James Forman—Liberation Will Come from a Black Thing (1968)
The self-defense of a people against attack is not a right, but a necessity. From the time of the Geneva Agreements in 1954 until 1959-60, the policy of Vietnamese nationalists was to engage in peaceful legal struggle against the Diem government and its U.S. advisors. More Vietnamese were killed between 1957-59 than during the nine years of the war against the French. The beginning of armed resistance in 1959 was a necessary response to the violence of repression.
And in this country, approximately 6,500 black people have been lynched since the Civil War. These lynchings have sometimes been by rope, more often by the “legal” policeman’s bullet. Racism has been used to justify these murders, just as it is used to justify the genocidal war being waged against the Vietnamese.
Racism and U.S. imperialism, inextricably entwined, are being assaulted by liberation fighters all over the world. In this worldwide struggle between revolution and counterrevolution, there can be no “innocent bystanders.” As Frantz Fanon wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, “Yes; everybody will have to be compromised in the fight for the common good.
No one has clean hands; there are no innocents and no onlookers. We all have dirty hands….Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor.”
The fight against racism is not the struggle of black people, it is ours. And the battle has been joined.
The only correct way to discuss those words is from a historical context. Too often we look at an event, a situation, a slogan, a life history, a rebellion, a revolution…and assume that its present characteristics have always been its past. For instance in Vietnam we see a heroic struggle occurring in which the Vietnamese people are using revolutionary armed force to repel their aggressors. Sometimes we fail to understand that the South Vietnamese had a policy of self-defense for at least four years–from 1955 to 1960– before they engaged in offensive armed struggle to liberate their country from the oppression of the Diem Regime and its United States backers. When the student movement started in February 1960, many of the activists thought they had begun the black revolution. Many of us failed to understand the historical conditions which produced us and the actions we were taking against segregation in this country, especially in the Deep South.
While it is beyond the limits of my time to go into a long discussion of the history of our people, it is absolutely essential to see our history as one of resistance. Our ancestors began to resist the enforced slavery long before they left the shores of Africa. The captured African did not voluntarily go to the shores of Africa and willingly board the slave ships that brought our forefathers to this alien land. They resisted in Africa.
They resisted the moment they were wrenched from the shores of Africa.
They resisted on the high seas.
They resisted in Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina–wherever they were forced to work as slaves building the so-called great white civilization of the United States and the Western World.
We resist today!