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

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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Democrats are panicked, with many congresspersons fleeing from identification with their party. The disarray is the inevitable blowback of Obama's ceaseless campaign to divorce Democrats from their longtime branding as the party of working people. The spiral began with Obama's championing of bank bailouts, beginning with the autumn 2008 meltdown. The public saw that, "when the crunch came, the bankers were relatively more influential among Democrats than Republicans."

 

The Democrats: Death by Branding, and the Brand is Betrayal

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"By the summer of 2009, a new brand of Republicans, the Tea Party, had cornered the huge public market on hatred of big business bailouts."

President Obama and his corporate partners have succeeded in de-branding the Democratic Party. More accurately, events since the autumn of 2008 have revealed to even the most loyal Democrats that Wall Street's near-total domination of U.S. politics includes the party many once thought of as representing the working man and woman. This illusion was shattered when candidate Barack Obama near-singlehandedly rescued George Bush's bank bailout from a second defeat in a week, with Democrats twice as much in favor as Republicans. The Congressional Black Caucus reversed its strong opposition to the bailout under intense individual pressure from Obama, as did lots of Democrats. From that moment on, Obama and the Democrats have been most closely associated with what became the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind: $12 to 14 trillion of the people's money to Wall Street. After that, it became impossible for the Democrats to maintain their brand as the party of working people.

The truth is, Wall Street has long been the sugar daddy to Democrats, just as Big Oil has historically bankrolled Republicans, although the alignment was never quite as stark as the public perception. The financial meltdown revealed - as catastrophes tend to do - the true nature of power relationships in society. Wall Street, even though wracked by terminal contradictions, was the supreme power in the United States - and, when the crunch came, the bankers were relatively more influential among Democrats than Republicans. How could Democrats, as a party, ever again brand the Republicans as the bulwark of Big Business, when their standard bearer was so proudly identified as the savior of the most hated plutocrats of all, the titans of Wall Street.

"The Democrats no longer have anything resembling a brand, at all."

Obama continued to eradicate the old Democratic branding, as president, immediately entering into backroom deals with the second most-hated tier of Big Business villains: the drug and insurance corporations. By the summer of 2009, a new brand of Republicans, the Tea Party, had cornered the huge public market on hatred of big business bailouts. Anti-bailout, anti-banker politics had become so popular, the Tea Partyers often found they could use the brand to mask the racism and virulent white nationalism that lies at the core of their "movement."

The Democrats no longer have anything resembling a brand, at all. Is it any wonder, then, that Democratic congresspersons are scrambling to disassociate themselves from the national party, two months from election day?

Far too late, after all the people's money has been siphoned off to the bankers, Obama now proposes a $50 billion scheme to create jobs and establish a government bank to finance rail and highway projects. The proposal is designed to sound like something out of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, although the actual outlines are a blur, as is typical with Obama. But it is too late. Through his own commission on the federal debt, Obama has invited the enemies of the social safety net to shrink government spending for people-oriented programs. He has consumed so much energy beating up on progressives in his own party, they no longer trust him to come through with a jobs program that measures up to the crisis. Most importantly, the people have lost faith in the Democrats as the party that stands up to the rich, for the simple reason that they don't. 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: 20100908_gf_DemsBrand.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:57am EDT

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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR columnist Jared Ball

Mulattoes are all the rage in some circles, for obvious presidential reasons.  Deep political and social meaning is invested in the proliferation of luminaries of the 'two-worlds" kind - although little in the way of insight seems to emanate from the mixed parentage arena. The opposite is true. The rapper Drake's case, in particular, "is used to deny, deflect, omit or obscure underlying tensions and exploitation more than as a way to explore, challenge or correct them.

 

The Most Visible Mulattoes: Drake and Obama Match Hip-Hop and Politics

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR columnist Jared Ball

"Obama, Drake and myself are not, as many like to say of us, 'parts of two worlds.'"

Lorraine Hansberry once cautioned against an artist seeking to ignore the specific nature of their racial categorization, history and experience.  Her point was that to dismiss that particularity with the narrow, anecdotal tale of one's own success was to damage the potential to interpret the reality of a broader community.  To separate the conditions of Black people broadly speaking from the individual success story of this or that individual is a grave mistake.  She said that, "To destroy the abstraction for the sake of the specific is in this case in error."  It continues in 2010 to happen regularly, where the individual experience is used to obscure the conditions of the rest and why I avoid public self-reference as much as possible.  But recently I must admit this has become more and more difficult.  Knowing a bit about me and my politics over the last couple of years I have received more questions from family, friends, colleagues, students and even strangers in the street about being a Black man whose mother is white or a Jew and it is all because of two popular abstractions, or as one author has recently called Barack Obama and the enormously popular rapper Drake, "two of the most visible mulattoes living and working today."  My short answer is always the same and is always a series of questions regarding how, if at all, these people advance political discussions or the conditions of the communities they are said to represent.  I now think my set of questions must expand and become more hostile.

Drake is the Canadian-born, former child actor and nephew of legendary funk bassist Larry Graham.  He is also now a rap superstar whose mother is a Jew and father a Black man, who of course, is described as absent with no context, or serious exploration.  He is just gone as are, apparently and pathologically, all Black fathers. Drake, who proudly proclaims his Judaism and openly hopes to portray Obama in film one day has also been anointed by establishment media as "Hip-Hop's New Religion," "The New Face of Hip-Hop," "The Bill Clinton of Rap," and even "Jew of the Year." But much like Obama's popularity and that of religion, imposed identity and even Bill Clinton, Drake's is similarly used to deny, deflect, omit or obscure underlying tensions and exploitation more than as a way to explore, challenge or correct them.

Instead much of the focus on Drake's Blackness or overall identity has been limited to his physical look, his mannerisms and his lyricism (or lack thereof).  None is directed at his politics.  Too many in Black America and hip-hop have lost this as the key variable in determining someone's overall identity.  Just as the mistake was made with Obama, a mistake for which we continue to suffer, Drake's popularity leads us no further towards interpreting our political world and, more importantly, seizing control over it.  Obama, Drake and myself are not, as many like to say of us, "parts of two worlds."  No.  We are at the nucleus of violently competing, antagonistic and woefully unequal political, racial and ethnic communities.  We who should be best able to shed important and radical light on these issues are often forced to deny them.

"Will his being a Jew and Black help advance the relationship of those two communities?"

So I now add a few more questions in response to those asking my opinion of Drake based on my own similar (yet quite different) background: "Does Drake's being a Jew further connect that community to its own radical traditions?  Do discussions of Drake's Judaism lead to increased socialist formation or criticism of Zionism as the Western European imperial project that Herzl himself claimed or the blunt instrument against the Jewish tendency toward Bolshevism as Winston Churchill said it was?  Drake says he is going to Israel soon, does this mean he is breaking the anti-apartheid boycott of performances there that many have accepted in alliance with Palestinian liberation?  Is that hip-hop? What happened to Sun City?  Does his Blackness mean an adherence to the long-standing Black radical position which holds that the cause of the Palestinians is ours? Will his being a Jew and Black help advance the relationship of those two communities? Do discussions of Drake's Blackness help us better understand the dynamics of the latest publications from the Nation of Islam or why Michael Eric Dyson felt compelled to follow his interview with Farrakhan by ones with critics Abraham Foxman and Stanley Crouch?"

This is what I understand Hansberry to have meant.  This is not about the particulars of Drake or Obama but the abstractions their examples seek to obscure.  This is about the political astuteness of a Black and/or hip-hop community and its spokespeople.  Not because we expect a young man with apparently no political experience to offer sound problem-solving solutions but because we are a community whose political acumen requires a price for our fandom.  Nowhere in the articles reviewed for this commentary, those in praise or in critique, those that focused on his Blackness or his Judaism, were these issues raised.  And this speaks volumes about where we are and why these issues persist as major problems for us today.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Jared Ball.  Online go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

Jared Ball can be reached via email at: freemixradio@gmail.com.



Direct download: 20100908_jb_Mulattoes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:30am EDT

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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Black luminaries like Tom Joyner, allied with huge media corporations, preach that Big Business interests and those of Black folks coincide - that there is no need for Internet neutrality. Glenn Beck, Tom Joyner and the NAACP's Ben Jealous talk the same garbage, for corporate rewards. If the Internet is the future, then the future is bleak for African Americans, whose digital "lines of defense are virtually nonexistent."

 

No One to Speak for Black Rights on the Internet

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

"Forty million Black people have no one fighting for them on the digital front lines."

There is not a single Black national media organization dedicated to fighting for net neutrality. Not one. It is as if 40 million African Americans have no interest in ensuring that the New Media that are swiftly coming to dominate our political, economic and social lives, operate in ways that serve the people with the least resources - meaning, masses of Black people - rather than giant corporations. Black people's most basic interests should dictate that African Americans lead the way in demanding a democratic Internet, to make sure that deeply ingrained patterns of wealth and privilege are not reproduced far into the digital future in Internet content and access. The Black stake in the Internet is both obvious and critical - as it is for Latinos, who at least have one organization, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, that is committed to net neutrality. Yet 40 million Black people have no one fighting for them on the digital front lines.

Why is Black America stumbling into the New Media future with literally no protection from corporate abusers? The answer is simple: we have been sold out yet again by the Black misleadership class, one of the most selfish and self-dealing gaggles of folks on earth.

Back in the days when cable television was the New Media, Black politicians and community groups responded to the corporate challenge by ensuring that companies were required to wire every neighborhood in a city or county. Black folks knew that, left to their own devices, the new cable companies would only wire the affluent sides of town, and leave the rest of us in a media desert. Thirty years later, the issues of content and access remain essentially the same, but the giant telecommunications companies have learned that the Black misleadership class can be easily bought.

"We have been sold out yet again by the Black misleadership class."

The turning point came in 2006, when millions in corporate bribes in the form of campaign contributions and so-called charity neutralized Black opposition to legislation that, as Bruce Dixon wrote at the time, would "turn the free and open Information Superhighway into a corporate toll road, and lift regulations that force cable and telephone companies to serve poor and minority areas."

In addition to the massive bribery of Black politicians and so-called civil rights organizations, the telecoms pressured thousands of their Black employees to staff phone banks, inundating Black office-holders with pleas on behalf of their bosses. Two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus betrayed their own people's vital communications interests, and organized Black resistance to the telecoms was wiped out.

Now another corporate offensive is underway, and Black lines of defense are virtually nonexistent. If you want to know where Tom Joyner and the NAACP's Ben Jealous all converge with the Tea Party, look to the ranks of those opposing Internet neutrality. The Black luminaries and misleaders are sipping cocktails with the Tea Partyers, at the digital corporate bar. 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: 20100908_gf_NetNeutrality.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:17am EDT