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Rise of the New Black Radicals

Posted on Apr 26, 2015

By Chris Hedges

  A protester raises his fist outside the Baltimore Police Department’s Western District police station during a march and vigil for Freddie Gray last Tuesday. Gray died of a spinal injury April 19 while he was in police custody. (AP / Patrick Semansky)

The almost daily murders of young black men and women by police in the United States—a crisis undiminished by the protests of groups such as Black Lives Matter and by the empty rhetoric of black political elites—have given birth to a new young black militant.

This militant, rising off the bloody streets of cities such as Ferguson, Mo., understands that the beast is not simply white supremacy, chronic poverty and the many faces of racism but the destructive energy of corporate capitalism. This militant has given up on electoral politics, the courts and legislative reform, loathes the corporate press and rejects established black leaders such as Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson. This militant believes it is only in the streets and in acts of civil disobedience that change is possible. And given the refusal of the corporate state to address the mounting suffering of the poor and working poor, draconian state repression and indiscriminate use of lethal state violence against unarmed people of color, I think the new black radical is right. It will be a long, hot and violent summer.

The world’s hundreds of millions of disenfranchised youths—in America this group is dominated by the black and brown underclass—come out of the surplus labor created by our system of corporate neofeudalism. These young men and women have been discarded as human refuse and are preyed upon by a legal system that criminalizes poverty. In the United States they constitute the bulk of the 2.3 million human beings locked in jails and prisons. The discontent in Ferguson, Athens, Cairo, Madrid and Ayotzinapa is one discontent. And the emerging revolt, although it comes in many colors, speaks many languages and has many belief systems, is united around a common enemy. Bonds of solidarity and consciousness are swiftly uniting the wretched of the earth against our corporate masters.


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Corporate power, which knows what is coming, has put in place sophisticated systems of control that include militarized police, elaborate propaganda campaigns that seek to make us fearful and therefore passive, wholesale surveillance of every citizen and a court system that has stripped legal protection from the poor and any who dissent. The masses are to be kept in bondage. But the masses, especially the young, understand the game. There is a word for what is bubbling up from below—revolution. It can’t begin soon enough.

The global leadership for this revolt comes not from the institutions of privilege, elite universities where ambitious and self-centered young men and women jockey to become part of the ruling 1 percent, but from the squalid internal colonies that house the poor and usually people of color. The next great revolutionary in America won’t look like Thomas Jefferson. He or she will look like Lupe Fiasco.

T-Dubb-O is a hip-hop artist from St. Louis. He is one of the founders, along with Tef Poe, Tory Russell, Tara Thompson and Rika Tyler, of Hands Up United. The organization was formed in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. It has built close alliances with radical organizations in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin American, in Europe and in Palestine.

“I honestly think it’s going to be worse than last year, this summer,” T-Dubb-O said when I met with him and Tyler at Princeton University, where they had gone to speak to students. “People have become more radical,” he said. “They’ve realized the power that they have. They’re no longer afraid of the police, the state, but also you have a police and a military force that’s been training for a year to deal with this type of circumstance. So I honestly think this summer is gonna be worse. More violence from the police, and this time you won’t have a group of people who is just gonna sit there and let it happen to ’em—you’re gonna have people that are actually gonna fight back instead of just continue to be peaceful protesters. Right now everybody is just on edge. I mean, it’s the same situation we was in before Mike Brown. People that don’t have jobs, there’s crime everywhere, there’s drugs everywhere, there’s predator policing. It’s the same circumstances, it’s just no cameras.”

“In my city every day, police is pulling somebody over, harassing them, extorting them,” he said. “Because that’s what it is—it’s legal extortion. When a government is making 30 to 40 percent of their yearly budget off of tickets, fines and imprisonment, it’s extortion. It’s the same thing the mob did in the ’20s. So we fight. We can’t go back to normal lives. We get followed, harassed, death threats, phones tapped, social media watched, they hack into our emails, hack into our social media account, we all got FBI files. They know we here right now. So I mean it’s not a game, but it’s either continue to deal with not being able to just live like a regular person, and dream, and have an opportunity, or get up and do something about it. And we decided to do something.”

Tyler said she was propelled into the movement by seeing the body of Michael Brown, which the Ferguson police left lying in the street for more than four hours.

“I went to Canfield [Drive, where Brown was killed],” she said when we spoke. “I saw the body. I saw the blood. I just broke down. And ever since then I’ve just been out there [as an activist] every day.”

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