GATES: We were talking about black leadership. What's your take on the
Million Man March and Minister Farrakhan?
CLEAVER: I think the Million Man March will go down in history as the
defining episode for a generation of people and I know Minister Farrakhan
personally and have known him for years. And my overall decision on Farrakhan
is that the Afro-American people are not going to follow him anywhere and as
General Colin Powell said in his famous commencement address at Howard
University, he said that after what we've been through and after coming this
far we cannot afford to take a detour through the swamps of hatred and that is
the Achilles heel of Farrakhan is that the doctrine of the Nation of Islam is a
racist doctrine and the Afro-American people are not racist people. We are
We among all the people of the world have put up a valiant struggle
against racism and for emancipation from a system based on racism and so that
is the problem with Farrakhan. He needs to be born again. He needs a new
vision. Somebody needs to talk to that guy. I tried to talk to him but he's
too slick. He won't listen, you see.
I remember him when he first came along, when he was nothing but a pimp
and a calypso singer and Malcolm X pulled him and let him sing his song which
was A White Man's Heaven Is A Black Man's Hell and by singing that song at
Malcolm X's rallies every week he got to hear Malcolm X's speech 1000 times so
when Malcolm X was murdered, the show must go on so they were looking around
for who could keep the show going. Farrakhan was there. He knew Malcolm's
speech word for word, he has a good mind and a good memory and he was able to
do it because he was a showman from the beginning and so he was able to step
into that vacuum, but the boy's not creative and he's blind sided so
consequently he was not able to shuffle off that mortal coil which he should
He should have not felt obligated to carry on the doctrine according to
Elijah Mohammed but he did that to stay the hands of his rivals who were
willing to do that in order to get the power. So they were calling him a
revisionist for a long time. That is why he had to stick to what Elijah
Mohammed was teaching and for that reason we
cannot follow him because we don't want to go where he's going, and where
he's going is where all haters go and that's into the garbage can of history
and we're not going with him.
GATES: What about Colin Powell?
CLEAVER: I think Colin Powell is a magnificent American and he is
different from these other so-called leaders because he is not a protest
leader. The man is an American
leader, he's an all-American leader, but because he has this Afro-American
ancestry he appeals to black people but he also appeals to white people and
that is the way it should be because we don't need no narrow mentality person
in the White House. We need a person who is an all-American and this brings me
closer to my agenda. I have to apologize to Vice President Gore because he
will not become president in the year 2000 --
GATES: Who will?
CLEAVER: Because he is too little too late. In the year 2000 the
American people, are going to elect the first woman president of the United
States of America and it's not just going to be a woman, it's going to be a
mother because what is missing from our decision making process in this Old Boy
network is the heart and the concerns of a mother and so I, along with a lot of
other people, are going to make it happen. We don't want to specify who is our
choice right now because we have to get women to raise their self esteem and to
realize and understand that there are a lot of women in America who are
qualified to be president of the United States of America.
You would have to look up under a whole lot of rocks in America to find
a woman as unqualified as these suckers we've been sending to Washington and
women need to understand that and deal with that because we cannot go into a
new millennium and a new century with the Old Boy network which is racist and
misogynistic. We have got to go in there with a new deal and I hope that we
will have time to tick off a few points that I feel are extremely important but
I want to make sure you finish your questions first on this.
GATES: You, thirty years ago, were a socialist, I think it's fair to say.
Do you believe that capitalism is compatible with the absorption of a
significantly larger percentage of black people into the middle class?
CLEAVER: I think it is. I think that it is possible for the capitalist
system to have a program of full employment, but we have a spiritual and moral
problem in America. Our problem is not economic or political, it is that we do
not care about each other because we say hey look, my
people, my group, we're first class and you guys, you're second class and
you guys over there, you third class and you guys in the back right there, no
ain't got no class. That's our attitude but our creator never wasted his or
her time creating a second class person. He made us all first class and he
provided this earth as our home for all of us, not for the black man, the white
man, the red man, the yellow man, the brown man, but for the whole human
We are the ones who have created a system of scarcity. There's enough
building materials in this country, enough skilled workers, that there should
not be any homeless people. There should not be any hungry people. And so a
man wrote a poem in Berkeley, old man, in which he had an immortal line. It
was a poem on greed in which he said how much more than enough do you want?
There is enough for all of us but we don't have values that include us all and
the black bourgeoisie suffers from that same lack of values as the white
bourgeoisie and so we need a spiritual transformation in our attitude towards
each other so that we can look upon each other as a family and therefore
national economy should be based upon a family budget, not going around
preaching scarcity. There's not enough money for this. There's enough money
for everything if you stop spending it the way you're spending it and so we
need to undertake some political reform. Number one, I told you about the
toilets, but number two, we have got to require our politicians to write their
own speeches and when they campaign to campaign under the penalties of perjury
because we have developed a political culture of mendacity.
We all know the politicians lie, we don't expect them to tell the truth so
we have a low expectation because they've been lying all down through history.
We've got to raise the standard and to start with we require them to write
their own speeches or let's vote for the speech writer. George Bush went in
talking about let there be 1000 points of light then when he got in the White
House all the lights in the country went out and we found out that a woman
wrote that speech. He didn't even write the speech. So when you come before
us reading your speech we want to know what you are talking about, what you are
thinking about, where you are coming from, but you can't tell us that if you
going to read a speech some word monger wrote for you. We got to change that,
man, because we need truth in our political arena, and then we've got to
restore vision because our young people are lost, they don't see a future and
to restore -- yes, sir?
GATES: How do we do that in the black community? I mean we have this
CLEAVER: I know. We have got to do it for the country as a whole because
it is no longer a situation where you can just deal with the problems of black
people because we now have the same problem. We've gotten rid of the special
problems. I know that there's still discrimination going on and racism in the
decision and what Newt Gingrich talked about a new contract with the American
people. I used to carry his book around with me and I'd jump up and down
it and kick it off the stage because why do we think that Newt Gingrich
going to live up to a new contract when he hasn't lived up to the old contract?
We don't need a contract. The contract that we should be going by is called
the Constitution of the United States of America and all this other stuff is
just a political scam.
GATES: But the Constitution doesn't say anything about economic
CLEAVER: It says that we are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness. And those causes are elastic. If we have people who will interpret
that Constitution right what do we need to be happy? We need some food, we
need a house, we need some money in our pocket. We don't need to be begging,
asking for spare change, we don't need to be on welfare asking for a handout
from the federal government. We need money and income that we can control. We
need part of the private sector. We need property and we need ownership so
that we can not be just floundering this way and that way, depending on who's
in Washington and which way the political winds are blowing.
That is what we've got to be emancipated from and that calls for not a
communist formula and the redistribution of the wealth, we need at least
of the wealth in this country shifted into the hands of women. They are
over 50% of the population. Now they are divorced into poverty. They work
with these chumps and
help them get rich then they run away with the secretary and divorce the
wife into poverty. We have got to stop that. We need to shift 51% at the very
least of the wealth of this country into the hands of women.
GATES: Are you optimistic about the future? I mean given the fact that
we have this large black underclass and a large black middle class, it looks
like we have two nations and they're both black.
CLEAVER: We have more nations than that because we have poor white
people, we have poor Indians, we have poor -- we have got to eliminate the
economic basis of the underclass by providing them with jobs not handouts from
the federal government. That is the failure of our economic system, that you
have economists who say that you've got to keep the people on the brink of
starvation in order to motivate them to work and hustle around. The failure of
capitalistic economic system is that they did not provide for full
employment. They were satisfied with a certain percentile and then they were
willing to keep a lot of people perpetually in reserve and that was to keep
wages down and all that kind of pressure.
We have got to have a policy of full employment and by restoring the
frontier and the union of the western hemisphere it is a full employment
program for the whole hemisphere. There's a lot of work to be done but we have
to reorient ourselves from a system of scarcity and a belief system in scarcity
and there is no
problem that we have on our agenda that we cannot solve.
GATES: Eldridge, many people compare Huey Newton with Tupac Shakur. And
some people even suggest that without a gangster culture, that is, 30 years
ago, a person like Tupac would have emerged as a leader of a revolutionary
group like Huey P. Newton.
CLEAVER: This is an a historical perspective because they do not
understand that Tupac is a child of Huey Newton and Malcolm X. That Tupac
would not have been who he was had he not been born of parents who followed
Huey Newton. Afeni Shakur and Amumu Shakur were members of the Black Panther
party. And it was because of that experience that they were able to raise
Tupac with the mentality and the spirit that he had. So talking about going
back like that, saying that Tupac would have been Huey, you cannot unring the
GATES: But Tupac was a gangster, wasn't he?
CLEAVER: Huey was a gangster.
GATES: Oh, he was?
CLEAVER: I'm not-- I'm talking about a real gangster. Tupac, they were
talking about gangster rap. Huey P. Newton was a gun toting gangster, but
that's not all he was. I'm saying he went through that experience as a
criminal, but the thing about Tupac was his spirit and his rebellion against
oppression. This comes from the way that he was raised and the values that
were transmitted to him.
His father died in a gun fight with the New York police department and so
Afena was a very strong stalwart of the Black Panther party and Tupac was
raised like that. He is what we call a panther cub. And that was what he was
And that is why it was such a blow, [Tupac's] liquidation, and many people
think that it was the COINTELPRO that took him out because the story doesn't
hold up because anybody who knows Las Vegas knows that after the Mike Tyson
fight there, there is no way that anybody going to drive along upside of
another car, shoot them and drive away because it's gridlocked for blocks
around there, man. So that is not what happened. There is more to it than
GATES: Eldridge, now, thirty years later, the smoke has cleared, bodies
are buried, people have moved on. Was it worth it? I mean was the Panther
movement worth it? Was it a good thing?
CLEAVER: It was a good thing and like all things, there was good and bad,
but nothing like what this nitwit,
Horowitz, is talking about because that is not where we were coming from.
And I regret the way that the Party was repressed because it left a lot of
unfinished business because we had planned to make a transition to the
political arena and we would have been able to transmute that violence and that
legacy into legitimate and peaceful channels. As it was they chopped off the
head and left the body there armed. That's why all these young bloods out
there now, they've got the rhetoric but without the political direction and
they've got the guns. A man told me in Berkeley, said-- 'Eldridge,the two most
dangerous demographics in the Bay Area right now are young black men with guns
and middle-aged white women with Volvos.'
GATES: You're crazy.
CLEAVER: They're taking out more people than anything else.
GATES: Will history judge you and your contemporaries from the '60s --
Karenga, Rap, Stokely, Angela, the whole gang, Julian Bond -- favorably, do
CLEAVER: I think they will. I think they will give us Fs where we
deserve them and they'll give us As where we
deserve them and they're going to give Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and
Eldridge Cleaver an A plus.