Blacks Will Fight Back

Photograph Source: Mike Shaheen – CC BY 2.0

During the summer of 1967, I wrote my second novel in an apartment in the Echo Park Lake section of Los Angeles. Riots had broken out in cities throughout the nation. In my early 20s, I’d written my share of “Revolutionary” poetry, but this bulletin shocked me. Black snipers were holding down members of the armed forces and, at one point, forced their retreat. The radio announcer sounded as shook as I was.

There was speculation that the snipers were army veterans who knew how to handle weapons. Though a popular television series portrayed Blacks as passive victims during the Tulsa race riots of 1921, army veterans from World War I resisted the invasion of Black neighborhoods. They took on the full power of the state. Before that, “Black people [formed] ad hoc self-defense organizations to try to keep white folks from terrorizing their communities,” says Simon Balto, a Professor of African American History at the University of Iowa and author of Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power.

Black veterans were a large part of what made the summer of 1919, in the words of this historian David F. Krugler, “the year that African Americans fought back.”

Those white nationalists now longing for a “second civil/race war” seem unaware that their side lost the last one. Moreover, thousands of Confederate soldiers demonstrated their loyalty to the Confederacy by going AWOL. One Confederate general said if we could get half of them back, we could win the war.

The current generation of white nationalists hasn’t been warned that onslaughts into the country’s Black zones will be met with resistance.

If a Black Historian had been invited to President Biden’s recent meeting with historians about the future of Democracy, they could have voiced this opinion. Native-American and Hispanic historians could have added other points of view.

Two major white nationalist groups are led by Hispanics, an example of how the right is running out of Aryans. Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s dictator, doesn’t resemble the Aryans depicted in the Nazi propaganda posters of the 1930s.

Yet Orbán is a hero to those agitating for a Race War. In the event of one, Black gangs slaughtering each other over drug turfs would unite against the white nationalist invaders whose targets have been mostly women.

I got a call from a young Black man of means, who described the weapons he’d recently bought. He’s not alone. The purchase of guns by Blacks has risen by 58%. I didn’t know what to tell him. In my teens, being young, naive, and ignorant of Black History, I would have told him to trust Law Enforcement. A number of those who stormed the capitol on Jan. 6 were not “the left behind” but police and fireman. Injustice Watch has recorded thousands of racist comments on social media used by the police.* Of course, Blacks and Browns and their white allies would be overwhelmed in a shooting war, but they could do such damage that the United States would no longer be a viable society. But maybe the second civil war is a fantasy held by those who are too comfortable to launch one.

Maybe a second civil war would begin after a bitter struggle between white nationalists over who should lead it. They decide on a date. Very few show up because the date coincides with Superbowl Sunday.

Instead of appeasing or making excuses for them, some pundits and columnists should inform these white nationalists who would be foolish enough to begin their race war that they will be met with more than prayers.

During the Summer of 1919, poet Claude McKay responded to Black resistance with the lines.

If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Ishmael Reed’s  new play “The Conductor” will be streamed from The Theater for the New City in Oct.

Ishmael Reed’s latest play is “The Conductor.”