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

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

Young white demonstrators should be advised not to complain of being “enslaved” to student loans and such, any more than they would speak of a “Holocaust” of unemployment. Such metaphors of slavery are more than merely inaccurate – they may reveal dark facts about the speaker. But privilege does not brook criticism from the “quarters.” “Former Black Liberation Army soldier Asanti Alston recalled his friend’s experience at an occupation of being shouted down as ‘divisive’ for trying to focus attention on Black poverty and mass incarceration.” Privilege wants the conversation all to itself, like Empire.

 

Occupy These…! Slavery and Abuse by Metaphor

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

The use of Black suffering as a mechanism of White transcendence is as old as race itself.”

Of these recent occupations Bryan Bullock asked recently, “if Wall Street didn’t get a bailout, would there have been a bailout for the hood?” And Kenyon Farrow described the “race problem” of these occupations and responded quite critically to the repeated use by White occupationists of the metaphor of slavery. Both have added themselves to a growing number of those whose views of these occupations are justifiably cynical. When Farrow described this abuse by metaphor he was also responding to a long history of literal Black suffering becoming metaphorical propaganda for White self-interest. So yes, violence, as H. Rap Brown once said, may indeed be “as American as cherry pie,” but the use of Black suffering as a mechanism of White transcendence is as old as race itself and even predates the America for whom violence would become so essential.

Hearing of and seeing the White-held signs calling for an end of “our” enslavement by Wall Street is, in part, why more and more are looking to challenge the language and the focus of these White Occupy Wall Streeters. The metaphor of an often misused metaphor demands it. As Patricia Bradley has documented, this metaphor of slavery became the leading tool of propaganda used by the White middle and upper classes to shape the public opinion of White colonists against England. In one fell swoop their propaganda worked to aid in solidifying the status of enslavement to only Black people while only publicly discussing slavery as something forced upon themselves by the British. Chief among these propagandists was the slave-owning Samuel Adams whose image, now cleansed with the help of a beer brand, brings new levels of appreciation for the Dave Chapelle Samuel Jackson beer parody. “Yes they deserve to die! And I hope they burn in hell!”

White middle-class settlers today decry their own semi-step downward toward those darker people they themselves enslave and with whom they want nothing to do.”

So the growing number of darker critical voices of the occupations have centuries of metaphorical abuse to add to the physical and are correctly noting the similarities. During his recent talk at Hampshire College former Black Liberation Army soldier Asanti Alston recalled his friend’s experience at an occupation of being shouted down as “divisive” for trying to focus attention on Black poverty and mass incarceration. “Empire gets defensive,” he said, it has no time for critiques of racism. It is this kind of increasing tension being reported in smaller darker circles that reminds of this history of abuse by metaphor. White colonists not wanting to be reduced to the conditions of those they themselves enslaved adopted the denunciations of slavery by the British in precisely the same way White middle-class settlers today decry their own semi-step downward toward those darker people they themselves enslave and with whom they want nothing to do. They don’t want to end slavery either, they just don’t want to be forced any closer to those truly defined, permanently, as the real enslaved.

So, in response, there are those now calling for an Occupy the Hood movement while others define their efforts as Hip-Hop Occupies in a Rise to Decolonize. In fact, this group’s goal is to “embrace the term ‘occupation’ as it has been reclaimed by militant workers of color from Latin America (Oaxaca, Buenos Aires, South Korea, China, among other places) to describe their occupation of factories, schools and neighborhoods, to strike back against oppressive forces.” Further, the Hip-Hop Occupies collective says that, “we fully endorse the ‘Decolonize’ framework as a necessary expansion…” That, “In the face of brutality in the legacy of capitalism, a system that relied upon the enslavement of African and Caribbean peoples, the genocide and displacement of Indigenous Peoples, and the violent seizure of lands for colonial profit, we embody a vision of intersectional social justice and self-determination.”

These are part, like the work of the Black Is Back Coalition, of still-not-dead embers of a global majority’s non-alignment with even liberal elements of the West. These are the signs of what may yet prove to be the most (only?) redeeming value of these occupations; a radical, global and organized response led by the colonized to what can only be the incompleteness of “movements” led by Whites and liberals. For as Alston also said, this “monster” called the “American way” and “democracy” must fall. And its metaphors too.

For Black Agenda Radio I’m Jared Ball. On the web go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore and is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press). He can be found online at: IMIXWHATILIKE.COM.

Direct download: 20111102_jb_OWS.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:49am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Western mercenaries are flocking to Libya, to protect the hordes of western businessmen that have descended on the country. An historic crime becomes a “gold rush” for those that destroyed the society’s infrastructure and covet her resources. “Libya’s nominal new rulers in the Transitional National Council are in a rush to sell off the nation's birthright before they've even got it in their hands.”

 

Western Mercenaries and Corporations Pouring Into Libya

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The French made sure they were first in line to get a piece of the spoils.”

Western security firms – a polite term for mercenary outfits – are cramming planes into Libya to make the country safe for an invasion of western capitalists, the real beneficiaries of NATO’s war. So frenzied is the crush of war capitalists and their hired gunmen seeking to cash in on the Libyan catastrophe, the New York Times tell us a $5 cab ride from Tripoli’s airport to downtown hotels now costs $800. The head of the U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce calls it a “gold rush,” as officials of the government established by force of NATO airpower lay out the red carpet for the foreign hordes. Libya’s nominal new rulers in the Transitional National Council are in a rush to sell off the nation's birthright before they've even got it in their hands.

The huge influx of big, burley western mercenaries is most ironic, since the so-called rebels’ principal call to arms was that Moammar Gaddafi was maintained in power by paid gunmen from sub-Saharan Africa. They used the false specter of a black mercenary presence to turn the rebellion into a race war that claimed the lives of untold thousands of black Libyans and immigrant workers – an ethnic cleansing that no doubt still unfolds and will forever mark the new regime as racist to its core. That same regime now embraces a real world invasion of Euro-American mercenaries. White and money, indeed, makes right, in the new Libya.

The bodies of the dead had not yet been buried in Sirte, the seaside city virtually leveled by months of NATO bombing – and where all of the citizens’ vehicles were stolen by riotous rebel gunmen – before trade delegations from France and Britain began descending on Tripoli. The French, who were so eager to be first in aggressive, unprovoked war, made sure they were also first in line to get a piece of the spoils. A delegation of businessmen from 80 French companies arrived a whole week before their Libyan hosts’ gunmen butchered Col. Gaddafi and scores of other prisoners. We’re sure the French raised glasses of champagne to mark the occasion.

White and money, indeed, makes right, in the new Libya.”

Of course, foreigners and their money were all over Tripoli before the Europeans and Americans decided that a Shock and Awe assault on Libya would put them in a better position to deal with the uncertainties of the Arab Spring. Foreign investment in Libya increased 25-fold between 2002 and 2010. Gaddafi, by all accounts, had come to an accommodation with foreign capital. European and Asian corporations were transforming the face of Tripoli. Corporate logos on countless construction sites testified to Gaddafi’s determination to “normalize” relations with the imperial powers and the world in general. In recent years, he released from prison hundreds of Islamic fighters, as part of that “normalization.” It would be his undoing.

So, before NATO’s war, there was no question of western access to Libya – and certainly no threat of withholding oil. It is not access, but the terms of access, that makes the difference between war and peace with imperialism. For the Americans, the French and the British, the price of peace is one’s national sovereignty. Oh – and keeping out the Chinese, 30,000 of whom were forced to leave Libya when the bombs started falling. It is doubtful that they will be back in such numbers, until after the current regime is, itself, overthrown.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20111102_gf_LibyaBusiness.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:22am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Around 12,000 inmates will get out of prison immediately or early due to retroactive application of a law to adjust sentences for crack cocaine possession – but no thanks to Obama's top lawyer. “Attorney General Eric Holder argued that less than half the inmates – only about 5,500 – should be allowed early release.” Crack is still 18 times more punishable than powdered cocaine, which is why 85 percent of federal crack convicts are Black. “The crack cocaine disparity is a legalistic expression of a racial slander, that Blacks are inherently more prone to violence.”

Thousands to Leave Prison Early on Crack Charges – But That's Still Not Justice

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Around 12,000 men and women should get some of their lives back – starting right now for nearly 1,900 of them.”

November 1 was a very good day for thousands of Americans, 85 percent of them Black. That’s the date when a 2010 law that reduced the disparity between sentences for crack and powder cocaine possession was made retroactive, making some inmates eligible for immediate release and knocking years off the prison time for many others. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has been processing requests for early release from prosecutors, judges and public defenders across the country. Around 12,000 men and women should get some of their lives back – starting right now for nearly 1,900 of them.

The bad news is, the sentence reductions only apply to federal prisoners. Most drug offenders, including for crack, are held in state prisons – but we’ll get to that, a little later.

When Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, last year, it reduced the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine from the previous 100 to 1 ratio, to 18 to 1. That ain’t justice, but it was all that the legislature of a profoundly racist country would allow. The change applied immediately to all newly arrested persons, but did not retroactively reduce the prison terms of those already convicted. Then, this summer, the U.S. Sentencing Commission decided to apply the law to those already serving time – unless Congress decided otherwise before November 1. Congress wasn’t deciding much of anything this session, but Attorney General Eric Holder argued that less than half the inmates – only about 5,500 – should be allowed early release. Holder wanted to keep behind bars those he described as having significant criminal histories, or who possessed weapons while committing their crimes of drug possession. The Sentencing Commission disagreed, believing that Holder was employing the same presumptive reasoning as lawmakers did when they passed the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act that mandated the same sentence for 5 grams of crack as for 500 grams of powdered cocaine. The assumption was that crack was an inherently more violence-producing drug than its chemically identical powdered form. Holder seemed to be saying the same thing in 2011, and so the Sentencing Commission rejected his argument. About 6,500 inmates are glad they did.

Holder wanted to keep behind bars those he described as having significant criminal histories, or who possessed weapons while committing their crimes of drug possession.”

But that’s just a drop in the bucket, for the vast American prison gulag. Most crack prisoners are held in state facilities. Thirteen states still discriminate between crack and powdered cocaine. According to a report of the Sentencing Project called “Cracked Justice,” Missouri hands down mandatory 10-year sentences for six grams of crack, the same as for 450 grams of powder – a 75 to 1 disparity. Oklahoma enforces a 6 to 1 ratio for a minimum ten years for 5 grams of crack. Arizona’s disparity is 12 to 1, and less than one gram of crack will get you five years in prison.

The same logic prevails now as back in 1986: that crack is a more violent substance than powder. We all know, of course, that the crime is actually judged by who is holding the dope, not the dope itself. The crack cocaine disparity is a legalistic expression of a racial slander, that Blacks are inherently more prone to violence. It is a logic that much of the Congressional Black Caucus bought into, in 1986, and that the Black U.S. Attorney General behaves as if he believes, today. The national policy of mass Black incarceration could not long continue if it did not have lots of Black collaborators, in high places and low.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20111102_gf_CrackCocaine.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:01am EDT