H. Rap Brown’s Black Leadership And Opportunists ::: Highlighting Chapter Ten Of “Die Nigger Die!”

H. Rap Brown opens up Chapter Ten of “Die Nigger Die!” by outlining his thoughts on leadership, in general, and his becoming Chairman of SNCC in particular.

 

Even though the press began projecting me as a “Black Power leader” and all that kind of mess, I knew that it didn’t matter what position a dude had, it didn’t mean he was a leader, even if he had the title of Chairman or President. The leader might be a dude in the organization who ain’t got no title, no office. When I was head of SNCC, that’s all I was. I was not a leader of Black people. I had a public platform because I was Chairman of SNCC and therefore what I said got heard by a lot of people. But I don’t think I can articulate the sentiments of Black folks any better than the brothers and sisters did in Detroit. I’m just in a position where maybe I can explain what the brother is talking about, because there’re a lot negroes who don’t understand. That does not mean leadership.

“Die Nigger Die!”, H. Rap Brown, pg. 99

 

H. Rap Brown segues into his time being extradited on Federal charges. He details how a phone call to SNCC legal advisors led him to be ambushed by FBI agents at an airport on his way to turn himself in. He continues:

 

They put me in the city jail in Alexandria and when the Black community got the word they came down to the jail. I heard a lot of noise and I didn’t find out until later that they had come down there and were willing to break me out. And who stopped them? The militants! The so-called revolutionaries! “Don’t you see all them guns?” Well, the people saw all the guns. If they could’ve broken in there and gotten me out, I was for leaving with ’em. But the militants were out there stopping the revolutionary process. That showed me where the militants were at. If the revolution is abortive, it’ll be because of them. They’re the people who talk the most and when it comes time for action, they won’t shut up. They gon’ stop the people.

“Die Nigger Die!”, H. Rap Brown, pg. 103-104

 

I think it is important to address H. Rap Brown’s distress here. I am not sure how this book was written, but it definitely unfolds like a diary or journal. In its initial chapters, H. Rap Brown frames US Blacks in a very binary manner. As his experiences and thus praxis expands and is more informed, this worldview also alters. No longer is his stance on “Negroes” that sole fuel of his ire. We now see a more politically sophisticated and specific pain point being pronounced. There are members directly involved in “movement” space who despite whatever motives, are detrimental to that movement. While H. Rap Brown states in so many words that these persons talk too much, it is not his main concern. I think his more salient point here is that these persons do not have as central agenda those decisions and vision of those people they are representing.

 

Half of the Black “militants” ain’t nothing but a bunch of potheads, bootleg preachers and coffeehouse intellectuals. They are caught up in that whole identity thing. They just discovered that they were Black, because they were working so hard all their lives to be white. They’re further away from being revolutionaries than the poor people who are not militantly political. But the coffeehouse intellectual, the Black militant, thinks he’s political because he reads Fanon. Books don’t make revolutionaries.

“Die Nigger Die!”, H. Rap Brown, pg. 104

 

It must be noted, H. Rap Brown writes this based on his direct involvement with personalities associated with 1960s activism and protest. His framework for critical assessment of movement types is now taking shape. Not only is every Black person not immediately a political ally, political allies with platforms must also be scrutinized heavily.

 

[…]I contend that the Black people who burned down Watts and Detroit don’t have to read. These cats have lived more than the intellectual has read. So they are political by having learned from their existence. Oppression made these cats political. The militants spend all their time trying to program white people into giving them some money. “The man” has created a new type of Tom. They are wiling to be anything, as long as they can be Black first. Black capitalists, Black imperialists, Black oppressors–anything, so long as it’s Black first.

“Die Nigger Die!”, H. Rap Brown, pg. 104

 

H. Rap Brown furthers this here by defining “revolutionary” and “politically active” by one’s experiences, not simply what books one can quote. Throughout this chapter, his main theme centers revolutionary action as a process of people being self-determining, not leaders, or authorities dictating personal visions. I do not personally hold this same definition of “revolutionary”, but my definition does share his where it expresses a need of concrete direct action and engagement with state authorities(or those authorized by that state).

 

This last point addressed by H. Rap Brown is also pertinent. He includes in his definition of “negro”, thus “assimilists”, those involved in activism and protest spaces that are driven my identity politics. In his revolutionary ontology, those Blacks that are driven by a need to have Black representation and “Black firsts”, are also opportunists and assimilists.