Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
corporate education reformA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Testing and charters – that's all President Obama's team has to offer, says the head of the American Federation of Teachers. Both are, essentially, part of the corporate strategy to privatize public schools from within, and to make teachers the villain in the education debate.
On Education, Obama's First Term Is Bush's Third
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The Administration is wielding a $4 billion fund like a whip.”
The nation’s teachers seem to be awakening to the fact that they are in a holding pen, awaiting execution as a social force in the United States. The executioner isn’t wearing a hood, but a world-famous smile. President Obama’s education scheme, cleverly titled “Race to the Top,” is a continuation of a 30-year effort to reshape public education in the corporate image – that is, to run schools like a business, in the service of business. And we all know that business would rather not have to deal with unions.
Teachers unions are finally coming to grips with the fact that Obama and his union-buster education secretary, Arne Duncan, are busy putting targets on teachers’ backs – much like the Republicans but without the name-calling. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Wiengarten called Obama’s reworked version of No Child Left Behind “Bush III,” after the president that imposed it seven years ago. “It looks like the only strategies they have” for improving public education “are charter schools and measurement,” said Wiengarten, referring to the regimen of high stakes testing that now defines American public schools.
Secretary Duncan, who fired entire school staffs when he ran the Chicago system, terminating Black teachers disproportionately, is no more nor less imaginative than any other corporate executive intent on squeezing the last drop of labor from every employee – and then blaming the workers and their union when corporate goals are not met. This is a fundamental and well-understood conflict in the private sector – and a relationship between labor and management that corporate forces are attempting to impose on public education. What we are witnessing is the privatization of public education from within, through the imposition of corporate management methods and measurements. This corporatizing process has been both obscured and facilitated by decades of unrelenting propaganda that posits teachers as the main obstacle to educational improvement.
Obama's 'Race to the Top' is a continuation of a 30-year effort to reshape public education in the corporate image.”
Corporate managers attempt to treat educational failings as “productivity” problems, wherein the schools are not getting enough bang for the buck from either teachers or students. Unremitting testing is the corporate management attempt to measure and reward productivity in the educational workplace. Since the testing regime is essentially a management technique, testing inevitably becomes the overarching focus of school leadership, and a whip in the hand of the bosses. Bosses do not easily give up their whips, which is why they cling so tightly to the high stakes testing regime.
The Obama Administration is wielding a more than $4 billion fund like a whip to coerce school systems into firing teachers based on test scores, and to force expansion of charter schools. The aim is to break the unions, pure and simple. It is a logical progression of George Bush’s corporate-inspired policies, which is why the teachers union president calls it “Bush III.”
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: 20090930_gf_Teachers.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:49am EDT

depressionA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
If all the talk of economic “recovery” sound insane to the growing ranks of the unemployed and dispossessed, they're right. “The great investment banks are through, dead and gone, no longer willing or able to gather trillions in capital for any enterprise vaguely resembling national economic development.” All that's left is The Casino.
 
The Great Black Hole of Casino Capitalism
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
It now sucks all remaining and potential national wealth into its infinite darkness.”
Ruling circles in the United States have decreed that the Great Recession is over. These are the same circles that waited through half of 2008 to announce that the nation had been in recession since December of 2007. They now declare the worst is behind us even as unemployment climbs, smaller banks go under and a new wage of foreclosures looms. But there is not time in a 4-minute commentary to quibble about technical definitions of recession. In the larger scheme of things, such conversations are diversions that obscure what actually happened to the capitalist system over the past year. It has been broken beyond repair.
There is nothing left of finance capitalism but The Casino, which is only kept whirring along through the fiscal resources of The State. When the ruling circles, which of course includes the finance capital-infested Obama administration, announce that the economy is on the “road to recovery,” they are speaking of The Casino – Greater Wall Street and its speculations. But the once-dynamic heart of Wall Street, the great investment banks, are through, dead and gone, no longer willing or able to gather trillions in capital for any enterprise vaguely resembling national economic development. That stage of capitalism definitively ended in the Great Crash of last year. With the final collapse – decades in the making and historically inevitable – finance capital became irrevocably dependent on The State's capacity to subsidize its activities. It could not save itself, much less contribute to national economic reconstruction.
With the final collapse, finance capital became irrevocably dependent on The State's capacity to subsidize its activities.”
Instead, The State – meaning, the people of the United States – have so far gone into hock for $23.7 trillion to bail out finance capital, 1.7 times the U.S. gross domestic product for 2008. The relationship between finance capital and U.S. society has devolved to pure parasitism. Such is the nature of post-2008 capitalism in America.
Greater Wall Street has become a Black Hole of its own creation. It now sucks all remaining and potential national wealth into its infinite darkness. Medicare and Social Security and every seizable public asset are pulled ever closer to its event horizon, to be lost in the Black Hole: The Casino. Meanwhile, the ever-expanding military acts as its own Black Hole, in order to safeguard the imperial domain on behalf of The Casino.
Strange phenomenon occur in the presence of economic Black Holes. Unemployment in Detroit nears 30 percent, while Wall Street experiences 12-month highs. State and local governments disintegrate, safety nets unravel, as the rich clink champagne glasses in celebration of their mega-trillion salvation, financed through the full faith and credit of the people. Like Atlantic City, New Jersey, all is despair and devastation – except on the boardwalk at The Casino.
Post-2008 America has a Black Hole in its soul. The political project could not be clearer: We've got to shut down The Casino, before it sucks up everything of value around us.
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: 20090930_gf_GreatRecession.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:44am EDT

strikersA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Hyatt Hotels pounced on their Boston housekeepers like a great predator, firing the staff without notice and attempting to replace them at half the wages. A governor and a union stepped up in solidarity with the workers, who had been subjected to cruel, but not unusual, treatment in this late stage of capitalism.

 
Gov. Deval Patrick Joins Condemnation of Hyatt Firings
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Nearly one hundred people and their families were abused and traumatized by a huge corporation.”
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick deserves a salute for his solidarity with Hyatt Hotel workers who were cruelly disrespected and fired last week. Ninety-eight non-union housekeeping workers were summarily dismissed from three Boston-area Hyatt hotels, replaced by contract employees earning half their salaries. Hyatt outsourced their $14 to $16 an hour jobs to a Georgia company that pays only $8. Governor Patrick appealed directly to Hyatt's CEO for the workers' reinstatement and, when that failed, urged state employees to boycott the hotel chain, based in that wannabe Olympic city, Chicago. Massachusetts Gov. Patrick was right when he said the firings were “the worst nightmare of every worker in today's weak economy.”
There is a logic to the way that corporate behavior toward employees becomes more inhumane at precisely the same rate that the job market deteriorates. To put it simply, corporations are as cruel as they think they can get away with.When there are six unemployed persons for every job opening, the employer, like a king, feels empowered to behave like the worst kind of tyrant.
The Hyatt firings were doubly cruel in their execution. The workers, some of whom had been on the job for over 20 years, were ordered to train the new, outsourced employees, supposedly so they could fill in during vacations or when regular employees got sick. The housekeepers were not informed they were really training their replacements. Several days before the ax fell, the workers say management told them to empty their lockers so they could be cleaned. Actual notice of termination didn't come until the last day of work.
Corporations are as cruel as they think they can get away with.”
Although the Hyatt's Boston hotel employees are not unionized, some asked the hotel workers' union Unite Here for help. The union staged a demonstration at which 150 people were arrested, and sent one of the fired workers to Chicago to meet with Penny Pritzger, an heiress to the hotel-owning family who was also national finance chairman for the Obama presidential campaign. Hyatt's response to the employees' and Gov. Patrick's appeals was to offer the workers a brief extension of their current salaries and health benefits, and temporary jobs with another outsourcing agency that Hyatt contracts with in Chicago. The offer was rejected. Said one of the workers: “We will not accept temp positions that are designed to put others out of work.”
Hyatt's shameful, devious and heartless treatment of its Boston hotel housekeepers also illustrates the deceptive nature of unemployment statistics. The employees that Hyatt was forcing into unemployment were to be replaced by previously unemployed workers at half the pay. A company payroll was, presumably, cut in half, but no jobs were created or destroyed and the overall employment numbers remained unchanged. But nearly one hundred people and their families were abused and traumatized by a huge corporation, and most will not likely recover in this economy. And their replacements will clean up behind other people at poverty wages with no job security whatsoever. That is par for the course, in late-stage capitalist America.
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: 20090939_gf_HyattFirings.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:32am EDT

puppetsA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Being a superpower means having the ability to arbitrarily prolong the misery of weaker countries. Such seems to be the U.S. mission in Somalia, where the puppet regime would fall in hours if the Americans and their Ugandan mercenaries withdrew. “The Somali president’s dwindling soldiers only remain because they are getting paid – by the Americans.”
 
U.S is Puppet-Master in Somalia
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“A president that cannot trust his own soldiers to protect his life, is no president at all.”
If ever there was a government that deserved to be called a “puppet,” it is the regime that claims to speak for Somalia. Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed’s ridiculous rump of a regime is wholly dependent on foreigners: the 5,000 mostly Ugandan troops that nominally work for the African Union but actually act as mercenaries for the Americans, and the CIA and U.S. special operations forces that roam the country, killing at will. According to a recent New York Times report, it is the Ugandans, not Somali soldiers, that guard President Ahmed around the clock, camping directly outside his doorway and driving him to the airport, which is also defended by Ugandans. A president that cannot trust his own soldiers to protect his life, is no president at all.
Sheik Ahmed rules over close to nothing, just a few patches of the capital city, Mogadishu. The Somali Shabaab resistance is positioned only blocks from the president’s residence, from which he rarely ventures. If the foreigners left, Sheik Ahmed would have to make a mad dash to the airport to leave with them.
Over the summer, the Americans sent in 40 tons of weapons, much of which immediately wound up in the hands of the opposition. Whole units of the president’s armed forces have gone over to the opposition – that is to say, they have sided with their fellow Somalis and against the foreigners and their puppet president. Press reports of the close interaction between opposition fighters and those troops still nominally loyal to the regime lead one to conclude that the Somali president’s dwindling soldiers only remain because they are getting paid – by the Americans.
“President Obama will have earned himself a third war in the Third World.”
Sheik Ahmed has called for virtually all of his U.S.-back neighbors – Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Yemen – to come prop up his puny regime, which would, of course, require even more massive U.S. involvement and perpetual foreign occupation of Somalia. And that is a formula for perpetual war that would swallow up all of the Horn of Africa. President Obama will have earned himself a third war in the Third World, at a time when the American people have already tired of the other two, in Iran and Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Even the Americans roaming around Mogadishu admit that, at most, a few hundred foreign jihadists are fighting Sheik Ahmed's puppet regime. The rest of the opposition is Somali. However, Washington is determined to portray the Shabaab as a “new Taliban” that must be crushed for reasons of U.S. national security.
There is really no rational choice for Washington but to withdraw and allow the Somalis to make their own peace, of whatever political complexion. But imperialists cannot envision a world in which they are not in charge – even if that world encompasses only a few city blocks in Mogadishu. Therefore, we can shortly expect a new offensive by the U.S. and other foreigners in Somalia. Perpetual war is the only game they know how to play.
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: 20090923_gf_Somalia.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 2:21pm EDT

black is backA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The “period of passivity in Black politics” that accompanied the ascent of Barack Obama, is about to end. The Black is Back Coalition seeks to reignite a Black-led movement for social justice, peace and reparations – which will in turn energize progressive politics in general. See you in DC on November 7.
 
“Black is Back” on Nov. 7: D.C. Rally and March on White House
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“We will confront the forces of war, of neo-colonialism, of the rule of bankers and the crime of mass Black incarceration.”
The time has come to bring independent Black politics back to the forefront – to reignite and refocus the debate over the burning issues of the day. Nine months of the Obama presidency has taught us that a Black presence in the White House does not necessarily give voice to critical issues facing African Americans. Instead, Black concerns have been shunted to the side, treated as distractions, derided or ignored, by this president, even as the Black condition in the U.S. and the world steadily deteriorates.
When militant, politically conscious Black people fail to Speak Truth to Power, Power feels comfortable in pretending that somebody else's version of the truth is more compelling. When Black people make no demands, but instead defer to a Black president, then that same president will inevitably respond to other people's demands.
That's why a coalition of Black organizations and individuals is determined that the period of silence and deference and damn-near invisibility for Black people is over. Black is Back, and Truth will be spoken on November 7th at a rally in Washington, DC's Malcolm X Park, followed by a march down 16th Street to the White House, where Power resides.
“African Americans have invested more energy in circling the wagons around one man, than in defending the interests of Black people and humanity at-large.”
The Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations was formed on September 12th by activists from a wide range of organizations who believe that a Black-led movement is absolutely necessary to halt the destruction wrought by the predatory rich, the incorrigibly racist, and a world-threatening military. The Black is Back Coalition understands where the vital center of gravity for progressive politics in the United States is located: among African Americans, who have always stood for social and economic justice, and against U.S. military adventures abroad. That Black voice is coming back, beginning on November 7th in Washington, DC, when we will confront the forces of war, of neo-colonialism, of the rule of bankers and the crime of mass Black incarceration.
When Black is Back, all of progressive politics is energized, educated and strengthened for the common struggle to save humanity. Since the ascent of Barack Obama, African Americans have invested more energy in circling the wagons around one man, than in defending the interests of Black people and humanity at-large. This period of passivity in Black politics ends on November 7
in Washington, DC.
Write to me for more information on the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations. I'll put you in touch with spokespersons Chioma Oruh, Rosa Clemente, and Jared Ball. When Black is Back, the movement gets rollin'.
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: 20090923_gf_BlackIsBack.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 2:09pm EDT

gazaA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Israel reacted with typical feigned outrage at the United Nations report on war crimes and human rights violations committed by its forces in Gaza, last winter. The Jewish state's serial violations of international law are rooted in the barbarism of its governing principle, apartheid, which leads Israel to place itself “above the accepted norms of civilized behavior.”
 
Apartheid is the Root of Israel’s Aggressions
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“Underlying Israeli lawlessness is the concept of a settler state constructed for the benefit of one ethnic group.”
The State of Israel, by far the world champion violator of international law as interpreted by the United Nations, is once again raining vitriol and insult on the world body that gave it birth 61 years ago. Since almost the day that the U.N. recognized the Jewish state in 1948, Israel has placed itself above the accepted norms of civilized behavior. In its six decades of existence, Israel has violated virtually every United Nations declaration and flaunted countless tenets of international legality, most often with the diplomatic, economic and military protection of the United States. Israel’s arrogant disregard for the world body reached new heights with the release of a U.N. report urging Israel to conduct an “independent” investigation into “war crimes” and “serious violations” of human rights during its brutal attack on Gaza, last winter.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office claimed his government’s own investigation, which absolved Israel of crimes in the killing of 1,400 Palestinian men, women and children, was “a thousand times more serious” than that conducted by the U.N. Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, charged the U.N. with legitimizing “terrorist activity” and making “a mockery of history” by failing to recognize Israel’s right to “self-defense.” Other Israelis complained that the U.N. was making a case for “moral equivalency” between Israel and the Palestinian resistance.the wall
“How can one make peace with a state that claims the right to adjust its borders according to its own whims?”
On that count, in a fiendishly perverse sense, Israel is right: there is no moral equivalency between the Palestinian resistance and Israeli occupation and aggression. Palestinians have every legal and moral right to resist being occupied on the West Bank and caged and quarantined in the world’s biggest jail in Gaza. Israel has no moral or legal ground to stand on – which is why it chooses to dismiss and vilify every organ of international legality centered on the United Nations. Israel is not even a recognizable state, having no borders that Israel itself recognizes.
The Israeli state behaves as if its borders are anywhere it may sometime in the future declare them to be. This borderless state constitutes a grave threat to every one of its immediate neighbors, and an insult to hundreds of years of evolving international law. How can one make peace with a state that claims the right to adjust its borders according to its own whims? This is an affront to humanity, yet it is the essence of Israeli foreign and domestic policy.
Underlying this essential Israeli lawlessness is the concept of a settler state constructed for the benefit of one ethnic group on land seized from other peoples. That is the definition of apartheid, and the root of all of Israel’s constant assaults on international law. It is a barbarism that must be rejected, boycotted and isolated – not just to relieve the suffering of Palestinians, but for the sake of human civilization.
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: 20090923_gf_Israel.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 1:09pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Like all things consciously Black in the age of “race neutrality,” Black Studies has been targeted for the irrelevancy file. “The truth is, Black Studies has always been in conflict with the powers-that-be, on campus and in the wider world.” Born of activism 40 years ago, Black Studies “leads to greater and more effective activism” - which makes the discipline dangerous to power and privilege.

 
Black Studies: Still Indispensable After 40 Years
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Those who have achieved power and inherited privilege through systemic racial oppression are the last ones to want to fund a discipline that examines past and present oppression.”
In 1968, the Black Student Union at San Francisco State University, in conjunction with other activists and faculty, demanded the establishment of a Black Studies Program. The next year, the Black Studies Program became a department. Forty years later, as many as 350 colleges and universities offer majors, minors and degrees in Black, African American, Africana and related studies, according to Dr. James Turner, of Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center.
Just like the movement and politics that it sprang from, Black Studies is under assault, as irrelevant in today’s times. The truth is, Black Studies has always been in conflict with the powers-that-be, on campus and in the wider world. It was born that way, out of a movement and a people that were trying to find a way out of their own oppression and the ills afflicting humanity at-large. Only fools and the enemy can claim that this mission has been accomplished, and that Black voices should stand down, in academia or anywhere else.
Black Studies grew out of Black activism, and when the discipline is done well, it leads to greater and more effective activism, while deepening our understanding of the global society. This is, by definition, dangerous to those who profit from the status quo and the lies that prop up privilege. Those who have achieved power and inherited privilege through systemic racial oppression are the last ones to want to fund a discipline that examines past and present oppression.
Hostile forces proclaim Black Studies to be an obstacle on the road to 'race neutrality.'”
Naturally, opponents of Black Studies have always tried to marginalize it as a kind of special dispensation unworthy of accreditation and resources. In the Age of Obama, hostile forces proclaim Black Studies to be an obstacle on the road to “race neutrality” – another way of saying that those who illuminate and struggle against a problem, are themselves the source of the problem.
In a society that is truly committed to social justice, Black Studies would be viewed in much the same way as the study of medicine, whose ultimate purpose is to promote the health of human beings and to combat the diseases that plague us. Medicine ameliorates human misery, and seeks ways to make possible the maximum fulfillment of life for the greatest number of people. So does the struggle for social justice and its academic arm, Black Studies.
Black Studies provides a unique prism through which to identify that which ails us in the United States, and beyond. When Black Studies is devalued, Black people are devalued and all of humanity is diminished.
Those who think we are already liberated and can now dispense with Black Studies, are the ones most in need of an education.
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: 20090916_gf_BlackStudiesgf.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:19am EDT

coon huntin NYCA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Nightriding white terrorists are not confined to the South. They also roam the streets of New York City, in search of Black victims. The election of 2008 was especially rough for Up South white supremacists. Barack Obama's victory provoked four young New Yorkers to go on a Black-bashing spree that last week earned them serious prison time.
 
Coon Huntin’” in New York City
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
They piled into a car on a mission to show African Americans that whites were still boss in that part of the world.”
White folks used to call it “coon hunting” – terrorism as community sport. I’ve witnessed it myself: caravans of cars filled with white men in varying stages of drunkenness cruising country highways or the fringes of Black neighborhoods, in search of victims. In the Deep South, such “coon hunting” parties were not necessarily hitched to any special occasion or specific racial incident; any excuse would do to demonstrate that Blacks’ very existence in a White Man’s Country was a privilege that could be arbitrarily and violently revoked at any time.
Coon hunting” and related white racist rituals were never confined to below the Mason-Dixon Line. New York City contains enclaves of entrenched bigotry as concentrated and vicious as anyplace in Dixie. Last November, on learning that Barack Obama had won the presidential election, four young white men in Staten Island – the whitest of New York City’s boroughs – piled into a car on a mission to show African Americans that whites were still boss in that part of the world. They drove to a Black neighborhood, found a teenager walking by himself, and beat him with a metal pipe and a police baton. Not satisfied, they assaulted a Black man in another minority neighborhood, and drove off in search of a third victim. This time, they slammed their car into a man they thought was African American, but who turned out not to be. The victim’s head smashed the car’s windshield, and he stayed in a coma for weeks.
The four young white men admitted they set out to punish people they assumed had voted for Barack Obama.”
The four whites were last week sentencedto from four and one/half to seven years in federal prison. Loretta King, of the U.S. Justice Department, said the Civil Rights Division “will remain vigilant in our efforts to combat hate crimes.” Republicans in Congress continue to quibble about what constitutes a “hate crime,” who specifically should be protected from such crimes, and the circumstances in which the federal government can intervene. But the case from Staten Island, New York, certainly fits anyone’s definition of a hate crime that threatened federally protected rights. But it also says a lot more. The four young white men admitted they set out to punish people they assumed had voted for Barack Obama. But of course, they didn’t ask their victims who they voted for, or if they had voted at all, and one of them wasn’t even an African American. What these night-riders resented was the very presence of non-whites in Staten Island, or New York City, or in positions of prominence anywhere in the United States. They are terrorists whose hatred of Black people is general and uncomplicated – and renders them unfit to circulate freely in society.
It is also interesting to note that these modern, New York City, “Up South” terrorist nightriders’ surnames are Nicoletti, Garaventa, Contreras, and Carranza. They’re not the good ol' boys of your grandparents’ experience. But they’re just as dangerous.
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: 20090916_gf_CoonHunting.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 5:01am EDT

prisonA Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Small white towns are not typically welcoming to the prospect of large numbers of Black residents – unless they are locked up in cages. The town folks will fight tooth and nail for the privilege of hosting job-creating prisons, and to exercise the inmate's voting rights, as well. “Prison towns and prison-dependent counties are no more eager to relinquish their claim to be 'home' to their incarcerated residents than the slave master was to part with his human property.”

The Stolen Count: Prison Inmates and the Census
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The Census problem with prison inmates, is where to assign their official residency.”
People of West Indian descent are being urged to check their ethnicity as “other” on the U.S. Census form, presumably so they’ll be counted separately from the African American community. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights urges great care be taken to get an accurate count in the Gulf States, where population movements have still not settled, four years after Katrina. And every ten years there is controversy on how to best avoid undercounting Blacks, Latinos and undocumented aliens. There is one group, however, that is easy to find and enumerate, since they line up for the count at least once every day: the 1.3 million inmates of state and federal prisons. (At any given time, another million people are in local jails, but that’s another matter.)
The problem with state and federal prison inmates isn’t about getting the numbers right, but where to assign their residency. And although the question of who gets to count an inmate as a resident may not mean much to the incarcerated individual, it is a matter of great importance to his home community, possibly hundreds of miles away.
Denizens of small 'prison towns get to vote on the inmates’ behalf.”
The 40-year national policy of mass Black incarceration has robbed urban communities, not just of men and women, but of federal and state monies that are distributed based on population. When a young man from, say, the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn gets sent upstate to Attica prison, his share of Bed-Stuy’s funding for schools and other public services goes upstate with him, to benefit the town where the prison guards live. Those denizens of small “prison towns” also get to vote on the inmates’ behalf. As an article in the publication “Progressive States” explains, these mostly white, small town people whose livelihoods are dependent on a steady flow of prisoners doing as much time as possible, are not likely to vote in the interests of the inmates or their families in the inner cities. The closest analogy would be to the days when Blacks could not vote in most of the South, but were counted for purposes of allocating seats in state legislatures and the Congress. White folks were allowed to vote, both on their own behalf and, in effect, to cast Black people’s ballots, too. Put another way, simply by showing up on the U.S. Census in a southern state, Black people were forced to vote against themselves and for the white politicians that oppressed them. Prison inmates face much the same situation.
New York City residents, for example, make up 66 percent of state prison inmates, but 94 percent of them are incarcerated upstate in overwhelmingly white counties. This caged population has so skewed the allocation of state senate seats, if the inmates were not counted Republican strength in the legislature would be significantly weakened. In eight upstate New York counties, more than half the “official” Black population actually lives in prison.
Prison towns and prison-dependent counties are no more eager to relinquish their claim to be “home” to their incarcerated residents than the slave master was to part with his human property. But states can begin listing prisoners by their addresses before incarceration, or at least exclude inmates for purposes of drawing up legislative districts. That won’t bring any inmate freedom, but it will help the folks back home.
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: 20090916_gf_PrisonCensus.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 1:11am EDT

 The Black Caucus and Obama: One-Way Loyalty
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
On health care, Barack Obama "has become a heavy burden for even the Black Caucus to bear, as he searches constantly for allies on the Right." As Obama threatens to jettison the issue of racial disparities from his "reform" proposals, Black lawmakers must reassess their loyalties.

The Black Caucus and Obama: One-Way Loyalty
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Obama has left the Black Caucus with little ground to stand on as they try to prop up his presidency."
Nobody wants President Obama to succeed more than the 42-member Congressional Black Caucus. History, itself, made it inevitable that masses of African Americans would feel a profoundly vested interest in the fortunes of any Black person that made it into the Oval Office, especially one who garnered about 19 of every 20 Black votes. Back in October of last year, it was Barack Obama's lobbying of individual Black members of Congress that caused the Caucus to shift from 21 to 18 opposed to the first bank bailout, to 31 to 8 in favor - and Obama hadn't even been elected yet. Despite Obama's dismissal of progressives on issues of peace and social justice - issues still dear to a core of Caucus members - Black lawmakers still feel that history demands their allegiance to this president.
Obama, however, takes such loyalties for granted, and has left the Black Caucus with little ground to stand on as they try to prop up his presidency. On health care, he has become a heavy burden for even the Black Caucus to bear, as he searches constantly for allies on the Right. Among the 64 progressives that vowed in August to vote against any health care bill that does not include a strong public option, 25 are Black. Under the leadership of California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Black Caucus issued a letter last week expressing "deep concern" that "a robust public option and myriad health disparity elimination provisions...may be stricken" in order to cut the cost of the legislation. Lee emerged from a conference call with the White House still insisting on a public option and emphasizing the need for measures to eliminate disparities in health care, through better data collection, greater diversity in the health care workforce, and more community health care workers. Yet the White House seems prepared to jettison health equity, to appease the Right. If that happens, the Congressional Black Caucus will utterly lose face.
"The Caucus has dedicated resources and prestige to documenting the huge racial disparities in health outcomes."
The Black Caucus has made the health equity issue its own. In recent years the Caucus has dedicated resources and prestige to documenting the huge racial disparities in health outcomes, and exploring ways to confront the problem. This April, the Caucus held a health equity forum, at which Georgia Congressman John Lewis spoke of the need to launch a "health equity movement" to ensure that the issue is "an integral component of health care reform." But the Caucus will be in no position to lead a "health equity movement" or anything else if it allows Obama to discard the equity issue without a fight.
As an institution, the Congressional Black Caucus has no choice but to resist the first Black president, or submit to voluntary irrelevance on an issue they have told their own constituents is vital to the community.
In their letter to the president, the Black lawmakers assured him they are "committed allies and partners in the fight to reform America's broken health care system." It is Obama's commitment that is so very much in question.
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: 20090909_gf_BCBHealthCare.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 11:52pm EDT