Wed, 8 May 2013
From Race Men to Debased Men, Obama at Morehouse, Arne Duncan at Morgan State
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
A good friend in Atlanta observed that when President Bush used to visit, his inbox would be flooded with alerts and notices about vigils, picket lines and demonstrations. But when the current president comes to town, there's nothing.
President Obama will punctuate the commencement at Atlanta's Morehouse College next week. The only ripple that's made news is whether some preacher who criticized the president for not making enough black appointments to elite high offices should be allowed to set foot on campus that weekend. Commencement week, Morehouse officials solemnly say, is about the graduates, not politics.
At Morgan State University, another historically black institution of higher learning in Baltimore, Obama's basketball buddy and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled to deliver the commencement address. There's not much publicly visible dissent behind that either, despite the fact that President Obama's Race To The Top program has closed and privatized more public schools than any other president in US history, and Arne Duncan chucks that spear. Baltimore is reportedly closing 32 schools in the near future while building only 15 new ones. One wonders whether Baltimore and Morgan State would be protesting if the same destructive policies were forced upon them by a white president without the soothing presence of a compliant black political elite as intermediaries.
There's no shortage of of pressing issues at Morgan State, Maryland state delegate Jill P. Carter informed Black Agenda Report. The school is suing the state of Maryland and its Democrat governor, charging that the state's historically black colleges and universities have been chronically underfunded. According to Carter, HBCUs across the country are watching and waiting to file similar suits if this one succeeds.
“There's no shortage of bright, successful HBCU alumni who could deliver powerful, inspiring commencement address,” said Carter. “It's too bad Morgan State didn't go there instead.”
Delegate Carter has a point. It is too bad. What it's not is the least bit surprising.
The leaders of Morgan State University, of Morehouse College and many similar institutions are not really leaders at all, not the way the old style “race men” and women supposed themselves to be once upon a time, standing up and lifting up all our people. They are followers, members of a black misleadership class which values conformity, silence and careers over courageous advocacy and struggle, and prizes individual enrichment over investment in a community's collective wealth and power.
The race men have become debased men, unable even to stand up for the interests of their own institutions, let alone for public education, or against gentrification, or the interests of African Americans as a whole. Commencement addresses for them are not about inspiring the graduates about to go forth into the world and accomplish things about which their elders can only dream. They're about genuflecting to power and repeating the stale old narratives that validate and justify our class of elite black misleaders.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.