destroy slavery. Almost everything I learned around my grandfather’s was contradictory to what I was learning in school at the time. So it was natural that I didn’t get too interested in my subjects like history and English. What did I care about grammar? I had been speaking the white man’s language all my life. It wasn’t my native language, and I had made C’s and D’s all the way. Just look at some of the words in the English language and you can see the entire white ideology toward blacks. You’ve got blackjack, a criminal or police weapon. You’ve got blackmail, a criminal practice. You’ve got black sheep, the outlaw of the family. You’ve got black plague, a deadly European disease. You’ve got the myth of the hyper-sexed black. And you’ve got the story of the ugly duckling, who just happens to be black. 3 DID FIND out one thing in school. I discovered I excelled in anything I put my mind to. There was just one problem: The education was so irrelevant it wasn’t worth thinking about, much less concentrating on. I thought college might be different. But it wasn’t. The education at Texas Southern was just as useless. “Nobody who graduated from TSU could go back into the black community to help. In fact, the students were taught to reject the black community. Freshmen were told not to go there to stay out of the ghetto. The university scared them away with stories of thugs and prostitutes. It was education within the borders of the university. The blacks just came to TSU, got their diploma, and zoomed out to some integrated community. Nobody thought to look at the ghetto as the source of a different, more relevant education. So I opposed several subjects. The black man didn’t need fancy lies and flowery words in history books. A licensed electrician or a black man who would have to be one even though he had a college diploma didn’t need a lot of malarky about world history. He needed some education that would help him get ahead, help him get control of something.” Even though Johnson spoke of control, he shook his head at the idea whites are going to relinquish their overbearing economic power. “I like to hear the talk about guaranteeing self-determination for the people of Korea, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Now what we need is some self-determination for America, or at least the black people here. Of course, that may be impossible. The whites are self-appointed gods; they can play with our freedom at will. Take courts, education, industry anything and everything they control it all, every facet. Take Houston, for example. It’s the petroleum capital of the United States. Do you think for a minute that those corporations are going to give up any of that resource control? “We blacks have built America. We’re the hardest working people in the world. From King Cotton through every war to the present we’ve been the backbone of America. But in return, we’ve just had a bite to eat and a cup of coffee. And we’ve had to live in racist towns and work in racist businesses, or buy from white merchants in the black community. Whites have used the income tax, the installment plan, overhead, excise taxes, slum lords, and everything else to keep us down. The Negro, in a word, is faced with a brute fact: minority status in a situation maintained by the naked force of an overwhelming majority. Lerone Bennett, Jr. “It’s all part of the capitalistic system. To keep wages and prices and production and consumption based on a concept of scarcity, the system demands a certain amount of unemployment. So we have welfare and subsistence wages. The black man is just a scapegoat for the corporate powers. We also have crime because the system demands it. `Law and order’ is just a subterfuge for maintaining a strong police power you know, the National Guard and the Texas Rangers and your local cops. The system takes guys fresh out of the service or the war men they’ve already trained to kill and puts them into law enforcement. They’re usually the rejects of society, guys who can’t do any other job or guys who get their kicks doing the job. “Very few people have the guts to face the man. And when a black does, and gets himself killed say unjustly even then the most that will happen is that the cop will get fired from the police department. Then they’ll put him on the payroll of a sheriff’s department or a penitentiary staff. And after that, they’ll hire another cop just as bad to replace him. Those people who think I advocate shooting the police are crazy. I know that wouldn’t solve anything. Every white cop we eliminated would be replaced by another white cop. Where would that get us? “AND THESE white radicals. All they’re doing is romanticizing revolution. They talk about a coup d’etat well, that’s no way to get around. They forget that even if they did take control of Washington that’s not the only White House. We’ve got spare ones in Denver, in Texas and now one even in California. All the white radicals are going to accomplish is to get more blacks killed. They can always return to white society and be satisfied with their false glories just more glories for superior white protestants. The white radicals just create more fear in the white community and make it harder on the blacks. You can see the evidence all around you. It’s just like pre-facist Germany law and order campaigns, confusion among the major political parties. All they’ve changed is that they’ve substituted “niggers” for Jews To help, the white radicals are going to have to realize that revolution is practical, not romantic. It’s putting an end to crime and prostitution and vice and the ghetto, not indulging in fantasy. According to Johnson, “all the fear about niggers burning down the country” is just that and nothing more. It is scare talk. He said last week that he has never advocated riots as a way ro improvement. He explained his current political thinking, an admittedly ambiguous, fluid program of possibilities: “In Houston we tried the system. We went to Mayor Welch and tried to talk sense. He was so busy telling us we were communist-inspired and irresponsible that we never did get to talk about real Third Ward problems. Then they put the police department’s intelligence squad on me. They said all kinds of things, like our agitation was a front for a dope center that I was going to blow up Houston, with my bare hands, I guess. It was just a lot of talk to inflame the police department against us. They called me a ‘hard core incendiary, a wino, the leader of a hate gang.’ You can’t work within that kind of system. “So we had to agitate from outside, and we had to try to defend ourselves. Some blacks think maybe our best defense is a good offense not a mass of blacks armed in the streets but a few guerilla fighters in the community. I’m too intelligent to be a racist. That only justifies what they’re doing to me. But maybe fighting fire with fire is the way to end racism. You know, like in science. Unlike poles attract and like poles repel. Non-violence attracts violence, so maybe violence will check, if not stop, the original violence. If I were out of prison, I don’t know what I would do. But I would do something. I’ve seen over 20 of my personal friends murdered in Third Ward. SOMETIMES I even think about a separatist movement. In Marcus Garvey’s time it wasn’t politically feasible. But maybe it is now. If we can’t get some controlling power, as a last resort I think we might move toward an independent nation. And of course we would demand full reparation for the 400 years of persecution we’ve suffered. But usually I think in terms of Third Ward problems and try to find solutions to them, instead of talking about separation. “What we really need to do is bring the ghetto home to middle class white America. If the whites had as high an infant mortality rate as ours which is one-half theirs now they might not be September 4, 1970 5
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Texas Professor Leonard N. Moore’s “Teaching Black History to White People” is a memoir, history lesson, and instructional manual.