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

by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

Just as much of the southern "civil rights" movement collapsed after passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Black progressive politics all but evaporated with the election of Barack Obama. Now, as Democrats face disaster in midterm elections, the insane idea circulates that Obama has "only failed in delivering our utopia because he has been hampered by Republicans," conveniently forgetting Obama's own services to the corporate agenda.
 
And We Are Still Not Yet Saved
by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball
"The president has surrounded himself with so many reactionaries and centrists that it can hardly still be said to be a fight between him and someone else."
"In 2008 we changed the guard.  This year we must guard the change."  This, the Democratic Party-sponsored "call-to-arms" by civil rights veteran Reverend Joseph Lowery, is supposed to encourage young Black people back to the polls next month.  To protect the sanctity of that fight for the vote young people must blah, blah, blah.  This is part of the DNC's $3 million scramble for Black votes which includes these kinds of public service announcements, and outreach to Black bloggers, and is also what continues to highlight several severe problems for Black people.  The ideas that Obama is a changing of the guard or that the struggle for the right to vote was simply a struggle for the right to vote or that new media technology represent some revolutionary change in the way we disseminate information around which we then organize are all simply absurd.
The message taken from Reverend Lowery is one echoed a lot recently by defenders of the president.  It is an idea that he has only failed in delivering our utopia because he has been hampered by Republicans.  Given a complete pass are the conservative Democrats and the president himself who has surrounded himself with so many reactionaries and centrists that it can hardly still be said to be a fight between him and someone else.  How someone who demonstrates the kind of continuity of governance as has Obama is still called a "changing of the guard" is testimony to the power of propaganda.  But the other attendant myths are equally powerful and have a longer track record.  The myth of the vote itself being the sole or primary focus of the civil rights movement denies the subsequent struggles of Black Liberation, for which too many remain imprisoned by the way, as well as, the broader human rights movement signified by the kinds of grassroots movement histories so often omitted from the popular record.
"Black bloggers are being hired, bribed, or cajoled into cheerleading for a president rather than adequately informing their audiences."
For one instance is the work of Debbie Louis, And We Are Not Yet Saved: A History of the Movement as People, in which she recounts the absolute disillusionment among actual grassroots laborers within the Civil Rights Movement that accompanied the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.  For them the issue was never the vote in and of itself.  The vote was a means to an end we have subsequently been conditioned to ignore.  Louis describes the issue of voting as "unquestioningly righteous" and, therefore, easy to support.  But issues of genuine equality, abolition of poverty and White terrorism had become "too confusing and disturbing to follow."  For "most northern supporters" she writes, "the Voting Rights Act represented a welcomed solution to their dilemma."  Below the Mason-Dixon line, which Malcolm X still remains correct in calling the Canadian border, Louis explains that "With the Voting Rights Act, the southern movement dissolved."  As the movement dissolved in its place arose the myth that the struggle was for the right to vote as opposed to striving for the vote as a means to achieve power.  Instead, victories were claimed, funding dried up, people went home and little changed.  Vietnam became the focus, poverty and White terror remained largely unchecked.
And as for this nonsense about new media technology and the positive value of social media, we need to ask what good are more media if they too are forcibly cowed to elite financing?  Lowery's PSA is running as part of a $3 million funding blitz to Black media.  To my knowledge Black Agenda Report has received none of this and has not been invited to White House blogging summits for Black "journalists."  No, that is reserved for our political opposites some of whom have as their masthead that they are the voice of the "black bourgeoisie."  So just as was the case with the Civil Rights Movement, we of the Black Left have to ask, for whom is all this done?  In 2008 Obama's campaign ignored the Black press and denied it millions in ad revenue.  In 2010 Black bloggers are being targeted with the same old stale and empty rhetoric of voting for change and protecting the change we've achieved.  They are being hired, bribed, or cajoled into cheerleading for a president rather than adequately informing their audiences.  They once did it entirely for free and now are being offered crumbs to do the same.  How can it then be said that new media advance our ability to understand our reality and then organize it out of existence?
And yet, we are still not saved.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Jared Ball.  Online visit www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
Jared Ball can be reached via email at freemixradio@gmail.com.

Direct download: 20101020_jb_Obama2010.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:58am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

One should not overstretch the similarities between Black South Africa and Black America. But both communities have been in denial about their nominal leaders. "After all these years of believing that labor - Black labor - was on the inside of power in South Africa, the unionists of COSATU are forced to a different realization." The same realization looms for African Americans.
 
In Some Ways, ANC's South Africa Like Obama's USA
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"All we have done is to change the skin color of the driver."
In the words of Zwelinzima Vavi, the president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, "All we have done is to change the skin color of the driver, but in terms of economic policy the direction remains the same as the one the apartheid regime was traveling, which was inspired by Margaret Thatcher." Thatcher was, of course, the right-wing British Prime Minister who had a political love affair with U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Their policies, with minor alternations, remain in place in the United States and Britain, today.  And, according to union leader Zwelinzima Vavi, the same is true in South Africa, despite 16 years of nominal Black rule.
On the face of it, COSATU is in a much better position to influence South African government policy than unions in the United States. The struggle to overthrow apartheid was led by a triumvirate of the ANC - the African National Congress - COSATU and the South African Communist Party. With the Left comprising two legs of the stool, and the ruling ANC Party enjoying overwhelming majorities, one would think that the Left would be in an unchallenged position to transform South African society. Yet, again quoting trade union leader Vavi, "This road we have travelled has not only reproduced but deepened inequalities and unemployment.... Various measures indicate that income inequality has widened."
In the United States, income inequalities have been widening for the past 30 years. Republicans have held national power for 20 of those 30 years, but unions exercised virtually no strategic influence in the eight years of Democrat Bill Clinton's reign, when corporate free trade became law and Wall Street was liberated from the rule of law through deregulation. President Obama did not lift a finger for labor's number one priority: a bill that would have made it easier to replenish depleted union ranks. Instead, he bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $12 to 14 trillion.
"Real power in supposedly Black-ruled South Africa is rooted in the 'discredited Washington consensus.'"
Similarly, in South Africa, the Black government this summer deployed its full powers to blunt a nationwide strike of public sector workers struggling against growing inequalities. After all these years of believing that labor - Black labor - was on the inside of power in South Africa, the unionists of COSATU are forced to a different realization. The real power in supposedly Black-ruled South Africa is rooted in what Mr. Vavi calls the "discredited Washington consensus that is based on the supremacy of the markets and the limited role of the state" - the same equation of power that exists under Barack Obama's regime.
Of course, South Africa's Black government was chosen by a huge Black majority of the electorate, while the government in Washington merely has a Black chief executive elected mainly by white voters. But the connecting link is the longtime refusal among Blacks, in the face of the evidence, to admit that the Black person or persons in charge are not on their side. It has taken some very smart, sophisticated people in South Africa 16 years to figure that out. It will take a little longer than two years for Black folks to get wise to Barack Obama. But time is ticking on both sides of the Atlantic.
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: 20101020_gf_SAlikeUSA.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:17pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
It is a false love of Black people that compels so many African Americans to forgive Black notables of the crimes they commit against Black people. In terms of the national security state and drug enforcement, Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department is in many ways identical to its Republican predecessor. Yet, too many Black misleaders "want only to bask in the glow of the first Black Attorney General."
Racial Narcissism Vs. Love of Black People and Justice
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
"The Newburgh travesty of justice is near-identical to the Bush administration's successful prosecution of poor, harmless Black men in Miami, Florida - only the complexion of the Attorney General is different."
When a people are presented with new opportunities to make a choice - a choice they were never before permitted - there is the natural tendency to celebrate the new opportunity, while giving little thought and analysis to the actual substance of the choice at hand. Certainly, we have observed this phenomenon in the history of Black people in the United States. Having had so few choices in a racist society, we have reveled in those opportunities that came our way, sometimes to the detriment of serious contemplation of the consequences of those choices.
This axiom applies to individuals as well as groups. During World War One, the great scholar and leading figure in the recently formed NAACP, W.E.B. Dubois, was offered an officer's commission in U.S. military intelligence. The job was essentially to spy on other African Americans who might be collaborating with socialists or others to impede President Woodrow Wilson's national mobilization for war. Dubois decided to accept the commission, as did other Black notables of the day, arguing only about whether he would be a captain or a major.  The military later withdrew the intelligence job offer to Dubois, deciding that he was also politically suspect, but that was their decision. Dubois' overriding consideration in accepting the commission was that it was a new opportunity for the Negro, and such opportunities should not be passed up.
As it soon transpired, this World War One domestic spying apparatus became the direct precursor to the establishment of a national secret police network that would lead to generations of FBI assaults on civil liberties, the infamous COINTELPRO program and a wave of assassinations of Black leaders.
"Yet Black misleaders want only to bask in the glow of the first Black Attorney General."
Nearly 100 years later, the keynote speech at a reunion of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, was delivered by Eric Holder, the first Black Attorney General of the United States. It did not matter to the aging SNCC activists that Holder's Justice Department continues to build on the national security state that went into hyperdrive under George Bush. The SNCC veterans, at their North Carolina reunion earlier this year, were undeterred by Holder's Justice Department's campaign of entrapment against poor, Black Muslim men in Newburgh, New York, who posed no threat whatsoever to the security of the United States, but who now face life in prison for a terror plot conceived from beginning to end by a paid FBI operative. The Newburgh travesty of justice is near-identical to the Bush administration's successful prosecution of poor, harmless Black men in Miami, Florida - only the complexion of the Attorney General is different. Eric Holder's Justice Department has devised new and more dangerous ways of using grand juries to target peace activists.  And Holder promises to continue federal marijuana prosecutions in California, even if voters in that state decide to decriminalize pot next month. This, despite the huge role that drug arrest disparities play in the mass incarceration crisis that is destroying Black society. Yet Black misleaders want only to bask in the glow of the first Black Attorney General. For them, the impact of law enforcement on the quality of justice is less important than the opportunity to see a Black face in a previously all-white place. What we are seeing in this skin worship, is a shallow racial narcissism, rather than a genuine love for Black people.
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: 20101020_gf_HolderJustice.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:11pm EDT