From a Prisoner: “Which Side Are You On?”

October 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Which side are you on?

I view that question as being a concentration of one of Frantz Fanon’s most famous quotes in The Wretched of the Earth in which he asked the same from a generational trajectory of responsibility of NOW in which he remarked that “Every generation must out of relative obscurity, discover it’s mission—fulfill or betray it.”

One question I often ask ones in order to capture that same “generational trajectory of responsibility of NOW”, is to ask what type of person they would’ve been if they were born during the time of chattel slavery. Would you have been a Frederick Douglass type, who as an escaped slave himself ... who taught himself how to read and write ... and who fought slavery unceasingly with his mind, body, and actions? Or would you had sympathized with Justice Roger B. Taney—both thoughts and actions—who infamously said in the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford decision that blacks had no rights which the white man was bound to respect? Which side would you been on? Or would you been a John Brown type who was white, yet an outspoken abolitionist ... who sacrificed his own life in order to end the socio-economical system of slavery? Or would you been like Jefferson Davis—the President of the Confederate States—who was willing to fight with his mind, body, and actions in order to maintain the socio-economical system of slavery? Which side would you been on?

Or let’s say that you lived in the 60’s, would you been a Fred Hampton type of individual, who stood up to police brutality and terror as a leader of the Black Panther Party ... and who was assassinated by the police and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI because of it? Or would you had sympathized with J. Edgar Hoover, who did everything in his power to neutralize and even assassinate individuals like Fred Hampton and Martin Luther King Jr. in order to reverse the gains of the Black Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement? Which side would you been on?

I’ve noticed that depending upon how people answer those historical questions of responsibility that history has passed down to us to learn from, very much informs their conscience in how they view that question today (Which side are you on?).

A lot of people—not all though (as eye-brow raising as that may be)—will claim they would’ve been a part of the abolitionist movement in some way if they had lived during the time of slavery. And many of those same individuals would go even further and claim they would’ve also been a part of the Black Liberation Movement or Civil Rights Movement if they had lived back in the 60’s.

I often use this tactical approach to set the framework of my dialogues with people in order to quickly pivot to my main question, which I had in mind all along: “What role do you see yourself playing in the movement to end police brutality and terror today? Which side are you going to be on NOW?” This harkens back to what BA said BAsics 5:11 (in part), “There’s a place where epistemology and morality meet”.

I’ve found that when you become conscious of something, which you were formerly unaware of—particularly an egregious injustice—that level of consciousness at the same time provokes your level of conscience to reach an even higher synthesis as well. There’s definitely a dialectic relationship that constantly feeds both side of this coin in a spiraling and dynamic way.

Just like the injustice of slavery gave rise to the moral antithesis of it in the form of the abolitionist movement during chattel slavery or the Black Liberation Movement (and the Civil Rights Movement) embodied the moral opposition to the wide array of injustice, discrimination, and police terror that Black people stood up to day in and day out in the 50’s and 60’s, today we have our own moral antithesis to police brutality and terror today. That’s one level of struggle, but I would argue even this is not morally enough. Why? Because police brutality and terror won’t end until our generation’s abolitionist movement (the Revolutionary Communist Movement) to end wage-slavery becomes the ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE of this movement overall.

We’ve tried reforming police brutality and terror in the 60’s and 70’s, but where has that gotten us? Lest we forget, it was police brutality and terror that gave rise to the Black Panther Party in 1966. Lest we forget, it was even police brutality and terror that also gave rise to A.I.M. (American Indian Movement) in 1968, according to its founder Dennis Banks in his autobiography Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and The Rise of the American Indian Movement. Now, it’s police brutality and terror again that’s given rise to this generations movement against the same thing in 2014-2015 and counting. The question for our generation today is: How will we confront this problem this time in order to solve it once and for all, so that generations from now don’t have to confront this SAME PROBLEM AGAIN? I would argue that “Which side are you on?”—must, and will, increasingly be between reform (The little “R”) and Revolution (The BIG “R”) the longer this movement expands and deepens. I, for one, want to be on the right side of history, reality, and truth, so generations from now don’t have to continue to ask: Which side are you on?—at least as it relates to the question of Revolution.

In Solidarity,



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