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

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

The “well-regulated militia” that the US Constitution's second amendment refers to were slave patrols, land stealers and Indian killers, all quite necessary as the amendment's language states “to the security of a free state” built with stolen labor upon stolen land. Unless and until we acknowledge that history, we cannot have an honest discussion about gun control.

The Real and Racist Origins of the Second Amendment

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

This commentary was originally published in Black Agenda Report April 19, 2008.

Why does the US Constitution guarantee a right “to keep and bear arms”? Why not the right to vote, the right to a quality education, health care, a clean environment or a job? What was so important in early America about the right of citizens to have guns? And is it even possible to have an honest discussion about gun control without acknowledging the racist origins of the Second Amendment?

The dominant trend among legal scholars, and on the current Supreme Court is that we are bound by the original intent of the Constitution's authors. Here's what the second amendment to the Constitution says:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Clearly its authors aimed to guarantee the right to a gun for every free white man in their new country. What's no longer evident 230 years later, is why. The answer, advanced by historian Edmund Morgan in his classic work, American Slavery, American Freedom, the Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, sheds useful light on the historic and current politics and self-image of our nation.

Colonial America and the early US was a very unequal place. All the good, cleared, level agricultural land with easy access to transport was owned by a very few, very wealthy white men. Many poor whites were brought over as indentured servants, but having completed their periods of forced labor, allowing them to hang around the towns and cities landless and unemployed was dangerous to the social order. So they were given guns and credit, and sent inland to make their own fortunes, encroaching upon the orchards, farms and hunting grounds of Native Americans, who had little or no access to firearms. The law, of course did not penalize white men who robbed, raped or killed Indians. At regular intervals, colonial governors and local US officials would muster the free armed white men as militia, and dispatch them in murderous punitive raids to make the frontier safer for settlers and land speculators.

Slavery remained legal in New England, New York and the mid-Atlantic region till well into the 1800s, and the movements of free blacks and Indians were severely restricted for decades afterward. So colonial and early American militia also prowled the roads and highways demanding the passes of all non-whites, to ensure the enslaved were not escaping or aiding those who were, and that free blacks were not plotting rebellion or traveling for unapproved reasons.

Historically then, the principal activities of the Founding Fathers' “well regulated militia” were Indian killing, land stealing, slave patrolling and the enforcement of domestic apartheid, all of these, as the Constitutional language declares “being necessary to the security of a free state.” A free state whose fundamental building blocks were the genocide of Native Americans, and the enslavement of Africans.

The Constitutional sanction of universally armed white men against blacks and Indians is at the origin of what has come to be known as America's “gun culture,” and it neatly explains why that culture remains most deeply rooted in white, rural and small-town America long after the end of slavery and the close of the frontier. With the genocide of Native Americans accomplished and slavery gone, America's gun culture wrapped itself in new clothing, in self-justifying mythology that construes the Second Amendment as arming the citizenry as final bulwark of freedom against tyranny, invasion or crime. Embracing this fake history of the Second Amendments warps legal scholarship and public debate in clouds of willful ignorance, encouraging us to believe this is a nation founded on just and egalitarian principles rather than one built with stolen labor on stolen land.

Maybe this is how we can tell that we are finally so over all that nasty genocide and racism stuff. We've chosen to simply write it out of our history.

For Black Agenda Radio, 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 Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page or at

Direct download: 20121219_bd_second_amendment.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:49am EDT

Obama’s Historic Assault on Social Security

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

He can accomplish what Republicans only dream about.”

President Obama and his Republican partners in austerity have choreographed a kind of bi-partisan ballet, in which the dancers reach out to each other in slow motion, their fingers almost touching, teasing the audience. These cheap and transparent theatrics are designed to transmit a soap opera-like sense of drama: “Can the two parties come to a compromise for the sake of the country?” But, the fact is, Obama and the Republicans reached most of their grand bargain more than a year ago, when they slashed $1.7 trillion out of domestic spending over a decade. As liberal Obamite Robert Kuttner, of Demos, points out, there’s very little left to cut except Medicare and Social Security.

Social Security has always been Obama’s Great White Whale; he’s conspired with Republicans and right-wing Democrats to harpoon the mother of all New Deal programs since the very start of his presidency. But Social Security is not an easy mark. George Bush found that out in his second term, when he suffered his worst domestic defeat in attempting to privatize the program.

It would take a Black Democrat, fresh from a near-landslide election, to put Social Security on the chopping block, as Obama did in January of 2009. But before he could move in for the kill, Obama and his allies had to convince the public that Social Security is a major contributor to the federal budget deficit – which is a lie. Social Security runs on its own stream of revenues that go into the Social Security Trust Fund, totally separate from general taxation and debt. However, by endless repetition of the Big Lie – that Social Security adds to the federal deficit – Obama and other corporate Democrats and Republicans succeeded in maneuvering the program into the austerity debate, where it does not belong.

Social Security runs on its own stream of revenues.”

At this point it must be said that Obama’s insistence on making Social Security a budget deficit issue shows that he has always intended to make drastic cuts to the program. One of the reasons Social Security has long been thought of as “untouchable” is because President Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal Democrats purposely insulated it from the conventional budget process. However, President Obama has largely neutered Social Security’s traditional congressional defenders, who know perfectly well what their president is up to, but will not directly oppose him. That’s why we at Black Agenda Report call Obama “the more effective evil”; he can accomplish what Republicans only dream about.

Obama’s scheme to cripple Social Security is to change the way inflation is measured, resulting in a drastic scale-back in cost-of-living increases in recipients. According to Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the cuts would amount to 3 percent over 10 years, 6 percent over 20 years, and 9 percent over 30 years. In dollar terms, Black Minneapolis Congressman Keith Ellison says retirees would lose $6,000 in the first 15 years of cuts and $16,000 over 25 years.

And that’s just the beginning. Once the untouchability of Social Security has been breached, it becomes just another social program to be carved up on austerity chopping blocks. President Obama’s true legacy will be to have begun the destruction of the crown jewel of what’s left of the nation’s social safety net.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20121219_gf_ObamaCutsSS.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:35am EDT

The Ultimate Logic of a Society Built on Mass Murder

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion.”

As a native-born American, I grew up watching cowboy and Indian shoot-em-ups in which the highlight of the movie was when the white guys in the circled wagon train shot the Indians off their horses until all the red men were dead, and very silent. Indians didn’t do a lot of screaming in pain when they were shot; they just expired. Same thing with buck-toothed Japanese, line after line of them, charging into U.S. machine guns, falling instantly silent and dead. It was somehow quite clean, almost antiseptic, these cinematic rituals of death, all staged for the broadest popular consumption to demonstrate the inevitability – and cosmic justice – of ultimate white victory over the darker races.

This was mother’s milk to the white American nation – which is why Richard Pryor and kids like me rooted for the Indians. Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion, which is a celebration of a genocidal march across a continent filled with other, doomed human beings. America’s contribution to European culture was to invite “all the nations of Europe” to come to these shores and become fellow “white” citizens, whose status was defined by the enforced inferiority of Blacks and the remnants of the Indians. Ritual burnings of Blacks were organized as great public festivals, attended by thousands, staged in order to affirm whites’ collective right to commit murder. This monopoly on violence was what made them white Americans.

The modern mass American murder is overwhelmingly a white phenomenon.”

U.S. foreign policy reflects the nation’s origins and ghastly evolution into a globe-strutting mob, that empowers itself to kill at will. A million dead Filipinos at the turn of the 20th century; aerial bombing of Haitian villages less than a generation later; the totally unwarranted nuclear annihilation of two cities at the very end of World War Two; two million dead Koreans shortly thereafter; three million dead Vietnamese in the next decade,; and, since 1996, six million Congolese – all, and many, many more, slaughtered in the name of U.S. civilizational superiority – the ghastly opiate of the white American masses.

What kind of human beings does such a culture produce? To paraphrase the Bible, “By their massacres, ye shall know them.” The modern mass American murder is overwhelmingly a white phenomenon. Yet few whites ask the question, “What’s wrong with white America?” It is seems that white America lacks the capacity for self-examination. It cannot grasp the simple truth, that a culture that celebrates the annihilation of whole peoples, casually and without guilt or introspection, is devoid of human values at its very core. In the end, it turns against itself. That is the simple lesson of Newtown, and Columbine, and Aurora. The same cultural deformity creates a huge market for games like the very popular Assassin’s Creed, whose latest version integrates individual and group murder with events of the American Revolutionary War. American kids can simulate mass murder all day long, and feel patriotic and smart while doing it. Assassin’s Creed features an inter-racial cast of killers – possibly in deference to the brown guy in the White House who owns the ultimate Kill List. It’s the modern equivalent of the cowboys and Indians movies of my youth. The same sickness.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20121219_gf_MassMurderNation.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:18am EDT

CNN's Black In America: What Happens When Popeye's Teaches Chickens History & Current Events

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Letting CNN explain to us what it means to be black in America is about as smart as chickens choosing Popeye's to teach their history. To nobody's surprise, the latest installment of CNN's “ Black in America” spoke more to white perceptions of blackness and black history than it did to actual black experiences. This episode's focus on what Zora Neale Hurston called “the tragic mulatto” revisits what's always been chiefly a white obsession, rather than any central fact of African American life, and offers a fake history of the origin of the so-called “one drop rule” which makes anybody with detectable African ancestry in the US considered black.

The one-drop rule's actual origins go back to the 1600s. The slave trade was carried on wind powered sailing ships coming mostly from West Africa and Angola. The shortest hop with the prevailing winds was to Brazil, where 40% of those surviving the Middle Passage landed. The West Indies were a short trip as well. Slaves were so plentiful and cheap from Brazil to St. Kitts to Jamaica and Haiti that masters found it economical to work them to death in 3 to 5 years and buy new ones, which they did for 3 centuries.

But the slave ports of North America were a much longer journey, and against the wind. So many slaves and crewmen perished that few slave ships even tried to make it directly here from Africa. Scholars estimate that only 4 or 5% of Africans taken from the continent made it to North America, and half those were dropped in the West Indies to recuperate and brought here later. Consequently slaves in North America were too expensive to be worked to death every few years; slavemasters in places like colonial Virginia needed a self-reproducing slave population. Unlike Brazilian and West Indian slavemasters who often gave privileges and sometimes freedom to the children they made upon slave women, North American slavemasters from the mid-1600s began enforcing a one-drop rule so they could profit from the sale of their own children whom they made upon enslaved African women.

Thus the one-drop rule, was a legal doctrine in the great North American tradition, to safeguard the ruling class's investments in enslaved human capital. Unlike the Caribbean, light-skinned descendants of Africans didn't necessarily get any special privileges here. Mistresses distressed at the sight of pickaninnies who looked like their husbands, brothers, fathers and overseers typically separated them from their mothers and sold them away.

There were many Haitians who took the wrong side in the revolution and the struggles immediately afterward, who fled to New Orleans. Most of them were light-skinned and brought their sense of entitlement with them. But their experience and their influence though significant, was and has been the exception for the black experience in the United States, not the rule.

By failing to mention, let alone examine the origin of the one-drop rule, CNN's programming on its effects and ramifications fails to pass any reasonable test for historical accuracy or relevance to life as it's lived by most of us in black America. But what can you expect when you rely on Popeye to teach chickens history and current events?

For Black Agenda Radio, 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 Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20121212_bd_cnn_black-in-america.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:56pm EDT

16 Years of U.S. Genocide in Congo

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

For 16 years, Uganda and Rwanda have done the bidding of their paymasters and arms suppliers, the American and British governments.”

The United States has financed and given overall direction to the worst genocide since World War Two, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 1996, Washington has drenched Congo’s eastern provinces in the blood of over six million people. The governments of Rwanda and Uganda, the direct perpetrators of this holocaust, are in every sense of the word agents of U.S. foreign policy, who operate with impunity under the imperial umbrella.

A growing number of voices now charge that the Obama administration, like the Bush and Clinton administrations before it, has “protected” Rwanda and Uganda in their de facto annexation of eastern Congo and its mineral riches. But the actual relationship is more like that between a Mafia Godfather and his murderous henchmen. For 16 years, Uganda and Rwanda have done the bidding of their paymasters and arms suppliers, the American and British governments. If the Nuremburg rules of international justice were in force today, the highest officials in London and Washington would face death by hanging for their monstrous crimes – and only later would Presidents Kagame of Rwanda and Museveni of Uganda take their walk with the executioner.

When Congolese women and children screamed in agony, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice said, literally, that the U.S. should “look the other way” – knowing full well that a people were being annihilated. She is no different than the high Nazi officials who were hanged for waging aggressive war and the slaughter of millions, almost 70 years ago.

If the Nuremburg rules of international justice were in force today, the highest officials in London and Washington would face death by hanging for their monstrous crimes.”

And now, after 16 years of unspeakable carnage, the world’s greatest military power, equipped with the most sophisticated means of information gathering ever devised, whose soldiers train and equip the Rwandans and Ugandans who are responsible for tens of thousands of murders a month, claims to have only the most limited knowledge of how six million people wound up dead – half of them children below the age of five.

During hearings this week at the House Subcommittee on Africa, Johnnie Carson, an avuncular Black man who’s filling Susan Rice’s old shoes as assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, performed his own sickening dance of death, admitting that the so-called M23 “rebels” that have been rampaging through eastern Congo “would not be the threat” they are today “without external support.” But Carson would still not say directly that Rwanda is the real power behind M23, and he tried to absolve the government of Uganda of complicity. Steve Hege, who coordinated the UN Group of Experts whose report Susan Rice tried to suppress, testified that “Rwanda, in fact, orchestrated the creation of M23,” and that “senior Ugandan officials” were deeply involved in M23’s operations.

Johnnie Carson and Susan Rice are not motivated to lie by loyalty to African military strongmen. They are loyal to U.S. government policies that they have both played a role in formulating. Just because Susan Rice qualifies as a person of the lowest human order imaginable – an accomplice to genocide – does not make her a rogue element. Far from it: she is a “good German” soldier, following her commander-in-chief’s orders, oblivious to the agony of dying Africans, whose lives don’t count for anything in America, anyway – including, it appears in much of Black America, where Rice is applauded as yet another Black face in a very high place. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20121212_gf_USPolicyCongo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:57am EDT

China to be Number One in 2030 – But Who Will be Top Gun?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“’There will not be any hegemonic power,’ on the planet.”

The United States National Intelligence Council, supposedly the best and brightest among America’s strategic analysts, predicts that China will surpass the U.S. as the world’s leading economic power by the year 2030. This, of course, is not news, since some economists believe China has already eclipsed the U.S. in economic output. Most people would accept the report’s larger conclusion, that Asia will overtake North America and Europe in less than two decades. After 500 years of European exploitation and war against the rest of the planet, 2030 can’t come soon enough.

The question that remains unanswered is, What becomes of U.S. imperialism when America and its European allies are no longer the economic top dogs? How can the U.S. claim some kind of grand supervisory role in a world in which it is no longer the major player in the production of the goods and services that humanity wants and needs?

The National Intelligence Council’s report says that, by 2030, “There will not be any hegemonic power,” on the planet, and that “power will shift to networks and coalitions in a multipolar world.” The Council seems to betting on an alliance between the United States and China, which is described as the best-case situation for global security. If that is so, then why is Washington doing its damnedest to encircle and strangle China through proxy wars, gangster diplomacy and saber-rattling of all kinds? With 2030 right around the corner, one would think that it’s past time for the U.S. to making nice with the future center of the world.

What becomes of U.S. imperialism when America and its European allies are no longer the economic top dogs?”

The report warns that the risk of civil wars and insurgencies will remain high in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. That’s a no-brainer, since those are places where the U.S. military is busily bombing people and subverting every government that has not yet joined the American mafia, or that might come to an accommodation with rising economic players like China, India, and Brazil.

Conflicts in Latin America, on the other hand, are expected to decrease as we approach 2030. The real reason, however, for the relative peace that Latin America has enjoyed in recent years is that the hated “Washington Consensus” has been politically defeated in South America. Uncle Sam no longer has the moral, political or economic clout to plunge Latin Americans back into a state of war against themselves, for the benefit of U.S. corporations. The lesson is: with the decline of the United States, peace becomes possible.

But, there’s the catch. With the U.S. and Europe in irreversible economic decline, Washington, London and Paris grow more and more dependent on their militaries. The U.S. and its NATO allies account for 70 percent of the planet’s total military spending. If, as the National Intelligence Council report predicts, the U.S. and Europe are soon to become junior partners in the world economy, then they must also be prevented from holding the productive forces and nations of the world hostage by force of arms. The great project for humanity is to disarm the imperial beast, so that by 2030, or 2050, or however long it takes, the world can tackle the multitudinous crises that colonialism, racism and capitalism have brought upon us.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20121212_gf_ChinaSurpassesUS.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:37am EDT

Parent Trigger Laws Coming To Georgia This Year – The Privatization of Education Marches On

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Whenever top Republicans and top Democrats agree on something, it's bound to be bad news for the rest of us. One of the major non-issues in the election just past, as far as Obama and Romney were concerned, was their mutual endorsement of corporate-sponsored education reform, including the dismissal of thousands of highly qualified experienced teachers in favor of teacher-temp factories like Teach For America, tying teacher salaries and school funding to student performance on standardized tests, adoption of the so-called “common core curriculum,” which eliminates most poetry and literature and creeping privatization through the gradual replacement of public schools by charter schools.

But wherever voters have been given the clear chance to weigh in, they have rejected notions that public schools ought to be run like businesses by business people instead of for the public good by parents, teachers and communitiesAs Glen Ford pointed out in his masterful analysis of the origin of the charter school “movement” there has never any grassroots demands for vouchers, charters, school privatization or other hallmarks of corporate education reform. That whole scene is the creation of deep corporate bipartisan pockets like the Walton Family, Gates & Broad Foundations just to name a few.

In November, when Indiana voters had a clear chance to take out a vocal and nationally prominent political advocate of charters, educational privatization, standardized tests, core curriculum and the rest they voted overwhelmingly to end his career.

Georgia voters however, were not so lucky. In Georgia the bipartisan advocates of educational privatization put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to enable a commission appointed mostly by the governor to create charter schools without permission from any local authorities like pesky local elected school boards. They spread enough money around to black politicians so that significant numbers of Democrats in the state legislature cautiously backed it, or at least remained silent, and they rewrote the amendment in legally vague but nakedly promotional language about “opportunity” and “improving educational outcomes.”

While there was almost no news coverage, charter school advocates, including national charter school chains and contractors spent millions blanketing the radio and TV airwaves, and filling mailboxes in a deceptive campaign for the charter school amendment. State politicians from the governor on down publicly threatened teachers and school board members who spoke out against the referendum, and predictably, it passed.

State legislative leaders now declare their top priority is passage of parent trigger laws, which will require the creation of new charter schools anyplace advocates can get a threshold number of parent signatures on their petitions.

It's no surprise that the same black preachers who pulled out every stop to support the president's re-election either didn't take much notice of a constitutional amendment that can potentially dissolve public schools anyplace the advocates of privatization put money into a petition drive. Many of them are hoping for charter school crumbs themselves, and much of the black elite, from the black president with his Race To The Top program on down, are firmly committed to privatizing education, though they know better than to call it that.

It just goes to show you, that without journalism to inform the public, with lots of corporate money and the black political class on board, there's no telling how far we might go in some ugly directions.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20121205_bd_GA-school-privatiztion.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:16pm EDT

Sandy, the Storm from Hell – Unless You’re a Banker

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The unwritten rule of government under capitalism is never to compete with private business – even in disasters.”

When the bankers take over a nation and its economy they don’t build factories, and they don’t make investments in people or infrastructure. What finance capitalists do, when given the power, is put everyone in debt.

For Wall Street, every disaster is an opportunity to make debt slaves of the victims – if the victims have enough resources to pay back the banks. If those struck by natural calamity are too poor to become assets on the bankers’ books, they’re pretty much on their own – even when a public agency is in charge of disaster relief.

new report by a group called Strike Debt, described as an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, says federal disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is largely built around ensnaring storm victims in debt. Titled “Shouldering the Costs,” the study concludes that the burden of recovery from disasters is being shifted to the individual. “Federal aid programs,” says the report, “require victims to first apply for loans before qualifying to apply” for aid from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And before the feds will even consider making Small Business Administration loans in a disaster, they require that the victims first go to a commercial bank, where the interest rates are much higher.

To the average citizen, this seems illogical. Why place a hurricane-struck small businessperson in deeper financial trouble by forcing her to take on even more debt? What kind of disaster relief is that? Very good logic, if the intention is the serve the banks. The unwritten rule of government under capitalism is never to compete with private business – even in disasters. Therefore, the first job of government is to withhold low interest federal loans from victims with good credit, in order to protect corporations’ chances to profit from the disaster. Only if the private banks reject you will the Small Business Administration offer “direct loans” at lower rates.

The storm's impact on Blacks and browns is magnified by federal disaster relief policies.”

After a victim qualifies for consideration for a federal loan, her “credit-worthiness” remains key. About half the applicants are rejected. Since Blacks and other racial minorities tend to have worse credit ratings than whites, the federal policy has the effect of widening already existing racial disparities. The storm's impact on Blacks and browns is magnified by federal disaster relief policies.

The Occupy-related activists say FEMA and the Small Business Administration steer homeowners to loan programs, rather than grants. However, many homeowners in the impacted areas were already underwater in terms of their mortgages, and the storm has further devalued their neighborhoods and, therefore, their property. “By only offering loans to already struggling homeowners,” says the report, “FEMA and the SBA shift the burden of disaster to individuals and send profit to the loan servicers…. Homeowners have no way out of these properties other than foreclosure. The only practical option is to take the chance on taking on more debt.”

Although capitalists rant and rail against public sector, the reality is that the United States government is their loyal servant, always careful to let corporations cherry-pick every possible bit of profit before using public funds to help the people in times of disaster. And even then, the banks will always get their cut.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20121205_gf_DisastrousAid.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:52am EDT

Lynch Law Was Never Repealed

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The extrajudicial killing of African Americans, a practice that is not considered a crime, based on America's ‘unwritten law.’”

In the year 1900, the great Black activist and journalist Ida B. Wells wrote an article called “Lynch Law in America.” It began with these words:

Our country's national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob. It represents the cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent people who openly avow that there is an 'unwritten law' that justifies them in putting human beings to death without complaint under oath, without trial by jury, without opportunity to make defense, and without right of appeal.”

In Cleveland, this week, 13 police officers, 12 whites and one Hispanic, fired 137 bullets at a Black man and woman after a high-speed car chase. No weapon was found on their bullet-riddled bodies. Community members charged the victims were lynched.

Less than two weeks before, in Jacksonville, Florida, a white man who didn’t like Black teenagers playing loud music at a gas station fired eight or nine shots at 17-year-old, unarmed, Jordan Davis, killing him. The middle-aged shooter claimed he was justified by Florida’s “stand your ground” law that allows white people to act out their fears, hatreds, or mood swings with impunity – the same claim made by another Florida gunman when he executed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin without trial or “right of appeal.”

Young Trayvon drew his last breath in time to be listed among the 120 Black people known to have been extra-judicially executed in the first six months of this year – one killing every 36 hours. The report, compiled by a handful of people for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, had to be pieced together from news clippings and other sources. That’s because there is no data base on the extrajudicial killing of African Americans, a practice that is not considered a crime, based on America's “unwritten law.” In fact, it’s treated even more casually than a sport – at least in sports they keep statistics.

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement had hoped to follow in Ida B. Wells’ footsteps with their report.”

Ida B. Wells kept statistics. She and a few colleagues tallied 3,436 lynchings of Blacks in the 33 years between 1889 and 1922. Eighty-three of the victims were women. Lynching reached its high-water mark in 1892, when 160 African Americans were slaughtered because of their race. That number will be far exceeded this year, at the rate the blood is flowing. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement had hoped to follow in Ida B. Wells’ footsteps with their report; they reasoned that, armed with the facts, Black folks would get fired up enough to launch a modern day movement against lynching – just as Ms. Wells work propelled lynching to the center of the movement of her day. But the 2012 report failed to reach many people, because it was largely ignored – not just by the corporate media, but by much of so-called progressive media outlets and “traditional” Black leadership. That’s because, in the early 21st century, only certain types and classes of Black folks are likely to be extra-judicially put to death, or consigned to the social death of America’s Black Prison Gulag: poor people, like Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, snuffed out like vermin in the Black-run City of Cleveland. For them, lynching remains the “national crime” and the “unwritten law.”

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20121205-a_gf_ClevelandKillings.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:42am EDT