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

When it comes to making President Obama accountable for his own wars, his own corporate pandering, his own trillion-dollar bank bailouts, the Black misleadership class becomes mute. But poor people's activists in New Orleans had no problem denouncing the president's housing policies, which ensure that "fat cats like Warren Buffett and huge private banking institutions will inherit the nation's public housing properties."
 
New Orleans Black Activists Denounce Obama and Shame Misleadership Class
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and trade union leaders denounced unemployment, home foreclosures and war in general, but did not dare to hold the corporate Democrat in the White House responsible for any of it."
This weekend saw two major Black demonstrations - one in Washington, one in Detroit - and a presidential speech at Xavier University, in New Orleans, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Yet a small, hardly noticed protest outside what used to be a public housing project in the St. Bernard section of New Orleans, was probably more relevant to the burning issues of today than the rallies held by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
A relatively small group of New Orleans activists gathered in the rain outside the project to protest the visit to the city by President Obama, whose housing policies spell doom for the entire concept of public housing in the United States. When Katrina struck, the Bush administration's Department of Housing was quick to call for demolition of all the public housing units in New Orleans, even though most of the buildings were salvageable. The residents were locked out, 3,000 of them, like hundreds of thousands of others across the country since the early Nineties, victims of corporate greed for the land the projects sit on and a racist prejudice that holds that Black and poor people are inherently dangerous when concentrated in one place. Katrina was simply a convenient excuse to get rid of public housing in New Orleans, where four major projects were demolished.
In New Orleans and elsewhere across the country, the poor who are evicted from public housing are expected to disperse, get out of the way of corporate development that serves the needs of other people, and be quiet. But this weekend, the former residents of the St. Bernard project refused to scatter and be silent.  They had earlier built a tent encampment nearby, called Survivors' Village. Now they denounced President Obama and his friend, Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire hedge fund baron who is developing the site of their former homes under a new name, Columbia Parc, for a new class of residents.
"The former residents of the St. Bernard project refused to scatter and be silent."
The Obama administration has taken the anti-public housing policies of Bush and previous presidents to a new level, with a plan to abandon any federal commitment to building and maintaining housing for the poor. Instead, fat cats like Warren Buffett and huge private banking institutions will inherit the nation's public housing properties. In New York City, the Citigroup bankers now own a piece of 13 public housing projects - a taste of what Obama has in store for what remains of America's public housing stock.
At the start of this commentary, I said that the St. Bernard neighborhood demonstration was "probably more relevant to the burning issues of today" than Al Sharpton's Washington rally and Jesse Jackson's Detroit event. That's because the demonstrators in New Orleans knew whose policies they were protesting against, and called out his name: President Obama. In Detroit and Washington, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and trade union leaders denounced unemployment, home foreclosures and war in general, but did not dare to hold the corporate Democrat in the White House responsible for any of it.
Obama's wars range from Asia and Africa to the streets of America's cities, whose schools and housing he is turning over to the likes of Warren Buffett, rich finance capitalists that have already exported all the jobs. The demonstrators in New Orleans understand that. What currently passes for Black leadership, does not.
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: 20100902_gf_Rallies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:51pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

In a whitewash of monumental proportions, the Obama administration refused to acknowledge vast racial disparities at every stage of the U.S. criminal justice system. "In sheer numbers, the American prison gulag dwarfs that of every other nation, and its racial composition is irrefutable proof that the American state functions as the principal enforcer of the color bar in U.S. society."
 
U.S. Prison Gulag vs. Global Human Rights
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"Obama pretends that there is no such thing as the American prison gulag."
The recent U.S. report to the United Nations Human Rights Council is an excellent guide to how President Obama manages to paper over and deny the existence of endemic and systematic racism in US. governmental policy. Simply put, Obama pretends that there is no such thing as the American prison gulag, a vast penal system that houses one out of every four incarcerated human beings on the planet - half of whom are Black. In sheer numbers, the American prison gulag dwarfs that of every other nation, and its racial composition is irrefutable proof that the American state functions as the principal enforcer of the color bar in U.S. society. Yet the administration's report to the UN, although admitting the existence of racial discrimination in American life, fails to acknowledge the vast racial disparities that pervade every aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system.
The American Civil Liberties Union praises the Obama administration for, in their words, "its willingness to recommit to engagement on international human rights" - but they are far too kind. The relentless pressures of criminal justice agencies on Black America over the last 40 years poisons every arena of Black life, stigmatizing African Americans as a group and creating what Michelle Alexander has called a New Jim Crow caste system. The Black prison gulag is the mother of all domestic American human rights violations, an ongoing crime against an entire people. If there is any aspect of human rights for which the national government must accept full responsibility, it is criminal justice - the state exercising its monopoly on the power to confine or even kill other human beings. President Obama wants us, and the international community, to ignore the human rights elephant sitting in chains in the middle of the room. The administration's neglect of America's unique status as the world's number one incarceration state, makes its report to the United Nations an insult to humanity, and a lie.
"The administration's report to the UN fails to acknowledge the vast racial disparities that pervade every aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system."
The report reflects Barack Obama's habitual downplaying of race and racism. But his effort to join the UN Human Rights Council, for which the ACLU has so much praise, is a complex political maneuver. George Bush rejected membership in the Council, pandering to his white nationalist constituency, which abhors the very idea of the United States subjecting itself to the scrutiny of people of color. One of the main reasons corporate America rallied to Obama's candidacy was big business's desire to rework America's image in the world, to at least cosmetically turn a new page and leave the smell of Bush behind. But Obama wound up sabotaging the Second World Conference on Racism in 2009, in Geneva, under Israeli pressure, just as Bush did with the first conference, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. Immediately, Obama began making overtures to the UN Human Rights Council, in a bid to repair the ill feeling among non-white nations. He is anxious for the U.S. to gain a seat in an international  forum, from which Americans can give speeches on human rights, while continuing to violate international law every time it suits their interests.
This administration specializes in propaganda, not substance. So it is fitting that the first report the Obama team submits to the UN Human Rights Council is a whitewash of America's massive violations of Black people's rights through the U.S. criminal justice system.
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: 20100902_gf_Gulag.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:47pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR columnist Jared Ball
A stroll through Al Sharpton's recent MLK-themed demonstration, in Washington, DC, was anything but a walk down memory lane. Gone were the principled voices of yesterday. "None were there to challenge Obama, whose presidency has so far been an absolute reversal of any of King's most pronounced political concerns; an end to poverty, war and capitalism as an unchecked economic system."
 
Reclaiming the Dream and Brand Obama
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR columnist Jared Ball
"Dr. King's dream has by now become twisted, distorted and distilled through brand Obama."
On my way back last week from a visit with family and friends in Panama a cab driver pulled along side me at the airport.  He called out to me as an American.  Once he had my attention he slid his finger across his throat and said, "America es cancelado."  America is cancelled.  I smiled as he drove off.  My wife was furious.  For her it was more personal, how dare someone insult her husband and claim to speak for all her people.  For me it was first a lesson not to ever again so carelessly travel with my old navy sea bag, no matter how practical that thing is, and more importantly that his anger was ultimately righteous.  It was a nice sign that even under Brand Obama people's sense of sanity is still there.  And it was a sign I did not see enough of back here at this weekend's Washington, D.C. march to "Reclaim the Dream."
The Panamanian cabbie, at least in my mind, was responding to a centuries old relationship of U.S. dominance which meant that up to even just ten years ago no Panamanian could enter a region of their own land renamed the "Canal Zone."  Certainly everyone there remembers the invasion of 1989 and the death of the land-reformist president Omar Torrijos, who himself once said that he "did not want to go into history" but that he only wanted to "go into the Canal Zone."  But here, and at this rally, not many seemed to remember the King they claimed to reclaim nor the policies and behavior of the current president whose own reclamation they openly also marched. From the pulpit to the shop floor all were on hand to say somehow that the policies to which Obama is committed are precisely those for which Martin Luther King lived, fought and was killed.
Dr. King's dream, which he himself later abandoned as a "nightmare," has by now become twisted, distorted and distilled through brand Obama.  This is by acknowledged design, as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has said himself.  A sentiment repeated againthis week when Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett said that Michelle Obama would not be available to work on the issue of rape in the Congo because it is, "not her brand."  No.  Brand Obama cannot appear concerned for anyone with whom he is so often immediately identified.  No Black people, no Africans and nothing approaching real progressivism.
"No one I spoke with at the rally said they were there to challenge Obama to practice the politics of Dr. King."
So while King left 1963 only to increase his calls for and action toward an end to militarization, capitalism and White supremacy Obama's brand is able to assume this political trajectory while actually worsening each of these "evil triplets" as King called them. Brand Obama has, in the words of one commentator, confused the fact that when honestly polled his "positions are inversely proportional to his popularity."  And this is especially so in Black America.  His positions on health care, war, poverty, racism, incarceration and reparations all run counter to why some said they rallied this weekend and yet the brand convinces so many of the opposite.  From preachers to union workers to students no one I spoke with at the rally said they were there to challenge Obama to practice the politics of Dr. King.  None were there to challenge Obama whose presidency has so far been an absolute reversal of any of King's most pronounced political concerns; an end to poverty, war and capitalism as an unchecked economic system.  All were there to protect Obama against the Tea Party or to support some amorphous and undefined concept of "justice."  In fact, when asked to define her use of the term "progress" one participant told me that poverty in 2010 is a "luxury" compared to 1963.
This march to "reclaim the dream" fell to the powerful brand of Obama.  It was a regressive step back away from the righteous critique of the original March on Washington offered by Malcolm X.  It was a regressive step back away from the progressive radicalism adopted by King post-1963 including his own belated arrival to an old struggle to move the fight beyond a sole focus on domestic civil rights and on to an international struggle for human rights.
When my comrade said that, "Dr. and Mrs. King would not have been welcome at either rally" this weekend she hit that proverbial nail on the head.  Their focus on poverty, human rights and peace make them both pariahs in either camp, because the Black liberal is ultimately no better than a White reactionary.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Jared Ball.  For more visit BlackAgendaReport.com.
Jared Ball can be reached via email at: jared.ball@morgan.edu.

Direct download: 20100902_jb_DCMarch.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:37pm EDT