Huey P. Newton on Our Internalized Prejudice

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Criticism is difficult, yet necessary. It's one of those reality checks, especially if it's true, that can actually make you a better human being but before that process your ego has to take a beating. You can take criticism from life in two ways, you can learn what is true from it and correct it going forward, or you can choose to completely ignore, get defensive and angry and never go on to change or better yourself.

The global turmoil recently with the pandemic and the protests have brought about some very interesting conversations about our previous world. Conversations about what is socially acceptable behaviour anymore? What are the new parameters that we are operating on? What have we incorporated into our current society that is inherently racist, classist, sexist, and homophobic? If we can all agree that this system was designed by white men for it to be optimally beneficial to white men, then we should understand that our culture, society and infrastructure are founded upon the beliefs of those men.

Those men were homophobic, misogynistic, slave owners who would rape and pillage nations and villages. That is the makeup and foundation of current society. And we can pretend that we have progressed so much and that we soar above those beliefs but in truth, we don’t. They are the creators of the school system, industries and general infrastructures and operating systems with centuries of a well maintained culture built upon certain ideals.

I have never thought of myself as sexist or misogynistic in any way. I have never seen myself as someone who would have any ill will towards any woman and have always tried my best to not put women in situations where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. For a lot of my life a lot of my best and closest friends have been women. I have sisters and cousins and a mom that I spend most of my time with. I never even pictured myself as someone who could be categorized as a misogynist. But my actions aren’t always in congruence with that belief. Because after a careful and objective analysis of my life, I definitely can be and have been misogynistic, because that is the society I grew up in.

I grew up listening to music that objectified women, watching movies that objectified women, I’ve actively been told my whole life that women are a possession to be attained, I’ve been told by society and history that women are a status symbol. And that's what all young men today grew up watching and listening to. Because that's how men have historically treated women, because that's how they built the current system of governance and operations. This isn’t about gender roles in the home or anything like that, it's the base foundational belief that treats women as commodities, like a Lamborghini and a beautiful woman can hold the same weight.

And some people will always think like that and that's their business. But there are some people who are truly unaware of how they are adding to this culture of misogyny, rape culture, sexism, especially towards women of colour. And this isn't exclusively about women, that's just the group I have had the most contact with where I can objectively view the flaws in how I unthinkingly conducted myself and treated the other person. But this belief applies to our first reactions and treatment of all oppressed groups. Our reactions might unthinkingly be homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist or classist, simply because that's the society we are coming from.

If we’re truly in revolutionary times we have to look at revolutionary history and see what people that came before us had to say about these topics. On August 15, 1970, Huey P. Newton, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, gave a speech in New York City where he outlined the Party’s position on two emerging movements at the time, the women’s liberation movement and the gay liberation movement. Newton’s remarks were strikingly unusual since most conservative, moderate, and radical black organizations remained silent on the issues addressed by these movements. The speech appears below.

During the past few years strong movements have developed among women and among homosexuals seeking their liberation. There has been some uncertainty about how to relate to these movements.

Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say “whatever your insecurities are” because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the woman or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the White racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest White person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you’re some kind of a threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society.

And what made them homosexual? Perhaps it’s a phenomenon that I don’t understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don’t know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.

That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn’t view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary.” Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

When we have revolutionary conferences, rallies, and demonstrations, there should be full participation of the gay liberation movement and the women’s liberation movement. Some groups might be more revolutionary than others. We should not use the actions of a few to say that they are all reactionary or counterrevolutionary, because they are not.

We should deal with the factions just as we deal with any other group or party that claims to be revolutionary. We should try to judge, somehow, whether they are operating in a sincere revolutionary fashion and from a really oppressed situation. (And we will grant that if they are women they are probably oppressed.) If they do things that are unrevolutionary or counter-revolutionary, then criticize that action. If we feel that the group in spirit means to be revolutionary in practice, but they make mistakes in interpretation of the revolutionary philosophy, or they do not understand the dialectics of the social forces in operation, we should criticize that and not criticize them because they are women trying to be free. And the same is true for homosexuals. We should never say a whole movement is dishonest when in fact they are trying to be honest. They are just making honest mistakes. Friends are allowed to make mistakes. The enemy is not allowed to make mistakes because his whole existence is a mistake, and we suffer from it. But the women’s liberation front and gay liberation front are our friends, they are our potential allies, and we need as many allies as possible.

We should be willing to discuss the insecurities that many people have about homosexuality. When I say “insecurities,” I mean the fear that they are some kind of threat to our manhood. I can understand this fear. Because of the long conditioning process that builds insecurity in the American male, homosexuality might produce certain hang-ups in us. I have hang-ups myself about male homosexuality. But on the other hand, I have no hang-up about female homosexuality. And that is a phenomenon in itself. I think it is probably because male homosexuality is a threat to me and female homosexuality is not.

We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms “faggot” and “punk” should be deleted from our vocabulary, and especially we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people, such as Nixon or Mitchell. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people.

We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women’s liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner.

If you look through your own history, you’ll probably find moments in how you act that are deeply ingrained in your internal misogyny and insecurity. But the good news is once you are able to objectively map out your life, see where the white supremacy errors in your operating system are and tend to them, you are moving a step closer to erasing the glitches in reality. Everybody is affected by this system, we’re all unwittingly racist, prejudice, misogynistic and homophobic because that's the makeup of the world we’re in, so we have to actively work on not being that by speaking to people in those groups and understand what are some ways and steps that we could take to use our positions to make a better and safer world for them.

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