US Black Power just want equality - filmmaker Murdoch

Dan Murdoch has spent much of the last year earning the trust of those on both sides of America's "race war" (Supplied)
Dan Murdoch has spent much of the last year earning the trust of those on both sides of America's "race war" (Supplied)

A BBC documentary maker with a penchant for "controversial characters and difficult situations" says his most recent film proves there are major differences between Black Power and White Power in the United States.

Briton Dan Murdoch - whose latest documentary Black Power: Armed Resistance airs Sunday 8:30pm on TV3 - has spent three years making documentaries in the US, and last year released a film on the Ku Klux Klan, entitled KKK: The Fight for White Supremacy.

He says what he witnessed during the filming process confirmed there was a vast disparity between the two extremes of America's burgeoning racial divide.

"White Power is a supremacist slogan about the superiority of the white man - that's why the KKK say it, that's why neo-Nazis say it - but Black Power isn't about black supremacy ... it's about black equality," he says.

"So actually, they just want equal rights between blacks and other colours - though predominantly whites.

"I think that's a very important nuance because it's easy to see someone raising a black fist and shouting 'Black Power' and think, 'Oh, he's a racist as well' - when actually, I think they're fighting for equality."

Murdoch says both sides of the fight believe strongly that a "race war" is on the horizon.

"I spent the summer with the Ku Klux Klan, and they're as extreme and racist as you could ever imagine - but they were always telling me that there's a race war going on, that the race war was coming," he said.

"When I was in South Carolina, I was meeting up with some of this Black Power organisation and I was at a rally, and they were saying, 'We're the targets of this race war - the race war is coming, and it's coming to our doorstep'."

He says there is a movement among both sides to bear arms in an attempt to protect themselves from potential threats.

"[At a rally, Black Power members] were saying, 'We're dying every day so we need to arm ourselves, we need to defend ourselves'," Murdoch said.

"I remember this black woman was up on stage, surrounded by guys in military fatigues, and telling the black crowd to arm themselves. She was saying, 'Don't go and buy those sneakers, go and buy a gun'.

"It just really kind of struck me, like what kind of world are we in where there's these groups that feel that this is the right way to defend themselves?"

US Black Power just want equality - filmmaker Murdoch

(Supplied: Dan Murdoch)

Murdoch says while Black Power's fondness for firearms is worrying, there is a reason the group has taken such a liking to them.

"When you see an armed black militia - forty or fifty-strong, marching down the streets, chanting 'oink, oink, bang, bang', all holding rifles and shotguns - it's difficult not to be slightly concerned by that scene," he says.

"But a lot of the groups I spent time with would say that they're using their guns as a tool - they're using their gun to get attention.

"They're carrying weapons because they want the media to follow them round, they want them to ask, 'Who are these guys?' so they can get their message out."

And Murdoch says Black Power generates a lot of positive outcomes for the African-American community.

"Some of the groups that I was hanging out with were doing coat drives, and were helping with bail money when someone was locked up," he said.

"They were fostering a community spirit much in the mould of the original Black Panther party."

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