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

Symbols Are All We Need: Four More Years of Black Silence, Irrelevance

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

We've all lived to now to see the US elect thousands of African American local and state officials and re-elect the first black president.

It's important somehow, that all these mayors, congress creatures and the rest from county sheriffs to the president are black, and that they all ceaseless evoke the epic Black Freedom movement of 45 and 50 years ago. It's much less important that black leadership has few or no victories to boast for the seventies, the eighties, the nineties or the new century, apart from their own illustrious careers, or that the war on drugs and the prison state sprung AFTER the Freedom Movement ended and continue effectively unchallenged on their watch.

It matters immensely that the first black president has beautiful children and a lovely wife from the south side of Chicago descended from former slaves out of South Carolina, and that his administration's many black faces in high places along with the over forty blacks sitting in the House of Representatives are role models for black youth everywhere.

It matters much less that black unemployment remains at record levels, that US wages have not risen in thirty years and that the first black president apparently forgot his campaign promise to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour almost as soon as he made it. And it certainly matters when racist Republicans diss our president.

But it matters very little that the black role model president conducts weekly “Terror Tuesday” meetings in the White House basement at which he dispatches drones to murder and special forces to kidnap and torture in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and across the African continent. It matters not at all that the First Lady is a shameless flack for Wal-Mart, that the Department of Justice prosecutes whistle blowers instead of war criminals, or that black military and diplomats like Susan Rice are up to their armpits in African blood.

Our black political class is utterly self-interested. It cannot begin to mobilize black communities to demand higher wages, a massive jobs program to relieve unemployment, a rollback of the prison state, a new paradigm of urban economic development that isn't just moving poor people out of neighborhoods and richer ones in. It can't begin to make these things happen because foisting itself and its own advancement off as “representing” the black oppressed masses is the beginning and the end of who they are and what they do.

For them, the election and and re-election of Barack Obama is the end of black history. Addressing black unemployment, pervasive economic injustice, cutting back the warfare and prison states, opposing the neoliberal agenda of privatization and austerity put forth not just by the black president, but by an entire layer of black officials are, in their language not pragmatic or “realistic.”

So if our black leaders have anything to say about it, four more years of Barack Obama mean four more years of black silence and irrelevance on the issues that matter most to our communities --- on jobs, economic injustice, the prison state. It means black leadership will wring its hands and do nothing as federal policies drive the militarization of Africa, more police and fewer experienced teachers in our schools, and continually falling wages.

We've got our role models, and inaugural parties, and some of us have our careers. 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 state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Email him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20130123_bd_4_more_years.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:26pm EDT

The Coming Imperial Implosion in the Arab World

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Although the NATO powers account for about 70 percent of total worldwide arms spending, they are by no means fully in charge of their own offensive in North Africa and the Middle East.”

The French intervention in Mali and the deadly Salafist assault on an Algerian natural gas facility on the border with Libya reveal the deepening crisis of U.S. and European imperialism in northern Africa. What is playing out in the western Sahel is the direct, and broadly predictable, result of the aggressive Euro-American response to the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring.

Two years ago, Washington, Paris and London were swept by panic at the prospect of a realignment of forces in the Arab world. With Egypt’s Mubarak on the way out, the West’s henchman in Tunisia overthrown, and America’s warlord in Yemen facing opposition from all quarters, the NATO powers decided to alter the regional chessboard to what they thought would be their own advantage with a mass application of force against Libya. The assault on Muammar Gaddafi’s government, with absolutely no provocation and no basis in international law, was designed to put a Euro-American spin on the momentum of change. Almost simultaneously, Syria was targeted for massive subversion, and it was universally assumed that Algeria was next on the hit list.

This scheme for wholesale game-changer in the region necessitated an even deeper alliance with the royal regimes of the Persian Gulf. In practice, it was the West that became dependent on the Saudis and Qataris to provide Arab cover for NATO’s military and, much more importantly, to provide the Islamist fighters who would actually seize power on the ground in Libya and then Syria and beyond. Moreover, the Saudis and Qataris are rich, and can afford to pursue their own political objectives.

The Islamists hate them with far more intensity than the secular leftists and Arab nationalists that the U.S. and Europe are so keen to destroy.”

This fundamental reordering of the relationship between the West and its royalist Arab allies is reflected on the ground in Libya, where it is Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Islamist friends who wield the guns. The real crisis in Benghazi was that the Islamist fighters for whom NATO had provided an air force were not totally dependent on the U.S., Britain and France. They have rich friends in the Persian Gulf, on whom the West is now also dependent. Although the NATO powers account for about 70 percent of total worldwide arms spending, they are by no means fully in charge of their own offensive in North Africa and the Middle East. The Islamist fighters and their Persian Gulf patrons have their own agendas.

Ultimately, the Pentagon and the CIA and their counterparts in Europe cannot win this game. They are racist imperialists who will always make themselves hated. Certainly, the Islamists hate them with far more intensity than the secular leftists and Arab nationalists that the U.S. and Europe are so keen to destroy. That’s why the Americans can’t operate safely in Benghazi.

The great contradiction is that the Islamic fundamentalism with which the West is now allied and critically dependent behaves, in practice, like a nationalism without borders. And, like nationalism, it is ultimately incompatible with imperialism, which today is corporate rule without borders.

The fighters that attacked the gas facility in secular-ruled Algeria surely entered through Libya, partially controlled by fellow Islamists who are friends with the guys who killed the U.S. ambassador, and who are also friends with the Saudis and Qataris who are supposed to be America’s allies. The Arab Spring is far from played out, and nowhere near under U.S. control. For the West, it will end in a huge implosion, because this house of cards cannot stand.

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: 20130123_gf_FranceInMali.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:32am EDT

Until Housing is a Right, Blacks Will Live Marginalized Lives

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The very notion that housing should be affordable to all – much less that housing is a right – has all but disappeared from major party political discourse.”

This year’s Martin Luther King Day report from United for a Fair Economy critiques U.S. housing policy, which has always been geared towards individual family home ownership. In recent decades, as Wall Street consolidated its political and economic dominance, government policy has been to treat housing as an asset whose value is to be constantly boosted; that is, housing as a wealth-building mechanism. It is a policy that ultimately serves the financial capitalists – a class that produces nothing, but grows more and more wealthy by manipulating the value of assets ever upward. Artificially inflating the price of housing also creates value against which homeowners can borrow – which is great for the banks but creates artificial bubbles in the economy that finally burst with catastrophic consequences.

In all of this mad, artificial wealth and bubble building, the very notion that housing should be affordable to all – much less that housing is a right – has all but disappeared from major party political discourse. United for a Fair Economy’s report, State of the Dream 2013: A Long Way From Home, puts housing policy at the center of what’s wrong with economic policy. Author Tim Sullivan says the steady “hemorrhaging of wealth in communities of color stems largely from treating housing policy as an asset-building policy.” Home ownership accounts for roughly half the total wealth of Black and Latino families, “but only 28 percent for white families,” who have other sources of wealth. The report urges that the government invest “in affordable housing and policies that reach people for whom homeownership is not the best or most viable option” – that is, renters, or forms of community-owned housing. Housing should be treated as a right, and housing policies must be informed by the realities of race.

The very presence of Blacks devalues the surrounding land and structures, in terms of market price.”

If anything, the report is understated. In a pervasively racist society like the United States, race becomes an overwhelming factor. Race has shaped the social geography of the United States – and, therefore, the geography of wealth – as in no other modern society. Just as Black life is devalued in the criminal justice system, so the very presence of Blacks devalues the surrounding land and structures, in terms of market price. Race – and by that, I mean white racism – distorts and deforms this country’s market system, lowering the value of assets based on their proximity to concentrations of Black people, and artificially boosting the value of land and buildings that are located at a distance from Black neighborhoods.

Informal racial redlining remains probably the most powerful pricing mechanism in the American real estate market. One can cross an invisible line from a largely Black and brown city to a mostly white town, and the property values immediately soar upward, regardless of the quality of the actual houses. Urban development schemes pre-suppose the breaking up or clearing out of Black population concentrations before any economic revitalization is even attempted. Public housing has been marked for extinction, based, at root, on the assumption that concentrations of Black people are bad for business and for society. These facts of American life require that Blacks demand that affordable housing be provided as a right, not as something that trickles down. Otherwise, African Americans will remain marginalized people living on marginalized properties.

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: 20130123_gf_Housing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:22am EDT