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This is Background a program of comment conversation and analysis. Our topic was civil liberties and black power. I'm Lisle Haskin recently Stokely Carmichael the director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee spoke at the University of Michigan. His topic was black power. The phrase coined by cynic since the term came into existence many persons both white and black have said a good deal about it some supporting the concept but most decrying it. For the last several weeks Arnold S. Kaufman Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan and exchange professor for one year at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee Alabama has been commenting on the civil rights struggle in this nation and the rise of black power as a concept. And on this program and the next the last two in the series Professor Kaufman comments on the address by Stokely Carmichael in his speech.
Carmichael said it is clear to me that white people view black people in Syria and that the solution they have offered us is that we must prove ourselves capable of sitting next to them. That's only been a long integration major solution to the black problem. Three integration is an individual and personal desire. It cannot be a mass exodus to freedom for people to say that for black people to have good educations they must go to white schools. Who's to say that white schools of the black schools therefore inferior for you to tell me that the only time I can live in a decent house is when I move into a white neighborhood is to say to me that whenever black people live together their housing will automatically deteriorate and therefore better things can only be found in the white community. It is to say that anything all black is bad. Now you're all students of logic. You had logic 101.
You take a major premise that says anything or black is bad. You think the particular minor premise that I am black. Conclusion. Your so means you know anything all black is not bad nor is anything or white then. It is only bad when those forces of one color just legality and brutality to keep out. That of another color. It seems to me that what we're saying is that we have the right to self-determination. We did not pull the rising reserves in this country we were polarized by the majority. We have to admit that there are segregated schools in this country and that when we are willing to admit that in our minds then perhaps we can get to the question of a good education. Seems to me that that's what we have to address attention to. Not to integrated schools more segregated schools but how in fact is this country going to
deliver good schools across the board to every. In fact is this country going to deliver good jobs to good people to everybody across the board it is not right for this country to point to a snake and say that we caused the problems we didn't cause them we're speaking to them realistically. Integration is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with whether or not I get a decent education. There are many foreign students here who grew up in their own foreign countries and got an education then when they come to America they never consider themselves superior to Americans. Seems to me that black people getting an education in all black school doesn't automatically consider some superior to whites. I went to an all black college and got a decent education didn't have to go to a white school. What in fact whites expect blacks to do is to go to a white school and prove themselves. Yes you have round ones and you tell me all the time that now understood
it why can't I. The reason that the ghetto man cannot do it is because it is institutional. It allows for a route bunch to escape. It does not want to know in the Bronx to Harlem to escape. And when you talk about integration you do not talk all about why don't you talk about college students like Stokely Carmichael and we ought to be concerned about the majority because black college students are a very small minority in this country. Professor Kaufman Stokely Carmichael when he was here at the University of Michigan said in his speech that integration is meaningless. What did what did he mean. Well I think Mr. Carmichael was making a very subtle but important point. If you think about it when we talk about integration What do we mean.
We mean not the integration of whites into negro communities but we invariably think about it just for a moment. I have in mind the integration of negroes into white communities. Now the implication of that Mr. Carmichael was claiming is that there's something good about being integrated into the white community. And if you recall in the part of the speech you're referring to he describes a syllogism. If it there's something good about being integrated into the white community it suggests that there's something bad about all black communities. He says if there's something bad about all black communities and he is black you can draw the inference that he is bad. And that Negroes have drawn that inference in this society.
I think the point them of is saying that integration is meaningless. Is that so long as integration is between two groups of people one who implicitly view themselves as superior and the other who because of the very conditions of American life view themselves inferior. You have an integration not of equals but of an equals. And it's the sort of integration that is going to perpetuate the very conditions of the human spirit as it were. Which one would have hoped could be eliminated through integration. That is the. Lack of self-esteem of negroes the sense of inferiority the slavish nous which I did discuss in earlier programs. Now I don't quite agree that integration is meaningless. But I think this is a very important point that Stokeley Carmichael is making and it's a valid one. As far as it goes. I think however and I'm happy to see in some of the more
recent pronouncements of some of the people who advocate black power whatever that means that there is a kind of long range perspective according to which integration is not repudiated as an ultimate aim of of the civil rights movement but simply rejected in the short run because of this integration of psychological unequals which simply from their point of view and I think with some justification perpetuates the very conditions of the human spirit that they're so concerned to eliminate. Presumably however in some future time how distant. Nobody really knows hopefully not too distant if the American people respond to the challenge of the civil rights movement in the way that they should be responding it wouldn't be too distant.
But given the tendency of the white community to sandbag and to guard their power unequal power and prerogatives at the expense of negroes in the community as I've argued in previous programs. It does seem to me at the present time that we cannot reasonably expect such meaningful integration to occur in any in any large scale way for a very long time indeed. This is the dilemma that part of the dilemma that Gunner MIERDA all talked about in his book The American dilemma and it's also I think one of the if not the great moral tragedy of American life. If I want you. When we were bombed in Birmingham in the church and they happened to be black this whole country would get around. They would get upset they would yell and they would scream. They would condemn the action. Yet this country cannot condemn the actions of millions of black people dying in their ghettos
every single day. They cannot condemn the actions of millions of black children who do not get a good education every single day. They cannot condemn the fact that black people go out employed in the ghettos of this country every single day. They cannot condemn the fact that black people are forced to live in rundown sacks for higher rents than they do living on Park Avenue. They cannot condemn and there is a need for that condemnation not the condemnation only of four black children being bombed in Birmingham. That is only symptomatic. Of the fact. That black people are allowed to live in the conditions they do today in this country. We're talking about attacking Americans. We don't want people to cry. Over for black people dying in Birmingham we want you to be concerned about the black people and harm about the black people in Watts. About the black people and mass all over this country who are lost.
It's a living areas and we contend that the only way that we will be able to free and to break out of those ghettos is number one when we have the power to do so our CEOs when we do not have to depend upon the moral indignation of this country getting aroused when we have the power to force this country to bargain with us from a position of strength rather than one of weakness and mortality. This country does not know nor has ever been on morality. It runs on power pure unadulterated. If you don't believe me just want to thank. Every group in this country including the now well established labor movement. I started late in the rising for power base from which to bargain with. This country has been trying to dilute the strength of black people so that we could not speak from the same heat. I am all past because I'm black not
because I'm lazy stupid or another who got good with. That. Think of another black people are oppressed because they are black. And it is around that question that we must now come together and free ourselves so this country can recognize. Blackness and deal with it. This country must recognize and feel the weight of black people. It is ludicrous for someone to say to me six foot one in black design and I don't recognize it. It's nonsensical. I want them to recognize my call of a deal with me on an equal basis. And that's a question for white society it seems to me. And since white society views us as black. The problem is how can white liberals move into that white community and explain to white
people that there is no need for them to view black people as inferior and to be afraid of moving into the ghettos. That's seems to me is where we have to work tearing down that racism. How in fact can we tear down a structure that does not speak to the needs of people in this country. And Bill that seems to me to be the need where white people have to start moving. We have maintained that we don't want white people to work in the black ghetto. That is to say we stop them we don't have to. And if we could we would not. But in our organization we've taken a position. And we have said very clearly that white people who work in the black ghetto. Whether or not they want to further white supremacy because black children have to see black people doing something for themselves independently without the aid of whites. And that whenever some wipers News in the ghetto helping another black person it only furthers
white supremacy and black inferiority. Therefore black children need to see black people doing things for themselves. That is called black consciousness. And that is what we are pushing. It is very important and it is a revolutionary idea in this country. And only black people can carry that revolutionary message into the ghetto. This country must emasculate and castrate any arrogant black man. It seems to me that the need to stop that castration must come. From the white society. So that we have to move from a position of the Mahdi and that means psychological equality and that it seems to me is the first fight that we are now going through in this country. There's a fight going on in this country. It is whether or not black people will use the terms they want to use without the blessings of white people. We are going to use Black Power White People Like it or not. That's what they have to understand
and they ought not to try and define black power. They ought to listen and see what it is. Black Power speaks to black people in this country. That's what white people cannot understand. A few years ago when everyone talked about integration every time I saw somebody white. All he said was becoming a man of Norton's. They were defining integration again and now they're trying to do the same thing. They want to try and understand what Black Power is before they begin to condemn. They are not now nor ever been done. Black people are going to use their terms and white people have to move to a position where they begin to understand. It is funny that I read a newspaper just morning. And I found the word power 12 times on the front page of The Daily News New York's Picayune newspaper. It's their own advertisement and they had the only time the power becomes something savagery is when an adjective black is placed in front of it.
And that's a question that white America must deal with. Black people apologist. They're going to get power. How it is it is there. One has to channel it and control a little one's benefit. Has always been power when the rivers just took time for people to understand that if you channel that power you can get electricity from the power in the black ghettos of this country and that power becomes relevant after we fought and died for the Voting Rights Bill which this country was very wise to let us have in 1965. Only trouble is that when Lyndon Johnson signed that belief thought he had about five million more black votes in the Democratic Party and we tried to mess up his plans. We want those black people to vote independently so they can begin to benefit themselves. Obviously he feels rather that black power is necessary. One of the other things he said is that the United States is not run on
morality but rather if you are on adulterated power. And he even said it at one point in his speech if you don't believe me ask Lyndon Johnson. Do you agree with that with that point in his speech. I I think he's making two points there. One about the necessity of black power and the other about the absence of a moral element in the making of the American domestic policy. I agree with the first point. And I have some reservations about the second. Let me explain what I mean.
If one take a look at the situation in the South I've played a blackbelt regions of the South but didn't where I was. We're here for example. It's perfectly apparent that the fundamental conditions of the oppression of negro the thing by white power that there is white power that were white and the most recent example of this. I was reading about it in the in the Southern Courier a very fine Journal put out by some college students which has most fascinating descriptions of what goes on and race relations in the Deep South. It is a report for example of
a trial which a negro man was accused of committing a series of robberies. In that trial which took place in Mobile Alabama the jury found the negro man guilty. And you'll hardly believe it sentenced him to death to death in the electric chair. Now you can say well that's justice working itself out. But I venture to say there hasn't been. I would venture to guess that there hasn't been a white man in first of all it's barbaric to even have a law on the books which permits execution for robbery. But secondly I venture to guess that that law has not been applied in that way to a white man in the history of its existence on the books and if it has been it would be a very long time ago indeed.
What this suggests is that the white people of Alabama are using power often in the most ruthless and barbaric way to destroy the legitimate aspirations of not just the criminal element within the Negro people but of all Negroes in the by both regions of the south and that certainly my experience near I was in Tuskegee. Now how do you counter such a vicious and in this particular case obscene use of power except by creating counter power. And if the federal government does not step in and say this is impermissible. This is a vicious use of power. To whom does the negro have to turn in the black regions of the South for example. What can they do except try to create out of their own resources
a base of power which will counter this. I think anyone any civilized human being would agree totally illegitimate use of white power. To the extent then that what Stokely Carmichael and Mr Floyd McKissic of core are saying that you cannot use. Why power in this country without expecting the creation of blackout to power to its illegitimate use at the expense of Negroes. And I don't think there's anybody to deny that it's been used that way. I think they're doing the only thing that any any self-respecting human being could possibly do. Trying to nourish they're trying to build their own resources in a way to prevent this kind of oppression. To the extent that they are also saying that black power is to be understood essentially in terms of self-determination
by members of the Negro community that is the the taking control of their own lives and of. The making the rules which govern their lives and creating for themselves institutional structures that reinforce and support their legitimate aspiration to be treated as human beings and to have their human rights respected. I think that again this is an entirely legitimate use of what is called Black Power but is simply another way of talking about the at least one element in the American democratic tradition the Jeffersonian element the right of peoples to take control of their own lives in their own communities. So there are these two aspects of black power with which I wholeheartedly concur.
To the extent that if if snake and corps were saying that they want to use this black power in turn to tyrannized over others white yellow green red or blue I of course I'm utterly opposed to that. But to the best of my knowledge no one no advocate of no responsible advocate of black power and I do include Stokely Carmichael employed McKissic in the main leaders of this movement among the rats responsible advocates of black power no responsible advocate of Black Power has even suggested for a moment that this power that they seek is to be used in a way that that simply rip reciprocates to tyranny to which the Negro people have been subjected for for centuries. Turning to the question of morality however I think surely that Stokeley Carmichael while there's an element an important element of truth in what he says is very much exaggerating it. And I think actually if you read his
statements carefully you'll see that ultimately he along with every other civil rights leader is to some extent appealing to the traditional American concern for certain kinds of moral values in particular human rights. He has no great confidence that human rights will be respected and for that reason he wants to make sure by whatever way he can that they will be respected that the institution the legal and other kinds of institutional structures that protect individual human rights will exist and will protect the rights of the individual human rights of Negroes. But at the same time I think he recognizes implicitly and in any event I would argue that to some extent this can only come about because there is within the American nation a widespread at least rhetorical commitment to human rights and for some this is more than rhetoric. And it's partly
on this whether he says it or not that he ultimately relies for other forms of protection he seeks. Now this last point about human rights I think is again a very important point both Negroes and whites have identified. Black power with the rejection of of what began as a so-called nonviolent movement that was the key phrase of Dr. Martin Luther King for example. Is that accurate is that an accurate description does black power actually supplant nonviolence or is it more. More along the lines of self defense. You know and in building a power base of course what Stokely Carmichael and Floyd McKissic again and it is important to remember that the Congress of Racial Equality which McKissic is chairman grew out of
a movement whose main inspiration was Mama Gandy. What both of them have said again and again is all that they mean when they say they reject nonviolence is to assert the right of self-defense. However there is a rather subtle issue involved here which Rustin in an article of his in a recent article titled Black Power and coalition politics calls attention to. He says there that. While the advocates of black power have emphasized that they are talking about the rich when they reject nonviolence they simply arse are asserting the right of self-defense. The tactical issue that is involved is whether or not that self-defense is something that should be exercised in official demonstrations. He says nobody has ever denied the right of any
negro or any human being to defend himself. The main tactical issue is whether that right of self-defense should be exercised in the course of civil rights demonstrations. Now I wish I had the wisdom to give a correct and proper answer to this tactical issue. When I hear Martin Luther King or Bayard Rustin talk about this issue I'm pulled in their direction. And when I hear Stokely Carmichael or Floyd McKissic talk about this issue I frankly impled in their direction and I don't know what I don't know what the answer is I don't know if there is a general answer I don't know if we should expect a general answer in such complicated issues of political life. I do know that a story like the following one is a story that fills me with something like joy. A young friend of mine a student a former student at Tuskegee Institute was and a snake worker was on the march to the
Mississippi March and he has some stomach troubles. At least this is the story I have been told. It is and it's partly apocryphal it's still a very good story. He had this stomach indigestion and he stopped. He had the car he was in stopped at a local grocery. White on White proprietor in Mississippi. He walked in and the proprietor rather angrily asked him what he wanted. He said I'd like some Alka-Seltzer. The proprietor said. All right I'll send you some Alka-Seltzer it will be a quarter. I'll give you a paper cup. Put some water in the paper cup. Give you this. Alka-Seltzer and then he said it not me nigger. Take that outside drink it. Get outta here. My friend nodded and the proprietor
got the paper cup filled it with water got the Alka-Seltzer put it on the table next to him said give me the quarter and then he said it again nigger get out. My friend took a quarter out of his pocket gave it to him reached in to his jacket pulled out a gun pointed it at the proprietor leveled his eyes on him and said Now you just stand there. He slowly and calmly open the Alka-Seltzer package put the Alka-Seltzer in the cup let it fizzle letting it take all the time it needed to fizzle. Calmly picked up the cup drank it put the cup down said Thank you put the gun back in his pocket and walked out. Now I don't know whether you want to call that an illegitimate use of violence or potential violence or not. But there's something very uplifting about human beings who are in effect saying I'm not going to
Civil liberties and Black power
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This is an episode of the program Background hosted by Lyle Haskin, produced on the campus of the University of Michigan and distributed internationally by the Voice of America. This is the first of a two-part program within the series called "Civil liberties and Black power." In this episode, Haskin is joined by Dr. Arnold S. Kauffman, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan. The program includes analysis of sections of a Stokely Carmichael speech about Black power given at the University of Michigan, on Black power, white views of race, and the ghetto (15 min.) The second part of the program is an analysis: an alternative to white supremacy / Dr. Arnold S. Kauffman (16 min.).
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Carmichael, Stokely; University of Michigan; Kaufman, Arnold S. (Arnold Saul), 1927-1971; African Americans--Civil rights--History
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Chicago: “Civil liberties and Black power; Background,” 1967-06-19, Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “Civil liberties and Black power; Background.” 1967-06-19. Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: Civil liberties and Black power; Background. Boston, MA: Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from