Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

A section of Black America has lost their minds – literally – unable to make contact with reality since November 2008. Despite the horrific and disproportionate damage suffered by Blacks in the Great Recession, a psychologically impaired group of African Americans believes they are better off than before the recession began, and that the future is bright. When Obama entered, their powers of reason exited.


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First Black Presidency Has Driven Many African Americans Insane

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The psychological harm done to Black people by Obama’s presidency may be even greater than the economic and political damage.”

When debating Black supporters of President Obama, there often comes a point where even the most fervent Obamites can find no coherent defense for the president’s pro-Wall Street and militaristic policies, when his refusal to even consider race-targeted solutions to race-based problems becomes simply indefensible. Typically, at that point, the Obama supporter will play the psychological card. The advent of the First Black President, they say, has been of incalculable psychological benefit to Black people, especially to Black children, who can now project themselves into an infinity of possibilities because a Black family is in the White House. Hallelujah!

This psychological argument is the Obamite’s last bastion of defense, especially the “What about the children?” trump card. Yet there is mounting and disturbing evidence that the psychological harm done to Black people by Obama’s presidency may be even greater than the economic and political damage. Barack Obama’s presidency is driving millions of African Americans insane – stone, cold out of their minds.

The insanity is documented in the Pew Research Center’s recent report, “How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America,” which shows that Black America, the group that has been the most damaged, by far, in the Great Recession, is also the most enthusiastic about the state of the economy. Twenty-five percent of Blacks tell pollsters that the economy is doing good or excellent; that’s almost twice as high as the number of whites that think so – even though Black unemployment is about twice that of whites. Eighty-one percent of Blacks say America is still a land of prosperity, while only 59 percent of whites think that way, even though Blacks make only 61 cents for every white dollar earned, the same as 30 years ago.

Nearly a third of Blacks say they are in better shape than before the recession began.”

A 53 percent Black majority think that the economy is starting to recover. Only 40 percent of whites hold that opinion. Yet, for the average Black or white working class person with a mortgage to pay, the situation is as bad as ever – and for Black people, that means roughly twice as bad. The Pew poll shows that 35 percent of Blacks report their homes are worth less than their mortgages, compared to just 18 percent for white people. Fifty-four percent of Blacks took a pay cut, worked reduced hours or were forced to take unpaid leave during the Great Recession. Only 37 percent of whites suffered such employment trauma, yet Blacks are consistently – and insanely – more optimistic about the future, and feel better about the present, than whites do. Nearly a third of Blacks say they are in better shape than before the recession began – a figure with no basis whatsoever in real life, and a perception that is at total war with reality. Everything is worse for every major Black demographic since December 2007. There is nothing to be upbeat about – except, for Obama supporters, the election 0f 2008. From that point on, a large segment of Black America became disconnected from reality, numb to their own pain and to the pain of their children. They have been singing zippidity-doo-dah while all around them Black America is in economic free-fall. These deluded Black folks have been rendered incompetent and politically useless to themselves and their families by the mere existence of a Black president. Obama's election was, besides the Great Recession itself, the worse thing that has happened to Black people in a long time.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20100707_gf_Insane.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 1:26pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Words hold meaning, but sometimes they mean different things in different cultures. A new study shows the difference in the understood meanings of commonly used words is big enough to adversely affect the SAT scores of Black students. It turns out that Blacks do better than whites on the hard questions involving big words – but not enough to even the odds.


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New Study Shows Racial Bias in SATs

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Black students did worse than whites on easier questions with more common words.”

Black students that take the verbal SAT do better than whites at answering hard questions, involving longer and less commonly used words. White students do better on easier questions that use common words. That may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s the conclusion of a new study, which tends to confirm research performed in 2003, that showed at least some parts of the SAT are biased against African Americans. The study could become the basis for legal action to outlaw SATs as racially discriminatory.

The latest study was conducted for the University of California system, and replicates most of the results of the 2003 study. Researchers concluded that Black students did worse than whites on easier questions with more common words because some of those words have different connotations in Black and white cultural settings. For example, simple words like “bad,” “tight” and “slick” carry different meanings in colloquial Black speech than in white usage. The SATs test the “white” meanings, putting Blacks at a disadvantage for the easy questions. In the smaller number of hard questions involving words that are not normally used in everyday, household speech, Blacks score higher than whites, because these learned words don’t have multiple or culture-based meanings. Apparently, Blacks did better at learning the uncommon vocabulary than whites. However, whites do so much better than Blacks on the easier questions, white overall SAT scores are much higher.

Blacks did better at learning the uncommon vocabulary than whites.”

The research measured the performance of Black and white students who were matched “by proficiency” – that is, based on their educational backgrounds and skills, the Blacks and whites should do about the same on the SATs. There was no indication that the test was biased against Latinos. But one of the researchers for the first, 2003 study found that some of the Black students would have scored about 100 points higher on the SAT if there had been more hard questions on the test.

Critics of the SAT and other “high stakes” tests have called the new research a “bombshell” that should move more institutions to drop SATs entirely. The College Board is virtually a creature of high stakes tests. The Board withheld data from the racial bias researchers for two years, and continues to claim the studies produced “inconsistent findings.” The Board blames racial discrepancies in testing on “educational inequities” in the United States, but claims the tests are fair.

The truth is, there is both vast “educational inequity” in the U.S. and built-in cultural/racial biases in the tests, themselves. High stakes testing is embedded in the institutionally racist walls that were massively erected in the wake of nominal integration of education, in order to preserve white privilege. But the stakes have gotten even higher. Standardized testing is now used as a weapon to set public education up for failure, as an institution, so that it can be privatized and remain racially exclusive. It is a new means to an old end.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at


Direct download: 20100707_gf_SATbias.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 12:57pm EDT

Hip-Hop and the “Anti-Blackness Antagonism”

by BAR columnist Jared A Ball, Ph.D.

Only two corporations own minimally 80%, and usually upwards of 95%, of all the songs making the top 20 spins list on radio.”

In our recent discussion with author Frank Wilderson about his new book Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonism he described a situation where a rabid philosophy of “Anti-Blackness” demands that the nation’s popular culture depict Black people as “non-human.” Not for mere material gain, as many suggest. It is beyond that. James Baldwin described this by saying that “I exist so that you can know that you are alive,” or, “when a White man calls me nigger I ask why he needs me to be one.” This is why Wilderson chooses the philosophical description of “antagonism” which means a permanency that cannot be dealt with using our current set of tools. This is not an issue of legislation, or some failing of an otherwise perfect democracy to be corrected by a vote. Wilderson is asking us think beyond the current world which has defined Blackness, permanently, as the slave, the “non-human,” whose presence can only be to serve and define the presence of others. We are, as Malcolm X said, “America’s problem.” But not simply as an issue of economic exploitation, or as Wilderson says, “a threat to some aspects of the world. We are a threat to the cohesion of the world itself.” And this is why he says antagonisms have no “conceptual resolution” in the way that conflicts do. And this is also why Frantz Fanon, quoting Aime Cesaire said that we must “begin to destroy the world.”

Wilderson’s examples include popular films such as Monster’s Ball and Antwone Fisher. But hip-hop and R&B lovers need not wait for the more intermittent film industry to see Wilderson’s points in action. Each week, and with a volume and popularity unmatched even by film, popular rap music becomes a bludgeon in the hands of this philosophy of “Anti-Blackness.” And were we to do Wilderson’s point justice more of us would highlight with more regularity the fact that the portrayal of Blackness in popular culture is not about making money, it is not simply a business decision and it is certainly not because it is what we want.

Popular rap music becomes a bludgeon in the hands of this philosophy of ‘Anti-Blackness.’”

Any given week only two corporations, Universal Music Group and Sony Music, own minimally 80%, and usually upwards of 95%, of all the songs making the top 20 spins list on radio. Through ownership and selective promotion via payment to radio stations these companies assure that their songs, and only their songs, are played as many as 20-40,000 times per song, per month. This means a UMG or Sony Music song is playing on commercial radio every minute of every hour of every single solitary day. This means no time for news and certainly no time for other songs. Look up the lyrics of any of these songs and the function they play is clear. This week’s most played song is by Sony artist Usher with lyrics that are only about a woman droppin it and poppin it on a dance floor. It was played 6859 times last week alone. And, again, this is not about money.

Reviewing the annual reports of these companies shows that in 2009 while Universal Music Group my be the largest music company in the world it accounted for only 14% of its parent company’s total revenues. The second largest, Sony Music, only accounted for 6% of the overall sales for Sony Corporation. And by the way, the third largest music company, Warner Music Group, is run by three private equity groups who, combined, manage funds of well over $110 billion. They don’t need popular culture for money. They need it to protect their sense of self and the just nature of their exploitation.

This is why we don’t see different kinds of films being promoted and why rap albums that have a different content are never on the radio. Mos Def has been in films that have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars around the world. But he is never on the radio. Common also has a budding movie career and has been an “Artist of the Year” award recipient but he too is rarely on the radioIt has nothing to do with quality of the art or what an audience is clamoring for. Audiences want what is promoted.Dead Prez has a new album out, and its free. But it also has songs calling for radical political organization and that encourage rappers to study “Malcolm, Garvey, Huey…” and, therefore, will never be on the radio. Not because people don’t want to hear it or won’t buy it but because culture truly in the hands of the enslaved means more Malcolms, Garveys, Hueys and Harriets, Assatas and Claudias. It means an end to the world as we know it and an end to the world as it is known to those espousing a prevailing “non-human… Anti-Blackness.”

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online go to

Jared Ball can be reached at:


Direct download: 20100707_jb_AntiBlack2.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 9:17am EDT