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The goal of Black Power was to empower and form a strong racial identity for AfricanAmericans. The black power philosophies of SNCC and the Black Panther Party sought to liberate blacks from the shackles that had been placed on them for hundreds of years. Until recently the term “Black Power” had been distorted by the media to represent anything but the upheaval of blacks politically, economically and socially. By 1966 SNCC had taken up the slogan “Black Power” and sought to implement a political program that would be control and run by African Americans. SNCC wanted to get rid of the preconceived ideas that African Americans were unable to free themselves without any help. The exclusion of white people from SNCC was seen as a vital step toward promoting black power. SNCC wanted to show African-Americans that they were strong enough to thrive without the support of white institutions. Members within SNCC felt that the presence of white people in the organization would be detrimental to this goal. White people within SNCC were seen as the chief operators of the movement. Since whites were already seen as being superior to African-Americans this reinforced the notion that blacks were incapable of achieving self-determination alone. In an article on Black Power circulated by SNCC it states “Further, white participation means in the eyes of the black community that whites are the brains behind the movement, and that blacks cannot function without whites” (Bloom& Breines, 154). According to the philosophy of Black Power it was important to the African-American sense of self-
2 worth to see that equality could be sought and repression fought without the aid of whites. As long as white people were in the organization the belief was held that Black Power would not progress. African-Americans also needed an environment in which they could freely express their frustration with the present system of oppression. According to the philosophy of Black Power, this atmosphere did not exist in the presence of whites mostly due to a long and continuing history of oppression. The article states “Blacks, in fact, feel intimidated by the presence of whites, because of their knowledge of the power that whites have over their lives” (Bloom& Breines, 153). The voices of African-Americans were suppressed in the presence of whites due to the past and present treatment blacks had been exposed to. In order to overcome this obstacle the exclusion of whites was deemed necessary. With SNCC the advancement of the black power philosophy was contingent on the separation of blacks from whites. Those who advocated for Black Power recognized that some white people had helped African-Americans to secure the right to vote, organize, protest and hand out leaflets. The article states “In the case of Mississippi, their role was very key in that they helped give blacks the right to organize, but that role is now over, and it should be” (Bloom& Breines, 154). SNCC felt that the white people’s role in the movement had run its course. For the movement to proceed and for the black power philosophy to flourish SNCC believed that blacks and only blacks must take the necessary steps to achieve further progress. In the article it states “If we are to proceed toward true liberation we must cut ourselves off from white people. We must form our own institutions, credit unions, co-ops, political parties, write our own histories” (Bloom& Breines, 155). To SNCC Black Power meant that it was time for black people to fight for themselves. The Black Panthers and SNCC shared the same belief; that the advancement of Black power was vital to Blacks achieving self-worth, self-determination and liberation. Their platform included the notion “We believe that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny”
3 (Bloom& Breines, 164). I think the Black Panthers were more focus on Black people’s independence from institutions they viewed as being racist and completely bias. One component of their platform reads: We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules” (Bloom& Breines, 165). They did not seem to be interested in complete separation from whites. I say this because throughout their platform there is a mentioning of being part of or taking over institutions if it was not benefiting Blacks i.e. education, housing, judicial system. The Black Panthers called for a system in which only African Americans decided the fate of others who shared their same background. The Black Panthers demanded immediate equality for all blacks. This included increased and fair employment opportunities, exemption from military service in Vietnam, health care and educational services. Community control of black neighborhoods and organizations was also presented to increase Black dominated superstructures. These strategies were meant to give blacks more control of their own destiny and recognized their power as human beings. Both articles overlap each other making it very difficult to see any differences between the two. I find that SNCC and the Black Panthers had similar philosophies on Black Power. Black Power to these two organization meant establishing a sense of empowerment and an identity within Blacks. SNCC was calling for the expulsion of white people from its organization. The Black Panthers were calling for the increase of African American control over institutions and affairs that directly affected them. SNCC and the Black Panthers statements were considered to be radical. SNCC's statements were seen as radical because whites had played a huge role in the Civil Rights Movement. Now calling for the separation of blacks and whites, SNCC was viewed as being racist or at least practicing reverse racism. The Black Panther took a hard, uncompromising tone when it came to stating their grievances and what they thought it would take to overcome injustices. Their tone troubled people because it sounded anti-white, provocative and violent. These two statements also contain talk of separation.
4 SNCC talked of separating from whites while the Black Panthers talked of separating from society altogether. SNCC and the Black Panthers through their Black Power philosophies sought to open a new chapter in the history of African Americans in the United States. The achievements that were gain previously were not enough; more direct involvement of Blacks was needed.
Hippies and Diggers
Hippies and the Diggers rejected many of society's establish norms. They revolted against society, and abandoned traditional customs, lifestyles, and society to form their own. At the time the society norms were dressing in a conservative manner, going to school, getting a “good job”, buying a house and hoping that one’s children would repeat the same sequence. The Hippies and Diggers did not see this as normal. They saw society’s norms as leading to the alienation of human beings from humanity. Hippies rejected the established institutions. They were against the capitalist structure. Hippies were against the materialistic mindset that required the purchasing of an obscene amount of possessions. One expression of hippies’ rejection of societal norms could be found in their dress code. Hippies dress in colorful flamboyant clothing. This was completely revolutionary. The clothes worn were a big threat. The standard dress code during this time was of a “neutral appearance”. Any kind of clothing that made the individual stand out was seen as inappropriate. It was the clothing that led to the uneasiness of middle class people. This uneasiness gave way to fear which led to resentment. Guy Strait, in a 1967 essay states “Unusual or bright-colored clothing, then becomes an alarm, a danger signal to the fearful and their armed truce with the rest of mankind. …..They are fearful, unsure of themselves and fear sours into anger” (Bloom& Breines, 310). Through their appearance, hippies declared their willingness to question authority, and distanced themselves from the restrictions placed on them by society. Diggers’ ideology was similar to the Hippies. They abandoned established customs of society
5 and criticized middle class values. The Diggers took it a step further by implementing a political program that resembled their principles. In the article, The Digger Papers it states “Our states of awareness demands that we uplift our efforts from competitive game playing in the underground to the comparative roles of free families in free cities” (Bloom& Breines, 316). They wanted to set up “free clinics, meals, lodging, concerts, banks, housing, schools etc. The Diggers were not content with just stating their ideas. They wanted to put them in practice. The Hippies, Diggers, SNCC and Black Panther all represented the growing unrest occurring in the 1960s. These movements sought to change the status quo not just within their communities but worldwide. These groups took it upon themselves to question the policymakers. When they were not content they felt it necessary to take it a step further. Elements from each group can still be seen today.
Bibliography "Takin' It to the Streets" A Sixties Reader. New York: Oxford UP, USA, 1995. 164-167, 152-159, 310312, 316-323 Print.
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