Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Hey Toni Morrison! If Clinton Was Our First Black President, Is Bill de Blasio NYC's Second Black Mayor?
Hey Toni Morrison! If Clinton Was Our First Black President, Is Bill de Blasio NYC's Second Black Mayor?

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

Some still recall it was Toni Morrison who first picked up Bill Clinton for us in the racial draft, calling him America's first black president. Now Sista Toni offers such an eloquent tribute to NYC mayor Bill de Blasio and his so-called “progressive agenda” that we imagine she might want to make him that city's second black mayor. We wish she wouldn't.

We won't deal with de Blasio's blackness or the lack thereof, that's not what we do here at Black Agenda Report. But the hard fact is de Blasio's so-called progressive agenda, and his actual policies in office utterly fail to meet the needs of poorer New Yorkers, let alone live up to the lofty accolades Toni Morrison heaps upon them.

It's not that the so-called progressive agenda is a bad thing... it's actually good as far as it goes. But it says so little, for so much praise that its omissions speak louder than what's there

To name just a couple things, this “progressive agenda” doesn't mention privatization of water, schools, media, parking, elections and public assets that are a hallmark of neoliberal capitalism. How progressive do you have to be to oppose privatization in principle? It fails to mention gentrification either, the development of urban areas not for the people who live there now, but for wealthier residents attracted from someplace else.

De Blasio's policies on the ground, though they pay lip service to “affordable housing” according to activists in Brooklyn and the Bronx, include leaning harder on public housing residents to finance long-delayed repairs and maintenance instead of taxing the billionaires to get it done. De Blasio's practice of inundating poorer neighborhoods like South Bronx and East New York with expensive housing units make his “no displacement” promises inevitably self-breaking in the face of market pressures.

Moreover, leaving the war economy, privatizations, the prison state, the energy industry and climate change, out of the severely limited “progressive agenda” allows us to falsely imagine we can improve the lot of poor and working Americans without reversing the privatizations, and without shutting down the prison state. It lets us imagine we can create good jobs at living wages for Americans without euthanizing the fossil fuel industry that's greedily poisoning the climate, and without ending the war economy in which the US with 5% of the worlds people spends half the world's military budget on constant wars and over one thousand military bases around the planet.

In the real USA there is one prison and police state, and one policy of urban economic development – gentrification. On the real planet Earth there is only one capitalist economy, one global military superpower, and one climate.

When great artists like Toni heap effusive praise upon politicians for meager and misleading promises, and policies that fail even to live up to these, they're not speaking courageous truth to power. They're just sucking up to their influential friends.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works near Marietta GA and is a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)
Direct download: 20150520_bd_nyc-2nd-black-mayor.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:17pm EDT