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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

    Former Black Panther leader speaks

    People who think racism is dead in America are wrong, according to a former Black Panther Party activist who spoke last month to a crowd of nearly 80 people in the Cultural Awareness Center.

    Former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown speaks to City College students during her discussion about "new age racism." Brown was the only female in the Black Panther Party who rose to leadership status. Photo by ||Tamara Knox

    What former Black Panther Party chairperson Elaine Brown called new age racism in America includes the presumption by many that the African American population is free.

    The Associated Student Government, the Black Student Union and the Cultural Awareness Center sponsored the speech by Brown, the only female Black Panther leader.

    Brown shared her views on issues of race and referenced her 2002 book, “The Condemnation of Little B: New Age Racism in America.”

    The Black Panther Party, in which Brown was active for 10 years, had an international impact in the ’60s, calling for protection of neighborhoods from police brutality and implementing a children’s breakfast program, among other things, according to Brown.

    Brown stated that America has the largest number of people in prison globally, and of those, 50 percent are African American males.

    “Black people still live in, what I would consider, an oppressed state in America,” Brown said.

    Michael Lewis, referred to as Little B, was a 13-year-old African-American who was prosecuted for the murder in 1997 of a man in Atlanta.

    Little B is currently still in prison for a crime he did not commit, according to Brown, in the only country globally that tries children as adults.
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    Brown asked the audience, “The question is how did this happen?”

    “There’s a whole notion that you know, these [black] people, they committed these crimes. But what we fail to recognize or don’t want to recognize is that crime is a political question.

    “It is not a moral question,” she continued. “Killing is not a crime. You can kill somebody and not only get away with it, but if you’re in Afghanistan or if you’re in Libya, you might get an award for killing a few people.”

    New age racism includes the idea that something is wrong with a particular group of people, according to Brown.

    To further support her concept of new age racism, Brown explained the political history of African Americans.

    “By the time country was founded as a country in 1776, we had been enslaved for 150 years, and the country was founded as a slave-holding nation,” said Brown.

    Before the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, according to Brown, African Americans “went from being a slave class to a criminal class,” Brown said, exemplifying the new laws that came into play referred to as “the black codes.”

    “They criminalized blacks for certain behaviors that were not necessarily criminal for whites. One of them was vagrancy, now I don’t know how anybody can be expected not be a vagrant when you had been a slave, and one minute later you were supposed to have a job somewhere,” Brown said.

    She explained that the 1966 Black Panther Party believed: “The only way for black people to be free is for us to have a fundamental change in this country in the scheme of things, because it’s the scheme of things that brought us to where we are” said Brown.

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