By Guest Contributor Cecile Lusby, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine
How can anyone explain a man who lived two lives? I try to unravel the mystery of Richard Aoki, because in 2012 Seth Rosenfeld reported that Richard served as an FBI informant. I view Richard’s life as having two turning points: one in 1956-7, and then again in 1966-1967, as he formed a new identity through the ‘60s activism that transformed and radicalized him.
Disclosures about Richard’s work with the FBI have been hard for his contemporaries, his students — and for me — to accept. My knowledge of Richard began in 1966 as he was leaving the Socialist Workers Party and joining the newly organized Black Panther Party. He joked about his earlier conservatism and his vote for Nixon in 1960 before his political ideas evolved. He voiced contempt for the student socialists who read, but never risked action. “I’m down for the struggle,” Richard would say. He did have a history.