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

On last Friday's Super Funky Soul Power Hour, the weekly radio show the eminent Dr. Jared Ball does on WPFW FM in Washington DC, our friend and comrade Kali Akuno wondered aloud at how he might soon have to explain to his now infant daughter that there used to be these things called public libraries and post offices and even public schools.

So what's happened to us? How have the repeal of the New Deal and Great Society, and the enclosures of vast new spaces in media and the natural world become possible? The answer is the elimination of black America's role as anchor of the left wing of the national polity, and the historic defection of black leadership.

This was neatly accomplished by converting the historic black Freedom Movement from a struggle for a broad spectrum of economic, human and political rights into a struggle for mere civil rights under law. In this way, with the signing of a few key laws, and a handful of court decisions, black leadership declared victory and demobilized the movement that might have transformed America. It was the autocratic vision of the NAACP, of Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshal, linked to the autocratic style of preachers like Dr. King, triumphant over the radical democratic vision of activists like Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and the young people who led SNCC.

To be fair, civil rights victories did sometimes lead to a measure of integration, to some public and private sector affirmative action, to diversity, and certainly to fat contracts for well-connected minority enterprises. But they never raised the minimum wage, or guaranteed a public education of equal quality in poor neighborhoods, or established the constitutional right to a vote, a job, or a home. Certainly the alleged victory of the civil rights movement did not protect us from the alarming growth of the prison state in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Are there really children who don't deserve quality educations, or families that don't deserve homes? Are there whole neighborhoods identified by a combination of class and race who don't deserve public transit, and a third of whose young men just plain need locking up? After the alleged victory of the so-called civil rights movement, the answer is apparently yes. The first places to lose public schools, public transit and public libraries are black communities like Detroit, New Orleans, Philly, and now ominously, metro Atlanta. It's a failure of leadership nationally, and in those places, the historic failure of the black political class,

After leading us down the blind alley of civil rights under law, and securing its own piece of the pie, the black political class of preachers, politicians, business people and wannabees has walked away from the rest of us. It never did propose alternatives to gentrification or the warfare state or environmental racism, to the fact that every 36 hours a black person is murdered by law enforcement, private security forces or vigilantes, and it never led discussions over, let alone fights against the the prison state and the privatization of education and everything else left to steal. Our leaders knew how to celebrate the sixties and how to get paid, that was about all.

And that's how we lost the public schools, public libraries and public transit. 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 at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com or via this site's contact page.

Direct download: 20130313_bd_black_political_class.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:10pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

A reformist group is petitioning President Obama to end his administration’s “too big to jail” policy. The petition assumes Obama actually wants to do the right thing, even though he has “placed corporate fat cats and their cold-blooded operatives throughout his administration from the very beginning, in positions where they can do the most harm.”

 

Begging Obama to Turn on His Banker Friends

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Eric Holder admitted that the administration’s policy is to go soft on banker criminality.”

A petition is now circulating that calls for signatories to “tell Obama to end too big to jail.” It’s a project of the Campaign for a Fair Settlement, which grew out of the home mortgage robo-signing scandal. Like all the other crimes involving gangsterism by the Lords of Capital, the robo-signing scandal resulted in the incarceration of not a single Wall Street executive, much less a serious criminal prosecution of the banks involved. Instead, President Obama’s Justice Department went to great lengths to arrange monetary settlements that avoided criminalizing the corporate wrongdoers. The banks were fined, but much of the money never reached the people who had been harmed. Although robo-signing and the LIBOR interest rate manipulations were both referred to as “crimes of the century,” the corporate perpetrators shrugged off the fines as merely the price of doing criminal business.

The term “too big to jail” is derived from the U.S. Attorney General’s own statements. Eric Holder admitted that the administration’s policy is to go soft on banker criminality, for fear of causing an economic crisis. “I am concerned,” said Holder, “that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them.” The banks, said the president’s top lawyer, “have become too large” – too big to jail.

The petitioners call for an “end to the administration’s ‘too big to fail’ policy by taking immediate steps to break up the big banks and prosecute the criminals who used them to destroy our economy.”

The concentrated capital of the financial class that represents a clear and present danger to all of humanity.”

First of all, the very act of petitioning Obama assumes that the president isn’t part of the criminal conspiracy, and that Eric Holder – who, as a corporate lawyer, defended the worst criminals that boardrooms can produce – really wants to put Wall Street’s Kings of the Universe in prison or to bring the banks down to some “manageable” size. In fact, Obama has placed corporate fat cats and their cold-blooded operatives throughout his administration from the very beginning, in positions where they can do the most harm. Attorney General Holder is using Obama’s now-familiar ploy, claiming that the administration wants to do the right thing, but is helpless against larger, sinister forces. Outfits like the Campaign for a Fair Settlement encourage this kind of delusional thinking, that Obama is the good guy who needs our help. The petitioners urge Obama to “secure his legacy as a champion of justice.”

There is no such thing as cutting the banks down to size. It is not the size of the banks, but the concentrated capital of the financial class that represents a clear and present danger to all of humanity. This class operates through a myriad of financial institutions, moving money at nearly the speed of light. Breaking up JPMorgan Chase into two or three banks does not prevent the same capitalists from using all three for the same nefarious purposes, and just as efficiently. Maybe more so, since the reformers will have convinced themselves that they’ve won.

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: 20130313_gf_BankPetition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46am EDT

The Black Caucus’ Relentless Pursuit of Insubstantial Symbolism

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Obama’s cabinet in his second term looks just about right: its full of rich white folks, the same class that his administration really works for.”

Marcia Fudge, the Cleveland congresswoman who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, is pressing forward with her campaign to get more African Americans on President Obama’s cabinet. Fudge is saying, in effect, that Obama isn’t rewarding his most loyal constituency commensurate with the support Blacks have given him at the polls. The kind of reward she’s talking about is symbolic. She’s not talking about policy – that is, how government policies affect the great mass of Black people – but about the appearance of things.

Obama has lost two of his Black cabinet members, two Hispanics, and two Asians. However, these exits didn’t have anything to do with policy, but with personal career decisions. Black employees were treated viciously in the Environmental Protection Agency when an African American woman, Lisa Jackson, was in charge, according to the No Fear Coalition, and environmental racism was never a priority of the EPA under Jackson’s watch. Why, then, is the absence of Lisa Jackson, or some other Black person just like her, considered a loss to Black America as a whole?

The congressional Black Caucus would do better to push for specific policies at each of the cabinet level departments of government; that would be something substantive and useful to do. But instead, they complain that Obama isn’t providing enough symbolism. Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel says its damn “embarrassing” that Obama’s cabinet is so devoid of color. But, what he should be embarrassed about, is that the Obama administration does not take race into consideration, at all. The Black Caucus keeps saying that the cabinet should “look like America.” However, I think it is best that an administration look like the people it actually serves, the people who benefit from it, so that everybody will understand how policy is really formulated, and for whose benefit. In that sense, Obama’s cabinet in his second term looks just about right: its full of rich white folks, the same class that his administration really works for.

It’s best that an administration look like the people it actually serves, the people who benefit from it, so that everybody will understand how policy is really formulated.”

The Congressional Black Caucus and the whole of the Black Misleadership Class were greatly disappointed that Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice didn’t get the Secretary of State job. The fact that Rice is a rabid militarist who was in some ways to the right of the Bush administration on Africa policy, and has sheltered those who are responsible for the death of millions in the Congo, doesn’t bother the Black Caucus. U.S. Africa policy is not the Caucus’s real concern; it’s the appearances that count.

The Black Caucus once put forward Congressman Sanford Bishop’s name for Secretary of Agriculture. Bishop is one of two Black members of the Blue Dogs, a coalition of right-wing Democrats. Bishop was one of four Black congresspersons to vote in favor of George Bush’s War Powers Act, in 2002, while the vast majority of Black people opposed the war. So, how would appointing Sanford Bishop to the cabinet reflect the political will of Black America?

Frankly, I wish Obama wouldn’t appoint anybody Black to high positions in his rich man’s government. You can be sure that any Black person who gets a significant job in this administration will be worthless to the rest of us – unless, of course, you're counting Black faces in high places.

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: 20130313_gf_BlacksInCabinet.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:40am EDT