The Black Panthers and the K.K.K. – Are They Comparable?

Ever since Beyoncé’s Super Bowl 50 halftime performance, there’s been a lot of talk online regarding how offensive it was that she chose to embrace Black Panther imagery. To many people, the Black Panthers are no better than the Klu Klux Klan. However it quickly became apparent to me that many of these people are not familiar with the Black Panther party.

So first, let’s educate ourselves. Let’s first look at the mission statements of the two organizations:

The Black Panther Party:

(paraphrased from the “What We Believe” section of the Ten-Point Program)

“We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules was promised 100 years ago as a restitution for slave labor and mass murder of black people. We will accept this payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. We demand that Blacks be exempt from military service to a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America.”

The Klu Klux Klan:

(excerpted from a copy of a 1920 pamphlet titled “Ideals of the Ku Klux Klan.“)

THIS IS A WHITE MAN’S ORGANIZATION, exalting the Caucasian Race and teaching the doctrine of White Supremacy. This does not mean that we are enemies of the colored and mongrel races. But it does mean that we are organized to establish the solidarity and to realize the mission of the White Race. All of Christian Civilization depends upon the preservation and upbuilding of the White Race, and it is the mission of the Ku Klux Klan to proclaim this doctrine until the White Race shall come into its own.

WE STAND FOR WHITE SUPREMACY. Distinction among the races is not accidental but designed. This is clearly brought out in the one book that tells authoritatively of the origin of the races. This distinction is not incidental, but is of the vastest import and indicates the wisdom of the divine mind. It is not temporary but is as abiding as the ages that have not yet ceased to roll. The supremacy of the White Race must be maintained, or be overwhelmed by the rising tide of color.

Within the last few years, the KKK has made efforts to move away from hate rhetoric however…so maybe the second paragraph no longer applies 😉

Even so the Southern Poverty Law Center still considers the KKK to be a hate organization. It also considers The New Black Panther Party to be as well. But the original Black Panther Party was disbanded in 1982, and many of its members have denounced the New Panthers.  Founder Bobby Seale is quoted as saying:

Just to hate another person because [of] the color of their skin or their ethnicity—we don’t do that. That’s not what the goal objective is. The goal objective is human liberation. The goal objective is the greater community cooperation and humanism. The goal objective is to get rid of institutionalized racism…

Another thing that I’m not sure that people realize is that the Black Panther Party had members who were not Black. There were Japanese-American members like Yuri Kochiyama and Richard Aoki. There were many White Americans who supported Huey Newton and the Black Panthers; not because of their separatist ideals, but because of their dedication to self-determination. There were other politically similar groups of other cultures, like Latino, that positioned themselves as allies of the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers also hired non-Black professionals and consultants, like attorney Flint Taylor, who was White. It is pretty safe to say that the KKK has not been able to drum up this type of support from non-White Americans or would hire minorities to work for them in a professional capacity.

And last but not least, the Black Panthers were successfully brought down by the government and today they cease to exist. On the other hand the KKK is still alive and well. To see how the government, the FBI specifically accomplished this, watch the video below. It’s only 30 minutes long, but very informative. At 11:15, former Assistant U.S. District Attorney Jerris Leonard (who is White) even admits that J. Edgar Hoover (who was head of the FBI at the time) exaggerated the dangers of the Black Panther party. This was also confirmed by documents leaked from the FBI break-in in Media, PA in 1971 — where it was quite evident that the government had a mission to take down dissident groups, including the Black Panthers, not based on crimes, but based on their threatening message.

Yes, the Black Panthers had guns and they had shocking rhetoric spoken and printed against White Americans. However they never had a mission to terrorize White Americans. They did believe in the right to bear arms (the 2nd Amendment) and protect their community. This protection included defense against the police…which is why the Black Panthers are seen as anti-police. However the video above shows that this concern was justified; in the both local police units and the FBI had a clandestine mission to take out key Black Panther leaders. Also keep in mind, public opinion at this time (1969-1971) found many sympathetic Americans to the Black Panthers and it was public outcry that pressured the police to make an out-of-court settlement with the surviving family members of some of the slain Black Panthers. Again, I haven’t found anything similar that has happened to the KKK.

I realize that this post is a bit one-sided. As always I welcome feedback from others; especially if you have something to contribute (pro or con) in regards to the KKK. Just as the Black Panthers built up this overall disapproval from American society, the Klan has as well. Quite frankly, I feel that their poor reputation of the KKK is completely justified; whereas for whatever reason (maybe we are in the Twilight Zone?) the reputation of the Black Panthers has been warped. If you feel that I’m wrong, please tell me in the comments below 🙂