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

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)

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