Learning about Eldridge Cleaver, former Black Panther

Archived speech at UCLA (10/4/1968):

Was a colorful figure, to say the least. Started out committing petty crimes and was sent to reform schools. Then graduated on to raping black women, honing his skills until he felt comfortable attacking white women as well, which he openly admitted to in his essays written during his time served at Folsom state prison. Those essays were later published as a book titled Soul on Ice.

Wound up involved in a shooting between the Black Panther Party and Oakland, CA, police officers. Then skipped out on bail and left the country, headed to Cuba and then Algeria and then France. Came back to the U.S. years later with a different attitude about communism after witnessing it up close and personal abroad. Came out as a Republican by the early 1980s and spoke out in support of Ronald Reagan, despite his expressed disdain for the man in the past. Was actually permitted to teach students at a California university after all that too.

Over time he switched from Islam to Christianity, then to Mormonism specifically, then back to evangelical Christianity later in life.

Then he got involved in using crack cocaine in the late ’80s and ’90s and faced a couple charges related to that plus burglary. Then somehow got his head bashed in, presumably by another crackhead, and was found wandering the streets bleeding and incoherent with crack in his pocket.

His wife divorced him, stating that he had changed ever since leaving Algeria and basically wasn’t mentally stable. He died in 1998 at age 62.

So, that’s Leroy Eldridge Cleaver in a nutshell. Some folks still glorify him as though he was a quality role model. I’m not understanding their enthusiasm over this character.

Following are quotes from Eldridge Cleaver:

We would go out and ambush cops, but if we got caught we would blame it on them and claim innocence. I did that personally in the case I was involved in.… We went after the cops that night, but when we got caught we said they came after us. We always did that. When you talk about the legacy of the ’60s, that’s one legacy. That’s what I try to address, because it helped to distort the image of the police, but I’ve come to the point where I realize that our police department is necessary.

  • Interview by Reason magazine (1986), referring to the death of Bobby Hutton

I can understand J. Edgar Hoover, because he wasn’t inaccurate.… He said that we were the main threat. We were trying to be the main threat. We were trying to be the vanguard organization. J. Edgar Hoover was an adversary, but he had good information. We were plugged into all of the revolutionary groups in America, plus those abroad. We were working hand-in-hand with communist parties here and around the world, and he knew that.

  • Interview by Reason magazine (1986)

From his book Soul on Ice:

I became a rapist. To refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by practicing on black girls in the ghetto — in the black ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of the day — and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically — though looking back I see that I was in a frantic, wild and completely abandoned frame of mind.

Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women — and this point, I believe, was the most satisfying to me because I was very resentful over the historical fact of how the white man has used the black woman. I felt I was getting revenge.

[bold emphasis mine]

Why people choose to pedestalize this man, I do not understand. He may have been intelligent, but that does not in any way minimize the severity of his crimes. Why he was allowed to later on teach college students is beyond me. All I can really appreciate him for was his honesty after-the-fact.

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