Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11

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Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11

Activists and scholars have been arguing for years that negative representations of minorities in US-based commercial media has contributed to how the public perceives any group. The first feature film in the US, The Birth of A Nation, is a good example of the role that racist depictions of Blacks contributed to public lynching in the early part of the 20th century.

This is the fundamental argument that author Jack Shaheen has been making for years as it relates to media depictions of Arabs with his groundbreaking book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, which documents how Hollywood has portrayed Arabs. Years later the book was made into a documentary and now Shaheen has written a sequel, Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs After 9/11.

Guilty is important on two levels. First, it tracks Arab depiction in Hollywood films and US entertainment TV shows since 9/11. These depictions since 9/11 have continued to disproportionately represent Arabs in a negative light, quite often as terrorists. Some examples that Shaheen looks at are the movies Click (2006), Final Destination 3 (2006), The Kingdom (2007), Team America (2004), and Transformers (2007).

Each of these films has stereotypical representation of Arabs, most often as terrorists with overt depictions of bearded sultans who are driven by lust and greed. In the movie Click there is a brief encounter with a wealthy Arab with the main characters in the film. An Arab actor does not play the Arab businessman and his White counterparts cannot pronounce his name. At one point the main character in the film says are you asking me to design an “Arabian hoochie house?” This brief exchange suggests that Arab men have no respect for women. In the movie Transformers, Arabs are helpless in the face of an alien invasion and must rely on the US military to protect them.

Shaheen also includes US television programming in his analysis of popular media depictions of Arabs since 9/11, since a similar pattern exists. In a chapter entitled “TV’s Arab-American Bogeyman,” the author demonstrates that Arab characters are depicted in very negative ways. The popular FOX network show 24 uses Arabs as terror suspects repeatedly and the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) has White wrestlers always beating an Arab wrestler named Hasan. One reason why these depictions contribute negative public perceptions of Arabs is because they never show “Arab American women and men doing what normal Americans do in their daily lives.”

The second reason why Guilty is an important book is because of how the author makes the link between these media stereotypes and the treatment of Arabs and Arab Americans in the real world. Shaheen always comes back to what these racist depictions of Arabs mean to everyday Arabs and Arab Americans, which is to say that hate crimes and discrimination have been on the rise since 9/11.

Guilty does an excellent job of weaving the actual treatment of Arab Americans in the US since 9/11 and how media depictions create a climate for this negative treatment. Anyone who wants to understand the relationship between media and racism would find this book valuable. Those who care about the civil rights of Arab Americans would do well to read this important and timely book.

Jack Shaheen, Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs After 9/11, (Olive Branch Press, 2008).

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Cornel West at Calvin College

Unfortunately, I missed Cornel West when he spoke recently at Calvin College. However, the college has made the audio of his lecture–“Hope on a Tightrope”–available online. Few people can discuss the realities of white supremacy, the need for resistance, and the importance of hope like West, so it’s highly worth listening.

Download the file

Report: Policy Changes Needed to Address Racial Disparities

State of Black America

African-Americans are twice as likely to remain unemployed as whites, are three times more likely to live in poverty, and are six times as likely to be incarcerated as whites.

In the era of the United States’ first African-American president, structural and practical inequality for African-Americans remains an unfortunate reality. While Obama’s election–history on some levels–did not mark a transition into a “post-racial” society, it might offer the opportunity for some progress in addressing racism.

In its annual State of Black America report, the Urban League offers a series of practical policy recommendations for the Obama administration that could help address longstanding racial disparities.

These include:

  • The developmental of “a comprehensive and universal health insurance system”
  • Increasing assistance to help people of color purchase their own homes
  • Strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act to encourage banks to lend to people of color and end discrimination and predatory lending
  • Create a HUD task force to investigate violations of fair-housing laws
  • Increase federal programs aimed at creating jobs for urban areas
  • Guarantee that all three- and four-year olds have access to full day early childhood education
  • Increased federal spending to improve the education system

The report advocates that far from stopping with Obama’s victory, those campaigning for racial justice need to actively work to improve the material conditions for people of color and work to hold government officials at all levels accountable.

The report also echoed previous reports in asserting that the economic crisis has hit African-Americans the hardest.

NAACP Sues Charging Systemic, Institutionalized Racism in Lending Practices Leading to the Mortgage Crisis

Systematic Racism Alleged in Sub-Prime Lending

Last week, the NAACP filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against two of the country’s largest lenders alleging systemic, institutionalized racism in mortgage lending practices. The lawsuit alleges that Wells Fargo and HSBC purposefully steered people of color towards higher cost, risky loans.

According to the lawsuit, lenders named in this suit and a companion suit filed by the NAACP made high cost sub-prime loans to qualified African Americans 54% of the time compared to 23% for Caucasians. African-Americans were disproportionately steered into these loans even when credit scores, income, and down payment were equal to that of Caucasians.

The sub-prime crisis has led to historic wealth lost for communities of color.

Study Finds People of Color Bear Heaviest Burden in Recession

A new study from the Center for Social Inclusion says that people of color are bearing the heaviest burden in the recession. Looking at the New York metropolitan area as a microcosm for the nation, the authors argue infrastructure, job creation, and other services have been denied to communities of color.

Discussing the study on Democracy Now! and the sub-prime crisis, Maya Wiley said:

“…imagine if we had had a financing system where people actually fairly got the loans that they should get. Most of those are people of color. And even when you look at the expansion of the subprime industry, a lot of it was around the fact that communities of color didn’t have fair access to credit. So we’re in this mess in part because we didn’t look at the warning signs. The warning signs for our economy were in communities of color. We tend to be first–hit first and hit hardest.”

A study earlier this year backed up this assertion, finding that people of color were experiencing a recession considerably earlier than the rest of the country.

Analysis: Military Continues to Rely on People of Color and Low and Middle Income to Fill Ranks

Disproportionate Number of African-American Recruits in Kent County in 2008

The National Priorities Project has released its annual analysis of Army recruiting, finding that in 2008 new recruits tend to be people of color, come from low to middle income families, and are growing increasingly younger.

In summarizing the findings, Jo Comerford of the National Priorities Project states, “Once again we are compelled to note the Army’s disproportionate reliance on young people, people of color and individuals from low- and middle-income families to fill its ranks.”

Summary of Recruiting Trends for 2008

The data–obtained by combining Census material with information obtained via the Freedom of Information Act–shows several striking things:

  • LOW- AND MIDDLE INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS CONTINUE TO BE OVERREPRESENTED. Active-duty Army recruits disproportionately come from low-to middle income neighborhoods. Neighborhood incomes in the lowest 10% of population were underrepresented, as were those in the top 20%.
  • THE AGE OF NEW RECRUITS FELL. Fifty-two percent of new recruits in 2008 were below the age of 21. This is up from 48.5% in 2007.
  • THE PERCENTAGE OF RECRUITS WHO ARE BLACK HAS RISEN SINCE 2005, INCREASING FROM 15% IN 2005 TO 16.6% IN 2008. The sharpest increase was between 2007 and 2008.
  • THE PERCENTAGE OF NEW RECRUITS WHO ARE HISPANIC HAS FALLEN A FULL PERCENTAGE POINT BETWEEN 2005 AND 2008, WITH 10.85% OF NEW RECRUITS IDENTIFYING THEMSELVES AS HISPANIC.
  • BOTH HISPANIC AND BLACK RECRUITS ARE ALSO MORE LIKELY THAN WHITES TO BE WOMEN, AND TO COME FROM LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS.
  • BOTH HISPANIC AND BLACK RECRUITS ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA, BUT AS A GROUP HAVE LOWER SCORES ON THE AFQT (ARMED FORCES QUALIFICATION TEST) THAN WHITE RECRUITS.

The National Priorities Project also expresses concern that with lower test scores, recruits of color will have limited opportunities in the Army.

Military Recruiting in West Michigan

One of the strengths of the National Priorities Project’s research is that it allows folks to look at the numbers in their own communities (see MediaMouse.org posts from 2006 and 2007).

Looking at the numbers for Kent County, we found that there were 146 active-duty Army recruits. This breaks down into the following categories:

  • 83.56% were White
  • 14.38% were Black

    2.05% were Asian or Pacific Islander

    1.37% were Hispanic

According to Census statistics for Kent County, African-Americans were over-represented in the Army when compared to their percentage of the total population.

Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama

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We are a month into the new administration of Barack Obama, the first Black President of the United States. And while there has been a great deal of celebratory comments on this fact, we can ill afford to be comfortable about the realities surrounding racism in this country. Tim Wise, a long-time anti-racist activist, has just finished a very timely book that warns against becoming comfortable with racism while we are distracted by Obama’s election.

Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama continues the excellent work around the issue of White Privilege that Wise has pounded home in his books, articles, and public talks across the country. This relatively short book was written just after the November 2008 elections and consists of two essays.

In the first essay, Wise raises the issue of whether or not the election of a Black man as the President of the United States demonstrates that racism is no longer a deeply entrenched problem in this country. Wise emphatically responds to that question with a loud “no.” In fact, Wise thinks that the election of Obama could actually allow racism to morph into a more subtle form, what he calls “Racism 2.0.”

“Racism 2.0” could be manifested in the dominant culture celebrating individual Black achievement, but continuing to ignore or demonize the majority of Blacks and other minorities in the U.S.. Since Obama is articulate, presents himself “well,” and has not as of yet discussed the contemporary problem of racism, people might want to use him as a standard for all other Blacks. Therefore, anyone who makes racism a central part of their critique of America might be more easily dismissed, since the most powerful Black man in America doesn’t appear to have any major problems with it.

Wise supports this notion of “Racism 2.0” by presenting lots of data and examples of how Blacks and other minorities are still being systematically discriminated against in the areas of housing, health care, education and income. With a Black man occupying the White House will we be less inclined to say that racism is still alive and well in America? Maybe those minorities who make less and don’t go to college do so because of their own inability to make gains in society. These are the potential rationalizations that White society might make now that we are in the age of Obama.

The second essay is entitled “The Audacity of Truth: A Call for White Responsibility.” In this section of the book Wise makes a clarion call to those of us in the White community to take on the responsibility of addressing White privilege and racism, to listen to what people of color have to say, and to be willing to honesty investigate this country’s history as it relates to what White people have done to people of color.

Wise uses the example of what happened to Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Wright, when he chose to challenge and instruct us on this brutal history of White Supremacy. The author believes that we can only achieve racial justice if we honestly come to terms with the past.

Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama closes with a challenge to the White community to also discover and learn from the rich tradition of Whites who made racial justice their cause. From those who fought for abolition to those who participated in the Civil Rights movement, we need to see that White people are also a part of a legacy that has struggle for equality and against racism.

Tim Wise, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama, (City Lights, 2009).

Speakers Deliver Compelling Talk on Race and Gender and their Relationship to Animal Advocacy

Vegan Speakers on Race and Gender at Calvin Animal Rights Event

Friday and Saturday, Calvin College held their third annual Wake Up Weekend! event hosted by the College’s Philosophy Department and a variety of student groups. The weekend featured a number of speakers addressing animal advocacy issues, including oft-neglected issues of race and gender and how those topics relate to animal rights. While the vegan brunch and chili cook-off was great, this talk was the highlight of the weekend for me!

Thinking and Eating at the Same Time: Reflections of a Sista Vegan

Michelle Lloyd-Page, Dean for Multicultural Affairs at Calvin College, shared stories of what it means to “eat like a vegan” as an African-American woman, and the stumbling blocks and victories she has faced in her own community and family.

Living in Muskegon Heights, a predominately Black community, Lloyd-Page spoke of not only the availability of vegan food and organic produce, but also what it means to make the choice of rejecting meat and dairy products. She explained that for many low income African-American families, like those in her neighborhood, being able to work enough to afford such a luxury as chicken, is a large step. When many families see this as a luxury, telling them what they can and can’t have is an action directly tied to race, privilege, and education.

She went on to explain that people of color often make the assumption that becoming vegan is just as simple as cutting something out of your diet and then replacing it with vegetables and other healthier plant-based alternatives. The problem with this approach, she has learned through experience, is that you are taking away their perceived “staples” and long-standing traditions associated with them such as various Soul Food dishes. This is problematic for white people to not only think it’s only a matter of simplicity associated with a vegan lifestyle, but also to deny the strong cultural and identity ties to meat eating, as well as saying “I’m telling you what you can and can not eat”, when African-Americans have been told that by white people for generations.

Beyond cultural associations to meat, Lloyd-Page also talked about what it means for her and how it feels to be a Black woman and be vegan. For example, popular conceptions of veganism almost always exclude people of color. She explained that if this movement wants to reach out to other people, we have to have these conversations about race and even gender, otherwise it will stay white. In turn, she spoke about her own experiences in her community of being accused of trying to be white, be better than everyone else, be perfect, and leaving her own traditions and roots – something that most white vegans may have not even considered before.

While race is often ignored by the animal rights movement, Lloyd-Page spoke with insistency that our approaches in engaging in conversations about veganism have to be careful but can be done successfully. She explained that we have a problem when “white college kids will save a chicken, but not a starving child.”

For example, telling someone they should eat something outlandish that they have never heard of and can’t find in their neighborhood, might not be as good of an approach as making traditional recipes vegan and talking about the many health benefits of becoming vegan.

Lloyd-Page concluded her portion of the panel by explaining that all oppressions are linked together and that we cannot just fight animal cruelty alone, we have to fight them all or else we are not acknowledging their connections, thus allowing them to continue.

“Speciesism, Sexism, and Racism: The Intertwining Oppressions”

The second panelist, Nekeisha Alexis-Baker, recent graduate of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and co-founder of Jesus Radicals, was segued nicely by Lloyd-Page’s closing remarks on the importance of recognizing the interconnectedness of the oppression of people and animals.

Alexis-Baker began her presentation by showing a projected picture of herself smiling and holding a baby raccoon, Edward, she had rescued and became friends with. She told of her own experience with Edward as teaching her how we treat non-human animals and what that implies of our society in general. She discussed the ideologies of racism, sexism, and speciesism, and how they all use a process of “othering” which not only allows for the mistreatment of animals and humans, but makes this classification socially acceptable.

During this discussion–through the lens of slavery–Alexis-Baker went on to incorporate the mistreatment of women as well. Through images she explained the level of desensitization our culture has adopted when it comes to cruelty, the many forms it takes and ways it is carried out, the legacy of the past, and how that has allowed us to glorify this mistreatment.

An example that was discussed was the comparison of African-American slaves to cattle. She explained the acceptability of shackling, branding, whipping, and breeding slaves was due to the fact that they were seen as the equivalent of cattle–solely raised for consumption by white people, particularly white males. This is especially true in the case of lactating Black women who continued to be wet due to nursing their own children and being forced to feed their “master’s” children as well. Alexis-Baker strongly stated that here there was no difference in the status of a Black woman, nor the status of a cow, because clearly they were both being bred and used to be subservient to their “master”.

In addition to this cattle/slave relationship, she also highlighted the fact that this “situation”, if it could even be simplified as such, of people of color who have been dominated by white men, could not even be considered oppression at the time, because only humans can be oppressed, and the status of a slave was below that–it was one of a non-human animal.

The link between slavery and the mistreatment of non-white humans today, to the mistreatment of animals was explained wonderfully and described in the most “easy to understand” terms when Alexis-Baker said, “They are desired, dismembered, and devoured, both figuratively and literally” they are both “…valuable in satisfying the male” as well as being “interchangeable bodies between non-human animals and women, both being objects.”

Sexism and Speciesism

She explained how this touches almost everything in our culture, even to the point of being incorporated in to the well intentioned animal rights movement at times. An example of this was a projected picture of a scantily, if not naked, clad woman in a suggestive pose with cuts of meat drawn all over her body.

The image, put out by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), was intended to invoke shock to the viewer by comparing the consumption and dismembering of animals and its acceptability, to the unacceptability of a person being treated in the same manner. While the intentions may have been good, in the end PETA chose to portray a young, thin, white woman to seduce the viewer into understanding their message.

Alexis-Baker emphasized the problems behind not noticing the intertwining of oppressions. In this situation women were being oppressed, while animals were trying to be freed. Her conclusion, along with Lloyd-Page’s, was that no one is free when others are oppressed. For Alexis-Baker, this means realizing that being vegan is one way to deal with these oppressions, and that as a Black woman, she has no choice but to strive for a liberation that involves everyone.

People of Color Experiencing “Silent Depression”

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United for a Fair Economy has released their annual “State of the Dream” report examining the state of racial inequality in the United States.

This year’s report looks at how people of color have been hurt more than the general population by the recent economic problems. It also argues that people of color have been experiencing a “silent depression” for five years that has been largely ignored by those in power.

The report’s executive summary provides plenty to think about and is reproduced here in its entirety:

As we celebrate the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we know that 2009 will be an historic year, with the inauguration of the first African American president and the deepening of what is likely to be the most serious fiscal crisis since the Great Depression.

Many American Blacks today are already experiencing a silent economic depression that, in terms of unemployment, equals or exceeds the Great Depression of 1929. Almost 12% of Blacks are unemployed; this is expected to increase to nearly 20% by 2010. Among young Black males aged 16-19, the unemployment rate is 32.8%, while their white counterparts are at 18.3%.

Overall, 24% of Blacks and 21% of Latinos are in poverty, versus 8% of whites.

In the corporate world, we are seeing the highest executive pay and the biggest bailouts in history. CEO pay is 344 times that of the average worker, not including perks like bonuses, stock options, corporate jets, and housing subsidies. The riches of the few mask the deepening recession in the working class and the depression in communities of color.

Extreme economic inequality (which the U.S. experienced in the 1920s and is again experiencing now) is often a key indicator of recession and/or depression. The Black depression of today may well foreshadow the depth and length of the recession the whole country entered in December 2007.

A deep recession would see median family income decline by 4%. Thirty-three per cent of Blacks and 41% of Latinos would drop out of the middle class. The overall national rate would be 25%.

Economically, Blacks and Latinos have suffered disproportionately because of structural racism and the web of policies that evolved from it. Eliminating the racial wealth divide is an essential step toward eliminating institutional racism. A comprehensive economic policy could deal a knockout blow to structural racism and raise awareness of individual racism. The path forward abounds with possibilities for shrinking the racial wealth divide and further healing the racism that still afflicts our nation.

If we institute systemic wealth-building programs that help everyone; if we repair and reinvigorate the decimated watchdog policies governing all aspects of home ownership; if we target 2009 economic stimulus programs to investment, not investment in tax breaks for the rich, but in the building blocks of the American dream – affordable housing, education, job creation, and savings among low- and middle-income people – we will make strides toward a more balanced economy.

Our nation’s economic policies have enabled the top 10% to accumulate 68% of the wealth, while sheltering the wealthy from sharing the nation’s risks. The children of the wealthy are not marching off to war because their economic alternatives are bleak. The rising cost of medical care does not require American millionaires and billionaires to cut back on food in order to pay medical bills. Thousands of additional layoffs will not harm the financial security of those in the owning class.

Fairer policies would share the risks of our entrepreneurial economy by helping balance the economic burdens among all of us, rather than piling them onto people of color, the poor, and the middle class. Revoking the tax deduction for expensive second and third houses, ending offshore tax havens and policies that make it profitable to ship American jobs overseas, and calling – with a united voice – for those in the upper quintile of income and wealth to participate more fully in bearing the burden of fixing the economy would spread the risks more fairly.

Fairer policies would support low-cost mortgages, better and cheaper medical care for those making less than $200,000 a year, strengthening Social Security, and freezing or raising wealth taxes like capital gains and the estate tax.

Finally, we need to recommit ourselves, via policy and our unified voices, to affirmative action. We need recognition of and apology for the U.S.’s centuries of slavery and segregation. We need a commitment by the nation and its communities to acknowledge and repudiate the institutional and individual racism – epitomized by today’s Black depression – that still pervades our society.

With such actions we can move forward. The economic path behind us is collapsing in rubble. Looking backward, we can freeze in fear, or we can turn toward a future whose economic health and fairness we jointly create.

Study: Segregation on the Rise in US Schools

A New Study Finds Segregation is Growing in the US School System

A new study by the University of California’s Civil Rights Project has found that despite rhetoric–particularly around Obama’s campaign–about racial equality in the United States, the United States is actually moving backwards in many respects on key measures of racial equality.

The study–Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge–finds that:

“the U.S. continues to move backward toward increasing minority segregation in highly unequal schools; the job situation remains especially bleak for American blacks, and Latinos have a college completion rate that is shockingly low. At the same time, very little is being done to address large scale challenges such as continuing discrimination in the housing and home finance markets, among other differences across racial lines.”

The Civil Rights Project has previously issued several reports on the integration of the public schools. It has found that in the decades since Brown vs. the Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, gains have slowly been undone to the point where segregation is now growing each year. The study reports that 40% of African-Americans and 39% of Latinos now attend “intensely segregated schools.” The average African-American and Latino student also attends schools where nearly 60% of students are at or below the poverty line.

The report finds that suburban schools are also highly segregated, with the majority of suburban students attending schools that are 80% white.

At the same time, the study also reports that there is “almost no enforcement” of the Fair Housing Act and few penalties leveled for housing discrimination, which plays an important role in maintaining segregated schools.

The report concludes that the “separate but equal” approach that the government has returned to since abandoning serious efforts to integrate public schools has failed. Moreover, the report argues that new measures–such as No Child Left Behind–have failed and unduly targeted schools serving communities of color with sanctions while failing to give them the resources they need.

The report calls on the incoming Obama administration to make “the first serious commitment” to integrating the public schools since the Lyndon Johnson presidency.

Black Panther Co-Founder Bobby Seale Speaks at MSU

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On Thursday, the Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale spoke at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Center. Seale–who founded the Black Panther Party in 1966 with Huey P. Newton–was brought to campus by the W.E.B. Du Bois Society and the Young Democratic Socialists.

Seale’s life brought him from modest beginnings to Oakland, where he became involved in radical politics, community organizing, and eventually formed the Black Panther Party. From there, he became an internationally known activist, served time in prison, was followed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and even released a barbecue cook book as a fundraiser for social justice.

The Black Panthers Revisited: Inspiration

Seale began by telling the audience that the Black Panther Party’s main slogan was “All Power to the People.” It was a class slogan designed to at once challenge the wealthy interests who controlled the country and also to say plainly what they wanted–control over their own communities.

The Black Panthers formed in 1966 in the middle of a protest movement that preexisting struggles for civil rights and against the United States war in Vietnam. Seale shared stories about how both he and Huey P. Newton were involved in that movement, including a story of their being involved in a major antiwar demonstration that was brutally attacked by Oakland Police. Seale and Newton realized that the brutality directed at the demonstration was mandated by the same system that directed brutality daily on communities of color.

In college, Seale and Newton studied African-American history and got involved in the politics of the day. They drew inspiration from the movement, but also from looking back at the triumphant history of African Americans and Africans. Seale told of learning of the role that black soldiers played in the Revolutionary War and Civil War and becoming inspired.

The Formation of the Party

Seale told the audience how he organized an anti-draft program at his community college that was well-attended and would help convince Newton that the two men could start a successful organization. He explained that after a full afternoon of speakers, he recited an anti-draft poem written by an African American poet that captured Newton’s attention. Several days later, Newton pressured Seale to recite the poem on Telegraph Avenue near the University of California campus in Berkley. Following the poem, several undercover police officers tried to arrest Seale and Newton. While the event led to their arrest and trial, it also convinced Newton that they could build a radical organization.

Later that night, the two wrote the Black Panther Party’s ten point platform. They sought to “capture the imagination of the community” by engaging in solid community organizing. One of their first projects was developing citizen patrols to monitor police conduct. They were not the first group to do so in the Bay Area, but previous groups were typically arrested while observing police conduct. To stop this, the Panthers’ patrols were armed with tape recorders, law books, and guns–and were highly disciplined. The Panthers would gain further notoriety when they brought an armed delegation to the California legislature to protest laws aimed at stopping them from carrying guns.

Continued interest in the Black Panther Party

Seale also discussed the continued interest in the Black Panther Party. He pointed to the release of new books on the Panthers (Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas and The Black Panther Party: Service to the People Programs as examples), as well as interest by Hollywood. There is currently a six-hour special being produced about the group for HBO, as well as a Hollywood film that might star Will Smith as Bobby Seale. He said that this continued interest has driven him to write a book–“The 8th Defendant”–on his experiences being tried for his role in the 1968 protests in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

Radical to this Day

Many of the same conditions that prompted the formation of the Black Party Panther continue to exist to this day. Seale said that 90% of wealth in world controlled by less than 1% of the population. He believes that this needs to change and that a way to pursue that change is via greater community control from the local level on up to the top. He also said that the ecological crisis needs to be addressed.

He said that a movement similar to that launched by the Black Panther Party could still happen to this day if people employ effective and disciplined grassroots organizing. He argued that the success of the Party was dependent on his commitment to grassroots organizing and his willingness to share with others how to do that organizing.