Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★½

Though a bit cursory and thinly sketched at times, Judas and the Black Messiah would serve as solid supplementary material for a hypothetical course on Revolutionary Science.

Fred Hampton was a particularly savvy Black Panther and social activist—understanding that to take on the state one should organize broadly, recruiting citizens of all kin and color with the inclusive emphasis of class consciousness. He recognized that rigid ethnic distinctions diluted the power of the people against the proverbial ‘pigs’. As Bill O’Neil (LaKeith Stanfield) notes to the Roy Mitchel (Jesse Plemons) during his interrogation scene in the beginning, the badge is scarier than a gun for a reason: for with a ‘badge’ you have the firepower of a symbolic militia always standing beside you.

Without systemic control, without means of surveillance, without tax-funded weaponry, and without the authority of the law, the insurrectionist must resort to subterfuge and deflection, rhetorical flair and ideological interventions. More acutely, the revolutionary must be able to rouse a large enough swathe of the population to pressure the gatekeepers of power into submission. Aware of this, Hampton shrewdly formed a multiracial coalition based on shared proletarian grievances and economic desires—humbly reaching out to Puerto Ricans and white Appalachians to broaden the movement and unify its culturally isolated factions.

The formidable strength in widespread class collaboration terrifies those keen on preserving the status quo though. This is why the working class is relentlessly pitted against one another by the media and political and corporate elite—for those in power know that without tribalism and divisive self-identification, they become the minority. This is also why Hampton was steadfastly targeted by the FBI—after all, he’d spearheaded a serious multi-pronged threat to the hegemonic system. And ultimately, this is why he became yet another martyr and messiah—assassinated by default of having achieved broad appeal.

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