Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Last Days of “Cracked-Up-Black-Buck-Runs-Amok” Law

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Back in 1986, the U.S. Congress crafted legislation to put as many Black crack cocaine users in prison as possible, while sparing white users of powdered cocaine. Hundreds of thousands of arrests and more than a million of year in prison later, the U.S. Justice Department went on record favoring equalization of penalties on both kinds of cocaine. “Any civilized court would treat such blatantly race-based mass punishment as a crime against humanity – possibly an element in a broader charge of genocide.”

Last Days of “Cracked-Up-Black-Buck-Runs-Amok” Law

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The 23-year-long crack dragnet affected every social structure in Black America.”

It appears the racially-motivated sentencing laws that treat possession of crack cocaine as 100 times more worthy of punishment than powder cocaine, will soon pass into history. It’s been 23 years since the Congress was stampeded into passing legislation that mandated ten years in prison for possession of a mere 50 grams of crack, a cheap and favored high in Black communities. Powdered cocaine had long been too expensive for ghetto tastes. To earn ten years in jail, the predominantly white users of powdered cocaine would have to get caught with 5,000 grams of the stuff – 100 times the weight for ten years worth of crack.

Although the legislation was racist from the moment of its conception, more than half the Congressional Black Caucus voted for it back in 1986. The Black lawmakers bought into the hysteria that claimed crack cocaine made previously normal people deadly violent. There’s no question that crack was associated with horrific violence, most of it between drug dealers engaged in wars to control the millions in profits generated by crack. But the cases of 94 percent of the crack offenders in prison today have nothing to do with violence.

The crack laws were designed to put massive numbers of Blacks behind bars. They were successful in condemning hundreds of thousands of young Black men and women to millions of collective years in prison. Eighty-two percent of those convicted for crack cocaine in federal court, are Black; only 9 percent are white. Clearly, the crack cocaine laws are models of efficiency in the mass destruction of Black lives under color of law. Any civilized court would treat such blatantly race-based mass punishment as a crime against humanity – possibly an element in a broader charge of genocide. The 23-year-long crack dragnet affected every social structure in Black America, leaving utter devastation in its wake. The effects of this unrelenting campaign of mass Black incarceration – of which crack cocaine was a key component – were so pervasive, the system finally seemed to run out of new Black bodies to arrest. This is one of the likely reasons that, in recent years, drug arrest rates for Blacks have gone down, while white arrest rates have shot up dramatically.

Any civilized court would treat such blatantly race-based mass punishment as a crime against humanity.”

The biggest change came last week, when for the first time a high-ranking member of the U.S. Justice Department testified in favor of Black Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee’s bill that would equalize the penalties for crack and powdered cocaine possession. President Obama supported such a change when he was a candidate.

But who is to say that Congress or the states will not tomorrow enact another racially-tailored “Black Buck Runs Amok” law? What should be required, are Racial Impact Statements that would measure any disparities in the ethnic outcomes of the law’s enforcement. If impact statements are useful in deterring harm to the environment, then surely Black folks and other human beings need protection from racist laws – and from hate-filled, racist lawmakers. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford.

On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

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



Direct download: 20090505_gf_crack.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:44pm EDT

Black Farmers Confront Obama

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Of all people, it was Black farmers that dared to make the first Black president accountable for his campaign promise to them. Obama seemed to be reneging on his own legislation and statements favoring billions in payments to Black farmers methodically discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Now, his administration wants to cap the payments at $100 million. “Right is right and it doesn’t matter who is in the White House,” said Black farmers leader John Boyd.

Black Farmers Confront Obama

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Black farmers have come to believe that now-President Obama is flipping the script on them.”

Some of Barack Obama’s chickens – and other assorted farm animals – are coming home to roost. Six months into his term as a United States Senator, Barack Obama introduced legislation to compensate Black farmers for the cruel and blatant discrimination they had suffered at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Obama had apparently been moved by the Black farmer’s claims that federal farm officials had methodically denied them federal monies routinely handed out to white farmers. According to the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, Black farmers received only one-third to one-sixth of the federal benefits and subsidies collected by other farmers, over a more than ten year period. Black farmers, as a class, were becoming extinct, partly due to federal government practices.

The Black farmers sued, forcing the federal government to pay out nearly a billion dollars to settle about 16,000 claims. But as many as 65,000 additional farmers had claims, that could amount to as much as $4 billion. That’s when Senator Barack Obama joined legislation to champion their cause. Congress allocated $100 million, with the apparent intention to release more funds, later. But it didn’t turn out that way, and the Black farmers have come to believe that now-President Obama is flipping the script on them.

Last week, the Black farmers and their supporters turned out in force on Capitol Hill, demanding that the Obama administration and the Congress do right by the 94,000 of their fellow tillers-of-the-soil who ultimately filed for claims against the feds. Obama had, indeed, changed his tune upon becoming president. Now, his administration’s position was that the initial $100 million was all the Black farmers were going to get; it wasn’t a down payment, but a cap, a ceiling.

Right is right and it doesn’t matter who is in the White House.”

The Black farmers felt betrayed. John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, said Obama’s formula wouldn’t even “pay the lawyers’ fees.” Many of his members are facing imminent loss of their land. Obama and congressional Democrats urged the Black farmers to have patience. But John Boyd replied, it’s too late for that. “They didn’t tell the banks, the auto companies, and the insurance companies to wait,” said Boyd. He continued: “Right is right and it doesn’t matter who is in the White House.”

That’s when Obama trotted out Black Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, to take the heat from the Black farmers. Congressman Davis, one of the most corporate-friendly members of the Congressional Black Caucus and a protégé of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, claimed the $100 million was just a “placeholder” for monies that would be allocated, in due time – that it was not a cap, despite what administration lawyers said in a legal motion filed in February.

The Black farmers’ patience may be short, but time is in even shorter supply. A little over a century ago, Blacks made up 14 percent of all American farmers. Today, they are less than one and one-half percent. Congressman Davis tried to reassure the farmers. “I know the heart of the president,” he said. But Obama’s heart doesn’t sign any checks. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford.

On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

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


Direct download: 20090505_gf_blackfamers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:41pm EDT

Redneck-Like Black Man Wants to be Georgia Governor

The 12-year Black attorney general of the State of Georgia has defended Black voter suppression laws, co-sponsored two-strikes mandatory life imprisonment, and loves the death penalty. Thurbert Baker is counting on the Black vote, which makes up half the Democratic electorate in the state, to give him a leg up in the gubernatorial primary. "Does it serve Black people's interests, or the cause of justice, for African Americans to take leadership roles in government oppression of Black people?"

Redneck-Like Black Man Wants to be Georgia Governor

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Thurbert Baker is most proud of passing Georgia’s two-strikes mandatory life imprisonment bill.”

The quality of Black candidates for high office seems to decrease even as the frequency of such candidacies increases.

Thurbert Baker, the Black Democratic attorney general of Georgia, wants to be governor. He was first appointed to the position in 1997 by Zell Miller, the Democratic governor who became a U.S. senator and then supported George Bush in 2004. Zell Miller’s stable of favored Blacks also includes Denise Majette, the former Black Republican lawyer who ran as a Democrat to oust Cynthia McKinney from her suburban Atlanta congressional seat in 2002.

Attorney General Baker was elected on his own in 1998, and has fit in just fine under Democratic and Republican governors. He’s a man for all seasons – which is a kind way of saying he goes wherever the wind blows.

Thurbert Baker has a convenient excuse for his role in defending racist state laws and actions: the job made him do it. When a judge ordered Black teenager Genarlow Wilson released after he was sentenced to ten years for having consensual sex with a 15-year old white girl, Attorney General Baker filed an appeal to keep Wilson in prison. When the Republican state legislature passed a voter ID bill to suppress the Black vote, Thurbert Baker defended the legislation. Baker says his job requires him to defend the laws of the State of Georgia, whether he likes those laws or not. Which isn’t even a good reason to feel sorry for him, much less vote for him.

The only people who are served by having Black front men for racist policies, are the racists.”

In fact, Thurbert Baker’s excuse for defending bad law and racist state actions – that it’s his job – opens up a larger question: what is the impact on Black interests when Black politicians give legitimacy to racist policies by their active presence and collaboration in carrying out those policies? Does it serve Black people’s interests, or the cause of justice, for African Americans to take leadership roles in government oppression of Black people?

It’s a rhetorical question; we know the answer. The only people who are served by having Black front men for racist policies, are the racists, who can thereby claim that their project is multiracial in nature. For 12 years, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker was available to endorse whatever anti-Black law or project was handed to him by the state administration or the legislature. Now he wants Black folks to reward him.

Blacks make up about 50 percent of the Democratic electorate in Georgia. Baker is counting on that huge bloc as his base in the primary election – even though Black Georgians were never able to count on him. Baker says his first priority is crime – not jobs, not education – and he is most proud of his work as a legislator in passing Georgia’s two-strikes (not three-strikes, but two strikes) mandatory life imprisonment bill. He loves the death penalty. And that’s the last thing Black Georgia needs: a Black man who thinks and governs like a redneck.

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

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



Direct download: 20090505_gf_thurbert_baker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:38pm EDT