Cobb's perspective of Southern African communities in the U.S. was a breath of fresh air because it lines up with the common sense analysis that we as human beings would not be willing to risk our lives fighting for U.S. capitalism/imperialism in Europe and Asia just to return here and permit white barbarians to brutalize us without fighting back. Cobb points to Franz Fanon's argument that African people have the right to physically resist racist violence as a methodology of throwing off psychological oppression. As we get pounded this weekend with the annual propaganda around "Veterans Day" that tells us we should honor people who signed up to be trained killers for imperialism (understanding that they know not what they do), it does the spirit good to be reminded that many Africans used those imperialist acquired military skills to stand up against racists.
It's also equally soothing to remember the important fact that when we stand up to these people, time and time again, white sheets and all, badges and guns and all, they back down like the cowards they are. Cobb's book contributes significantly , along with Robert William's "Negroes with Guns" and Kwame Ture's autobiography "Ready for Revolution" and other books, to the narrative that we have always used guns in disciplined and humanistic ways in spite of the brutal terror being directed against us. This is a critically important argument in a time when even many Africans have accepted (at least on some levels) the backward and racist framing that African people who rise up in open defiance against police terrorism are "thugs and criminals." If that racist framing didn't have such a devastating effect on the psychology of our people, it would be funny when compared to the fact white people in this society riot over sports teams winning championships and pumpkin patches yet no one speaks of the barbarism and thuggery of white people. So the hypocrisy of white racism is clearly apparent here and white people are in no moral position to caste judgment on African people's just response to brutal terror against our communities.
Finally, I think it's important to note that I am convinced that a major reason why Cobb's book was so on point is because of the perspective from which he approaches writing the book. He has the usual academic credentials that go hand in hand with writing such a manuscript, but he also possesses the distinct position of having been an organizer in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee during the height of the Southern struggle. This in my opinion sets his approach apart from the typical academic and journalistic approach to history that dominates the writing available today. Huey Newton said "no participation, no right to observation" and Cobb's participation clearly comes across in his respectful treatment of the people who lived and struggled in this movement from Ella Baker to Fannie Lou Hamer to Gloria Richardson to Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael). It's a respect that's absent from much of the material written on these immortal Africans. Plus, he exposes the reader to courageous Africans like C.O. Chinn in Mississippi who marched into a courthouse for the trial of a civil rights worker while refusing to remove his pistol until the racist sheriff on duty removed his.
Our people are human beings like everyone else. We have the right to exist with dignity like everyone else. We have the right to react to oppression as anyone else would and it's time that the complete story of our existence is told. We have suffered, and continue to suffer, more than most people can ever imagine and yet we are characterized as violent despite the contradiction that we have been some of the most humanistic and caring people this society has ever seen. In fact, Kwame Ture was correct when he said "Africans have civilized America." After the last 500 years, we would be justified if we burned this country down to the ground and anyone who came along and examined the evidence 100 years later would have to agree we were justified. Yet, we continue to ask simply for justice, even when our children are gunned down in the street and the majority of white society acts in barbaric ways to how we react as if they would calmly accept their children being brutalized the same way our children are.
Our task is to correctly define our history, teach it to our people, and use it to organize ourselves for our liberation and forward progress. Cobb's book makes an important contribution to that legacy by telling the stories of the Deacons for Defense, WWII vets who mobilized for self defense against the klan, and the many faceless thousands of people who paved the way for the justifiable militancy we see in Ferguson and other places today. This is the narrative we need to popularize with our inner city youth. We don't want them to put their guns down. We just want them to know who they should be shooting at and it ain't each other. The capitalist power structure knows that and this is why they work so hard to separate those of us with guns from the political analysis of what we should be using guns for. African people, go and buy guns just like everyone else. Learn how to use them properly and safely. Connect your ownership of those guns with our struggle for justice and liberation and our solidarity with others doing the same. This is what this country is really afraid of. In fact, I like to joke all the time that if people really want comprehensive gun control in this country, just let it become known that millions of Africans are buying up lots of guns and you will see gun control advanced immediately with the racist National Rifle Association engaging in front seat support for it.
None of that matters though. What's important, and what Cobb's book contributes to, is the proper understanding that Malcolm X was certainly correct when he said we will achieve our self determination "by any means necessary!"