It's a tradition. A weekend in September when dozens of major corporations sponsor public and private receptions, entertainment events, self-interested marketing, self-promoting seminars, and one “legendary” party --- I'm not exaggerating there, “legendary” is the title of this year's party --- all under the flag of the Congressional Black Caucus, through its Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, CBCF.
There was a time when the CBC used to call itself the conscience of the Congress. That however, was back in the days when black America still formed the reliable left anchor of US politics. Black constituencies were then and still are the most antiwar, the most interested in raising wages, in upholding the right to unionize and strike, the right full funding of decent housing, transit and quality education. But back then, corporations mostly kept their money out of elections and advocacy organizations in black and brown constituencies. So Latinos and blacks communities were able to elect officials on every level who actually stood on these principles. But since 2002, a tsunami of corporate dollars have bankrolled the careers of a new generation of black politicians, turned the heads and outlooks of some of the old ones, and now make up the main funding source for nongovernmental organizations from the NAACP to the National Action Network, the Urban League, and many, many more. Hence currently fashionable notions of corporate-friendly black leadership have little in common with that old “the conscience of the Congress” stuff.
We might be relatively poorer than any time in a generation, more unemployed than any time in two generations, and more incarcerated than anybody ever in history. But fighting austerity, cutbacks and privatizations are, for the black political class, off the table, especially with a black Democrat in the White House.
So most of the CBC Legislative Policy Conference's policy workshops, its networking sessions and its so-called “braintrusts” are the showcases, the mouthpieces and other orifices of the corporations on the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's advisory board. Individual caucus members are “honorary” co-chairs of each workshop, but sessions are generally delivered by entertainers, corporate execs, their lobbyists, their public relations stooges, and their astroturf organizations.
With vampire capitalists Goldman Sachs on the CBCF board, there are “braintrusts” in how to demand a moratoriums on foreclosures, or how to organize and promote resistance to evictions or gentrification or privatization. With military contractors like Lockheed on the board, giving voice to overwhelming black opinion that the wars should be ended is also out of bounds. If past conferences are any guide, you can however find multiple workshops and networking sessions to help you become a minority contractor with the Pentagon or Homeland Security. The Obama administration's privatizing Race To The Top is leading the assault on public education, so the single workshop given by the teachers union doesn't directly oppose those policies AND is balanced by multiple sessions of corporate charter-school propaganda.
With Fighting the Power off the table, what's left to do at CBC weekend but to Party Hearty? What else but to commemorate past victories, to celebrate past achievements and present prominence, to see and be seen. No doubt this year's black party at the Howard will indeed be “legendary.” That is what our self-interested, self-promoting, self-congratulating black political class is all about, and that's what they'll be known for, their permanent victory party, boasting, roasting, toasting and coasting.
For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.