Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Black Response to the Koch $25 Million “Gift” Should Be a Movement For Free College Tuition

Black Response to the Koch $25 Million “Gift” Should Be a Movement For Free College Tuition

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

Back in the 1860s the first of our historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs were founded with dollars from white philanthropists. In the six or seven generations since we like to think we've come a long way. But have we really? The United Negro College Fund's eager acceptance of a $25 million dollar “gift” from the notorious Koch brothers ought to make us all wonder whether we're really movin' on up, or moving backward, and why.

By the 1960s and 70s, federal tax dollars were a substantial and rising portion of funding at HBCUs. That was real progress, because public funding of black higher education implies a public commitment, rather than dependence on the fickle whims of the wealthy. But college tuition has ballooned one thousand percent since 1978, and federal funding has not kept pace. Today's students are burdened by onerous debt which lenders have used their political influence to compound and make bankruptcy-proof. Higher education is in now danger of becoming an inherited privilege of well-off families, social mobility in the US is at an historic low. Instead of looking for ways to target increased funding to historically black colleges and universities, the Obama administration has made it harder for black families to qualify for college loans, causing thousands of young African Americans to forgo their dreams of higher education.

With historically black colleges and universities in a deep fiscal and strategic hole, accepting $25 million from the evil Koch brothers is not evidence of sagacity, pragmatism or wisdom. It's a decision to dig that hole even deeper.

If the gaggle of politicians, preachers, academics and business types who pass themselves off as our black leadership class possessed a shred of political imagination and moral courage they would study up, they would talk up, they would committeefy and they would help call into existence a movement demanding higher education as a human right and free college tuition for everybody. It's not an impossible dream – other countries, relatively civilized places less wealthy than the US like France and Norway already do this. A movement demanding free higher education and forgiveness of outstanding student debt, funded by taxing the rich instead of borrowing from or begging them is the kind of inspiring vision that could put tens or hundreds of thousands in the streets demanding real change. It could mobilize churches and unions, small towns and big cities, the young and the old, and make no mistake, it's the only way HBCUs will be rescued from this crisis with any integrity. Over half of black college grads are now working in jobs that don't even require a college education.

Begging harder or smarter, or being willing to accept funding from even more devilish devils is not the solution of visionary leaders. It's the refuge of lazy hypocrites and cowards.

Progress, as Frederick Douglass told us, only comes with struggle. Real leaders know how to envision the world as it should be and articulate that inspiring vision to the masses. They know when to demand what is NOT being offered, and how to pick a fight, because we cannot win what we will not fight for.

Education, including higher education is a human right. If we want HBCUs to survive the current crisis, it's time to stop begging and pick a fight. It's time to demand free higher education financed by federal tax dollars, and forgiveness of student loans. If our black misleadership class cannot get with that, it's time to sweep them to the side.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly email updates at

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party.


Direct download: 20140611_bd_uncf_vs_picking-a-fight.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:57pm EDT

Obama FCC's "Fast Lane" Proposals Spell The End of the Open Internet

The pending “internet fast lane” proposal advanced by President Obama's FCC chairman and telecom lobbyist Tom Wheeler isn't the end of the world, but it is the end of the internet as we know it. The FCC's proposal establishes the legal right of telecom monopolies to apply “market-based” charges for any kind of internet service they choose, for any reason they might invent.

So-called “fast internet lanes” will be given to wealthy corporations like ABC-Disney, CBS-Viacom, NetFlix, HBO, ESPN, YouTube, Amazon, and Facebook, which can afford to pay millions for the privilege of reaching you. Comcast, the biggest backbone owner and internet provider also owns NBC-Universal, including MSNBC, so they and other telecom monopolies will reserve the “fast lane” for their own content as well.

But under the FCC's current proposal, every other kind of internet traffic may be restricted, throttled, subjected to random tolls and extra charges, as long as these are justified by “market logic.” What kinds of internet content will suffer?

  • Broadcast radio stations that stream their content via the internet will have to pay up, or their listeners on the other end will have to pay to receive them;

  • Internet radio of all kinds has never made money, and will pretty much vanish because neither producers nor listeners will be able to pay tolls for lanes “fast” enough to reach or sustain an audience.

  • Vonage, Magik-Jack and other telephone providers whose calls are routed over the internet will have to charge more or be driven out of business;

  • Those discount long distance telephone cards won't be such a discount any more. They too route calls over the internet, and those companies will have to raise prices steeply to pay tolls or go out of business.

  • Small newspapers, journalistic enterprises, small businesses, community voices and blogs of all kinds will also be unable pay “fast lane” tolls and opinions independent of the owners of corporate media will become difficult to publish and hard to find.

  • Artists who sell their work over the internet will be forced to use just a few middlemen, like Amazon and Apple, which will take an even larger rake off the top and will possess nearly complete control over what is available.

  • Greedy telecom companies will finally achieve their dream of being able to charge for “long distance” or “international” email, or to limit the number of emails you can send, forward or receive without additional tolls.

  • Email listserves which send bulk email to customers and interest groups of all kinds might be forced to pay tolls as well.

Before the 60 day comment period on these new rules began on May 15, the FCC had already received more than 3 million pleas from the public NOT to end network neutrality, the technical name for the principle that all content from every provider should be freely available to all comers over the internet. This should have stopped the FCC and the Obama administration in its tracks. But the White House and the FCC are not listening.

It will take a vigorous and sustained public outcry to stop the FCC from turning the internet, originally designed and built by government employees with billions of your tax dollars, into a privatized corporate plantation, much like cable TV.

It's a political question, but not a partisan one. Democrats and Repubicans, omnivores and vegans, libertarians and socialists, anarchists and independents, artists, small businesses and everyone who believes the people's conversation should not be subjected to the whims of the market and monopolists ought to be in motion these next 30 days.

So send an email to before July 15, but also get a half dozen or more of your friends to go down to your local congressman's office. Better yet, call a loud and disrespectful public meeting demanding that the internet be madea public utility, like it is in Taiwan or South Korea. Whatever you do though, do it now, before July 15, before the open internet is history.


For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly email updates at

Direct download: 20140611_bd_saving-the-internet.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:33pm EDT

CA Supermax Prisoners Win Right To Challenge Solitary Confinement As A Class

A Class Action Against the Torture of Solitary Confinement

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The ruling will force the state to defend its draconian policies.”

Prisoners held for ten years and more in solitary confinement at California’s infamous Pelican Bay supermax have won the right to challenge – as a class – the constitutionality of their treatment. A federal judge in Oakland has allowed five of the inmates to also represent 500 others who have spent a decade in isolation, as well as 1,100 additional prisoners who are confined in solitary for supposed gang membership. Lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights are handling the class action suit. The question they are posing is simple: Does ten years in solitary – and even longer, for dozens of inmates at Pelican Bay – amount to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment?

Nowhere else in the world is solitary confinement practiced on anything like the scale of the United States, where 80,000 men and women are held in isolation on any given day. That’s significantly more than the total prison populations of France or Germany or Japan – a Solitary Confinement Prison Nation within the vast American Gulag.

Any sane and moral person would agree that solitary confinement for weeks and months, much less years and decades, is a uniquely ghastly form of torture that rips at the essence of what makes us human. It is the ultimate sentence of social death. The Pelican Bay inmates’ lawyers believe the recent ruling will, for the first time, force the State of California to defend its draconian policy on its merits. If 12 years a slave is a horror, how should one describe 12 or 20 years of solitary suffering? And, what do you call the people who enforce and defend such sadistic savagery – men with such hatred for their own species that they would torment fellow humans, endlessly?

The jailers’ roles are identical to those of the Nazi Gestapo.”

According to the lawsuit, solitary confinement, as practiced at Pelican Bay, is such a barbarity, it “renders California an outlier in this country and in the civilized world.” If it were not for the two hunger strikes staged by inmates over the last three years, the so-called civilized world would remain blissfully ignorant of the crimes routinely perpetrated against captive human beings by U.S. civil servants and dues-paying members of the guards union.

Under the California criminal justice system, solitary confinement is much more than just a punishment, or a security measure: it is a process. For the 1,100 inmates in solitary at Pelican Bay because of alleged gang associations, the process is designed to turn them into snitches or liars who finger innocent men. Release from solitary is possible only if one admits to gang affiliation and implicates other inmates – who will then be put through the same process. The jailers’ roles are identical to those of the Nazi Gestapo who tortured suspected members of the Resistance until they provided the names of their comrades, or of people they hardly knew, who would then become part of the same torture process.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl says he was tortured by his captors in Afghanistan, locked alone in a cage for weeks, maybe a month. In Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the prisoners exchanged for Bergdahl spent the last 12 years, the maximum isolation time allowed at a stretch is 30 days. So, it seems that by both the standards of the Taliban and Guantanamo, Pelican Bay, California, is the deepest level of Hell.

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


BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20140611_gf_SolitaryConfinement.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:09pm EDT

Are We Passing the “Tipping Point” for Black Habitation in the Cities?

Are We Passing the “Tipping Point” for Black Habitation in the Cities?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

In Harlem and elsewhere in New York City, the tipping point has clearly been passed.”

Back in the early Sixties, sociologists began to use the term “tipping point” to describe white response to the entrance of Blacks into formerly white neighborhoods. The raw statistics showed clearly that such “tipping points” existed, although sociologists argued about the dynamics of precisely when white exits turned into sudden, wholesale flight. Certainly, real estate agents and developers understood the phenomenon, having set it in motion in city after city in the Forties and Fifties in order to make a killing in the market. So-called “block-busters” played on racist hysteria, buying up white properties at rock bottom and selling them at inflated prices to Blacks desperate to escape densely-packed ghettos. The churning of neighborhoods generated billions in profits and changed the face of America in a remarkably short period of time. Ultimately, whites’ refusal to share urban space with Blacks created an American racial and economic geography unique in the world, in which the Black and brown poor resided in hollowed out, shrunken, capital-deprived central cities surrounded by a belt of suburban white wealth – the exact opposite of the historical world model of urban development.

America, which invented modern white racism through the establishment of Black chattel slavery, had once again been reshaped through the socio-economic dynamics of white racism.

For more than half a century, racial tipping points referred primarily to the behavior of white people, a predictor of white flight, creating new spaces for Black habitation in the cities. But, racism is irrational, as were the socio-economic landscape created by white racism, with whites traveling ridiculous distances to find racially exclusive environments at affordable prices. The corporate class longed for the centralized amenities that only big cities can provide, and finance capitalists looked forward to trillions in added values if only the Blacks and browns could be evicted from urban real estate.

It is more like a purge, an ethnic cleansing.”

Finance capital, corporate muscle, and the political parties that serve them have set in motion the new phenomenon of Black flight from the cities, and white return. Unlike white flight of the previous era, the current Black exodus is mainly involuntary and economic. In reality, it is more like a purge, an ethnic cleansing based on the reality that, in a racist society, the very presence of substantial numbers of Black people brings down the value of land and other assets.

Today, the question in city after city is, What is the tipping point for maintaining Black populations? How many upscale, mostly white people does it take to make a neighborhood, and ultimately whole cities – like San Francisco – unaffordable and downright hostile to Black habitation? In Harlem and elsewhere in New York City, the tipping point has clearly been passed, as it has in Washington DC, and will soon occur in Atlanta. Blacks are under siege – up against the tipping point – in Chicago. Even in cities such as Baltimore, where Black majorities make wholesale purges impractical – for the moment – targeted Black neighborhoods are rapidly tipping. Outrageously, the governor of Michigan proposes to bring in a steady stream of upscale immigrants to dilute the 82 percent Black population of Detroit.

And yet, there is nothing approaching a national Black consensus on a response – which means the political tipping point may have already passed, and the purge of the cities will continue, without effective Black resistance.

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


BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20140604_gf_TippingPoint.mp3
Category:Other -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT