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

If ever there were a Black leader whose political motivations and inclinations could be predicted, it was MLK, one of the most documented leaders in American history. His steadfast, coherent, courageous positions on issues of peace and social justice remained consistent even as they evolved. If he were alive, Dr. King “would not be erecting a protective barrier around Barack Obama, the First Black President of the United States, but would instead confront him.”

 

What Would MLK DO, in 2011?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

He would not shrink from denouncing and opposing Obama’s wars.”

What would Dr. King do? It’s that time of year, and always a good time to ask that question. We can begin to answer it by saying what the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated on April 4, 1968 would NOT be doing: he would not be erecting a protective barrier around Barack Obama, the First Black President of the United States, but would instead confront him. He would not shrink from denouncing and opposing Obama’s wars. Dr. King would never passively tolerate the wholesale consumption of the American state by Wall Street. He would not have stood by for four decades while the United States created a system of mass Black incarceration that has now been dubbed the New Jim Crow. And we know he would have found it impossible to sit still while George Bush and then Barack Obama turned public education into a stifling exercise in learning-for-the-test.

Why are we see confident about how Dr. King would respond to contemporary crises if he were alive, today? Because King left a great bounty of documentation, enough writings, speeches, papers, and interviews to make Confucius envious.

Therefore, we have every reason to believe that Dr. King would vigorously oppose President Obama’s war budgets, the biggest in American history. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift,” said Dr. King, “is approaching spiritual doom.” But King was concerned about bread and butter issues as well. “One of the greatest casualties of the war in Vietnam is the Great Society,” which the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Leader said was “shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam.

King left a great bounty of documentation, enough writings, speeches, papers, and interviews to make Confucius envious.”

Dr. King would have been unceasing in his opposition to mass Black incarceration. In early 1968, King declared: “It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.”

He would have been moved to action by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision allowing corporations to be treated as having the same rights of persons. “Property,” said Dr. King, “is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It is not man.”

Plus, we know MLK was a Democratic socialist, because he said so.

Dr. King, the intellectual, the philosopher, made himself clear on the value and uses of education back in 1947, when he was a student at Morehouse College, in Atlanta. “The function of education,” said the very young man, “is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” It is inconceivable that King would have permitted No Child Left Behind and its destructive derivatives to wreck the learning experiences of the nation's children without a fight.

Dr. King would actively oppose Barack Obama's policies because, as he said: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

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: 20110112_gf_MLK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:23am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

When the rulers of the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world” warn folks to tone down the rhetoric, it’s both a joke and a threat. For surely the hyper-violent powers-that-be will find ways to turn their warnings into real harm. “The militaristic and imperial American state fosters a mass culture of violence that saturates the society at large.”

 

America: Violent to the Bone

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

American class and racial structures require unending applications of violence in order to sustain the prevailing social and economic order.”

The gruesome murders in Tucson, have prompted a huge chorus of establishment voices to call for a ratcheting down of political rhetoric, lest the more mentally unbalanced among us become unhinged, as is thought to have been the case with the Arizona shooter. At times like these, it is considered unseemly to put such tragedies into a larger context of American violence – a bit like going to a funeral and mentioning that lots of people died on the same day as the dearly departed – which would be a crude and boorish thing to do. The problem is, many of the mourners in this virtual national funeral procession have already brought their own agendas to the sad occasion. The rich and powerful believe it is their privilege to preach over the bodies, in order to properly spin the victims into the hereafter. And that means that the rest of us must also treat the sad occasion as a political event. And so, I will.

Lots of people do die from the violence that America’s political system engenders, tens of thousands every year here at home, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, around the world. The U.S. is uniquely violent among the rich nations of the planet, and that is because of its fundamental political history and social and economic arrangements. American class and racial structures are not only the fruits of great historical crimes of horrific violence, they also require unending applications of violence in order to sustain the prevailing social and economic order.

We must become fixated on violence, hyper-conscious of the violence that is inflicted on our own communities and on peoples and nations around the planet.”

Therefore, when those who have grown rich from organized violence, who are the same people who have made America, in Dr. Martin Luther King's words, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, today,” start talking about ratcheting down the rhetoric so as not to encourage violence, it is time for us to do the opposite. We must becomefixated on violence, hyper-conscious of the violence that is inflicted on our own communities and on peoples and nations around the planet, by the people who benefit from what Dr. King called the triple evils: racism, militarism, and materialism. Put in other terms, that's white supremacy, U.S. imperialism, and rule of the rich.

Those who profit from the existence of the triple evils are the fountainheads of the great violence that afflicts our nation and world. It is no wonder that the most racist political organizations, like the Tea Party, are also the greatest fomenters of domestic violence. They are political heirs to the slave master, who could not have existed without daily application of the most extreme violence to the slave. The militaristic and imperial American state fosters a mass culture of violence that saturates the society at large, inculcating disrespect for human life in general and absolute contempt for the lives of non-Europeans the world over. And the values of the rich – most especially the Wall Streeters that exercise complete hegemony over the machinery of government and the communications apparatus – are those of the mass killer, because the rich few can only remain in power by being prepared to murder the many who have nothing.

So, by all means, let's examine violence in – and from – America. And then let's ratchet up the intensity of struggle against the real culprits who profit from a culture of violence.

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: 20110112_gf_ViolenceInAmerica.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:52am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

Hip-hop flourishes overseas while becoming grotesque and underdeveloped at home. In foreign lands, hip-hop is seen as part of the American brand, along with Barack Obama. But domestically, as the product of a “subnation” within the U.S., real hip hop is suppressed, just as are the political institutions of its creators. Black America must develop and reclaim its own brands on the cultural and political levels.

 

Hip-Hop v. The U.S.? Brand Wars!

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR editor and columnist Jared A. Ball

This nation must brand its most oppressed as both deserving of that suffering but also able to overcome it.”

A recently published article reviewing academic research of nation branding got me thinking about last week’s statement from Chuck D of the legendary rap group Public Enemy. On the one hand this article, by Nadia Kaneva, describes at least some work whose focus is the ways in which nations are branded and for what purposes. She describes competing views of nation branding, various definitions and claims of particular impact, but it is clear that at least some in the world of high finance and geo-political strategy consider nation branding as necessary to the process of “social engineering,” managing populations and exerting a political and ideological dominance over the world.

On the other hand Chuck D’s concerns over hip-hop’s condition or place in the world speak to Kaneva’s own worries over the future direction of nation branding research. For Chuck represents what she describes as the “blind spot” in such research that avoids questions of how nation branding specifically impacts “subnational and transnational identities.” The hip-hop nation, and certainly the more real Black and Brown nation(s) that produce it, are indeed sub and transnational, and are impacted in specific – horrific – ways.

Of course brands aren’t meant to convey anything real. Brands are mirages meant to convey that which its producers think will yield them the most benefit, economically or politically. And nobody brands like the United States. And especially since 2008’s “Brand of the Year” became president the U.S. has for two years been named the world leader in “global image.” In fact, as a leading public affairs brand researcher says, 2009 was a year in which we “saw the United States make… a significant leap in its standing to the top nation spurred by the election of President Obama.” Its “reputation” in the world had been renewed, restored to its proper branded position as “a beacon of democracy” and free-trade business opportunity.

Chuck D explains that, while we have been kept from developing our national talents the cultural legacy has been taken up overseas.”

Chuck D’s concerns over the condition of hip-hop worldwide is also an issue of competing brands. And as he says, “never before have so many been pimped by so few.” He points out that the hip-hop community in the United States has lost is prominence globally. Among his many concerns is that corporate dominance over the cultural expression and ownership of mass media have forced hip-hop nation founders to now be last among those in the world who perform its core elements. Because of this nation’s ability and need to brand itself as quintessential freedom it must brand its most oppressed as both deserving of that suffering but also able to overcome it.

So simultaneously, for instance, Black America can be said to have reached its highest level of long-term unemployment since 1948 and still be able to produce a president and the famous rappers all of whom can be exported to the world as proof of this nation’s brand. Regarding the hip-hop nation, Chuck D explains, while we have been kept from developing our national talents the cultural legacy has been taken up overseas. There rappers are, he says, rhyming in “three languages,” which has “created super rappers to move the crowd with intensity and passion.” But the “arrogant” American, Chuck D continues, “comes in blackface.”

Reasons for this he summarizes as a “lack of support from local radio, television and community in the United States,” which prevents “’local’ acts [from thriving] in their own radius [and] has killed the ability to connect and grow into a proper development as a performer, entertainer and artist.” This is, of course, the inevitable outcome within the confines of a subnation held in hostility. As Kaneva’s article points out, “every nation is a brand, and most nations have their brand made for them.” This imposed condition requires an equally imposed brand. In this case it is a brand that of necessity protects against the most likely group historically to have its cultural expression reflect its genuine condition.

Popular rap music is the perfect low-cultural brand equivalent to the higher cultural product that is brand Obama. Both demonstrate their restorative capacity for the country’s global image. And, therefore, the responses must be similar. Just as hip-hop must from within develop its own brand that will topple that which has been created for it by a hostile and dominant nation so too must we develop from within that which will re-brand what is real political struggle, movement and leadership.

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

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

 

Direct download: 20110112_jb_HipHopBrandHip.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EDT