as a rape-murder-disembowelment represents the extreme or limiting case of murder, not the paradigm of murder. The touchstone consideration in defining genocide is the destruction of the group. This means that mere discrimination or even oppression is not enough to qualify as genocide. Actions or conditions must threaten or undermine the very existence of the group in question.
Several instances of man-made famine have resulted in genocide. These famines are man-made in the sense that they were created or tolerated as a matter of policy. The indirect violence of policies that allow the ravages of famine “combines advantages—for the perpetrators—of costing very little while at the same time putting physical distance between them and the victims” (Jonassohn, 1992:23; see also Smith, 1987:35). If creating or tolerating a famine is genocidal, there is no reason, in principle, why it is not genocidal to create or tolerate multiple destructive life conditions—including high infant mortality, limited access to health care, crushing poverty, inadequate schools, and crime-racked neighborhoods that are also likely to contain toxic waste—all conditions that apply to the daily existence of poor black Americans (see, Reiman, 1995).2
An obvious case of indirect genocide occurs when the perpetrator creates a condition (such as famine) that destroys a group (through starvation) The Irish potato famine of the nine-teenth century comes readily to mind. Policies set in England resulted in shortages of food in Ireland; hunger, aided by diseases that run rampant in malnourished groups, terminated lives on a large scale Throughout, destructive policies were left in place, even as the dead accumulated (see Woodham-Smith, 1980; Rubenstein, 1987 2S7). With the creation of more amorphous conditions such as poverty, however, genocidal results may be achieved through self destructive adaptations to those conditions. The link between policy and outcome remains but is less obvious.
BLACK ON BLACK CRIME
In America, at least, poverty rarely kills directly. Few people drop dead in the streets from hunger or exposure to the elements. But poverty does produce a range of physical and psychological stresses, and some reactions to these stresses are expressed in behaviors that destroy life. We therefore suggest that destruction need not come only from outside the group. Members of the victim group may contribute to their own victimization through adaptations to bleak life conditions that include violence directed at self or others (e.g., suicide and homicide) as well as self-destructive lifestyles (notably addiction to drugs and alcohol). Williams, in his classic Destruction of Black Civilization, writes:
They, the so-called criminals and their youthful followers, expect nothing beneficial from the white world, and they see no reason for hope in their own. Hence, like caged animals, they strike at what is nearest them—their own people. They are actually trying to kill a situation they hate, unaware that even in this, they are serving the white man well. For the whites need not go all out for “genocide” schemes, for which they are often charged, when blacks are killing themselves off daily on such a large scale. (1987:325)
Adaptations that produce high rates of such destructive behavior, such as intra-group violence, suicide, and addiction, may thus serve as vehicles of genocide.
Indirect genocide, then, can be expressed in part in the self-destructive adaptations of victim groups to the deprivations of life inflicted upon them by the larger society. In these situations, the victim group appears to be the cause of its own problems and the role of larger social conditions is discounted or ignored entirely. It is commonly said, for example, that poor black men are killing themselves with guns and drugs. Other sources of increased mortality in the black community, such as those related to poor physical health, can be dismissed on the same grounds. The culprit is their diet or lifestyle, not the pressures of poverty or racism. The notion that these choices may reflect adaptations to genocidal pressures is not given due consideration. The refrain, “they kill themselves,” then, must be met with the rejoinder, “but society sets the stage for that violence.”
Nevertheless, when victims of poverty victimize others in turn—as occurs most notably and most tragically in the case of black-on-black violent crime—victimizers remain culpable for their actions. Reiman makes this point quite clearly: “To point to the unique social pressures that lead the poor to prey on one another is to point to a mitigating, not an excusing, factor. Even the victims of exploitation and oppression have moral obligations not to harm those who do not exploit them or who share their oppression” (Reiman, 1995). Indeed, even the victims of the virtually unparalleled exploitation and oppression of the Nazi death camps held each other accountable to a moral code that prohibited abusing fellow sufferers (see Cohen, 1953; Des Pres, 1977).
To point to genocidal conditions as sources of self-destructive behavior among victim groups, then, is not to exonerate the offending individuals for their conduct. But though such individuals are responsible for the choices they make, we must realize that they make those choices within a broader social context marked, in Rubenstein’s words, by a “socioeconomic predicament which is itself profoundly antisocial” (1987:206; see also Braithwaite, 1992). Violence and drug abuse are not overrepresented in our ghettos by chance, as though these settings of poverty were merely neutral staging grounds for destructive behavior. Ghettos, instead, are brutal and indeed profoundly antisocial environments that, through the pressures they offer, promote a host of destructive adaptations to daily life. These social forces offer mitigating conditions, reducing but not eliminating culpability for destructive individual adaptations.
Several powerful dynamics, some noted earlier, hinder us in seeing the situation clearly. The larger society is quite removed from the grim life circumstances and daily degradations experienced by poor blacks, and hence the average American has little real feeling for the forces that shape their lives. Much of the destruction of black life occurs in urban ghettos. Not unlike their counterparts in Nazi-occupied Europe, these ghettos are a no-man’s land to people from the larger society. These environments are, in fact, the functional equivalent of prisons; people in these oppressive settings desperately want out, and those who make it out to better worlds desperately want to stay out. Few people visit ghettos willingly, unless they have relatives there; even fewer aspire to reside there if other choices are available. As a result, the indirect causal chain that ends with systematically high rates of mortality in these invisible ghettos can be hard for outsiders—the larger society—to appreciate. Here, death flows not from gas chambers and state-sponsored torture but from lives marked by deprivation and desperation.
The relative subtlety of this process, combining a hidden location and indirect dynamics, makes the causal chain less visible and helps explain the mystified reaction many have to the claim of black genocide. A further complication is that not all maladaptive behavior in the ghetto is the result of genocidal pressures. Not every mishap that befalls a black American is the fruit of poverty or racism. These days, the claim that one is a victim can be empowering, giving one more rights and fewer responsibilities. In the presence of a cult of victimization, where everyone seems to have an excuse for his or her misconduct, all claims of victimization are rendered suspect these days. Some of this suspicion is no doubt justified, but there is a real danger that one will too readily reject the claims of legitimate victims.
One must move cautiously here. There is a sense in which victim claims have always been met with skepticism, independent of their merits. The very notion that life is profoundly unjust and that the world is populated with untold numbers of innocent victims is deeply foreign to human nature (Ryan, 1971). Most people—and perhaps at some level, all people—subscribe to what has been termed a “just world ideology.” Central to this ideology is the belief that bad things simply do not happen to good people. If life treats you well, you are a good and deserving person. If life treats you badly, you must be a bad person or at least someone who is undeserving of a good life.
Children in the ghetto routinely assume that life for them is hard because they are bad people. To be sure, these children are encouraged to display Black Pride, to celebrate Black History Month, and to believe that Black is Beautiful. But for many, this is empty ritual. In their daily lives, many and perhaps most of these ghetto children work on the explicit assumption that black is bad. The mere appearance of black children in stories is interpreted by some ghetto children to spell trouble and despair (EIrich, 1994). Following a story in which a young black boy who had tried to steal a woman’s purse is redeemed by her forgiveness and love, a black “A” student in a class filled with poor minority children raised his hand and said, “You knew something bad was going to happen when it started. As soon as you see a black boy you know he’s gonna do something bad.” The teacher, a white male, was taken aback He asked, “Just because he’s black, he’s bad?” The student replied, unfazed: “Everybody knows that black people are bad. That’s the way we are.” Eirich polled his class and discovered a “near consensus” among these children that blacks are stupid, lazy, violent, shiftless and irresponsible, and are born to be bad. Whites, the children claimed, are the opposite. EIrich concluded that these children’s hopes and dreams are killed off by a “stereotype within” that is a strong and pervasive legacy of racism and poverty.
The appeal of the just world ideology is that it offers an image of a rational and responsive world in which one gets what one deserves, whether good or bad. The downside of the just world ideology is that recognition of injustice is difficult because it threatens one’s orderly view of life. “According to this principle, people are strongly motivated to maintain the belief that the world operates according to just principles, ‘for the sake of maintaining their own sanity,’ even if it means that one must reject a suffering victim” (Calhoun and Townsley, 1991:61). When bad things happen to good people, we are tempted to ignore it, minimize it, or change our evaluation of the victim so the suffering seems deserved.
Often, we blame the victim for the harms that befall them. Walster, for example, studied attributions of responsibility for a car accident. He found that as the severity of the consequences increased, subjects assigned more blame to the victim. “Without making such attributions, people would have greater fear that such an event might happen to them” (Walster, 1966:75). The implication is that we blame the victim not solely out of malice, ignorance, and racism—though each of these ugly sentiments may be implicated—but for our own psychological protection. It is deeply reassuring to blame victims for their plight. If victims get what they deserve, then so will we. If we behave well, the logic runs, we will be treated well in turn. (Among the victims themselves, as we have seen, there are parallel pressures to blame oneself, on the premise that only bad people are treated badly in this world. The appeal of self-blame is that, at least in principle, one can decide to become good and then reap the benefits of a just world.)
The notion that some groups are victims of genocide is, then, almost literally unbelievable to those outside those groups and even difficult to believe for many members of the victim group itself. Great efforts are made to deny the atrocity that is genocide because to acknowledge genocide is to acknowledge a gross injustice that might envelop us all, cutting off hope for a safe and decent life. Note that many people denied the Holocaust when it occurred; certainly many European Jews denied the Holocaust even when it was unfolding, which made them more vulnerable to this terrible assault (see, Lifton & Markusen, 1990). It took decades before the world was ready to address this troubling matter. And to this very day, in the face of voluminous documentary evidence, some people still maintain that the Holocaust was a hoax. Indirect genocide, which is by its nature difficult to appreciate, can be readily dismissed out of hand. “They are killing themselves,” people say with varying degrees of smugness. And if something more is happening, it must be a mistake, an accident for which no one is to blame—other than, perhaps, the victims themselves.
INTENT AND CULPABILITY
Our view is that indirect genocide not only exists but is behavior for which people are fully culpable. Stated bluntly, those groups whose policies promote or permit the degradation and destruction of life are perpetrators of genocide. This is the case even if some or even many members of these groups merely stand and watch as the violence unfolds or indeed refuse to acknowledge the violence. And it is the case even if much of the destruction of the victim group is the result of maladaptive behavior on the part of the victims themselves. Since the destruction of the group from without or within is foreseeable, either at the outset or as the process of destruction unfolds, this violence is preventable and hence is behavior for which people can be held culpable.
An objection at this point is that foreseeing is not the same as intending. Even if conditions for poor black men create extreme misery and sharply foreshortened lives, we in the larger society do not intend or want those conditions to exist or to exert genocidal influences. Few Americans explicitly condone racism, and fewer still could be said to “desire” the extermination of blacks. We would agree, further, that there is little credible evidence to suggest the existence of an overt “plot” or a “conspiracy” to destroy African Americans.
But the notion of intent can encompass a wide variety of meanings. One sense of the term suggests an awareness for which one is culpable because one fails to act to prevent harms that, though not intended, can be foreseen as the outcome of one’s actions. This is a case of indirect or oblique intention (Hare, 1990). To be sure, those who foresee and ‘ail to act are less culpable than those who plan and carry out a harmful act and hence directly intend to harm others. However once harmful consequences occur with some regularity, unintended though they may have been at the outset, they then become matters of fact, not prediction. If known consequences are not acted upon, indirect intent is made direct. “[T]o persist” with destructive policies, whatever their original aim, “is to intend the death of a people” (Smith, 1987:23). In such instances one “lives out a relation of genocide” even if genocide is not ^o’mdi’y or even explicitly intended by the dominant group (see Barta. 1987:239).
Direct and unambiguous genocidal intent can be inferred when the government has established concentration camps and a well-oiled machinery of death. In general genocidal states support a stronger Inference of intentionally than genocidal societies. But societies can be genocidal when their governments are not. There are societies “in which the whole bureaucratic apparatus might officially be directed to protect innocent people, but in which a whole race is nevertheless subject to remorseless pressures of destruction inherent in the very nature of society” (Barta, 1987:240). The colonization of Australia, examined by Barta (1987), fits this prescription. Rubenstein (1987) extends this analysis to other examples of European colonization, including the settlement of America with its concomitant relations of genocide between the colonists and Native Americans. Relations of genocide between whites and African slaves—and later, free African Americans—would seem to be of a piece with these experiences.
DEATH RATES AND BODY COUNTS
Genocide is typically measured in the grim statistics of the body count. In the Nazi Holocaust, executions occurred en masse. The dead fell in groups and were tallied in the millions. One can readily envision a vast field of the Holocaust dead, punctuated with countless mass graves, each filled with the bodies of men, women, and children, even infants. The effect is chilling.
No such body count comes readily to mind when discussing black genocide, yet such a body count can be established. After all, body counts encompass what amount to premature deaths, and the experiences of poor black American men have produced—and continue to produce—a grim harvest of early death.
We all die. The key considerations are how and when. In the Nazi Holocaust, millions came to premature end’s, most from outright murder, but many others from indirect murder due to intolerable life conditions in the European ghettos and concentration camps. Some, no doubt, died at the hands of fellow sufferers, who would, for example, steal food from their starving neighbors. Though little is written about this, it is certainly the case that antisocial and even criminal acts occurred within the concentration camps and ghettos, adding to the miseries wrought by the German authorities bent on genocide (see Cohen, 1953; Des Pros, 1977).
Statistics are available that allow us to estimate how many black Americans experience a reduced life expectancy relative to white Americans and hence come to premature ends. These premature deaths can be traced to oppressive life circumstances and to the adaptations of many black Americans to these conditions. Since these conditions are known and yet allowed to persist, these deaths, we contend, can be seen as the product of genocide in the form of indirect murders perpetrated or tolerated—at a minimum, sanctioned—by the larger society. Each premature death yields a body that is, figuratively speaking, interred in a mass grave fed by a flowing stream of genocide.
The figures on premature deaths are reported in table 1. The data used to generate these statistics came from the 1991 Mortality Detail data set, which is produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.3 Our primary interest is in inner-city poor black men, sometimes referred to as a core segment of an American underclass, since they are most obviously threatened by depriving social conditions. The data available did not allow us to select out only this group, however, because death certificates do not include information on socioeconomic class. Also, as of this writing, we have not been able to obtain age-specific population figures for urban or metropolitan areas that correspond with data recorded on death certificates. As a result, our figures encompass privileged as well as under-privileged black Americans and hence underestimate, perhaps significantly, the incidence of premature deaths experienced by poor black Americans.
To reflect the notion of premature or untimely death, we calculated a life expectancy for men that was the average of the numbers of years lived for black and white males. In 1990, the last year for which life expectancy figures were available, African American males lived 64.5 years, and white males lived 72.7 years (Stat-Abs, 1993, Table 115, p. 85). The (unweighted) average is 68.6 years, so our computations stopped with the five- year age category 65-69.
On an intuitive level, it may seem that because the life expectancy for black men is 64.5, this is the age at which death stops being premature for black men. But the procedure we are following asks what would happen if blacks had the white death rate. If blacks had the (lower) death rate of whites, their life expectancy would increase. Likewise, whites would have a lower life expectancy if they had the higher death rate of blacks. Because of differences between these groups (for example, blacks and whites have different age distributions), we cannot necessarily assume that whites and blacks would simply switch life expectancy values it is safe to assert that the black life expectancy would increase while whites would expect to live fewer years. Thus, we decided simply to average the life expectancies of each group and then terminate the analysis of premature deaths in the age category that contained the appropriate average life expectancy.
Our overall method suggests that if whites and blacks experienced mortality rates that were roughly equal, the excesses from some causes and/or age categories would balance out deficits in others. The summation would thus produce a small number or one that should be zero. This is not the pattern we found. Indeed, the strength and consistency of the results make an interpretation of randomness untenable. Race is consistently and significantly related to increased risk of premature death. We suggest that, at the very least, the minimal levels of intentionality discussed above are satisfied. Our results do not indicate the causes of the discrepancy or the relative contribution of various causes, but the consistency and magnitude of the findings strongly suggest that blacks and whites in America are living out a relationship of genocide.4
The best interpretation of the magnitude of the observed minus expected category is that it answers the question, How different would we expect the number of premature deaths to be if each race had the death rate of the other? If black men had the same death rate as white men, we would expect some 45,693 fewer black men to die prematurely each year. If white men had the death rate of black men, we would expect 376,992 more premature deaths each year. Some context helps us to further evaluate the significance of these numbers. In 1991, 95,064 black men died before age 69. Based on the death rates of their white counterparts, we would have expected only 49,371 deaths. Some premature deaths are to be expected for any group. Under our procedure, we can determine that almost half of all premature black deaths can be described as being excess deaths in relation to their white counterparts. Conversely, we would expect some 787,867 white male deaths, though the observed number is 410,375.
Homicide, which in our data includes the subcategory “legal interventions” (such as police shootings and executions), is the fourth-largest of the seven categories. Our analysis suggests that the great majority—80 percent—of the African American deaths in this category are excess deaths. Rather than the 10,430 black men represented in this category, we would expect only 1,791 given the white male death rate. (Examining only men aged 15 to 34, a separate analysis reveals that there are 7,461 homicides rather than 1,017 deaths predicted from the white rate—and this after a 20 percent adjustment to correct for the greater census undercount of young black men relative to other demographic groups.) To give perspective beyond our present 1991 data set, note that as far back as 1981, the lifetime probability of a white woman’s being a murder victim was 1 in 450, while for a black man the risk was 1 in 28 (Rosenberg, 1988:149).
Conversely, our procedure suggests that if whites had the black homicide rate, we would expect a body count of almost 80,000 instead of the 12,000 observed in the 1991 statistics. The 9,253 white men killed by homicide would become 67,592, a phenomenal figure by any reckoning. There would be an extra 32,000 deaths in the 15-to-34-year-old age bracket alone.) These substantial figures apply to one year only. Projected over decades, the result would be a body count of sizeable proportions. Under such circumstances, we doubt that the draconian crime bill recently passed by Congress, which allocates some $30 billion on more police, more prisons, and more executions, would see the light of day. Prevention programs, which hold out the prospect of saving (white) lives rather than merely punishing devalued deviants, would almost certainly be given a higher priority.
The essential consideration in defining genocide is the destruction of the group. Thus, it is appropriate to compare the excess deaths suffered by blacks to the total black population. In this case, the total number of excess black deaths in 1991 was 78,951 and the total black population was 31.2 million. Of course, the almost 80,000 deaths are not a one-time setback but the accumulation of bodies from one year. Projected over decades, the excess deaths among black Americans reaches dramatic proportions. In the three decades since the emergence of the civil rights movement, excess or extra premature deaths among blacks total over two million (78,951 times 30 = 2,368,530). Had whites experienced the death rates of blacks projected over these three decades, the result would be nearly twenty million extra premature deaths (647,575 deaths in the observed-expected category times 30 years = 19,427,250). Both figures are substantial, though the absolute number of whites who would die prematurely if they had the black death rate is breathtaking. There is no doubt that this body count would stun white America and spawn massive efforts to protect and preserve life.
Our data indicate that, in the vast majority of cases, the suffering of blacks is grossly disproportionate to their percent-age in the population Nevertheless, the majority of people who experience life-threatening conditions such as cancer, AIDS, and poverty are white Thus, some may argue that these statistics and the suffering they represent, though regrettable, are not evidence of genocide. However, the black death rate has considerably greater implications for the survival of the group than does the white death rate Remember that the key element of genocide is that it threatens the physical survival or integrity of a group. Blacks are a relatively small minority, comprising roughly 12 percent of our population The life-shortening conditions they experience amount to a threat of great magnitude, a threat that would be hard to imagine in the case of white Americans. Take, for example, the extreme hypothetical case of a government that summarily executed three blacks and seven whites each day. At that rate, the black population would be eliminated long before there was even a threat to the survival of white people. In other words, blacks would have been victims of genocide while whites would not, even though, absolutely speaking, whites would have experienced greater losses and more suffering.
In light of these considerations, it is at first blush something of a paradox that census estimates indicate that the African American population is stable and even growing slightly. The reason: a birth rate among black American women that is almost one-third higher than among white American women (see Black Children in America: 1993). Our point is that this population growth occurs in spite of—not because of—favorable and egalitarian conditions. Indeed, many of these excess births involve children born into lives of poverty and deprivation, which is to say, lives that may well be lived under conditions that are genocidal. That many children are born into the same environments that brutalized their parents is not a rebuttal of a presumption of genocide, since the same destructive forces will now simply operate on this slightly larger group, producing yet more of what has been aptly termed “angry aggression among the ‘truly disadvantaged'” (Bernard, 1990:73). Moreover, marginal increases in what amounts to a surplus population neither improve the conditions of this group nor insulate the group from the destructive forces around them.
Given the high number of excess black deaths at the adult end of the spectrum, moreover, government-sponsored efforts to limit black births through various forms of birth control, though unsuccessful, may take on a new salience. Section (d) of the UN Genocide Convention discusses “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” (see Kuper, 1985). Such measures are not always genocidal in intent or effect, but they are viewed with suspicion in many segments of the black community (see, Weisbord, 1975:94). To the extent that government-imposed birth control measures were to reduce the black birth rate to that of the white rate, one effect, intended or not, would be a steadily declining black population, since excess births would no longer compensate for excess deaths.
We have every indication that 1991, the year for which our data were collected, is a typical year. The Statistical Abstract of the United States predicts that the relative life expectancies of black men and white men will not change substantially for those born through the year 2010; nor does the absolute number of years of projected life expectancy change dramatically for either of these groups (Table 115, p. 85) Some changes are anticipated, however, and these entail a relative worsening of the situation for black men relative to their white counterparts.5 Surely these statistics amount to a prediction of continued high rates of excess premature deaths for black Americans, totaling roughly three-quarters of a million excess black dead per decade. Since this result is now known, we are obligated to act. The failure to act to stem premature black deaths amounts to an intention to allow these deaths to occur, if not a desire for such deaths.
The statistics on reduced life expectancy for black Americans, though sobering, tell only a portion of the story. The grave-yard of ruined black lives runs broader and deeper than a count of the prematurely interred. The living may experience a kind of death if violence is done to body or mind, affecting the individual by limiting his or her capacity for full human experience, sometimes captured in the notion of personhood. Hence, to the body count produced by shortened life span must be added a tally of various indices of the impairment or destruction of personhood experienced by members of a group. Each such impairment is a kind of violence. (The word violence derives from Latin violare, to violate.) Limitations of space prevent our discussion of these matters. The various violations of personhood and culture, meted out daily in a racist society, that consign so many black Americans to the violence of poverty need to be examined as an aspect of genocide, and we are presently engaged in such an endeavor.
Black Americans by and large picture themselves as profoundly marginal and expendable to their white neighbors, leaving them with a sense of alienation. This alienation is perhaps best captured in the Chronicle of the Space Traders (Bell, 1990). In this story, blacks as a group are sacrificed to aliens for gold to retire the national debt, a chemical to clean up pollution, and a limitless source of clean energy. Following a national referendum and a Supreme Court decision, blacks are lined up and turned over to the aliens. The moral of this story is that we have made no racial progress; whites would sacrifice blacks for their own gain now just as they did 400 years ago with the institution of slavery. The Space Trader saga, however strained and extreme it may appear to whites, rings true to many blacks.
Among blacks, the chronicle “captures an uneasy intuition” that black Americans “live at the sufferance of whites—that as soon as our [black] welfare conflicts with something they [whites] consider essential, all our gains, all our progress, will turn out to be illusory” (Delgado and Stefancic 1991:321).
From the vantage point of poor blacks, the much-touted racial progress that is believed to have occurred in America since the civil rights movement is a cruel myth. For many of today’s ghetto dwellers, things are worse, much worse, than was the case when Martin Luther King announced his dream of a color-blind America. Kozol’s work in ghetto schools offers compelling testimony on this observation:
All that stuff about “the dream” means nothing to the kids I know in East St Louis. So far as they’re concerned, he died in vain. He was famous and he lived and gave his speeches and he died and now he’s gone. But we’re still here. Don’t tell students in this school about “the dream.” Go and look into a toilet here if you would like to know what life is like for students in this city. (Kozol, 1991:36).
Just as the reservation has become the locus for an invisible and expendable population of Native Americans—a setting marked by social marginality, blocked opportunity, suffocation of initiative and autonomy—so has the ghetto become a kind of island of abandoned black people. In the case of blacks, at least, these isolated urban islands are surrounded by a sea of white racism.
The vulnerability many African Americans feel, expressed so compellingly in the Space Trader scenario, must be taken seriously. The relevant question for them has been posed by Rubenstein: “At the very least, one must ask whether the bonds of community between Americans would be sufficiently strong to protect the poor in a crisis?” (1987:213). When this question is amended to focus on the black poor, the answer many would give is, quite bluntly, a resounding “No.”
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The Klan Killed Black Children in Atlanta
Police records recently obtained by lawyers for Wayne Williams* have now confirmed what politically aware people have asserted all along: that it was the ku klux klan that carried out the serial murders of the Black children in Atlanta between 1979 and 1981. These records reveal that the government authorities knew exactly who was carrying out the murders at the time, but refused to arrest the killers and have protected them from prosecution ever since. The documents also shed more light on the extent of the collaboration between the police and the klan in terrorizing the people. The identity of the person who leaked these documents is unknown to us. We presume that this leak of secret information is the result of a factional dispute within the police department, designed to embarrass and weaken certain forces in the department and the city administration.
* Wayne Williams, a Black man, was falsely blamed for all the Atlanta child killings. In a trial marked by fabricated testimony and suppressed evidence, he was convicted of killing two Black adults; the other cases were closed.
Don, Henry and Marcus Evans with a photo of Alfred Evans, one of the victim’s of the klan’s slaughter of Black children in Atlanta.
The Systematic Murder of Black Children
During a twenty three month period between 1979 and 1981 over 30 Black children were killed in Atlanta, terrorizing the Afro-American population. In July, 1980, after 14 children had been murdered, the mothers of some of the victims formed the Committee to Stop the Children’s Murders. They pointed out that a systematic campaign of murder was taking place and denounced the Atlanta police for failing to seriously investigate any of the killings. At first the police denied that there was any connection between the killings. The murders continued, with one child disappearing about every twenty-five days. People who lived in and around the Techwood housing project and the other poor Afro-American neighborhoods where the victims were kidnapped generally assumed that the klan or a similar racist organization was responsible.
Atlanta city officials created a highly publicized commission to investigate the murders. It is now clear that the main purpose of this commission was to cover up the fact that klansmen were carrying out these murders. Atlanta police commissioner Lee Patrick Brown told the people: “We can’t say the murders here are racially motivated because we don’t know the motivation.” The FBI, claiming to have used “scientific methods” to draw up a “psychological profile” of the killer, declared that he was a Black man from a broken family. The commission even paid for a “psychic” to come to Atlanta. She claimed that she could “see” the killer and backed up the FBI’s assertion that he was Afro-American.
Special attention was given to dispelling the idea that the klan was involved. The FBI declared that there was no indication of a “group effort” in the murders. In June, 1981, Georgia Governor Busbee and Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) officials announced with great fanfare that they had thoroughly investigated the activity of the klan in Georgia and had concluded that it did not present a serious threat to the people of Georgia. Dr. Joseph Lowrey, the traitorous liar who heads the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was called upon to support this idea, telling the people that he did not believe the klan had anything to do with the murders.
It has now been confirmed that police and government officials not only knew that the klan was committing the murders but, in fact, knew the specific individuals responsible.
The Evidence Against the Klan
The evidence that exposes the klan’s responsibility for the murders is contained in police documents. The most illuminating of these were enclosed in a package “anonymously” sent to Wayne Williams’ lawyers.
The evidence centers around the Sanders family. Members of this family belong to the National States Rights Party / New Order of the Ku Klux Klan (NSRP), which is headquartered in Marrieta, an Atlanta suburb. Don Sanders is National Secretary of the NSRP and his father, Carleton, and five of his brothers, Charles, Terry, Ricky, Jerry and James, are members of the organization. The NSRP, headed by J.B. Stoner and Ed Fields, is one of the most rabid racist and fascist organizations in this country.
Members of the Sanders family have long criminal records including convictions for child molestation, murder, burglary, assault and battery, wife beating, statutory rape, armed robbery and narcotics charges. They are long time drug dealers.
The police documents include statements of police agents closely associated with the Sanders family. One of these operatives reported that members of the family told him that the klan was going to execute one Black boy a month, and after killing 20 children they were going to start killing Black women. This informant reported that Charles Sanders had pointed out to him a 14-year-old Black youth named Lubie Geter and said “See that little Black …? I’m going to get him I’m going to kill him I’m going to choke the Black … to death.” Several weeks later Geter was found strangled to death.
There is other evidence linking the Sanders family to Lubie Geter’s murder. Geter was last seen in a shopping center near where the Sanders family lives. An eyewitness saw Geter get into a car with a tall white man with a jagged scar on his neck on the day he disappeared. Carleton Sanders is tall and has a jagged scar on his neck. Another witness saw Geter on the same day in a blue Ford with two white men. Charles Sanders drove a blue Ford. Hairs of a Siberian husky dog were found on Geter’s body. Charles Sanders owned a Siberian husky.
J.B. Stoner, a leader of the NSRP, at a klan rally in Wrightsville, GA. in 1980, during the height of the murders carried out by members of his organization. During this period Stoner was publicly calling for the mass murder of Blacks. Stoner was released from an Alabama prison in November, 1986 after serving 3 1/2 years of a ten year sentence for bombing a Black church. Stoner has been personally involved in numerous other violent attacks on Afro-Americans and is implicated in the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham in which four young Black girls were killed.
Another victim, 11-year-old Earl Lee Terrell, was with Lubie Geter when Geter incurred Charles Sanders’ wrath by accidentally running into his parked car with a go-cart. Terrell disappeared near the same shopping center where Geter was abducted. Besides Terrell, four other victims were friends of Lubie Geter’s.
Twelve-year-old Charles Stephens, the 15th victim, was found murdered in a trailer park frequented by members of the Sanders family. On his body caucasian head hairs were found, along with more Siberian husky hairs. Altogether, husky hairs were found on the bodies of at least fifteen of the murdered children.
Dozens of witnesses reported seeing men dressed as police or security guards or wearing other types of uniforms with many of the young victims the last time they were seen alive. The Sanders family kept a stockpile of police and other uniforms.
Another informant told police that “Don Sanders had direct knowledge of who was responsible for the killings.” On April 1, 1981 the following telephone conversation between Don and Terry Sanders was recorded by a police wiretap:
Don: “…I might get out and ride around a little bit, and I might come by there.”
Terry: “Go find you another little kid, another little kid?”
Don: “Yeah, scope out some places. We’ll see you later.”
2. THE COVER-UP
The police did not arrest any member of the Sanders family. They allowed them to continue their systematic murders unmolested. Instead, the greatest concern of police officials was to keep the identity of the murderers secret. Police officers were told that no information about the klan’s involvement in the murders could be revealed to anyone outside of a small committee of Atlanta police and GBI officials. All evidence relating to the klan was kept secret even from the “Joint Task Force”, to avoid leaks. GBI Director Phil Peters told officers that absolute secrecy about the klan was imperative to “avoid a race riot.” Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Brown was warding off questions, saying: “There are literally hundreds of things we are doing that we can’t talk about. We can’t compromise the investigation.”
In May, 1981, the “investigation” into the Sanders family was officially closed, the officers involved were reassigned, and the files and vaults containing the evidence were sealed.
On June 19, 1981, a high-level meeting took place at Governor Busbee’s mansion to discuss the murders. Present were the governor, top police officials and probably Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and Vice President George Bush. Although no transcripts of this meeting are available, the events that followed indicate that those present agreed not to arrest the klan murderers and to arrest a Black man instead.
On June 21, Wayne Williams, an Afro-American who worked as a small-time entertainment promoter, was arrested and charged in the deaths of two Black men in their twenties. Over the following months a well-orchestrated publicity campaign was carried out by government officials and the capitalist press to convince the public that Williams was responsible not only for the two deaths he was charged with, but for most of the child murders as well. He was quickly convicted and sent to prison.
Immediately after the trial, the investigation into the murders of the children was closed. In July, the GBI destroyed the bulk of the evidence about the Sanders family.
The Relationship Between the Government and the Klan
Why did the government allow the klan to commit these hideous murderers, month after month? Why did it cover-up the klan’s responsibility and why has it protected these murders from prosecution to this day? These are vital questions which only can be answered by looking into the historic and ongoing relationship between the government and the ku klux klan.
The klan and other similar fascist paramilitary organizations are used by the ruling class to repress and terrorize the masses of working people. The klan was founded by the former slave owners after the Civil War to violently restore their rule over the Black Belt South. Over the last century, klan terror has been essential to the efforts of the small minority of wealthy white landowners and capitalists to enforce their rule over the Black majority in the Black Belt South, as well as the white working people.
The klan has traditionally been organized through the police and sheriffs departments. It has, therefore, always been an appendage of the capitalist state apparatus. It is an extra-legal arm of state repression which works together with the legal arms of state repression (the police, the military, the courts, etc.), to terrorize the people. The klan and other fascist para-military groups are used to carry out acts of terror which the government wants to see done but cannot carry out openly. They are the U.S. equivalent of the “death squads” that operate in El Salvador, Guatemala and other countries.
The klan is financed by wealthy capitalists and is armed by the police and military. This has been well-documented by a vast array of facts that have come to light over the years. The newly uncovered police documents on the Atlanta murders shed further light on this arrangement. The documents reveal that during the period that the child murders were taking place, a klan leader on the GBI payroll sold members of the Sanders family a large cache of M-16 military assault rifles and several cases of fragmentation grenades. The sale was carried out with the GBI’s knowledge and approval. The Sanders family had in its arsenal, in addition to the M-16’s and grenades, bazookas and plastic explosives.
This same police hireling also supplied the Sanders with large quantities of drugs. In addition to being protected from prosecution for the child murders, none of the Sanders were arrested for- the illegal drug and weapons trafficking that was carried out between the family and police operatives.
Workers march in Atlanta to protest the child murders, March, 1981.
Liberals Colluded In Protecting the Klan Killers
The U.S. government apparatus at all levels (local, state and federal) was involved in the operation to cover-up the klan’s responsibility for the murders. It is important to note that liberal politicians, who profess to be against racism and fascism, colluded completely with this cover-up. In fact, it was the liberal Black political officials in Atlanta who played the key role in protecting the klan. The investigation into the murders was presided over by a Black mayor, Maynard Jackson, and a Black police commissioner, Lee Patrick Brown. These two traitors to their people covered up the klan’s responsibility, protected the klansmen from prosecution and suppressed the people’s efforts to defend themselves. Because they refused to arrest the klan killers, the blood of the murdered children is on their hands, too.
The entire liberal and reformist movement came to the aid of the government in its efforts to mislead and pacify the people. The Afro-American reformist movement, which represents the interests of the Black bourgeoisie, played a particularly important role. Joseph Lowery, Coretta Scott King, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young and others all played their part. They repeated the lies propagated by the government and the capitalist press, telling the people that they, too, did not believe the klan was involved in the murders.
In November, 1980, Ozell Sutton, a representative of the U.S. “Justice” Department’s Community Relations Service called the leaders of the Black reformist organizations in Atlanta to a secret meeting. In addition to leaders of the NAACP and the SCLC, representatives of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Atlanta police department attended the meeting. Sutton advised those in attendance: “There is some perception in the Black community of this [the child killings] as a concerted attack on Blacks. We hope to get the community leaders in a position to allay these fears. Perceptions can cause you as many problems as facts. They must be dealt with affirmatively or they may get out of control.” The lackeys of the Anglo-American ruling class faithfully carried out their assignment.
The politically aware people in Atlanta and around the country were not easily fooled. From the beginning they believed that the klan or other racists were responsible. Revolutionary leaders explained to the people that these murders were a systematic campaign of brutality carried out by the ruling class, through the ku klux klan, to terrorize the Afro-American people. The Liberation League and the Movement Against Racism and the Klan published a special joint newspaper about the killings in May, 1981, in which they declared: “The attacks on Atlanta’s Black children are the work of organized fascists.” They explained: “Given the long history of racist attacks against Black people in Atlanta and Georgia and the current increase in klan and fascist terror throughout the country, the most logical explanation is that the murders are being committed by one or more klansmen or fascists, or by someone under the influence of their ideas.” The joint publication specifically pointed to the National States Rights Party as a likely perpetrator of the murders.
The reformist misleaders attacked those who told the people that the klan was committing the murders, claiming that they were being “irresponsible” by making “unsubstantiated claims,” and inflaming the people’s anger “without cause.” The facts now show who was lying and who was telling the truth.
The main goal of the reformists was to derail any independent revolutionary organization and action by the people. They were particularly concerned with preventing the efforts to organize armed self-defense. By 1981, a number of people were taking this course of action. A group of Black veterans, for instance, offered to train Afro-Americans to defend their families. Orvell Anderson, a leader of the group, said “We’re going to try to stop this brutality that’s being done to our children. We’re advocating self-defense. Those who cannot protect themselves, we would protect them.” In March, 1981, armed patrols were organized by residents of the Techwood housing project.
The Liberation League and the Movement Against Racism and the Klan called on the people to further develop this resistance. “The murders in Atlanta will stop when its residents organize to defend themselves, as the Black veterans and the Techwood residents have begun to do. They must seek to shut down white supremacist military camps. They must make Stoner and the NSRP afraid to show their faces in Georgia… The working and oppressed people of Atlanta, when they are organized and prepared to resist the fascists, are the one force that can put a stop to the murders, and to all fascist attacks.”
Maynard Jackson, who was Mayor of Atlanta, cynically offered $500,000 in reward money for the killers. Jackson and other officials knew who the killers were and allowed them to continue their murderous pogroms without interference.
The reformist preachers and politicians, on the other hand, condemned all efforts at independent organization and self-defense and tried to convince the people to rely on the police and the government authorities to stop the murders. Rev. Lowery denounced those organizing self-defense, saying, “if violence is the problem, violence cannot be part of the solution.” Instead, Lowery and others encouraged the people to collaborate with the “investigation” being carried out by the police/FBI task force. The reformists mobilized many gullible people to join the mass search parties led by the task force. In retrospect, the whole odious design is clear as day: while the police/FBI task force was leading hundreds of people on wild goose chases through the woods, police informants were selling the murderers automatic rifles and grenades and listening to them brag about the killings. The height of the irony of the police/FBI task force was reached when police invited Mitchell WerBell and the Camp Cobrey Rangers to lead the search parties. WerBell is a well-known fascist and an international arms merchant and drug dealer. Camp Cobrey is a major para-military training camp in Georgia which prepares mercenaries to fight for the fascist regimes in southern Africa, Central America and elsewhere. These were the people the reformist misleaders were asking the people to place their trust in.
Maynard Jackson, who was Mayor of Atlanta, cynically offered $500,000 in reward money for information about the killers. Jackson and other officials knew who the killers were and allowed them to continue their murderous pogrom without interference.
The Liberals Will Not Fight Fascism
Even now that the evidence against the klan has been uncovered, the Afro-American reformists are trying to bury the truth and protect the killers. “You shouldn’t cry over spilt milk,” was the cold-blooded reply of Andrew Young, the current mayor of Atlanta, when asked what he was going to do about the murder cases. The actions of the liberals and reformists around the Atlanta child murders speak volumes for their true intentions: while they publicly decried the killings, they helped protect the killers.
Why do the liberals collude in protecting the fascists, such as the ku klux klan? Their class nature dictates that they must. They represent the ruling class, the capitalist billionaires. Although they may have tactical differences with the fascists, who represent the most reactionary sector of the ruling class, the liberals share with them the common aim of defending the rule of capital and preventing revolution. Their goal is, therefore, to hide from the people the true nature of the U.S. state, as a dictatorship of the capitalist class. They must hide the fact that the government organizes the KKK and other fascist para-military groups. And they must prevent the workers from organizing any real resistance against the government and its fascist hirelings. The liberals place themselves at the head of mass movements against fascist terror only in order to mislead them and guide them down the dead-end path of reformism and pacifism.
The Afro-American reformists have the same aims as their Anglo-American (white) counterparts. They represent the interests of the Afro-American capitalist class, which has tied its fortunes to the existing system of national oppression and class exploitation.
As the facts about the klan’s responsibility for the child murders are revealed, the liberals are formulating excuses for their protection of the klan. According to their apologists, the liberal officials (Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, etc.) kept the klan’s responsibility for the murders a secret from the people to “prevent a race war.” * But this explanation itself exposes the liberals’ true aims. If they were truly interested in harmony between Black and white people they would use all of the resources at their disposal to crush the klan murderers. But this is not their concern. They are content to allow the klan culprits to remain free and to continue their atrocities aimed at stirring up national hatred. What they are concerned with preventing is any resistance by the oppressed people. They are deathly afraid that the Afro-American people and their allies will rise up in rebellion against these horrendous crimes. This is the reason they have shamelessly deceived the people about the Atlanta child murders.
* This apology is being advanced by William Kunstler and the other attorneys representing Wayne Williams, in particular. Kunstler, a well known bourgeois liberal lawyer, and his associates went so far as to ask permission from the liberal politicians in Atlanta (Jackson, Young, etc.) before they made the secret police documents public. For this reason we do not know if they made all of the documents in their possession public or if they held some back that would have been particularly damaging to their friends among the liberal politicians.
Lee Patrick Brown, head of the Atlanta police at the time, and Eldrin Bell, his deputy chief (shown here), along with other Black police officials, played a key role in protecting the klansmen who were killing the Black children in Atlanta.
3. THE CAUSE
The Atlanta child murders were not simply the act of a few “crazed” klansmen. The klansmen were not acting on their own. They were provided with weapons by the government and have been protected from prosecution. The murders, therefore, were essentially a pogrom, that is a massacre directed against an oppressed people with the sanction and active collaboration of the government.
This gruesome murder of children is an example of the extraordinary national oppression faced by the Afro-American people. It is the continuation of years of horrendous torment and lynchings. It shows the extent to which the U.S. ruling class is willing to go in its persecution of the Afro-American people.
The Murders Stem From the System of National Oppression
The klan massacre of Black children in Atlanta has its source in the continued enslavement of the Afro-American nation by the U.S. imperialist state. The 30 or more killings of Black youth were not accidental; they were a necessary result of this national oppression.
The Afro-American people in the Black Belt South, the old plantation region, constitute an oppressed, captive nation within the borders of the U.S. Afro-Americans of the Black Belt are a stable community of people with a common language, economic life and psychological make-up, who have resided in the plantation region since the days of slavery. Welded into a nation after the Civil War, the Afro-American nation has been subject to a most excruciating and painful yoke of oppression, humiliation, super-exploitation, discrimination and chauvinist attacks.
Most importantly, this nation has never been able to determine its own destiny. It has never had the freedom to take possession of state power in the Black Belt, to govern itself, or to choose whether or not to secede from the U.S. All state power in the Black Belt and the border region has been the sole possession of the Anglo-American billionaires and semi-slave landlords who control this land with an iron fist. The white bosses decide all governmental questions. Consequently, the Black masses are confronted with an alien, semi-slave, semi-fascist state power.
Things have been so unbearable for the Afro-Americans of this area that millions of them have been forced to leave for the North, East and West where they now form national minorities. And there, too, they are subject to an unbearable yoke of white chauvinism. This was most dramatically expressed in the recent police bombing of the M.O.V.E. headquarters in Philadelphia and the vigilante murder of Michael Griffith in New York City.
Super-exploitation dominates life in the Black Belt South and has always been enforced by the hangman’s noose, pogroms and police terror. These violent pogroms against the Afro-American nation have two related purposes: first, to intimidate and hold in check the Afro-American people; second, to foment national hatred between the Black and white working people. The rich wish to prevent the formation of a united front of labor against capitalist exploitation and white chauvinism. These were precisely the aims of the Atlanta child murders.
The heart of the problem, therefore, is the system of national oppression under which the Afro-American people live. The solution is the liquidation of this special yoke.
Liberal Lies About a Reformist Solution
The liberal reformers try to convince us that the oppression of the Black nation in the Black Belt South has been and is disappearing through reforms and by the election and appointment of some Black officials. They ignore the counter-revolutionary national and class stand of these officials who continue the system of national oppression with a democratic decoration. Moreover, even these officials hold only a minor fraction of the important governmental posts and their nominal authority has been watered down by higher-ups. The liberal-led voting rights drives (which were put together for the sole purpose of electing Democratic Party hacks, etc.) have only been diversionary frauds. Instead of fighting for voting rights in a determined and uncompromising manner as by-products of the revolutionary class and national struggle (as is done by genuine Marxist-Leninists), the reformist demagogues, such as Jesse Jackson, have capitulated to the Democratic Party machine.
Virtually all real political power still remains in the hands of the wealthy white capitalists and landowners. Afro-Americans remain powerless, super-exploited, hemmed in from all sides and restricted to the worst jobs for the lowest pay. Extreme poverty, poor education and high infant mortality continue to bear down on them. The Atlanta murders are the most horrible demonstration of how little has changed and the failure of reformism. These small changes could not and have not touched the fundamental base. Therefore, the basic system of national oppression remains unchanged.
4. THE SOLUTION
The murder of the children in Atlanta and the other extreme acts of tyranny against Afro-Americans demand a stern and immediate rebuff. The Afro-American people and workers of Atlanta are compelled to organize armed self-defense to repel the klansmen and other fascist thugs. It is the immediate duty of Marxist-Leninists, militant workers and progressive people to build self-defense groups made up of Black and white workers. No amount of delay or procrastination can be tolerated if this work is to be successful. All the advice of the meek reformers that the oppressed must “turn the other cheek” and pray for their persecutors must be ignored. These people are enemy agents (conscious or unconscious). Their line of debating the klan and of “respecting the rights” of fascist murderers is only aiding the enemy. It leaves the workers and Afro-Americans disarmed in the face of the heavily armed lynchers.
So long as capitalism exists, mass, collective self-defense is the most effective means to combat the klan thugs who are working on orders from the authorities. At the same time, mass demonstrations and political strikes are essential, especially those which militantly confront the government. We must demand that the government try the klansmen responsible for these crimes and disband the klan and the other fascist groups. To wring these immediate demands from the capitalists, the mass movement has to keep its revolutionary banner in the forefront of the struggle. Only a powerful revolutionary movement can possibly force the capitalists to rein in their bloodthirsty klan killers by even a small amount.
This is all that can be done in the short run. But what can be done to eliminate forever white chauvinism, racism and the klan pogroms against the Afro-Americans? Only revolution can accomplish this.
National oppression cannot be done away with through reforms because the wealthy reactionary classes and their lackeys remain in power despite reforms. The rich whites depend on national oppression to stay on top and therefore will not and cannot give genuine freedom to the Afro-American Nation.
Marxist Leninist Program on the National Question in the U.S.
The Afro-American Nation can only gain its liberation if the U.S. imperialist state in the Black Belt is destroyed and a new revolutionary state power is set up. Then, certain basic revolutionary demands arising from the concrete situation will have to be realized.
1. The property of the white landlords and big capitalists in the Black Belt must be taken (seized without compensation) and placed in the hands of the revolutionary state to be used for the benefit of the working people.
2. The present administrative boundaries (state, county etc.) dividing the Black Belt region must be dissolved and the Afro-American national territory comprising the old plantation region and the border areas must be combined into one governmental entity.
3. All state authority in the Black Belt must pass into the hands of the masses of Afro-American people. This means that the Afro-American majority would exercise governmental authority in the entire area of the Black Belt. All questions of state authority (judicial, administration, legislation, taxes, education, police power etc.) must now be determined by the Afro-Americans. They must now be free to secede from the United States if they so choose and form an independent republic. A considerable white laboring minority will remain in the Black Belt and their equal rights will be protected by law. But the revolutionary and democratic changes will require the suppression of the former white rulers and their lackeys.
4. All U.S. imperialist troops and police forces must be withdrawn from the territory of the Black Belt.
These revolutionary changes can be brought about in two ways: as a direct product of a national democratic revolution of the Afro-American people of the Black Belt that then passes over to a socialist revolution; or as a by-product of a victorious socialist revolution throughout the U.S. which recognizes the right to self-determination for the Afro-American Nation.
Given the raging and growing national oppression of the Afro-Americans of the Black Belt, given the deep wedge that has severed the workers of this area, given history and current sentiments of the Afro-American masses to wage a mass struggle for their national freedom and given the presence of semi-slave, semi-fascist elements in the economic and political system of the area that greatly retard the immediate preparation of the socialist revolution, it is most likely that the proletarian revolution in the Black Belt will be preceded by a national democratic insurrection by the Afro-Americans and their allies. A genuine Marxist-Leninist party of the U.S. workers will seek to lead this revolution; such a party is the only force that is capable of keeping it free of compromise and on the path of victory. Once completed, this revolution will quickly grow over into a proletarian socialist revolution.
Socialist Revolution and the Right of the Afro-American Nation to Self Determination
Ultimately national equality and freedom for the Afro-American Nation is bound up with the socialist revolution. This means an all-out attack on capitalism, the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the working class in the U.S. By suppressing the rich parasites and drawing the overwhelming mass of exploited people into state administration through workers’ councils, the workers’ dictatorship will establish the most democratic state system this country has ever known. This new political system will ensure the oppressed nations (Afro-American, Dineh, Puerto Rico, Chicano, etc.) the right to political independence. All troops and state forces of the former oppressor nation will be withdrawn from the territories of the oppressed nations and peoples, and the new socialist state will not interfere in any way with the decision of the formerly oppressed nations to either remain a part of the emerging socialist state or to secede and form their own state power. The people in these areas will decide this question through a democratic referendum. Should they choose to remain a part of a common government system, the political party of the workers would propose the formation of a federative system.
Children playing in the Atlanta shopping center where Lubie Geter was kidnapped. Afro-American children will only be free from racist terror once the system of national oppression has been abolished by means of revolution.
Federation of Socialist Republics
Experience has shown that a federation of independent socialist republics for each nation is the best form of transition to a socialist centralized state. The territories of each of the republics within such a socialist federation will correspond to the territories of the current nations within the U.S. (Anglo-American, Afro-American, Chicano, Dineh, etc.) The boundaries of each of these republics will be drawn up by the local populations, and will contain a majority of the base nationality. Each republic will, of course, contain national minorities, as these regions do today. But in each republic people of all nationalities will enjoy equal rights. Each national republic will populate the state apparatus with its people (especially the courts, militia, schools, etc.). Each republic will conduct all state affairs in the language of the local nationality. And to ensure that the union of federative socialist states remains voluntary, each national state will retain the right to secede at any time.
An All-Union central authority will be granted jurisdiction over trade, military defense, foreign affairs, post, transport etc. Self-government, national, economic and cultural development will remain the purview of the contracting republics.
At the same time, this new state system will provide wide local autonomy for the national minorities now chained up in the ghettos of the big cities. Autonomous regions of distinct national composition would be formed where national minorities are now concentrated (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit etc.). The national minorities (Afro-American, Puerto Rican, Chicano, Native, etc.) will enjoy autonomy in administering all the local organs of state power (schools, militia, bureaucracy, etc.).
This two-fold program is necessary in order to bring about a conscious and principled unity between the workers of different nations inhabiting the U.S. in their fight to capture state power and hold it. This is the form that was developed and implemented by Stalin in solving the national question in the Soviet Union. So long as Stalin was in the lead, these measures brought national freedom and peace to the many oppressed peoples of the former Russian empire. These tested and correct methods are the way to freedom for the oppressed nations of the U.S. today.
The new socialist society will provide the foundation for building new social relations. White supremacy, racism and national chauvinism in all forms will be vigorously combated with the full strength of the workers’ state. The advocacy or practice of racism and national privilege will be a crime with severe penalties. All of the cultural resources of the workers’ state (the press, schools, theater, television and movie studios, etc.) as well as the workers’ mass organizations (trade unions, youth and women’s organizations, etc.) will be mobilized to build the unity of all nationalities, develop the culture of the formerly oppressed natio.ns and provide the means for their unfettered growth.
National oppression can only be done away with after the power of U.S. imperialism in the Black Belt South is overthrown.