It is not uncommon for African-American's to allow 'bitter rage' to set into their spirit so deep that 'socially egregious expressions of support' for 'controversial' members of the community is given in loud protest. The recent accolades granted to Lovelle Mixon after gunning down 4 police officers in Oakland, California harkens back to two other specific moments in black history where the community has allowed its disdain for elements within the American social order to lead them to throw their support behind individuals who took violence into their own hands. Larry Davis in 1986 who gunned down 5 police officers, and Robert Charles who in 1900 gunned down 27 whites comes to mind as I consider the following question; When should African-Americans support defensive actions enacted by the 'individual' as a rally cry against racial injustice? In this piece I will examine some of the facts surrounding these three cases, as well as comparing them to the 'bar' established by the NAACP during the civil rights movement as to who should be chosen represents the general movement of African-Americans.
In 1955 Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white citizen on a Montgomery, Alabama bus around the time the NAACP was looking for a 'test case' to present before the world in defense of black civil rights. She was later dismissed and replaced by Rosa Parks due to the organizations feeling that she wouldn't stand up to the public scrutiny; some considering that her teenage pregnancy would damage the seriousness of the case before the Supreme Court. Based on this idea that a representative for the struggle against America's denial of civil rights needed to be 'reputable' is a profound concept because it rids the movement of being 'reactionary;' basing it in a well thought out effort by an informed group of activists struggling to bring freedom to black people. I have chosen to attempt the same analysis in comapring the three cases above to determine which, if any, should be held up as 'representative' of the general struggle for civil rights within the Diaspora of the African-American struggle.
In just looking at the facts (as most lawyers in America would do) in comparison to one another, it is rather simple to isolate whether 'noble resistance' (a non-reactionary stance made from a position of ethical behavior) was apparent in any of the three cases examined. On July 23, 1900 Robert Charles was sitting on a porch in New Orleans with his roomate Leonard Prince when they were approached by Police. The encounter esculated when officers sited Charles' sudden movement as cause to physically restrain him, and action that led to a shoot out between Charles and the officers. Charles escaped, but was hunted down by police who followed a trail of blood back to his residence in which a gun battle commenced leaving two officers dead. He became the object of a city wide manhunt that eventually boxed him in to a hideout at 1208 Saratoga Street. Held up for the entire day Charles shot at least 27 whites before being burned out and killed himself, having his body mutilated by police. Lillian Jewett of Boston began the anti-lynching league in reaction to the killing of Robert Charles, and organization made popular by social activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett who hailed Charles as "The Hero of New Orleans."
On November 19, 1986 Larry Davis shot 6 New York City Police officers who raided his sisters Bronx apartment under the auspices of carrying out warrants for suspected drug activity. Many blacks throughout New York have hailed Davis up as a hero in the community due to the fact that he had specific knowledge of police corruption. After a manhunt of 17 days he was urged by the NAACP to turn himself in. Larry Davis finally concurred, but the fact remains that he was protectd in large by the African-American community who had been fed up with police brutality, and used the Larry Davis incident as a sounding board to express those frustrations.
Finally the most recent example of taking extreme defensive measures against police was on March 21, 2009 when Lovell Mixon was killed after gunning down four Oakland, California police officers (two during a traffic stop, and two SWAT members who were part of a team that eventually tracked him down to a hideout). In a series of protests organized by the International Peoples Democratic Uhuru Movement under the leadership of Omali Yeshitela, Mixon was hailed a hero. Yeshitela, who as a result of the tremendous police corruption in Oakland, had chosen to hail this individual up regardless of the controversial rape charges surrounding him. The organization has overlooked all of the allegations levied by the police and other media outlets that have labeled Mixon a repeat criminal, choosing to call him a hero within the Oakland community for fighting back against police corruption.
In looking at each of these cases and comparing it to the 'bar' established by the NAACP in using various cases to help change the direction of America's outlook on black civil rights (as set during the Montgomery Boycott), I must say that none of them would have been able to be used as 'acceptable' for the movement. One of the precepts that was followed by powerful thinkers like W.E.B Dubois was that "the 'American Negro' must be advanced guard for the world to see...with a stalwart originality which shall unswervingly serve Negro ideals." It was the positive thinking of organizations like the NAACP that helped change the American Constitution in favor of black civil rights, and living up to the highest ideals set by upwardly mobile blacks was key. Had it not been for the honor and dignity applied to the movement; a mentality that denied even the teenage mother Claudette Colvin a leading role, the struggle may not have gained success. In light of this idea I stand in oppositionn to the reactionary mentality that has African-American people standing in defense of individuals that live under the 'cloud of criminal controversey' as worthy of representing the cause of civil and human rights for the people. Lovell Mixon, Larry Davis, and Robert Charles do not meet the 'bar' established by the NAACP due to their actions and should not be hailed up as cultural heroes. We have many men and woman to hail as representative of the movement who chose to struggle without violence; not to say that civil disobedience is not warranted at times when 'bitter rage' steps in.
Written by Bee Quiet