Friday, November 16, 2007

Huey P. Newton on Women and Gays

The founder of the Black Panther Party wrote this essay "the women's liberation and gay liberation movements" on August 15, 1970. I was, I admit, shocked when I first read it. It is way ahead of its time, and stands in stark contrast to the classic view of Black militant groups as irredeemably misogynist and homophobic:
During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

What ever your personal opinions and insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say "whatever your insecurities are" because as well very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the woman or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the White racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest White person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you're some kind of threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our [*158] ever constituting any value that said a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women's right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations, that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society.

And what made them homosexuals? Perhaps it's a phenomenon that I don't understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don't know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.

That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn't view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe now I'm injecting some of my own prejudice by saying that "even a homosexual can be a revolutionary." Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women's liberation movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that they are all reactionary or counterrevolutionary because they are not.

We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are unrevolutionary or counterrevolutionary, then criticize that action. If we feel that the group in spirit means to be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do not understand the dialectics of the social forces in operation, we [*159] should criticize that and not criticize them because they are women trying to be free. And the same is true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest. They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer from it. But the women's liberation front and gay liberation front are our friends, they are potential allies, and we need as many allies as possible.

We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have about homosexuality. When I say "insecurities," I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long conditioning process that builds insecurity in the American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me and female homosexuality is not.

We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms "faggot" and "punk" should be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as Nixon or Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.

We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women's liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner.

Huey P. Newton, "The Women's Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements: August 15, 1970", in The Huey P. Newton Reader, David Hilliard & Donald Weise, eds. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002), pp. 157-59.

It's hardly perfect -- the references to revolution feel anachronistic, and it does not quite seem as if Newton is on board with the idea that there are homosexuals of all races. But it's hugely progressive for 1970, and Newton's insistence that we grapple with our prejudices (and he didn't exempt himself from it) is worth noting even today.

Newton was a sharp guy, for those of you who don't know. He had a Ph.D from UC-Santa Cruz -- not an honorary one either. He was serious, and worth reading seriously.


Cycle Cyril said...

Newton is a murderer and a fraud. His PhD was given to him by by a professor who created the program 'to demonstrate that the Ph.D. is fraud.'

David Schraub said...

Newton was never convicted of murder (more accurately, he was convicted once, but had it overturned on appeal, and was acquitted once), there's no proof that he died in a drug deal (people do get shot by drug dealers who are not drug users). UC-Santa Cruz's HoC program was not "created for him", and he enrolled there at the invitation of Robert Trivers, not Page Smith.

All of which is precisely what you would expect when you cite as bogus a source as "discovering the connections."

Cycle Cyril said...

He was convicted and it was then overturned on a technicality - specifically that the jury could have convicted him involuntary manslaughter instead of voluntary manslaughter.

In his other trials he got hung juries, except for one, and his defense was that it was society's fault. A cop out for personal responsibility if there ever was one.

It is clear that he was nefarious and a killer.

Trivers very well was his connection to UC-SC but that does not diminish my point that it's PhD program was created to demonstrate PhD's as a fraud.

Lastly the intelligence of Newton is not my point. It is his character.

David Schraub said...

Okay, and my point is that a leader of the Black Panthers still has more progressive views on women and gays than you do.

What does that say?

America was founded by a bunch of slave-owners, many of whom were rapists, but we still listen to them.

Oh, and aside from the fact that I can't find a source for the "fraud" statement aside from David Horowitz (hardly credible), and doesn't provide the context so I can evaluate it, Smith was emeriti when Newton started at UC-SC, and even if he said what Horowitz says he said, my guess given Smith's background and the context is that it was anti-elitist statement, not a reactionary one.

PG said...

Cycle Cyril says, "[Newton's] defense was that it was society's fault. A cop out for personal responsibility if there ever was one."

Hon, you really need to try looking for sources other than David Horowitz. Newton denied having shot the police officers, as he had to in order to have a trial at all. (There's no "not guilty by reason of racism" verdict for someone whom the jury believes shot two cops.) The defense included a lot of testimony about police brutality and white racism, but at no point did Newton say, "Yeah, I shot the cops but it's society's fault that I did." Rather, he blamed society for prosecuting him for a crime he said he didn't commit. If I get falsely accused of a crime, I'm going to "cop out" on personal responsibility too.

If Newton's Ph.D is a fraud, it's odd that he bothered to write a dissertation complete with hundreds of footnotes for it. If I were going to get a Ph.D regardless of the amount of work I put in, I sure as hell wouldn't have been looking up court case citations and the like. Cycle Cyril certainly can't accuse Newton of laziness in his claims about Newton's character.

If the History of Consciousness interdisciplinary Ph.D-only program for which Newton wrote his dissertation was a fraud, it's one that's perpetuated to this day, which gives Horowitz and Cycle Cyril a splendid opportunity for protest.

Cycle Cyril said...

First it says that you are projecting your prejudices onto me. I have never in this forum expressed my views on women or gays.

Second the slave owners who helped formed this nation was for the most part torn within themselves and between themselves concerning slavery and by the act of manumission by many of their slaves at the time of their deaths (which can legitimately be said was a self-serving act on their part) indicates the realization that slavery could not be a permanent feature of the country that they formulated.

Unfortunately those more selfish needed a little more persuasion.

But the brilliance of the founding fathers was the due fact that the American Revolution was a conservative revolution supported by Edmund Burke and instituted, via the constitution, a process that ensured freedom. This was totally unlike the French Revolution which espoused liberty, equality and fraternity which was forcibly imposed as results and but only reaped terror and dictatorship.

As for Horowitz why do you find him less than credible? He was a man, a red diaper baby no less, a graduate of Columbia (my alma mater) who was at the heart of the radical movement, including the panthers and realized that he was truly in the heart of darkness.

If you have not already done so I would recommend his autobiography Radical Son. I would also recommend another book by Thomas Sowell, "Visions of the Anointed".

Cycle Cyril said...

Of course he plead not guilty. But his defense was centered on the guilt of society and not his innocence.

The number of footnotes do not indicate anything beyond the number of footnotes. If you read through many a conspiracy tract it will have references, if not footnotes, to numerous previous articles or books. But the number in and of itself adds nothing to the foundation of truth any tract must have.

And you are right I, unlike you, don't put up straw men to knock down as in "...accuse Newton of laziness...". My point is not that Newton is lazy in writing a dissertation but that his morals, you might say, are 'lazy' - to say the least.

As for the UCSC program I cannot truly comment on its current activities but as a general rule in this day and age much of what comes out of our educational system is so politically correct as to be useless and one example that comes from Women's Studies' Constitution preamble which in the second paragraph is a platform for political agenda and not a platform seeking the truth.

David Schraub said...

I'm not entirely sure how it rebounds to your benefit that Horowitz swung from one edge of idiocy to the other, but if you find it persuasive, who am I to argue? I mean, at the point where you find it a remotely compelling argument to try and map on the political beliefs of the founders to a contemporary left/right axis, you're already showing yourself to be a political hack in Horowitz's (past and present) mode, anyway. The constitutional structure had far more to owe Locke than it did Burke, but Locke is hardly all that liberal a character either -- he helped draft South Carolina's pro-slavery constitution.

Both the US and the French revolutions were preceded by much terror and oppression, and both resulted in much terror and oppression (as any American slave can tell you -- and things got worse, not better, until the Civil War). This whole discussion has been nothing more than a game of "whose violence do I feel like overlooking," and it's so intellectually facile as to be meaningless.

PG said...

Of course he plead not guilty. But his defense was centered on the guilt of society and not his innocence.

Kindly explain how his defense was centered on the "guilty of society." Did he say, "I shot the cops but society made me do it?" For someone who mocks interdisciplinary programs for a failure to "seek truth," you're not making very clear claims. As you might discover if you even bothered to Google information, Newton's defense was that he was unconscious at the time the deceased was shot. Inasmuch as his defense discussed racism and police brutality, it was to discredit the testimony of the surviving police officer. If you're not familiar with the practice of discrediting witnesses by showing their bias against the defendant, you might want to read up on law (or even just how Cochran discredited of Mark Fuhrman in the eyes of the OJ Simpson murder trial jury) before commenting on a criminal trial.

I'm still not clear on where you're coming up with your accusations of immorality. You claim that Newton actually killed people and sought to blame society for his crime. I have cited to a contemporary news source that shows you have no clue what Newton's defense at his trial was. You claim he's a fraud as a PhD. I pointed out that he completed the requirement for a PhD and that the program through which he obtained it is still going strong. Basically everything you've attempted to contribute boils down to "But David Horowitz says..."

As for why one might not take Horowitz seriously, I have ignored him since he described welfare payments as reparations to blacks for slavery. Anyone who discusses the racial aspect of welfare and doesn't bother to find out that over half of welfare recipients are white isn't worth reading.

Cycle Cyril said...

I agree that Horowitz started at one edge of idiocy but if you want to say that encouraging intellectual diversity in universities and warning people of the dangers of Islamofascism is another edge of idiocy then I would argue with you.

As for the founders' political beliefs they most definitively fall into a left/right axis that correlates, though of course not perfectly, with our present left/right conflicts. Just looking at the political fights between Hamilton and Jefferson it becomes apparent that our present day liberal/conservative conflicts are a mere echo of that era.

My reference to Burke is not to say anything beyond that our American Revolution was in essence a very conservative revolution. Your reference to Locke is interesting but tangential. The Fundamental Constitution of Carolina was never ratified and of the two clauses concerning slavery it is unlikely that Locke wrote them considering his comments on slavery in his treatise on government which severely limits slavery to those who started a war and then lost the war and their freedom.

My reference to the American and French Revolutions is to the results of them. One has lead to the longest lasting governmental system in the world (The UK is a close second but their system of government changed under Queen Victoria) and the other lead quickly to a reign of terror under Robespierre and then a dictatorship under Napoleon.

As for the oppression inflicted upon Negro Slaves until the civil war the fact that you overlook is the turmoil such oppression created in the country among those not enslaved. Enough turmoil that those free men fought a war to free those men enslaved.

America is good but not perfect but always trying to perfect itself.

As for PG comments concerning Newton's defense it is clear that legally Newton was not found guilty. But that does not mean he is innocent of murder. And in his trial he accused society of targeting him because of his race, in effect framing him. This made him as innocent as OJ Simpson.

My claim of his immorality is in the evident fact that he killed.

The attainment of a PhD does not change one's morality or lack thereof. Further, with the proliferation of PhD programs that are purely political and not academic, obtaining a PhD is now, in all too many departments, a function of being politically correct.

PG said...

So conservatives now believe that any person of color who says he was targeted for framing because of his race MUST be guilty? I suppose because conservatives believe that no innocent person would raise that point as part of his defense?

(Makes note to self: "If acting as criminal defense attorney for a person of color, either get all the conservatives off the jury or don't point out that client may have been been victim of prejudice.")

Cycle Cyril said...


You need to improve on your rhetorical skills. Your statement "conservatives now believe that any person of color who says he was targeted for framing because of his race MUST be guilty?" is an example of the Fallacy of the General Rule.

You are attempting to put words in my mouth that are not mine.

Stick to the issues and you might be able to be more than an ambulance chaser.

David Schraub said...

You're right, PG overgeneralized. You apparently believe "that any person of color who says he was targeted for framing because of his race MUST be guilty." We shall leave conservatives as a whole out of this, preferring to focus on your own staggering inadequacies.

Cycle Cyril said...

Dave, now you are attributing to me a statement made by PG. I never said "any person of color who says he was targeted for framing ...MUST be guilt". Nor have I implied that Newton is guilty due to his race. He is guilty because of his multiple encounters with the law for murders and other nefarious crimes, his escape from justice due to technicalities and hung juries.

I was and am focusing on Newton and only Newton and I don't care about race here, especially since I see it being used to obscure the truth. It is used by Newton, and even PG and you, to deflect onus.

With regards to adequacies mis-attributing statements indicates a gap which needs mending. Attend to your knitting.

David Schraub said...

PG's statement was perfectly accurate with regards to you. You said Newton was guilty of a particular crime (which you weren't a witness to). PG said Newton's defense was that he was framed on account of race. You, with no particular stated reason, have simply dismissed that possibility and insisted he was definitely guilty. Hence, PG argued that you are denying the possibility of someone ever being framed on account of race.

So, inadequacy number 1: literacy! But that's probably province of those PC elite universities we attend, now ain't it?

Cycle Cyril said...

I say that Newton was guilty of murder because of his criminal activities. He was murdered himself in a drug deal gone bad.

When he was shot in the his first murder he commandeered a car and bragged to the driver, as he was driven to the hospital, that he shot a cop.

He was accused of murdering a second person, a 17 year old prostitute. He was tried twice for this but the trials resulted in hung juries. However he first ran away for a few years to Cuba, not because he was guilty, of course, but because he thought he couldn't get a fair trial.

And he was suspected of ordering the murder of several other people though never brought to trial for lack of evidence. Oh, and he committed crimes, for the most part drug deals, to fund his Black Panther party.

It is his known history, including his death in a drug deal, that I say he was guilty. He used his race to aggrandize himself, obtain power and of course he used it to escape the consequences of his actions.

I am not talking about the possibility of someone being framed, I am talking about the high probability, and in my mind the virtual certainty considering his history and Maoist philosophy and hatred, that he was guilty.

paulus said...

A thinker and his thought are independent of each other. Whatever a thinker may or may not have done his thought may still be valid. The point I take away from Huey P. Newton's essay is that we must resist discrimination against oppressed groups whoever they are.

Homosexuals, black people and women have achieved partial victories against what I like to call “official bullying”. But there is still a long way to go before self-appointed arbiters of what is acceptable give up trying to demean minorities. Society is full of, often powerful, people and organisations who never stop attempting to marginalise vulnerable groups. They are tireless in trying to outlaw their practices or disadvantaging them in other ways.

I have just posted an essay on a related theme entitled "Bully boys":

Cycle Cyril said...

To expand on your statement, Paulus, no one is perfect and a good idea can arise from a less than perfect source.

However the source is pertinent in real life. How often have you heard "He made the trains run on time" with regards to Mussolini as a way to indicate he did some "good".

Further how many on the left are unwilling to give Bush any credit for where credit is due. One example of this is Bush's endeavors with AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa. They certainly don't separate the man from accomplishments which are unequivocally good.

Thus the source of a thought must be considered, for in politics and in life a good thought can be sullied by its source.

PG said...


Um, first find me someone on the left who thinks Bush's AIDS programs in Africa are "accomplishments which are unequivocally good" yet fails to give him credit for them, and then I can take your example seriously.

I think he has done OK on the treatment side, but his abstinence-obsessed programs are idiotic and ineffective -- and that's 2/3 of the prevention budget that otherwise would be going to fight mother-child transmission. Bush has gotten more than enough props from people on the left, unless you don't count Nick Kristof or Bono as "left."

paulus said...

The issue of the idea and its source is very interesting but it needs some unpacking to fully understand what is going on. Let’s start with a couple of very bald statements:

Jesus said it, it must be good/right
Hitler said it, it must be bad/wrong.

Immediately you can see that neither statement works because Jesus could easily be mistaken, or a comment he made may no longer be valid. Hitler is known to have been fond of dogs and he might have said some kind and true things about them. The point is that a statement is independent of its utterer. It is a bit like a child; once it is mature, it is independent and separate from its parents.

In the film/play Amadeus, the proposition is made that Mozart was a badly behaved individual with coarse tastes and a scatological turn of phrase. This might or might not have been true but, if it were true, it would not take away one bit from the magnificence of his music. The composer’s personality and his music are quite independent once he has written it down and it is out in the world.

Let’s go back to Mussolini and his trains. Trains running on time is, judged by normal criteria, a good thing. So that if Mussolini achieved this, he achieved a good thing, even if the rest of what he did was bad. Unless, that is, his method for making the trains run on time included, for example, using slave labour or treating railway workers badly. If that had happened, his achievement would have been at the cost of violating an important moral imperative: do not abuse other people.

The Chinese Terracotta Army was made by slave labourers, many of whom died in the process. I question their value as art for that reason. I would question the value of Mozart’s music if he was only capable of writing it while watching someone being tortured. However, I have to admit that, even in these cases, once the creation has been achieved it is difficult to know how to deal with its existence.

A more tricky, and this time real, example illustrates my point. Information was obtained by Nazi doctors in the death camps by subjecting prisoners to the pain and suffering of repeated immersion in freezing water. These experiments were used to develop techniques for rescuing soldiers from the sea. The results have subsequently been used in modern research to learn how to treat hypothermia in a variety of situations. Many scientists and others, including myself, find this a deeply troubling moral dilemma because of the direct link between torture and scientific research.

So there are areas where I can see that a statement or fact and its origin present a moral dilemma. But they are restricted to acts where a moral imperative is broken. This has nothing to do with the connection between the statement or the fact or the artwork on the one hand, and its author’s character.

So let’s go back to George Bush (or Tony Blair whom I loathe) and their positive actions. If we fail to acknowledge them as positive, we are failing in our duty to be objective. We join the bigots of this world of whom there are already far too many.