[sixties-l] Panther discussion

From: Sandra Hollin Flowers (flowers_s@mercer.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 13 2000 - 10:09:15 CUT

  • Next message: Sandra Hollin Flowers: "[sixties-l] Don't trust anyone over..."

    Because I would like to get around to what Aaron Kay called the "real
    issues at hand" re the the BPPSD, I must say that I'm losing patience
    with the rhetoric of personal attack that's characterizing many of the
    thread's posts. modr8r put it quite well in saying, "i trust that
    list members and future researchers will be discerning enough to come
    to their own conclusions as to the relative merits of any one's
    particular opinion on an issue or on commentary engendered by the
    discussion taking place here."

    Not knowing either McGee or Horowitz, I'm interested in what both of
    them have to say about the Panthers, since their comments (as I'm
    reading them, anyway) represent the poles from which the Panthers
    have always been viewed. But I also see that some of what each man
    says is opinion and interpretation of what the other man has said.
    Consequently, I, for what it's worth, have no problem with modr8r's
    attempts to disembroil the discussion by reminding us of the list's
    protocol. Other than some religious lists I've been on, I can't think
    of one that needs such safeguards more than a list devoted to
    discussion of the sixties. So would it be out of order for me to
    publicly ask the primary combatants to take it off-list so that we
    might salvage the discussion?

    Toward that end (salvaging): As I recall, this thread began with a
    discussion of The Shadow of the Panther, although I may be wrong in
    that recollection. My first point of interest was that the book was
    being discussed so long after its publication. I used it in a course
    about three years ago because I had to order books hurriedly and
    couldn't easily locate any other book-length study of the Panthers
    since Gene Marine's. My last personal contact with the Panthers before
    reading this book was in '68 through two friends, one a Party
    ideologue and the other a foot soldier, both in L.A. Neither of them
    would have wanted for the Party or would have followed, I believe, the
    pure gangsterism described in Shadow. Similarly, neither of those men
    gave me a sense of being in the company of gangsters (sexists, yes;
    gansters, no).

    What they _did_ give me is something that I carry into the classroom
    every time I have occasion to teach or answer a question about the
    Panthers: A sense of pride in what the Panthers set out to do,
    regardless of what they actually did or didn't do. First of all, they
    tried to bring new depth and breadth (the quality of which, I think,
    is one of the issues at hand Aaron alluded to) to the public discourse
    among black people about their position in America. Not unique to the
    Panthers, of course, but not, before the Panthers, widely championed,
    either. Second, as William Mandel put it in a recent post, they said
    no to power; and in saying no in the way they initially did, they made
    an awful lot of black people feel good about themselves, me included.
    No, I never became a Panther; I had other responsibilities, as I've
    noted in previous posts. But I was a Panther afficionada, nonetheless,
    and what I'd like now is an updated discussion of how we're perceiving
    the Panthers' legacy. I came away from The Shadow of the Panther with
    a feeling of betrayal, sorrow, and loss. Now I'm still trying to
    figure out how to feel.

    But mostly I tend to feel that, errors and flaws notwithstanding, I
    have to hand it to both the Panthers and the Nation of Islam because
    they did something that our collective revolution often talked about
    but seldom did, and certainly never did on the scale the Panthers and
    the Nation were able to do: They politicized "the masses"--remember
    that bunch of nameless nobodies that was supposed to carry out the
    revolution for us? Some will contend that it was that same bunch of
    nobodies that followed the revolutionary vanguard into the streets
    against everything from ending the war in Vietnam to wheelchair access
    to public buildings. And in that following, they did demonstrate "the
    power of the people." But who of the vanguard is still walking and
    talking with the people who made up those crowds? The implications, I
    think, are clear. And that's something I don't want us to lose sight
    of when we assess the Panthers and their place in history.

    My TCW,
    S. Flowers

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jun 13 2000 - 19:02:32 CUT