Wed, 9 June 2010
Wed, 9 June 2010
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Terrified of offending the Israel lobby, Black congresspersons routinely vote for anti-Palestinian resolutions as “if they represented some Arab-hating constituency in Utah.” Two Black Representatives – Barbara Lee (CA) and Keith Ellison (MN) – last week dared to ask President Obama to support lifting Israel's blockade of Gaza and an investigation into last week's savage attack on the aid flotilla – but were careful to note they did not speak for the Congressional Black Caucus as a body.
Two Black Caucus Members Ask Gaza Murder Probe, the Rest are Silent
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“The relentless pressures of the Israel lobby have succeeded in causing most Black elected officials to cower in fear of being labeled anti-Israel.”
Every objective observer of Black American grassroots political sentiment recognizes that African Americans are the most inclined of any major demographic group to empathize with the plight of Palestinians. It is an historic and contemporary fact that is consistent with Black America’s special identification with the downtrodden and dispossessed of the world. This relative pro-Palestinian bent in the Black American worldview flows from obvious and formative facts of the Black experience in the United States, which has led Black people to put the highest premium on social justice. That’s why Blacks can sing about Moses and the Promised Land all day long on Sunday, and still feel that the people currently in charge in Israel are on the wrong side of justice.
Since at least the mid-Sixties, many Jewish organizations have treated Black sympathies for the Palestinian people as rank anti-Semitism of the kind Jews experienced at the hands of whites. In some Jewish circles it is accepted as a truism that that Blacks are anti-Semitic. We see such perceptions, today, in the willingness of some to believe that even Barack Obama is somehow out to get Israel, despite his groveling support of the Israeli regime’s barbaric behavior since his election.
Over the years, the relentless pressures of the Israel lobby have succeeded in causing most Black elected officials to cower in fear of being labeled anti-Israel. Black officeholders now typically embark on periodic, pitiful pilgrimages to the Jewish state, bowing symbolically to Jerusalem, so as not to be marked as sympathetic to Palestinians. And on the floor of the U.S. Congress, the Black Caucus shames itself and misrepresents its constituents by endorsing every fawning resolution promulgated by Israel’s operatives in the United States.
“Even this exceedingly mild letter is apparently too risky for the rest of the 42-member Black Caucus to sign.”
Two Black congresspersons – Barbara Lee, of California, the Caucus chair, and Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim members of the House – recently wrote a letter to President Obama, saying they were “deeply troubled by the military action aboard the aid flotilla en route to Gaza...resulting in the death of nine civilians, including one American.” Representatives Lee and Ellison requested that Obama “support a thorough investigation” and that he “call for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.”
Yet even this exceedingly mild letter is apparently too risky for the rest of the 42-member Black Caucus to sign.
Back in January of 2009, as Israel was massacring more than 1,300 Palestinian men, women and children, and President-elect Obama stood shamefully silent, only two Black Caucus members – Maxine Waters of California and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin – had the courage to vote against a House resolution vilifying the Palestinian victims. Barbara Lee and Keith Ellison were among the seven members that sought “neutral” ground by simply voting “present,” while the bulk of the Black Caucus behaved as if they represented some Arab-hating constituency in Utah. Clearly, the Black Caucus is collectively terrified of the Israel lobby. The bigger the Black Caucus gets, the less representative it becomes of Black America and its desire for global social justice. But that's alright – Tel Aviv is pleased. 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.
Wed, 9 June 2010
by Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.
Washington, DC, like other majority-Black metropolises, squeezes African Americans out of its borders through gentrification, while trapping growing proportions of those who remain in a rapacious criminal justice system. Activists charge that DC’s policy of hiring more white officers from surrounding states amounts to “coon hunting” in the nation’s capital.
South Africa On the Potomac: Washington, D.C. and Black Incarceration
by BAR columnist Jared A. Ball, Ph.D.
“DC is losing 2500 or so Black residents a year as gentrification pushes them out of the city proper.”
During a speech aired on Memorial Day this year Noam Chomsky said, “The drug war is used as a pretext to drive the superfluous population, mostly black, back to the prisons, also providing a new supply of prison labor in state and private prisons, much of it in violation of international labor conventions. In fact, for many African Americans, since they were exported to the colonies, life has scarcely escaped the bonds of slavery, or sometimes worse.” This week I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Kwasi Seitu, a veteran activist with decades-long experience in organizing Black resistance to police brutality and what is often a malicious judicial system. Mr. Seitu has for many years now suffered first-hand and worked against the violently rapacious nature of the system described by Chomsky as “sometimes worse” than slavery. From Mississippi to where he now resides in Washington, D.C., Seitu has been on the front lines of this on-going tyrannical relationship between the Black community and the nation’s institutions.
In Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, also referred to as the “last colony,” or a “a piece of South Africa on the Potomac,” Mr. Seitu describes the horrific procession of “hundreds of Black people” who “pass through the dungeons of D.C. Superior Court every single day.” Most of these women and men are there for non-violent drug offenses which Seitu argues is also part of a police “quota system” which rewards officers for higher numbers of arrests. The quality or just nature of those arrests is not the issue, just the numbers of Black bodies who will pass through the city’s jails. Part of the political economy of this streets-to-jail pipeline is, as Seitu says, the justification of the publicly-funded policing and incarceration budget which puts hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. But it is also, as Chomsky alluded to, an issue of “superfluous” labor, or an issue of what to do with those you cannot or will not employ. As recently as 2006 the employment rate for Black adults in Washington, D.C. was only 51% making their unemployment rate the highest in the world.
“It is an issue of what to do with those you cannot or will not employ.”
Washington, D.C. is now 52% Black and losing 2500 or so Black residents a year as gentrification pushes them out of the city proper. However, according to Seitu, this has not changed the complexion of those being targeted by the various police agencies in the city. DC police chief Cathy Lanier has had her attempts at instituting community check points ruled unconstitutional and her “All Hands on Deck” policy determined to be a violation of police union workloads. But despite the setbacks Lanier’s policies of hyper-policing remain largely intact which means more of the same. Seitu argues that these tactics, coupled with Lanier’s hiring of more white officers from surrounding states, amounts to the tradition of “coon hunting” and will likely result in more Black women and men being unnecessarily incarcerated or worse still killed by police.
Of course, many of these issues have their roots in the ignoble beginnings of this nation’s relationship with African people. Others point more recently to this as an issue of DC’s lack of statehood which means, in this case, that DC Superior Court, despite the name, is a federal court with judges and prosecutors appointed rather than elected by city residents. In either case the issues against which Seitu and others struggle is the tip of a racist economic order that suffers a kind of inattention in this country that is simply inexcusable. All those who prefer the sexier issues of Israel and Palestine or Afghanistan and Pakistan will see no improvement in those issues while similar orders are in place and in practice right here at home.
For Black Agenda Radio I’m Jared Ball. Online go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com