The Flawed Logic of Black Liberation: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ vs. ‘The Battle of Algiers’
There has been heated debate over the 'politics of race', in particular, the doctrine & methods of so-called 'systemic' or 'institutional racism'. What many people don't realize is that this doctrine of 'racism' is rooted in (& is a function of) a particular doctrine of 'freedom': so-called 'black liberation'.
The Black Panther epic, Judas and the Black Messiah, takes cinematic inspiration from the film classic, The Battle of Algiers. This motion picture concerned events in the Algerian War of Independence, between 1954-1957, most prominently, a campaign of guerilla warfare and terrorism waged by Algerian Rebels against the French Army stationed in Colonial Algeria.
The Black Panther Party (BPP) was an American political movement of the 1960s & 1970s, which adopted the political philosophy of so-called ‘black liberation’, partly inspired by Frantz Fanon and the Algerian Revolution. The BPP and the black liberation movement more generally, including figures such as Angela Davis, believe(d):
1) Black Americans represent(ed) a ‘separate nation’ from white Americans, because of their race.
2) The condition of this so-called ‘black nation’ is subjugation to the so-called ‘white nation’, akin to the condition of native Algerians under French colonial rule, as depicted in The Battle of Algiers. Blacks were (and are) ‘colonial subjects’ of a white imperialist nation in North America, whose authority is wholly illegitimate.
This is still true of the black liberation movement today. The basic flaw in the logic of ‘black liberation’ is that the ‘inner city ghetto’ is not black America’s ancestral home to which they have any special claim, in the way that Algeria was the ancestral home of the Rebel fighters in the Algerian Revolution.
For example, Huey Newton was not born in Oakland, CA, but instead in the Southern state of Louisiana. His family was from the South. Similarly, Bobby Seale was born in the state of Texas. Angela Davis was born in Alabama. Stokely Carmichael, the famed author of Black Power, was not even born in the USA, but instead in Trinidad and Tobago. Fred Hampton, the main character in Black Messiah, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, but it was not his ‘ancestral home’. His parents were both born in Louisiana, and moved to Chicago.
Whatever one thinks of the tactics or politics of the Algerian Rebels, they were undoubtedly fighting for ‘home rule’ in their ancestral homeland. The French were relatively recent arrivals, and had taken over using violence. The Algerian Rebels were fighting to rid their ancestral homeland of French occupation and foreign control. They wished to secede from the French empire.
Black Messiah portrays the BPP as fighting a guerilla war on the South Side of Chicago against the Chicago Police Department, and we are supposed to equate this with Algerian Rebels fighting French colonial military forces. But this is a false analogy. The Chicago PD are portrayed as an illegitimate ‘occupying force’, akin to the French Army in colonial Algeria, but this is a false comparison. The Chicago PD were (and are) a perfectly legitimate law enforcement arm of the city of Chicago, IL. Just as the FBI was (and is) a perfectly legitimate law enforcement arm of the US Federal Government. It was the BPP who were in fact in violation of local and state law when they shot at Chicago Police.
Unlike the Algerian Rebels, the South Side of Chicago was not Fred Hampton’s ancestral home. Nor was it the ancestral home of the black residents in the neighborhood. Most of these black folks were relatively recent arrivals. It’s not like their families had been living in these neighborhoods for centuries, when all of a sudden a ship of European invaders sailed into port, and stole their country. On the contrary, white people had been living in Chicago and had built up the city to what it was long before the families of most of its black Chicago residents had even arrived. It’s likely that some (if not most) of the families of the white police officers who the BPP were shooting at, had been living in Chicago longer than the families of most (or all) of the black residents in the neighborhood.
This is not to make light of whatever racial bias white Chicago police officers had who were working in these neighborhoods at that time. I have no doubt some black people were treated unfairly, because of their race. I have no doubt some were treated unfairly in a violent manner because of racial bias. But Black Messiah, the BPP, and today’s black liberation movement have spun a false narrative. These black folks were not (and are not) colonial subjects of European imperialists on the South Side of Chicago. This is a delusion.
The ghettos of Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, and Oakland are not ‘black colonies’ in a North American ‘white imperialist empire’, but instead are under the legitimate authority of the states of Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and California, respectively, and ultimately are under the legitimate jurisdiction of the US Federal Government. These are all legitimate authorities, who enforce the law through legitimate law enforcement agencies, such as the Chicago PD, the Philadelphia PD, the Oakland PD, the NYPD, and the FBI.
Nor are these ghettos truly ‘black neighborhoods’, any more than the Upper East side of Manhattan or Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia are truly ‘white neighborhoods’. The majority of the residents at this time may be ‘black’ or ‘white’, but these neighborhoods don’t ‘belong’ to black people or white people in any special sense. There is no such a thing as a ‘black neighborhood’ or a ‘white neighborhood’. Long before black people arrived on the South Side of Chicago, or North Philadelphia, or Harlem, white people were living there. Moreover, in time, these neighborhoods whose population is now ‘majority black’ will change. In the future, the residents may be ‘majority white’ again, or ‘majority Asian’, or majority ‘Mexican-American’. No one really knows.
The worldview of the black liberation movement has always been deeply misguided, and the BPP were no exception.
Aristarchus Patrinos (Il Trovatore); March 11, 2021; < 1000 words