Summarizing this article from The Guardian on Richard Pryor’s controversial 1977 performance at the Hollywood Bowl, Oakland-based member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, Joel Hamburger, wrote up the following observations:
Richard Pryor. In a 1977 performance at the Hollywood Bowl, he made a brave and cutting onstage criticism of white people that was roundly scorned by the audience, press and gay community at large. The star-studded show had been billed as a human rights benefit but unknown to Richard, was actually centered on gay rights. Tight restrictions were imposed on performers’ speech (including Lily Tomlin).
Before coming onstage, Pryor witnessed numerous incidents of disrespect and racism by white producers and crew toward the other African performers backstage – all amidst an atmosphere of moral superiority regarding gay rights. Fuming, he went onstage.
He paced the stage in silence for a few moments and then executed comedy and honest revelation to make his point. He first described a gay experience of his own. This was ground breaking for any celebrity at that time, especially in front of 20,000 people. Even Lily Tomlin did not go that far. He was cheered.
Having drawn them in, he launched his criticism of the mostly white, gay, male audience criticizing their silence during the Watts rebellions, twelve years earlier. He asked, “How can faggots be racists?” – earning him accusations of homophobia. He went further saying, ““I hope the police catch you motherfuckers and shoot your ass accidentally, because you motherfuckers ain’t helpin’ niggers at all.”
He was making a criticism that is as valid today as then. How can we be for rights of LGBT, Jews, women, etc. and remain silent about the rights of Africans, Mexicans, Native Americans and other oppressed nationalities? #Ferguson #blacklivesmatter #icantbreathe
Almost exclusively white people populate many progressive and human rights groups precisely because their message only speaks to a white agenda.
Omali Yeshitela sums it up so well: “Living in a country built and sustained off slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism, the impact of victorious revolutionary struggles reaches down into the gas tanks, shopping centers and tax brackets of the North American (white) population. There is an objective relationship between world slavery and U.S. affluence, and up until now the North American population, opportunistically and demagogically led by their stomachs, pocketbooks and corrupt leadership, have chosen continued enslavement of the world.”
If we are for human rights, we must reject the pedestal upon which white wealth rests. Absent that, so-called progressive goals become nothing more than a fight for full participation in resources and rights gained at the expense of the rest of humanity.
Joel Hamburger is a member of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, the organization of white people working under the leadership of the African People’s Socialist Party, organizing in the white community for reparations to African people. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement will hold its national convention on March 7th and 8th, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. For more information and to register please visit uhurusolidarity.org/convention