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

Obama & Holder Win Court Case, Keep Thouands in Prison Under Unfair 80s Crack Sentencing Laws

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

Are establishment black “civil rights organizations” like the NAACP, the National Action Network and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund really opposed to mass incarceration and the prison state?

I got an email yesterday from the NAACP LDF, the outfit founded by none other than Thurgood Marshall, who litigated Brown V Board of Education back in the 1950s. The email said that the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had just ruled that the so-called Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reducing the racist laws fixing the penalties for crack cocaine at 100 times those for powder cocaine to a somewhat less unfair ratio of 18 to 1 would not be applied retroactively to the thousands of people still serving obscenely long prison sentences from the quarter century those laws were enforced.

The press release went on to say that they are heartened that 7 judges did favor the release of the prisoners suffering these unfair sentences, and that “...Their powerful dissents encourage us to remain steadfast in our effort to win the release of those held under draconian and discriminatory sentences.”

The NAACP LDF which represented the families of prisoners serving these unjust sentences knows very well that this is a political issue and a political struggle.

So why did the NAACP LDF fail to mention that their legal opponents in this case were President Barack Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department, which opposed in court the application of the very law which the president signed and the attorney general lauded.

Let me say that again... First, it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which first refused to retroactively reduce the unfair crack cocaine sentences under the law the president signed and the attorney general praised Secondly, it was the Obama-Holder Justice Department which went to court to keep those people in prison. They lost when the trial judge ruled they should be released. And third, the same Justice Department run by the same first black attorney general under the first black president appealed the order to reduce those sentences, instead seeking and obtaining yesterday's ruling by the 6th circuit court of appeals.

But you wouldn't know any of this from the NAACP-LDF's press release. Or NAN's or any of the rest of the corporate-funded black “civil rights' establishment. You could have read it in Black Agenda Report

On mass incarceration in general and the reduction of these unfair, unjust sentences, our first black president and attorney general are howling hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. Their hypocrisy is enabled by traditional black civil rights organizations like the NAACP-LDF, who refuse to make a political issue out of Obama's and Holder's hypocrisy. The “civil rights” establishment is in a bind. They claim to oppose mass incarceration and the prison state, although they've only just learned the phrase “mass incarceration” and cannot fix their lips to say “prison state.”

But since their first priority is boosting the political fortunes and careers of their peers in the black political elite, who we affectionately call our black misleadership class, they are unable to call the devil in charge of mass incarceration by his name, if that devil has a black face.

For Black Agenda Report, 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 GA Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20131204_bd_mass_incarceration.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:08pm EST

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

Unemployment Drops Mostly Because People Stop Looking: The New Normal in the Age of Black Political Empowerment

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

Normal things are the ones we don't think or talk about much, not because they are unimportant, but because they are, well, normal.

It's important, though, for us to interrogate some of these old normals, and to question why some new things are also passing into the never-mentioned land of the normal as well.

Take black unemployment. For as long as the stats have been kept, since well before the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and the election of thousands of black faces to offices high and low across the country, black unemployment has never been less than double white unemployment. As recently as the 1970s and 1980s black politicians used to inveigh about fighting for full employment and something they used to call “a Marshall Plan for the cities” to turn it around. But now, with the numbers and supposed influence of black politicians at an all time high, addressing black unemployment isn't just off the table, it's somewhere out of the building. Both catastrophic black unemployment and the silence of the black misleadership class on the issue have been normal for a good while now.

Whenever the general unemployment rate drops a tenth or two of a percent nowadays, the talking heads at MSNBC and other outfits whose job is cheerleading for this administration fall over themselves to praise this president and his administration for their wise and far-seeing economic leadership. That's normal as well. But underneath those small reductions in unemployment is something ugly, something that's becoming another new normal.

Incremental reductions in unemployment, now more than ever before, seem to be driven by people giving up the job search as hopeless, people dropping out of the labor market to do whatever it is poor people do when they can't find work on the books. This has routinely become a large part of current reductions in unemployment, a new and disturbing normal in this, the supposed age of black political empowerment. If this were true under a white Republican, our black political leaders would be up in arms, at least long enough to mobilize us to vote one of their own into office. But in this, the age of the first black president, at what we are told is the pinnacle of black political power, is a new age, and there is a new normal.

For Black Agenda Report, 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 GA Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20131204_bd_new_normal.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:48pm EST

Caribbean Peoples Outraged at Dominican Racism

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Anyone born after 1929 who cannot point to one parent who was a Dominican citizen faces deportation.”

If there is a country where self-hatred is the national creed, it is the Dominican Republic, an overwhelmingly mulatto nation that seems constantly at war with its own Blackness. It is a country where Europeans have always been a small minority, yet whose national legislature once passed a law declaring that all Dominicans are white. Dominican beauticians have done their best to enforce that law by becoming the most skillful skin lighteners and hair straighteners in the world. It is obvious to any sane person that the Dominican Republic does not like itself, and has no national identity except in opposition to the deeper Blackness of Haiti, with whom it shares the island of Hispaniola, and to which Dominicans owe a great debt, for ridding their common territory of slavery more than two centuries ago. But, the Dominicans are not grateful; rather, they are perpetually resentful that the deep Black presence of Haiti is always there to remind them of their own indelible African origins. Unable to purge themselves of their Blackness, Dominicans periodically attempt to dispel the Haitians.

In 1937, the Dominican Army killed as many as 20,000 dark-skinned people on the border with Haiti in what was called the Parsley Massacre. The most recent eruption of Haiti-hatred was set off this September, when a Dominican court ruled that up to a quarter million people of Haitian descent could be declared stateless persons. These include the children of Haitians who arrived generations ago, who speak only Spanish, dance to Latin rhythms and have never been on the Haitian side of the border. Anyone born after 1929 who cannot point to one parent who was a Dominican citizen faces deportation.

The mostly African-descended Caribbean neighborhood has run out of patience with Santo Domingo.”

All the peoples of the Caribbean are familiar with the Dominican disease, that peculiar mass mental illness of self-hatred. Self-haters also make bad neighbors, and before long, grassroots activists across the Caribbean were urging their governments to take action against the Dominican outrage against Haitians and all Black people. Although today’s crop of Caribbean politicians is notable for its meekness, the Dominicans had gone too far. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States expressed its “collective abhorrence” at the Dominicans’ “repulsive and discriminatory” actions. Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, called for the Dominican Republic to be suspended from the Caribbean Community and cut off from access to subsidized Venezuelan oil.

The Dominican Republic needs to learn that its twisted racial attitudes will no longer be tolerated. It may take generations to cure the sickness that afflicts so many Dominican minds, but the mostly African-descended Caribbean neighborhood has run out of patience with Santo Domingo. Dominican president Danilo Medina will soon submit to his legislature a “National Regularization Plan for foreigners.” Medina pretends that his countrymen want only to create an orderly system of immigration. But everyone knows it’s all about Haitians, and Blackness. The fact is, Haitians make up more than 90 percent of the Dominican agricultural workforce; they are indispensable to the economy. The two peoples are linked by history and blood – a lesson that Dominicans will have to be taught by their Caribbean neighbors.

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: 20131204_gf_DomRepRacism.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:56am EST