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

Hip-Hop and Forbes: Parallels of Image and Inequality

 

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

The racial disparities endemic to American life are reflected even in the pages of Forbes, the elite magazine. Hip hop is represented in Forbes’ list of top music money-makers, but with earnings far below pop artists. Similarly, the National Urban League’s annual report shows Black families continuing to earn far less than whites. Spotlighting high profile Blacks in entertainment – and politics – “masks Black suffering while enriching a mostly White, male elite.”

 

Hip-Hop and Forbes: Parallels of Image and Inequality

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

The Blackness on top only masks the deepening levels of Blackness at the bottom.”

The newly released Forbes list of Top 25 money earners in music and the newly released report from the National Urban League of Black inequality in the United States should be paired and used by even the most ardent lovers of hip-hop as proof of one very powerful lesson: The Blackness on top only masks the deepening levels of Blackness at the bottom. Hip-hop, the broader entertainment industry, and the presidency of Barack Obama all, as much as anything else in this country, splendidly demonstrate the point: Heavily promoted Blackness masks Black suffering while enriching a mostly White, male elite.

The Forbes list shows the problem in microcosm. The success of a few rappers hasn’t helped the rest of the hip-hop community any more than the election of the first Black president has helped Black people. And in neither case do the rewards of a select few compare to that which they create for their respective betters. In fact, in each case the respective betters are all mostly housed on Wall Street where each do better than their more highly promoted and meticulously selected blacker representatives. So, for instance, and according to Forbes, the highest earning rap group, the Black Eyed Peas, earned roughly $61 million over the last 12 months. But this is not even half what the top earning band made over that same last year; U2 pulled in about $195 million. And neither amount amounts to much compared to the revenues generated by the owner of the label that owns both of these groups. Vivendi, the parent company of Universal Music Group, was well over $40 billion in 2010.

The success of a few rappers hasn’t helped the rest of the hip-hop community any more than the election of the first Black president has helped Black people.”

As it is below, so it is above. In the macrocosm, according to a recent National Urban League study, the standard of living gap between White and Black Americans has actually worsened during the time of the Blackest face in the highest place, the Obama presidency. So just as the highest earning Black musicians bring in less than has about half of their richest counterparts, Black America’s standard of living is only about 70% that of Whites and dropping. And even when the highest earning rap group is often referred to as “multi-racial” and “multi-ethnic,” and even though it’s fronted by a White woman they still can’t close these divides! Even when the president is Black and fronted by White corporations Black inequality persists, and gets worse!

And for real? As big as hip-hop is globally none of the other 5 Black faces on that Forbes list are strictly hip-hop. Jay-Z and P. Diddy make more of their money through other ventures, Beyonce, Usher and Rihanna are pop singing, sometime actors. Hip-hop isn’t even on the list. It’s as broke as the communities that produced it. But just as it would take the accumulated sum of all those other 5 Black faces on that Forbes list to reach the top White group, the Urban League report shows that the accumulated sum of a Black president leaves Black people still having less than half the access to health care as Whites but still twice the unemployment. And all those top Black musicians still leaves the bulk in hip-hop needing equal pay and health care themselves, just ask the Grassroots Artist Movement (G.A.ME) who have been trying to organize around that for years.

But the real point is that in the end, as Jim Hightower pointed out recently, the biggest thieves walk off with it all with no questions asked, like the hedge fund manager who made $2.4 million an hour last year, or all those major corporations who pay no taxes while we are forced to watch schools close and teachers blamed. It is always a good exercise to compare popularly touted individual success stories with the conditions of the communities they’ve escaped.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Jared Ball. Online visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press) and can be found online atIMIXWHATILIKE.COM.

Direct download: 20110622_jb_ForbesHipHop.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

It’s been called a “Death Star,” the fastest runner in the global Race to the Bottom, a jobs killer, a big-box plantation. So, swallowing the U.S. Supreme Court, whole, was nothing for Wal-Mart. The trick is to always do evil in the biggest possible way. With 1.5 million female victims, the High Court decided the Wal-Mart employment discrimination case was “too large and too varied to handle in a single class action suit.”

 

Wal-Mart Swallows the Supreme Court

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The ruling further undercuts the potential for masses of workers, consumers and citizens to mount legal challenges to the most blatant corporate abuses through class action suits.”

There is no more dangerous family in America than the Waltons, the billionaires whose patriarch, Sam, incorporated his native sexism and racism into a business model that became Wal-Mart, the largest employer in the United States. Sam’s clan has conquered locally-based business economies in all but a few large metropolitan areas of the United States, and laid waste to small businesses in 15 nations around the globe. Now Wal-Mart has swallowed the U.S. Supreme Court. The corporation has discriminated against so many female employees in so many different categories jobs, the justices threw up their hands and declared, essentially, that the list of victims – 1.5 million of them – was too large and too varied to handle in a single class action suit.

Actually, the ruling was based on what Liza Featherstone – who has been covering the case for much of the ten years it took to get to the High Court – calls a “dry technicality.” But the ruling further undercuts the potential for masses of workers, consumers and citizens to mount legal challenges to the most blatant corporate abuses through class action suits. And when that option is closed, there’s not much left for common people to do but mount something very much resembling a social revolution – which is, of course, what must ultimately occur.

Wal-Mart has learned how to co-opt the Black misleadership class in the big cities.”

Sam Walton’s Frankenstein of a company is a pace-setter in the global race to the bottom, relentlessly depressing prices for those who produce things and wages for those who work. Wal-Mart has been described as an economic “Death Star” that sucks up everything in its path, creating a wasteland where nothing remains but itself. Studies have shown Wal-Martkills three local jobs for every two it creates. When Wal-Mart was forcing its way into Chicago in 2006, community groups and unions warned that neighborhood businesses would be decimated. Sure enough, two years later 82 of the 306 small businesses in the neighborhood were gone. The same is destined to happen in New York and Washington, DC, where Sam Walton’s barbarians are banging at the gates.

Wal-Mart has learned a lot since its beginnings in the Ozark Mountains region, where Black folks were scarce and bible-thumping whites respected authority and patriarchy. Although its Dixiecrat heart remains headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart has learned how to co-opt the Black misleadership class in the big cities. It buys them out, from purchasing local preachers to sponsoring Tavis Smiley to bankrolling the NAACP. In Chicago, Wal-Mart even hired its own street thugs to denounce the unions for demanding that it provide jobs at a living wage. Black folks need any kind of job, said the thugs. So did the paid-off preachers. Since Wal-Mart is notorious for paying not one cent more than necessary, we can assume that their Black apologists sold themselves cheaply.

The Walton Family Foundation was among the handful of right-wing moneybags that invented, out of whole clothe, a purportedly Black “movement” for private school vouchers, to drive a wedge between African Americans and teachers unions. A decade and a half later, substantial numbers of Blacks think teachers are the enemy and right-wing millionaires are their friends. They may not know it, but they bought that crap from Wal-Mart.

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: 20110622_gf_WalMart.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:07am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

More than ever, the United States is quick to charge other nations with abuse of political prisoners, and to urge indictment of heads of state for doing harm to their own citizens. Yet, the nation with the world’s highest incarceration rate and a justice system saturated with racism claims to have no political prisoners. In fact, scores have been held under cruel and unusual conditions for three and four decades.

 

Four Decades of Cruelty and Inhumanity to U.S. Political Prisoners

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The prison considers their politics to be their crime.”

For almost 40 years, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace have been in solitary confinement at Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison, in what is thought to be the longest period of enforced solitude in America’s vast prison gulag. Amnesty International says their treatment is “cruel and inhumane and a violation of the US’s obligations under international law.” Woodfox is now 64 years old, and Wallace is 69. They are two of the original Angola 3, convicted of the murder of a prison guard in 1972. The other member of the trio, Robert King, was released after 29 years in solitary confinement after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Under the conditions of solitary confinement, Woodfox and Wallace are restricted to their tiny cells for 23 hours a day. Three times a week, for an hour, they are allowed to exercise in an outdoor cage, if weather permits. For 40 years, they have not been allowed access to work or to education. And there has been no legitimate review of their cases in all that time.

There was never any physical evidence of the men’s guilt, only the very questionable testimony of other inmates, one of whom was bribed by officials and another of whom retracted his testimony. Woodfox and Wallace and King have been subjected to the greatest cruelties Louisiana has to offer because they became political prisoners after entering Angola, when they formed a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party. One prison official says flatly, that “there’s been no rehabilitation” from “practicing Black Pantherism.” In other words, the prison considers their politics to be their crime.

In the cases of those targeted by COINTELPRO, it was the federal government’s lawlessness that led to a lifetime in prison.”

Albert Woodfox’s conviction has twice been overturned by lower courts on the basis of racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct, inadequate defense and suppression of evidence. But the U.S. Court of Appeals decided that Woodfox’s fate was Louisiana’s business. Amnesty International demands only that the two elderly prisoners be released from solitary. Woodfox and Wallace, it should be pointed out, became political prisoners after initially being incarcerated for criminal offenses.

There are scores of U.S. political prisoners that have languished behind bars for three or four decades. The National Conference of Black Lawyers has been pressing for their outright release, especially those who were wrongfully imprisoned due to the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation, which sought to “neutralize” and destroy radical political activists and organizations – most notably the Black Panther Party. In the cases of those targeted by COINTELPRO, it was the federal government’s lawlessness that led to a lifetime in prison. Therefore, the U.S. government is obligated to free them. But the United States continues to deny that there is such a thing as a political prisoner within its borders. The Obama administration is always eager to claim that other countries are abusing their political prisoners. It also says it wants to play an active role in the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. But that will require the U.S. to answer charges that it imprisons people for political reasons, holds them under cruel and inhuman conditions, and that racism pervades its 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: 20110622_gf_PoliticalPrisoners.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:05am EDT