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

Emergency Managers? School Closings? Are They Racist? Does It Really Matter?

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

In early 2009, during the first few weeks of the Obama administration, I was one of the folks planning a public discussion on health care in Atlanta. Most of those I worked with wanted the discussion to focus on single payer, Medicare-For-All. But for an uncomfortable week or two one of the organizers stalled the plans by insisting that instead of educating our audience and the public on how a single payer health care system was the only way to control costs, create new jobs and provide quality health care, that we ought to be concentrating instead on exposing race-based disparities in health care availability and outcomes.

In other words, let's not examine a proposed solution to the problem. Let's instead circle the wagons, highlight the racial disparities, and have a conversation on just how racist the whole thing is, as though rediscovering the existence of racism (surprise! Surprise!) in yet another realm of American life is a worthy end in and of itself.

This was no academic question. These were the very weeks during which newly elected President Obama, a one-time proponent of single payer who had promised that every reasonable solution to the the nation's health care crisis would be considered, a time during which the White House did everything it could to keep any mention of single payer health care off the table. As a candidate for Senate from Illinois, Obama had declared himself for single payer health care. But soon afterward Senator Obama had embraced what Massachusetts residents called Romneycare, after their then-governor Mitt Romney, who simply required every Massachusetts resident to purchase a private health insurance policy, made some policies available through a state “exchange”, and levied a tax on anyone without private health insurance. Nowadays “Romneycare” is called “Obamacare.” Go figger.

The emphasis on highlighting disparities as an end, rather than examining and comparing solutions proved useful to the White House, which defended Obamacare on the grounds that it would extend private insurance and Medicaid to some large number of new persons and thereby allegedly reduce the disparities. The coming of austerity and the fine print of course may keep it from doing even that, but the point here is that our black political class has adopted a methodology under which the hunt for and discovery of racism in every act of public policy and some other places too has become an industry, separate and absolutely divorced from any attempts to examine, let alone change the public policy.

So we hear the mayor of Chicago, in keeping with Obama's Race To The Top policies of educational privatization, wants to close 50-some Chicago public schools, mostly in black and brown neighborhoods. Is it racist? Sure. What does that tell us? Half the black people in Michigan have had local government taken from them to divert their taxes straight to banksters and privatize their public assets. Is that racist too? OK, what then?

The “what then” answer provided by our black political class is well ---- nothing. Register to vote, maybe, elect more folks, patronize black businesses or something. It's politically bankrupt. The never-ending, and always fruitful search for racism, and racial disparities has become an industry in and of itself, because it's all our black political class can offer, without questioning capitalism itself. And that is something they can't bring themselves to do.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

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)

Direct download: 20130327_bd_is_it_racist.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:21pm EDT

The Lords of Capital Seize Detroit

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Financial manager Kevyn Orr may answer to the state of Michigan, but he represents the corporate class.”

Detroit’s state-appointed emergency financial manager promised that he won’t cut the salaries of the City Council or the mayor – at least not for the time being. On Thursday, under the law that makes corporate lawyer Kevyn Orr the dictator of the 82 percent Black city, the mayor and city council’s salaries will automatically be set at zero. Which is what their powers will amount to – and what the vote of Detroit’s 700,000 people will be worth – under the new regime: zero.

Demonstrators have been protesting the disenfranchisement of what now comprises more than half of Michigan’s Black population. Rev. David Bullock says, “This is about the state taking over cities and school districts.” Technically, he’s right. But the state is only acting as a bully for the real usurpers of political power: corporate America. Financial manager Kevyn Orr may answer to the state of Michigan, but he represents the corporate class, mainly finance capital. His law firm, Jones Day, from which he has technically – and, no doubt, temporarily – resigned, brags that it represent more than half the Fortune 500 companies in the United States. On top of that, while Orr sits in the Detroit dictator’s seat, his law firm is taking over as restructuring counsel for the city. This means that lawyers for Jones Day will be handling the sale of Detroit’s property and the cancelling of its contracts as ordered by another Jones Day lawyer, Kevyn Orr. As Atty. Tom Stephens points out, under this incestuous arrangement, “the same law firm is effectively serving as attorney, client, and local government” in Detroit – a concentration of power that would be unthinkable in a majority white metropolis.

Kevyn Orr will be making decisions on how Detroit will deal with creditors that include his former firm’s Wall Street client, Merrill Lynch.”

But it gets worse. Jones Day also represents many of the banks that were primarily responsible for rendering Detroit’s tax base untenable, through devastating home foreclosures. One of them is Bank of America, the parent company of Merrill Lynch, which is a counter party to Detroit’s derivative interest rate swaps. As Tom Stephens explains, that means Merrill Lynch “is one of the city’s key creditors.” So, financial dictator Kevyn Orr will be making decisions on how Detroit will deal with creditors that include his former firm’s Wall Street client, Merrill Lynch. What Kevyn Orr calls his job description would be grounds for an indictment for criminal conspiracy in any society under the rule of law.

But, that’s the point: the corporate rulers of America have discarded the rule of law – certainly, as it affects Black people, who are targeted for disenfranchisement and outright removal from the nation’s cities. Yes, the corporate henchman Kevyn Orr is Black, which only goes to show that the Lords of Capital have enlisted a class of Black folks who will enthusiastically assist in the liquidation of African American political, civil, economic and human rights.

One of them now sits in the White House. Barack Obama is the biggest privatizer of public schools in history, far more effective than George Bush. The massive assault on local elected authority over the public schools, mainly targeting Black school districts, paved the way for privatization through charters. It was only a matter of time before Black city governments were also neutralized. President Obama has been indispensable to this whole process, as has Detroit mayor Dave Bing. So, it is true that the siege of Detroit is largely racial. It is also true that more than a few Black folks are working for the other side.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130327_gf_Detroit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50am EDT