No More Defense: An In-Depth Look at New Black Panther Rhetoric as It Turns Increasingly Aggressive

New Black Panther Party members outside a Philadelphia polling station, November 2008. (Screen grab)

Today’s New Black Panther Party (NBPP) frequently speaks of killing “crackers babies,” “f***ots” and old white women.

It was not always so.

Indeed, though a certain degree of bile has always been standard for this organization, earlier rhetoric by the New Black Panther Party tended to focus more on a self-defense orientation, arguing only to attack whites if they attack first. Interestingly, at the same time that they used this essentially defensive stance, the group showed a greater ability to act on its agenda, sometimes through means that could be described as violent.

However, with the turn of the millennium, and especially since the election of Barack Obama, the NBPP is becoming openly, fiercely aggressive. The fact that King Samir Shabazz, the man behind the infamous case of polling place intimidation first documented in 2009, is now in a position of national influence within the party, may have something to do with that.

As the group’s rhetoric has become increasingly hate-filled, its capacity to influence national discourse appears to have decreased, and the number of successful actions has diminished. An organization that used to talk of self-defense but practice aggression has now become the reverse – an organization that calls for bloody revolution, yet takes little action in the service of that goal.

This is not a sign that the group’s potential danger has vanished. Rather, it is arguably an indication that the potential threat is even more unpredictable. Given the recent spate of hate-motivated shootings, this messaging cannot be dismissed as vile but harmless pap anymore. Especially not now that the NBPP has decided to move beyond its abstract threats against “crackers” and their children and announce its intent to target a specific event – the 2012 Republican National Convention.

With characteristically fiery rhetoric, spokespeople for the party announced that they would disrupt the “Republi-Klan convention” in the strongest possible way. They accused the attendants of the RNC of being “haters.” And in a characteristic call for violence, they threatened to snap the spines of RNC attendees.

“Our feet will be on your motherf***ing necks,” snarled one of the NBPP representatives in an interview with “Black Power Radio.”

These threats are nothing new relative to the NBPP’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric, but they do raise concerns, given their specific nature. Is the NBPP preparing for a new stance both of aggressive action and eliminationist rhetoric? How seriously should the Republican National Convention organizers and the Tampa Police take this type of rhetoric? To find out, we did some research on the organization’s record and rhetoric, and found some troubling evidence.

Background: Who Are The NBPP?

There are two nonprofit organizations in the United States that make it their mission to monitor hate groups: the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Since both groups have been criticized for a leftward leaning in their selection of organizations that qualify as hate groups, one might expect them to make excuses for the New Black Panther Party, or try to explain the group away. Nothing of the sort is the case. Both the SPLC and the ADL unequivocally describe the New Black Panther Party as a hate group. From the SPLC’s profile, listing the NBPP as a “Black Separatist” organization (and which the NBPP themselves have condemned):

The New Black Panther Party (NBPP) is a black separatist group that believes black Americans should have their own nation. In the NBPP’s “10 Point Platform,” which is a takeoff on the 10-point platform of the original Black Panther Party, the NBPP demands that blacks be given a country or state of their own, within which they can make their own laws. They demand that all black prisoners in the United States be released to “the lawful authorities of the Black Nation.” They claim to be entitled to reparations for slavery from the United States, all European countries and “the Jews.”

The NBPP is notable for its anti-white and anti-Semitic hatred. Its leaders have blamed Jews for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for the slave trade. The late former party chairman Khalid Abdul Muhammad has said, “There are no good crackers, and if you find one, kill him before he changes.” A document on the NBPP website entitled “The Nationalist Manifesto” claims that white men have a secret plan to commit genocide against the non-white races. It also refers to black people who condone mixed-race relationships as the “modern day Custodians [sic] of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

NBPP members also hold black-supremacist religious beliefs. Some think that blacks are God’s true “chosen people” and that the people normally called “Jews” actually are impostors (this ideology is remarkably similar to the white racist theology of Christian Identity, which says whites are God’s real chosen people). They believe that blacks are naturally superior to people of other races. In September 1997, Khalid Muhammad said that he could not be anti-Semitic because Jews had no claim to the term “Semite.”

the logo of the New Black Panther Party

The Anti-Defamation League’s profile goes even further, describing the group as the “largest organized anti-Semitic and racist black militant group in America.” A larger excerpt of that profile follows:

The New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP) is the largest organized anti-Semitic and racist black militant group in America. The group is led by Malik Zulu Shabazz, a Washington, DC-based attorney who has been active with the NBPP since the mid-1990s. 

By taking on racially-charged issues under the guise of championing civil rights, the NBPP has received national media attention for its efforts, garnered some support from prominent members of the African-American community and attracted followers. The group’s demonstrations, conferences, and other events often blend inflammatory bigotry with calls for violence, tarnishing its efforts to promote black pride and consciousness.[…]

In advance of its December 2009 National Summit in Dallas, Shabazz called for pursuing the NBPP’s ultimate goals of Black Nationalism and Black Power “by any means necessary,” adding that, “We must unite and build up the New Black Panther Party… or die trying!”

So how has the NBPP evolved over time? To answer that question, we asked the following questions:

1. What acts of violence has the NBPP committed, up to the present day?

2. What sort of extreme rhetoric has the NBPP used, up to the present day?

1. What acts of violence has the NBPP committed, up to the present day?

Interestingly, almost all violence committed by the NBPP has been on a comparatively minor scale. It should be noted that despite their bluster, the New Black Panther Party’s members have yet to kill anyone. Indeed, the closest they’ve gotten is an incident in September of 1998, described this way by the Southern Poverty Law Center:

In September 1998, Khalid Muhammad organized the Million Youth March in New York City. Then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani attempted to prevent the group from holding the event, denying them a permit and referring to the rally as a “hate march.” But the NBPP won a court battle, forcing the city to allow the event. Malik Zulu Shabazz, the future leader of party, played a prominent role in organizing the event. On Sept. 5, about 6,000 people attended the march while 3,000 police officers oversaw the event. A few minutes after the rally was scheduled to end, police began to disperse the crowd, resulting in a scuffle that left 16 police officers and 12 attendees injured. Muhammad reportedly encouraged the crowd to attack police officers with chairs and bottles and even to take the officers’ guns if attacked. Shortly after this event, Muhammad became the national chairman of the NBPP, making him the leader of the organization.

None of this is to say that the NBPP is harmless. Part of the reason they haven’t been tied to very much violence is because they’re very skilled at using the threat of violence to make people go along with their demands before anything escalates. Even back in the group’s infancy in the 1990s, they were still effective enough at threatening violence that a Dallas School Board meeting was canceled following a threat by the group to send members with loaded weapons to that meeting. Since then, the group has made its use of weapons a signature move against ideological opponents, with members of the New Black Panther Party frequently bringing knives or even guns to protests. All this, of course, culminated in the infamous incident depicted in the famous video in which the Panthers stood outside a Philadelphia polling place, holding nightsticks.

Which raises the question: Just what would the Panthers do if they felt compelled to follow up on their threats? So far, most people they have threatened have been too spooked to find out, which argues in favor of taking the group seriously. Their acts of violence are relatively minor, yes, but their threats of violence are still considered credible, probably because of the group’s outsized paramilitary approach.

2. What sort of extreme rhetoric has the NBPP used, up to the present day?

The New Black Panthers have a long record of vitriolic outbursts that have been well documented. For the sake of brevity, the following list is limited to statements in which violence is explicitly threatened.

From July 12, 2010:

I hate white people, all of them. Every last iota of a cracker, I hate him.

We didn’t come out here to play this game. There’s too much serious business going on in the black community to be out here sliding through South Street with white dirty cracker whore [ BLEEP ] on our arms. And we call ourselves black men with African garb on. What the hell is wrong with you, black man? You had a (unintelligible) with a white girl on your damn arm. You want freedom? You are going to have to kill some crackers. You might have to kill some of their babies.

September 28, 2010:

This is what King Samir and the Philadelphia chapter, along with the guidance and leadership of attorney Malik Shabazz, has been doing that you don’t hear about.

April 19, 2011:

We will rattle the enemy and those who are asleep to show and prove the world we are wide-awake!

March 24, 2012:

God dammit, [George Zimmerman] should be fearful for his life!

April 1, 2012:

[Then] On Monday, April 9 we have teamed up with over 300 organizations in a national and international coalition and are calling for a national strike…and a day of absence, where there is no work, no school, and no shopping in the cause of justice for Trayvon and the immediate arrest of Zimmerman and charging him with the appropriate charges.

April 8, 2012:

We gon’ have to cross the Red Sea….I know y’all thought it was talking about some sea in some Middle Eastern part of the world- hell no.  We’re talking about some blood.  You’re gonna have to cross some blood, and go through some blood and some battles.

And there are those who wish they could stand in this hour, to see the destruction of the devil‘s world and the devil’s society- and I‘m ain’t talking about no dude underneath the ground with a pitchfork and pantyhose.  I’m talking about that blonde haired, blue-eyed, sometimes brown-eyed, Caucasian walkin around with a mindset, a demonistic mindset, and a nature to do evil and brutality.

May 8, 2012:

And they’re going to cling to their God and their guns.  We might have to, too.  We gotta get ready fast, sisters and brothers.  We have the summer to get ready, because we don’t know what’s coming down the pipes.  And so we gotta get strong, and we gotta get there fast.

May 21, 2012:

You should be thankful we’re not running around here hanging crackers by nooses and all that kind of stuff, yetyet, yet.

June 27, 2012:

Once [white people] die, we should dig ‘em up, and kill ‘em again, bury ‘em, dig ‘em up, and kill ‘em again, and again, and again!

And finally, from last week (August 16):

We give them 24 hours in South Africa to get out of town by sundown. I say, if they don’t get out of town, we kill the men, we kill the women, we kill the children, we kill the babies, we kill the blind, we kill the cripple, we kill the crazy, we kill the fa**ots, we kill the lesbians, I say god dammit we kill them all.

If they are white kill ‘em all. Why kill the women? Why kill the babies? They are just innocent blue-eyed babies? Because god dammit they are going to grow up one day to rule your babies. Kill them now. Why kill the women in South Africa? I say kill the women because the women are the military manufacturing center. And every nine months they lay down on their backs and reinforcement rolls out from between their legs, so shut down the military manufacturing center by killing the white woman.

Why kill the older crackers? The old crippled crackers in South Africa. How in the hell you think they got old? They got old oppressing and killing black people [inaudible].

Kill ‘em all. Kill the fa**ot. Kill the lesbian. And after you’ve killed them all […] I say then you go to the god damn grave, and dig ‘em up, and then kill ‘em a-god-damn gain because they didn’t die hard enough.

Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, will not comment on how seriously they take this organization specifically, and it’s not clear that it should be dignified by being taken seriously. However, Laura McElroy, a spokesman for the Tampa Police Department, told TheBlaze that the Tampa Police are monitoring all threats and take any stated intention to disrupt the convention seriously.

“We will not tolerate violence, and we will have a very swift response to anyone who tries to injure others or cause property damage,” McElroy told TheBlaze Monday evening.

McElroy was confident that even a group of several thousand militant attempting to disrupt the convention would not be able to succeed. Therefore, it seems that for the time being, the NBPP may once more be shut out of relevance.

362 Comments