Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Low Voter Turnout Didn't Kill Michael Brown

Low Voter Turnout Didn't Kill Michael Brown

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

It doesn't matter that low voter turnout did not kill Ferguson Missouri's Michael Brown, any more than it killed Trayvon Martin or Troy Davis or even James Byrd back in 1998 Jasper Texas.

What really matters to our black political class is not what we need but what they need. They need their perks, they need their careers, they need to constantly reaffirm and to re-legitimize their privileged status as the imaginary representatives of all the rest of us. Their answers to every question reflect what they need, and not what we need.

South Carolina representative James Clyburn was on CSPAN TV Labor Day sitting alongside establishment historian Peniel Joseph, sagely instructing audiences that while 56% of Ferguson residents turned out to vote in the 2012 presidential elections, less than 10% came out when the local mayor's job was up for grabs. This was Clyburn's and is our black political class's standard explanation for the killing and the circus of official misconduct that followed.

Congressman Clyburn is not stupid, just self-involved and self-interested like the rest of the black political class. He knows that that cities with lots of high ranking black cops and often black mayors, from New Orleans and Atlanta to Philly and Columbia SC, also savagely mistreat African Americans. Clyburn is a man with priorities, and his first priority is his status, not ours. So his answer to everything is simply “vote,” and today's glittering black political class, where he rides near the top, is the end of history, the inevitable fruit of our people's long struggle for justice.

The black establishment figures would all have us believe that low voter turnout killed Michael Brown, rather than the sharp end of a vicious police and prison state that black politicians, black Democrats have partnered with their white colleagues of both parties to build and operate.

Any problems in the lives of African Americans yet unsolved, in their opinion, are because black folks haven't voted long enough, wisely enough or in great enough numbers. For almost a generation, the only cards left in the short deck of our black political class have been appeals to racial solidarity in even numbered years, and the big vote.

Those old enough to recall the 1998 murder of James Byrd by white supremacists in Jasper Texas, who dragged him more than a mile behind a pickup truck will also recall the “nonpartisan” mailing that went out to millions of black households nationwide on the eve of the 1998 election. It was the last two years of the Clinton era, just the last two of the Obama epoch are upon us, and black disappointment had never been heavier. Clinton rode into office with a Democratic majority, promising a peace dividend, some rollback of the drug war and prison state, money for mass transit, housing, and reforms that would allow unions to organize again. Instead he delivered NAFTA, so-called welfare reform, a wave of privatizations, and vast expansions in the numbers of police, prison beds and death penalty offenses.

How did the black political class get out the vote that year? Not with new answers or even new discussions or new demands. Just with pictures. Their nationwide mailer was punctuated with the silhouette of pickup truck dragging a chain.

It's nothing new because our black political class doesn't need anything new. For them, the old stuff is working perfectly well, as long as their own careers keep rolling along.

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



Direct download: 20140919_bd_blackpolitical_class.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02pm EDT

Obama and His Head-Chopping Friends

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The Saudi royals are feeling the nearness of cold steel to their own necks.”

President Obama has declared war on ISIS, the renegade jihadists that have turned on their former masters in NATO and the royal courts of Arabia. Nearly four decades ago, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan spent billions to create, from scratch, an international jihadist network to torment a leftwing government in Afghanistan. The rag tag feudal Islamist raiders that once delighted in beheading young Afghan leftists who were sent to the countryside to carry out land reform and teach village girls to read, now yearn to detach the skulls of Saudi kings and princes from their obscenely rich bodies, and to methodically drive the western infidels from all Muslim territories. This is, indeed, some deep poetry.

Until the advent of ISIS, Saudi Arabia led the world in executions by beheading, often leaving the decapitated bodies on display in public squares. The Saudis have hired American public relations outfits to plant articles in the U.S. corporate press, disavowing any connection between the royal family and its wayward children in ISIS and other al Qaida off-shoots – while, at the same time, stepping up the pace of their own beheadings. In the New York Times, no less, two front men for the Saudi royal family wrote that the King’s regime is best suited to drive ISIS into oblivion – which is yet more proof that the Saudi royals are feeling the nearness of cold steel to their own necks. The logic of jihad inevitably calls for a caliphate and, for the believer, a caliphate trumps a fat king and his 5,000 corrupt little princes, any day. Emirs in the United Arab Emirates also shake in their well-crafted boots, fearing the wrath of the faithful.

Proxy Wars Within Proxy Wars

The royal Arabian fat cats who, along with the U.S., have funded the proxy war against Syria for the last three years, are now embroiled in a proxy war against each other in both Syria and Libya. The Saudis and Egypt’s military dictator Abdel al-Sisi are arrayed against the Emir of Qatar and aristocrats in Kuwait, who continue to fund the renegade jihadists. The United States has sided with their long term partners, the Saudis – who have more oil – and are pressuring Qatar and Kuwait to stop funding ISIS and its friends.

When the oil-rich monarchies are in disarray and at each other’s throats, Washington also panics. That’s why Obama has seemed so indecisive. His options become fewer and fewer. The U.S. wants to get on with regime change in Syria, but ISIS has even bigger plans for regime change in the Arab world, including lopping off the heads of America’s friends. But, Washington will not give up its dirty war against Syria. Instead, Obama is attempting to merge that war with the fight against ISIS, by somehow making stupid Americans believe that Syrian President Assad is secretly allied with the same jihadists that have been beheading Syrian soldiers and civilians since 2011. It’s a very, very big lie, but Americans are incredibly willing to believe anything, no matter how ridiculous, about Arabs and Black people. And, who best to tell such lies, than the First Black President? Just give Obama George Bush’s script and, somehow, it all sounds...different.

Which is so damn sick, it makes you want to – laugh your head off.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to, and sign up for email notifications of our new issues, each Wednesday.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at







Direct download: 20140910_gf_ISIS_WAR.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:37am EDT