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Fifty years ago this week, on January 17, 1969, the Black Panthers and the US organization, shot it out in room 1201 of Campbell Hall at the University of California at Los Angeles. The gun battle claimed the lives of Black Panthers John Huggins and Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter.
US stood for “us”—black people—as opposed to “them”—oppressive white people, but the rival Panthers called the group “United Slaves.” They were black nationalists founded by Hakim Jamal, formerly known as Allen Donaldson, a cousin of Malcolm X. The Black Panthers were more of a Marxist cast and sometimes made common cause with white radicals.
In 1969, the groups battled for control of the fledgling black studies program at UCLA. Such new programs were not, strictly speaking, an academic discipline. As the Panthers-US battle shows, they represent a point of view. In similar style, Chicano studies, feminist studies, women’s studies, and queer studies are not academic disciplines on a par with mathematics, physics, engineering or medicine. They are points of view. Although no gunfights have erupted, a strong candidate for the worst of these programs is Chicano studies.
“Cosmic Race” Revisited
In 1979, 10 years after the UCLA battle, the Chicano Studies department at Cal State Los Angeles, published the first bilingual edition of the The Cosmic Race, by Mexico’s influential former education minister José Vasconcelos, who would go on to run for president of Mexico and lose. First published in 1925, the book is now the inerrant bible of Chicano studies, so students and teachers alike might appreciate a selection of Vasconcelos’ ideas.
Vasconcellos described four “racial trunks”: the Black, the Indian, the Mongol, and the White. The four are separate and unequal. The Black, according to Vasconcelos, is “eager for sensual joy, intoxicated with dances and unbridled lust.” Los negros simply can’t restrain themselves. Vasconcelos also calls them “the Lemurians,” the black race from the south.” The Mongol, “with the mystery of his slanted eyes,” is part of an “exhausted people” that lacks the “boldness for new enterprises.”
According to La Raza Cosmica, the fusion of Spaniards and Indians is a new race “infinitely superior to all that have previously existed.” That is the raza replacing those awful “Anglo-Saxons,” code for all non-raza peoples who speak English, and who “are gradually becoming more a part of yesterday.”
Consider this statement from Mexico’s former education minister. “Any teacher can corroborate,” Vasconcelos explains, “that the children and youths descended from Scandinavians, Dutch, and English found in North American Universities, are much slower, and almost dull compared with the mestizo children and youths from the south.” He offers no test scores or graduation rates, but any teacher can vouch for it.
Racial Superiority By Any Other Name
As Mexican-American Communist Bert Corona explained in Memoirs of Chicano History, Vasconcelos’ racial theory was “close to the kind of German racial superiority theory supported by Hitler.” Trouble is, Vasconcelos’ razaismo is the defining idea of Chicano Studies and organizations such as the National Council of La Raza.
Cecilia Muñoz served as National Council of La Raza vice president before the Obama Administration tapped her for White House director of intergovernmental affairs. In 2011, PBS interviewed her for the “Frontline” documentary “Lost in Detention,” which contended that under the Obama Administration “deportations and detentions have reached record levels” and “families have been unfairly separated.”
In 2017, the National Council of La Raza changed its name to UnidosUS but the supremacist ideas remain. Former California Senate boss Kevin de León claims that those seeking illegal entry to the United States are “more American” than actual citizens. In similar style, U.S. Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) recently said that those attempting to breach the border illegally, are “more American than any person who seeks to keep them out ever will be.”
In other words, they are just better people than those awful “anglos,” who believe they have a nation with a border, and are destined to fade away. So they have an obligation to let everybody enter and give them everything they want. California gives illegals in-state tuition, welfare benefits, and even registers them to vote. That’s why the “caravans” travel to the farthest point on the border from Central America.
The Shootout’s Legacy
Meanwhile, UCLA never hosted another gun battle between the Black Panthers and US. Panther founders Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver have departed and the groups no longer exist in their original form. On the other hand, both groups may be forgotten but not gone.
One US founder was Maulana Karenga, formerly known as Ron Karenga and Ronald McKinley Everett. Karenga is the creator of Kwanzaa and is now professor of Africana studies at Cal State Long Beach.
And the fight against “oppression” continues unabated.
Photo Credit: Daily Bruin