Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from an African American point of view.

The Big Sell-Out: The Congressional Black Caucus and the Internet

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Ten Black lawmakers have written letters against Internet neutrality, and eight in support of free access to all.”

ColorOfChange.org, which aims to “strengthen Black America’s voice” through skillful use of the Internet, is confronting ten Black congresspersons for representing the interests of giant telecom corporations that are seeking to destroy Internet neutrality. The corporations have purchased the Black lawmakers services, in hopes of making the Internet a toll road on which the rich always have the right of way. The ten congresspersons signed a letter parroting their corporate benefactors’ line: that regulation is bad for the economy. These Black turncoats claim they are for what they call “an open Internet” – which actually means an Internet that is open for the business of providing the best services to the richest customers, while starving the rest of us of vital information on subjects like which of our Black congressmen are selling out to the highest bidder.

We’re always glad when Color of Change names the bad actors in the Black Misleadership Class. In this case, it’s the usual rogue’s gallery of the Congressional Black Caucus: Sanford Bishop and David Scott, of Georgia; G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina; Bobby Rush of Illinois; Corrine Brown and Alcee Hastings, from Florida; Bennie Thompson, from Mississippi; Dallas, Texas, congressman Marck Veasey; Lacy Clay, of Missouri, and Gregory Meeks, the corporate sell-out from New York.

Color of Change also gives credit to those 36 Democratic lawmakers that wrote a letter demanding the FCC protect Internet neutrality. The eight Representatives on the right side of the issue are: Keith Ellison, of Minnesota; Barbara Lee, of California; Andre Carson, of Indiana; John Conyers, of Michigan; John Lewis, of Georgia; Charles Rangel, of New York; and Bobby Scott, of Virginia.

Massive Rightward Shift

The Black Agenda Report team has been tracking the steady slide to the Right in the Congressional Black Caucus since 2002. Back in June of 2006, when the BAR team was writing for The Black Commentator, we reported the massive sell-out to corporations by Blacks on Capitol Hill. Huge telecommunications firms took the lead in buying off Black lawmakers – most notably, AT&T’s successful capture of Chicago congressman Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther, who sold his vote for a million dollars and the promise of a technology center for his district that never materialized.

Internet neutrality was at stake in 2006, as it is today. In an article titled “Black Caucus Caves to Corporate Power,” Bruce Dixon reported that all but 13 of 40 voting members of the Black Caucus sided with the corporations, and against Internet neutrality. In fact, the Black Caucus was deeper in the corporations’ pockets than the rest of the Democratic Party in the House. It seemed to be almost a package deal, with only 13 holdouts.

Because of such treachery, Congress failed to protect Internet neutrality in 2006. Now, the issue is before the FCC. Ten Black lawmakers have written letters against Internet neutrality, and eight in support of free access to all. My guess is that, eight years after the great sell-out, the majority of the Black Caucus remains firmly on the telecommunications plantation.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com, and sign up for email notification each Wednesday, when a new issue of BAR appears.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20140716_gf_CBCinternet.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:01 PM

The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations is having its annual conference 10AM to 6 PM on August 16 and 17 in Philadelphia and you are invited.  

It's all happening at Uhuru Furniture and Colectibles, 832 North Broad Street.  The theme of the conference is 

"Resist US wars and occupations in the US and abroad, and reparations now!"

Hear African Socialist International chairman Omali Yeshitela, on resistance, and Glen Ford on Ukraine and the crises of empire.  See Ron Bobb-Semple as Marcus Garvey.  Meet Pam Africa of the Friends of Mumia, Kamm Howard, and Lisa Davis, and enjoy a weekend of cooperation on the road to something better.

Information and registration at 727-821-6621, or at http://BlackISBackCoalition.org.

Direct download: Black_Is_Black_Intl_Conference_Philly_Promo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:43 PM

4th of July Fireworks, In Marietta GA, and in Gaza

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

"This year as always, the Israeli fireworks in Gaza are artillery shells fired from tanks, or air to ground missiles shot from drones..."

The nightly news covered the fireworks in downtown Marietta GA where I live. But they didn't mention the fireworks in Gaza at all, even though some of the fireworks in Gaza took place at the same time. In Marietta they shoot these fireworks off every 4th of July. In Gaza they happen at the whim of the Israeli occupiers.

So many people came to see the fireworks in Marietta that the news broadcast traffic warnings. I imagine people in Gaza, news or no news, mostly tried to hide or flee the areas being fired on, if they could, and if there was anyplace to shelter or go to.

In Marietta the fireworks were crackling red, white and blue sparklers. They flared and glittered and mostly burned out against the night sky before falling harmlessly into the park. They smelled like fireworks, like gunpowder and burning paper. Whole families sat on parked cars and trucks and lawn chairs and curbs to see.

This year as always, the Israeli fireworks in Gaza are artillery shells fired from tanks, or air to ground missiles shot from drones and from the F-16s manufactured at the Martin-Marietta Lockheed plant only a couple miles away from here in Marietta Georgia. Past fireworks displays over Gaza have included white phosporus, a banned substance that self-ignites and burns white hot when exposed to air. But unlike the fireworks in Marietta GA, white phosphorus continues to burn after falling to earth, through walls and rooftops and flesh and bones. Israeli fireworks in Gaza certainly include high explosive rounds, and in the recent past even depleted uranium with lasting radioactive contamination.

"The nation that celebrates its anniversary on July 4 was built with stolen labor on stolen land. Many who did the stealing and their descendants celebrate the notion that their god blessed that theft.."

I don't know what burning schools and libraries or farms and irrigation works or blasted grandparents and aunties smell like, and they don't let people on the nightly news who know these things to tell us. We can only guess.

I suppose things are just different over there in Gaza. But maybe not so much.

The nation that celebrates its anniversary on July 4 was built with stolen labor on stolen land. Many who did the stealing and their descendants celebrate the notion that their god blessed that theft. You can't miss that on the 4th of July weekend, many of the white churches, and even a few of the black ones were ringed with hundreds of American flags planted every few feet. How different is that from state supported Israeli rabbis and politicians waving blue and white flags calling for the expulsion or extermination of Palestinians?

The differences are that (1) genocide and dispossession of native Americans was pretty much complete a dozen decades ago. Our authorities can now afford to manufacture and export the firepower to our allies in places like Israel where similar chores are being undertaken; and (2) that we and the world don't have to allow the brutal and genocidal occupation of Palestine and Palestinians to continue.

We can build and contribute to the global BDS movement, to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel and the Israeli state, until the day that Israel-Palestine becomes not an ethnocracy, only for those with J-positive blood, as Max Blumental puts it, but a state of peace, refuge, equality and prosperity for all who live within its borders.

And maybe back in Marietta GA, we can convert that Lockheed plant, the county's biggest private employer, away from manufacturing instruments of murder to making things that help people live better lives.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web atwww.blackagendareport.com, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly email updates not on Facebook or Twitter but directly atwww.blackagendareport.com/subscribe. That'swww.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20140709_bd_fireworks_in_gaza.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:38 PM

Coming to America: Mercenary Justice

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

As long as the United States is allowed to act with imperial impunity on the world stage, its uniformed and civilian armed forces will recognize no limitations on their behavior.”

The trial of fourBlackwater mercenaries in the unprovoked massacre of Iraqi civilians in 2007 is probably not the biggest news item of the day for Iraqis, faced as they are with a national crisis of potentially apocalyptic dimensions. However, the events unfolding in a Washington DC federal court should be of critical interest to Americans, who will one day find themselves under the guns of mercenaries licensed to kill with impunity. In fact, it has already happened, in New Orleans, after Katrina.

Two years before the atrocity in Baghdad, Blackwater descended on New Orleans in force in the wake of the 2005 hurricane, setting up a downtown headquarters and deploying its troops in full battle gear, armed just “as they would be in Iraq.” Jeremy Scahill, reporting at the time for The Nation magazine, said Blackwater troops told him that in addition to having been authorized to use lethal force, they were also empowered to arrest citizens. Many of them had flown in straight from Iraq to occupy a great Black American city.

At least five mercenary companies patrolled New Orleans under contract with Homeland Security, including an outfit of Israeli ex-special forces troops under a company named Instinctive Shooting International. Civil liberties activists warned at the time that placing an American city under mercenary occupation is illegal, but neither President Bush nor Barack Obama nor the Congress or the courts have clarified the question of mercenary deployment. Therefore, it is all but inevitable that legions of hired killers and “instinctive shooters” from around the world will again be sent to U.S. cities, with consequences that will rival the carnage at Nisoor Square, in Baghdad.

The Long Mercenary Legacy

Mercenaries have a long history in the United States. The granddaddy of them all, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, founded in 1850, specialized in both raw thuggery and advanced intelligence gathering techniques to make millions defending ruling class privileges and property. The Pinkertons broke scores of strikes and created the first national criminal data base. The State of Ohio outlawed the Pinkertons in 1890, fearing it had become a private army, or an independent militia. By that time, the Pinkerton’s were a larger force than the standing army of the United States. In 1999, after almost a century and a half of service to the rich and powerful, the Pinkerton agency was sold to Securitas Security Services USA, which six years later took part in the Katrina occupation.

However, we must be clear that the driving force behind the explosive growth of killer corporations is the U.S. military, which trains the assassins and sends them on missions of murder around the globe, and later hires them at fantastic salaries through mercenary corporations, which in turn become indispensable to the U.S. war machine. As long as the United States is allowed to act with imperial impunity on the world stage, its uniformed and civilian armed forces will recognize no laws, no limitations on their behavior. Private soldiers and mercenary corporations are only reflections of the government that gave them birth.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. Go to BlackAgendaReport.com to sign up for email notification when we put out a new issue, each Wednesday.

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20140709_gf_Blackwater.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:14 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court’s concept of corporate “personhood” apparently means that corporate religious rights – corporate gods – trump “the religious or secular beliefs of working people – specifically, working women.”

 

At the Core of the U.S. Supreme Court, A Cabal of Corporate Hit Men

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The Federalist Society, a cabal of corporate conspirators, is always only one vote away from an outright majority on the nation’s highest court.”

The U.S. Supreme Court acted with reactionary zeal, this week, to accelerate the march of corporate power into every nook and cranny of American life. The High Court handed down three decisions that most dramatically affect women, but are mainly intended to buttress the rule of the moneyed classes. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the justices ruled that private corporations owned by religious fundamentalists have the right to eliminate contraceptive services from employee health plans, thus establishing the supremacy of corporate gods over the religious or secular beliefs of working people – specifically, working women. Thanks to the High Court, overwhelmingly female and non-white home health care employees – who have historically been among the country’s most poorly paid and oppressed workers, often laboring long hours with no benefits, no sick leave, and no security – will find it much harder to unionize. And, the Supreme Court decreed that women considering abortions at the dwindling number of clinics that provide such services will have to run the gauntlet of anti-abortion crazies, who can no longer be kept at a physical distance from the targets of their venomous free speech.

With every passing year, the federal courts become more firmly the domain of right-wing lawyers, whose mission is to set in stone the legal basis for a dictatorship of the rich. These judicial political hit men, including some women and lawyers of color, are chiefly organized under the banner of the Federalist Society. Formed in 1982 at the elite law schools at Yale, Harvard and the University of Chicago, the Federalist Society is most zealous in defending the rights of property and corporations. It now boasts 30,000 lawyers and 10,000 law students as members, including four of the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and chief justice John Roberts. That means the Federalist Society, a cabal of corporate conspirators, is always only one vote away from an outright majority on the nation’s highest court.

Money’s Unlimited Right to Speak

They are a devilishly clever crew, who revel in using the Bill of Rights as a weapon against the people. “Freedom of speech” was key to the Supreme Court majority’s arguments in the three recent cases. Justice Alito wrote that freedom of speech means workers cannot be forced to subsidize the speech of unions with whom they disagree. The ruling is a boon to corporate investors who want to corner the home health care market, which is projected to grow by 48 percent in the next eight years. Fewer unionized workers means higher profits. The High Court is super-sensitive to the free speech rights of anti-abortion activists, even as it typically sides with the State in creating vast zones where no free speech is allowed for those who oppose U.S. wars and corporate globalization. And, the Court’s recognition of corporate religious rights is based on the same bogus principle of corporate “personhood” that underlay its decision to allow virtually unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns as a form of freedom of speech.

The Supreme Court’s legal logic grows clearer every year: The people have no rights that corporations are bound to respect.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com, and sign up to get email notifications when a new issue is published, each Wednesday.

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20140702_gf_SCOTUS.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:15 PM

What Black Lobbyists & CBC Members Mean When They Say “We Are Not A Monolith”

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

What does it mean when current and former Congressional Black Caucus members like North Carolina's G.K. Butterfield and disgraced former Maryland Rep. Al Wynn, now a lobbyist for one of the firms that represent Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs, sit down for a TV interview with ex-CBC staffer and current corporate lobbyist Angela Rye, and between them in a seven minute interview they declare four or five times that“We are not a monolith”?

When I hear “monolith” I think of the floating, murmuring slab of rock left behind by ancient aliens in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” But still it's hard to believe people are really confusing black elected officials and lobbyists with artifacts left behind by space aliens. When these folks say “we are not a monolith” it simply means “We're under NO obligation to represent you, and we ain't even tryin' so quit pretendin' like we need to.”

This was pretty much the theme of the June 23 session of Roland Martin's NewsOne Now titled “Has the CBC Sold Out To Big Banks” on TV One. The segment was a response to articles in the Huffington Post, Black Agenda Report, Breaking Brown, and elsewhere charging that CBC members, staff and black lobbyists were leveraging their “civil rights brands” on behalf of telecoms, banksters, gentrifiers, military contractors, Big Ag, Big Oil and so on.

Host Angela Rye led off with a self serving “we're not a monolith” screed bemoaning “the incredibly high and unrealistic standards” that the black caucus are held to, the notion that they should be accountable to the people instead of corporations. Rep. Butterfield, whom Rye says she calls “Dad 3” called the articles a disservice and agreed that “We're not a monolithic caucus.”

Rye pronounced herself especially offended by the charge that CBC members, staffers and especially lobbyists like herself doing the bidding of their corporate masters were “sellouts.” Former congressman Al Wynn, a man so eager to become a lobbyist that he resigned his seat before all the votes were counted in his losing primary election bid, almost sounded hurt as he called the sellout charge pejorative, “...offensive and patronizing.” In a fit of neoliberal logic that could have come straight from the lips of Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney, Wynn declared big banks and greedy corporations like the ones he represented in Congress and now shills for as a lobbyist had senior citizens and pension funds among their stockholders, that they were job creators and essential to the economy. These interests, all three agreed, deserved to have some black faces among their lobbyists and their supporters in the Congress, just as black communities deserved the opportunity to provide some of those black faces.

The two lobbyists and the congressman who is “Dad 3” to one of the lobbyists solemnly pronounced the reporting on the caucus unbalanced, their corporate benefactors essential to the welfare of the nation, and wondered aloud who these reporters actually talk to. And that was it, that was NewsOne Now for the day.

A lot happened in that seven minutes, none of it good, and none of it resembling journalism. Black corporate stooges in and out of government got a chance to publicly reassure and consoled one another, and to wisely inform ordinary people once again that the notion these black faces in high places might actually represent their interests was unrealistic. You've got a black face in a high place. What else do you need?

 

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and subscribe to our free weekly email updates at www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe. That's www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.

Direct download: 20140625_bd_not_a_monolith.mp3
Category:Other -- posted at: 2:23 PM

White Supremacy and the Central Park 5

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

In America, white supremacy means never having to say you’re sorry, in any meaningful way.”

A settlement will soon be finalized, in New York City, that will award five no longer young Black men $40 million for spending between 7 and 13 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Twenty-five years ago, the Central Park 5 – Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Kharey Wise – were almost universally described in the media in animalistic terms. They were a “wolf pack” that had gone “wilding” on a mad rampage of lust and brutality, raping a 28-year-old white jogger and beating her almost to death. The cops – experts at psychological operations against Black teenagers – coerced confessions from the 14, 15 and 16 year olds, and they were convicted in 1990.

Miraculously, in 2002, the real perpetrator, a total stranger to the young men, confessed to having committed the crime all by himself. Forensic science confirmed his guilt, and the convictions were vacated. Having lost that which could never be reclaimed – their youth – the Central Park 5 sued the police and prosecutors for false arrest, malicious prosecution and a racially motivated conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights. But, official New York was unrepentant. The billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, insisted that the city had violated no one’s rights. The five Black and Hispanic men should just go on with their lives, and be grateful that they were no longer officially branded as brutal rapists. The police had acted in “good faith.”

The war against Blacks is a permanent feature of social control in the United States.”

Only a morally depraved, irredeemable racist would use the term “good faith” to describe the treatment accorded the Central Park 5. In a sane, non-racist society, the fact that five innocent children had been made to confess to a horrible crime that they did not commit would be viewed as a prima facie case of police misconduct. The onus would be on law enforcement to explain how such multiple miscarriages of justice could have happened in the absence of unlawful behavior by the police. But, in America, white supremacy means never having to say you’re sorry, in any meaningful way – and never relinquishing the authority to behave in exactly the same manner the next time it suits your purposes.

Thus, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to accept a $40 million settlement for the unspeakable crimes committed against the Central Park 5 is more controversial, in white society, than Mayor Bloomberg’s abject refusal to atone at all. It’s not that $40 million will break the city’s budget. New York paid out more than $700 million in settlements or awards from lawsuits for negligence, police abuse and property damage in 2012, and expects to pay more than $800 million a year by 2016. But, what they refuse to relinquish is the right to whip up racial hysteria at will, to treat Black children like wolves and other species of wild animals, to scream that Black bucks are running amuk.

The war against Blacks is a permanent feature of social control in the United States. Although the Central Park 5 were exonerated, and will now be monetarily compensated, their ordeal bore ample fruit for the white supremacist state. In the wake of the fictitious “wilding,” Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg were enabled to impose an even harsher, racially selective police state on Black and brown neighborhoods all across the city, ruining countless young lives.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

 

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20140625_gf_CentralPark5.mp3
Category:Other -- posted at: 2:16 PM

U.S. Funds “Terror Studies” to Dissect and Neutralize Social Movements

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

In the language of ‘terrorism studies,’ the human beings involved in these social movements are 'contagions,' as in vectors of disease.”

The U.S. Department of Defense is immersed in studies about...people like you. The Pentagon wants to know why folks who don’t themselves engage in violence to overthrow the prevailing order become, what the military calls, “supporters of political violence.” And by that they mean, everyone who opposes U.S military policy in the world, or the repressive policies of U.S. allies and proxies, or who opposes the racially repressive U.S. criminal justice system, or who wants to push the One Percent off their economic and political pedestals so they can’t lord it over the rest of us. (I’m sure you recognize yourself somewhere in that list.)

The Pentagon calls this new field of research “terrorism studies,” which is designed to augment and inform their so-called War on Terror. Through their Minerva Research Initiative, the military has commissioned U.S. universities to help it figure out how to deal with dissatisfied and, therefore, dangerous populations all around the world, including the United States.

The Minerva Initiative was the subject of an article in The Guardian newspaper by Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, an academic who studies international security issues. The Initiative seeks to sharpen the U.S. military’s “warfighter-relevant insights” into what makes people tick, and get ticked off at power structures, in regions “of strategic importance to the U.S.” Since the U.S. is an empire seeking global hegemony, and sees the whole world as strategic, the Minerva program’s areas of interest involve – everybody on the planet.

Total War Against the Planet

The Minerva project paid Cornel University researchers to find out when social movements reach a “critical mass” of people – a “tipping point” at which they become a threat to the powers-that-be. In the language of “terrorism studies,” the human beings involved in these social movements are “contagions,” as in vectors of disease. Neutralizing them becomes a job for “warfighters.”

The University of Washington is studying “large scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants” in 58 countries, to see how these folks kept their movements going.

So, now you know why U.S. intelligence agencies are tapping the telephones and Internet communications of virtually the entire population of the planet. They are mapping every conceivable human network, sifting through the myriad patterns of human association to find possible vectors of resistance, which are to be identified and eradicated, like a disease. American military and intelligence enlisted academics to study the dynamics of "the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey" – all with the aim of preventing similar “contagions” from spreading.

The United States military sees itself as engaged in a total war against the entirety of planet Earth: all of its people, its social movements and dynamics, are enemy territory, including the people of the United States.

When American rulers say they are defending U.S. national security interests against all potential enemies, what they really mean is they are defending the prevailing capitalist order against any social movement that might oppose it, anywhere on Earth. They want to put the hole planet on lockdown, and have enlisted U.S. universities in their global fascist project.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20140618_gf_TerrorStudies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:09 PM

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Blackwashing, the Reparations Brand, and a Last Refuge For Scoundrels

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Why is Ta Nehisi Coates suddenly a public reparista, and what does this say about the reparations movement?

Back in the day when black politicians used to fall out of favor, their friends ratting each other out before grand juries and prosecutors combing their personal records for evidence of wrongdoing, the standard thing for the political figure to do was to get very publicly right with Jesus. The church, after all, seems to never turn anybody down.

Nowadays a disgraced black politician is as likely to blacken herself up with a public embrace of reparations in addition to the old confession of religious faith. Like the church, all one has to do to join the reparations movement is to make that confession of faith, a kind of secular Shahada.

Nobody here at Black Agenda Report disagrees with the fundamental justice of the case for reparations. But it's a just cause with a huge problem. Reparations for the descendants of slaves, the victims of historic Jim Crow and the current prison state is an immense political problem. But apart from a single piece of legislation and a few lawsuits over the last 30 years, reparistas seem to take no responsibility for proposing, discussing or advancing even the sketchiest of political roadmaps to bring us to reparations.

I'm a lifelong socialist, somebody who believes political mountains can and must be moved. But when proponents of reparations don't even try to discuss what the needed political coalitions might look like, what sectors of society we need to win over to make reparations happen, or how many years or decades all this might take, are they acting like a political movement, or like something else? What kind of political movement advances no measures, discusses no plans, takes no responsibility for advancing its own just cause? The answer is that movements don't behave like that at all. But brands do.

Brands neither say what they mean, nor mean what they say. Brands are stories, brands are narratives contrived to get specific emotional reactions, to pull real or imagined memories, sights, smells or feelings from a target audience. To do this brands operate outside of and independent from fact and/or logic. Reparations is not a movement, it's a brand.

A centerpiece of the reparations brand is the study bill that Rep. John Conyers has introduced in every one of the last dozen Congresses except the 110th and 11th. In those two Congresses, Conyers, with four decades of seniority finally chaired the powerful House Judiciary Committee with the ability to move the study bill, or at least the discussion of reparations. If reparations was a movement instead of a brand, he would have done just that. But Conyers put the reparations study bill in his desk drawer until Republicans re-took the House and he no longer had that power. Safely back in the minority again in early 2011, he re-introduced the reparations study bill once more.

After five and a half years of the Obama presidency, during which the problems of black America were ignored and in some cases made worse, some of his black enablers and apologists feel the need to get their ghetto passes re-stamped. Wrapping themselves in the reparations brand is their way of asserting fictive allegiance to African Americans along with some imaginary distance from the president. If Wal-Mart and BP pretending to be environmentally responsible is greenwashing, this is blackwashing.

Polls indicate that a majority of African Americans do favor reparations. But in the absence of a reparations movement with discussions of plans and strategies, reparations is only a brand, available for scoundrels to hide behind whenever their ghetto passes need re-stamping. Today it's Mr. Coates. Tomorrow? Well...

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and subscribe to our free weekly email updates at www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe. That's www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or emailed directly at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20140617_bd_brand_reparations.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:06 PM

Black Response to the Koch $25 Million “Gift” Should Be a Movement For Free College Tuition

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Back in the 1860s the first of our historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs were founded with dollars from white philanthropists. In the six or seven generations since we like to think we've come a long way. But have we really? The United Negro College Fund's eager acceptance of a $25 million dollar “gift” from the notorious Koch brothers ought to make us all wonder whether we're really movin' on up, or moving backward, and why.

By the 1960s and 70s, federal tax dollars were a substantial and rising portion of funding at HBCUs. That was real progress, because public funding of black higher education implies a public commitment, rather than dependence on the fickle whims of the wealthy. But college tuition has ballooned one thousand percent since 1978, and federal funding has not kept pace. Today's students are burdened by onerous debt which lenders have used their political influence to compound and make bankruptcy-proof. Higher education is in now danger of becoming an inherited privilege of well-off families, social mobility in the US is at an historic low. Instead of looking for ways to target increased funding to historically black colleges and universities, the Obama administration has made it harder for black families to qualify for college loans, causing thousands of young African Americans to forgo their dreams of higher education.

With historically black colleges and universities in a deep fiscal and strategic hole, accepting $25 million from the evil Koch brothers is not evidence of sagacity, pragmatism or wisdom. It's a decision to dig that hole even deeper.

If the gaggle of politicians, preachers, academics and business types who pass themselves off as our black leadership class possessed a shred of political imagination and moral courage they would study up, they would talk up, they would committeefy and they would help call into existence a movement demanding higher education as a human right and free college tuition for everybody. It's not an impossible dream – other countries, relatively civilized places less wealthy than the US like France and Norway already do this. A movement demanding free higher education and forgiveness of outstanding student debt, funded by taxing the rich instead of borrowing from or begging them is the kind of inspiring vision that could put tens or hundreds of thousands in the streets demanding real change. It could mobilize churches and unions, small towns and big cities, the young and the old, and make no mistake, it's the only way HBCUs will be rescued from this crisis with any integrity. Over half of black college grads are now working in jobs that don't even require a college education.

Begging harder or smarter, or being willing to accept funding from even more devilish devils is not the solution of visionary leaders. It's the refuge of lazy hypocrites and cowards.

Progress, as Frederick Douglass told us, only comes with struggle. Real leaders know how to envision the world as it should be and articulate that inspiring vision to the masses. They know when to demand what is NOT being offered, and how to pick a fight, because we cannot win what we will not fight for.

Education, including higher education is a human right. If we want HBCUs to survive the current crisis, it's time to stop begging and pick a fight. It's time to demand free higher education financed by federal tax dollars, and forgiveness of student loans. If our black misleadership class cannot get with that, it's time to sweep them to the side.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly email updates at www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party.

 



Direct download: 20140611_bd_uncf_vs_picking-a-fight.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:57 PM