H. Rap Brown’s Black Self-Defense And Economics ::: Highlighting Chapter Three Of ‘Die Nigger Die’

If you have not read my highlights of Chapter One of ‘Die Nigger Die!”, please click here. I have included an important disclaimer that I wish to apply to this post as well. Also, in case you have read that, but not my highlights on Chapter Two of ‘Die Nigger Die!’, you can click here.

 

In chapter three of “Die Nigger Die!: A Political Autobiography of Jamil Abdullah al-Amin”, H. Rap Brown discusses through analysis and anecdote his thoughts regarding US Black collective self-defense. His notions of violence and defense not only include physical combat, but also envelope his ideas of wage labor and systemic psychological abuse.

 

He begins this chapter narrating an incident as a boy scout in Louisiana. According to him, he was shot with bb guns and ripped his uniform trousers while escaping. He was subsequently harrassed by a Whyte patroller during all of this. He decided he would take his chances at LSU where his Boy Scout Troop was meeting, torn pants and all. I quote his words:

 

I began to recognize then the value of being violent. I knew I hadn’t done anything to make them white muthafuckas shoot their B.B. guns at me, so I knew that the world didn’t run on love. The only thing that was gon’ keep white muthafuckas off you was you!

 

The best example of that in the world today is america. America has made it clear that she respects only violence…America does not love China, but she refuses to move against China because she has the bomb. And all those troops. So what that means is that Black people have to address themselves to defending their communities and their homes, because if you can’t defend them, you can’t control them.

pg. 37

 

Without this seeming like some nod to “toxic” masculinity, I did find that last line compelling.

 

“…if you can’t defend them, you can’t control them.”

 

So often in socio-political literature, analysts and theorists find it difficult to link self-defense and self-determination. It tends to be easier for many in this space to associate “getting money” with political independence, but here, H. Rap is connecting one’s ability to ward off threat with one’s ability to govern and plan for future activity.

 

He continues his thoughts regarding violence with:

 

Violence is accepted in america as long as it’s white folks doing it. Turn on the t.v. and you go deaf from all the gunfire. Let two fighters get in the ring and let neither one of them hit the other and see what the real savages out there are going to do. They’re going to scream for blood.

pg 38

 

Here, H. Rap connects power of definition with violence. I immediately thought of Whyte protesters violently attacking other Whyte protesters during Trump Tax Release rallies being as acceptable as Whyte hockey players mauling each other during games. When US Blacks are simply preparing for a protest, there is an immediate outcry for peace and a curtailing of violence even if it is violence against US Blacks being protested!

 

H. Rap resumes:

 

So the question is not can Black people be violent. They send us to Vietnam and brag about what good fighters we are. It’s legitimate for a Black man to go over there and kill 30 Vietcong and get a medal, but you come back here and kill one racist, red-necked, honky, camel-breathed peckerwood who’s been misusing you and your people all your life and that’s murder. That’s homicide, because the white man has the power to define and legitimatize his actions. He can legitimatize violence. At this point we must adddress ourselves to defensive measures, something that will counteract that violence.

pg 38

 

Here H. Rap adds clarity. In Western society, social Darwinism and Machiavellianism are a fairly ubiquitous ontology. Robert Greene’s success with “48 Laws Of Power” is illustrative here. There is something to be said about one’s power to legitimatize violence and their ability to then legitimatize their humanity. As Fanon might write, there is a humanizing aspect to violence when one is able to define it as humane.

 

H. Rap invites a bit of Fanon in his thinking when he discusses violence as a unifying force. He states:

 

One significant thing about Detroit and Newark was that the violence created a peoplehood.
Black people had walked around under the illusion that they had a class system in the Black community. But the white man changed all that. He went in and beat “middle-class” as hard as lower-class Blacks. And “middle-class” Blacks were throwing as many fire bombs as the brother on the block. And afterwards, there was a real sense of community among the people, a real feeling of pride and togetherness…So a peoplehood was forced upon Black people, through white violence.

pg 39

 

I think that last sentence should be altered some.

 

“…So a peoplehood was forced upon Black people, through white violence,” should be changed to a peoplehood was consecrated among a group of Black people from various backgrounds because they chose to fight that Whyte violence back. That “peoplehood”, that fictive kinship, did not come solely through white violence, but at that price of active engagement against that hostile presence. There is a major difference there that I believe needs to be accentuated.

 

As a segue from his discussion of direct conflict into a paragraph or more about intraracial classism, he begins to expound on institutional racism as a form of violence. Within this discussion, he points out how US Black Media is directed towards a neoliberalism as Black editors and decision makers seek to stall approval of Black direct actions unless a green light is given from a Whyte party. He writes

 

All of white america is a structure of institutions that says to Black people, “Nigger,
you ain’t shit.” All standards of excellence, beauty, efficiency and civilization are such that any comparison between Black and white is designed to favor white and put down Black.
And it’s ground into a Black person every minute of every day, whether you’re at work or whether you’re out trying to have some fun, it’s Nigger you ain’t shit. Die Nigger Die!

 

Ebony, the negro Life magazine, the journal of negro culture, a “responsible” negro publication, raises the question, “Are Negro Women Getting Prettier?” while advertising for bleaching creams on the next page. Dye Nigger Dye!

Negro publications always oppose the Black liberation struggle until it is endorsed by whites. They speak to the needs of white people and never to Black people.

pg 40-41

 

H. Rap concludes this chapter with another anecdote. He tells us of his father and grandfather. Recalling both of their work histories with Whytes, even of how his grandfather was veritably robbed as a sharecropper. He details his own work history, summarizing his experiences in this chapter’s last sentences:

 

I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I’d found out what I didn’t want to be. I knew I didn’t want to be a slave.

pg 45