H. Rap Brown directs his attention to young Black University students in chapter six of “Die Nigger Die”. Bookended by depictions of his experiences working with SNCC in Atlanta and on Washington DC’s Howard University campus lies his synopsis:
Negro college students have always felt themselves to be better than the brother on the block.
Naturally, the brother would resent this and the first chance he got, he was upside the college student’s head. That situation can only be overcome by the college student taking the initiative in overcoming whatever split might exist between himself and the blood on the corner.
“Die Nigger Die!”, H. Rap Brown, pg 66
H. Rap Brown stays consistent with his framing of US Blacks as a dichotomy of anti-establishment “Blacks” versus assimilating “negroes”. In these sentences, H. Rap Brown is re-establishing a class relationship. He is reversing those roles, and responsibilities, normally associated with those on corners in context with those in colleges.
I do have my disagreements with this approach. I do not think revolutionaries are bound by any moral, racial, social, or whatever-al motivations. For me, revolution is a purely political act defined and limited only by whether an actor successfully took control over a nation-state’s governing apparatus. I also do not promote a romantic perspective of poverty. I know people that will rob their own nephews for a five dollar shard of cooked cocaine. Structural mechanisms may make it difficult to avoid certain circumstances, agreed. But it also means my security is entrenched in being able to treat each individual as an individual, and respecting my right to choose who I obligate myself to regardless of race or class.
College students, however, get caught in a trick, because they think that to be accepted by the young bloods, they have to be tough, be a warrior. But all they have to do is show that brother that they respect him and that they recognize that he is a brother. All Black people are involved in the same struggle. Revolutionaries are not necessarily born poor or in the ghetto. You don’t have to throw a Molotov cocktail to be a revolutionary. There is a role for every person in revolution if he is revolutionary.
“Die Nigger Die!”, H. Rap Brown, pg 66-67
I am once again conflicted by H. Rap’s words here. In one instance, it seems to be a healthy discussion of why Black essentialism should be shunned. Every Black person is not from a hood, and therefore does not have to carry themselves as one. Cool. However, there is also this counter thread extending through his overall framework that results in a false equivalence. Specifically, all Blacks that attend college are sheltered suburbanites that cannot defend themselves(Also that all Blacks from a hood can fight, but that’s probably more straw than even I am willing to pull at). I think it is necessary to qualify that more than just “Black college students” that are “revolutionary”. But, I do think it is healthy to establish a manifesto, if not mandate, for what Black education could do in spaces where brain drain from hoods is not a motivation.
One thing which the Black college student can do is to begin to legitimatize the brother’s actions–begin to articulate his position, because the college student has the skills that the blood doesn’t have. It reminds me of the old story about the father and his son. The son comes to the father and says,”You told me that the lion was the king of the jungle. Yet in every story I read, the man always beats the lion. Why is that?” The father looks at the son and says, “Son, the story will always end the same until the lion learns how to write.” If you don’t begin to tell your own story, you will always be Aunt Jemima; you will always be “rioting.” You must begin to articulate a position of your own.
“Die Nigger Die!”, H. Rap Brown, pg. 67
H. Rap Brown presents yet another interesting intersection here. Yes, again, I write this while he is still asking college students to play a fictive and obligatory role. Yet, in his framing of that request, he is also suggesting a position of authority, and identity. As I have stated throughout my highlights of this book, there is a theme of definition that courses loudly, yet logically. Here, it is no different.
Yes, OWL is hyper allergic to obligatory social schematics of kinship. But, I read this as one might an entente. H. Rap Brown addresses class antagonism– in which he not only writes with bias but writes with a prideful bias– by demoting and elevating those Black University students. Sure, this compromise is still hierarchical, obligatory, and romantic. I may come back to this at another date.
Aside from a lack of needed qualifications, I do agree with H. Rap Brown’s premise. He capitulates later in this chapter with:
The education that a Black college student gets will be irrelevant, fruitless, and worthless unless he uses it to define and articulate positions that are relevant to Black people.
“Die Nigger Die!”, H. Rap Brown, pg 68