Blacks must break the silence

The black community is suffering.

However, it is not because so many black communities are barely surviving in poverty-stricken slums, nor is it because blacks are being crammed into privatized prisons, nor is it because the rates of sexually transmitted diseases are rising at a staggering pace.

Though these issues affect the status quo of the black community, these are symptoms that stem from a collective disease of silence.

With the prolific declarations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the revolutionary oratory of Malcolm X, it is evident how the power of speaking out can unite a group. Leaders of yesterday and today, who recognize that silence is not conducive to growth, have addressed issues such as crime rates, poverty and disease.

Yet, one of the least talked about issues in the black community has always been and still is intra-racial rape and molestation.

Prominent authors such as Toni Morrison and James Baldwin have addressed these issues, but they tend to be overshadowed in the political mainstream by other social issues such as crime and poverty.

In Eldridge Cleaver’s autobiography, “Soul on Ice,” he discusses his past as a rapist. Cleaver, a former minister of information for the Black Panther Party, said at that time in his eyes, “Rape was an insurrectionary act.” He found fulfillment in defiling white women, which to him embodied the laws and values of white culture. Although his feelings of revenge against European brutalities offered temporary satisfaction, he said he wasn’t himself.

“I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically – though looking back I see that I was in a frantic, wild frame of mind,” Cleaver said.

Cleaver, however, would be apprehended, but in prison, he said he admitted he was wrong for the first time in his life and could not justify the act of rape.

In prison, Cleaver began to write about his experiences and although he remained physically behind bars, his writings allowed his soul to be free.

This collective silence regarding rape and molestation may stem from feelings of guilt, shame or humiliation, but it is also important to note that speaking out about issues in the black community has always been met with opposition.

The government has always sought to eliminate the potent weapon of speaking.

Similar to slavery, politicians believed that if they can successfully limit the amount of vocal proponents of change, any imminent revolt could be subdued.

The FBI program COINTELPRO, an acronym for a series of FBI counterintelligence programs established in 1956, was the government’s way to keep tabs on and “neutralize” radical political organizations by monitoring actions, tapping phones and creating files.

Blacks must be willing to speak out, which is the first step to healing and overcoming. Silence is not as golden as so many have been taught.

Russell Nichols is a junior magazine production student from Richmond Calif. Contact him at