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

Detroit and America’s Racial “Exceptionalism”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen ford

The picture is of Diego Rivera's mural Detroit Industry, 1932-33, Detroit Institute of Arts.

Corporate solutions can justifiably be substituted for democracy, when it comes to Blacks.”

The great American dissolution of electoral democracy is playing out in Detroit, where last Monday the state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager explained to a crowd at Wayne State University how he would compassionately go about the business of breaking their city into buyable and sellable parts. The people and their elected representatives would have no say in the ultimate result.

The corporate media, and white folks in general, view the process as an inevitability – a kind of crude justice – not because they have rejected the principle of self-government, but because Detroit is overwhelmingly Black, and Blacks have always been the exception to the American rule. In fact, all of the Black population centers of Michigan have been divested of the right to govern themselves.

There has been no national outpouring of solidarity with Michigan’s Blacks over the loss of their citizenship rights, which can only mean that there exists an effective white consensus that African Americans are not fully deserving of those rights. Uncontrolled concentrations of Blacks are seen as pathological, by definition.

The same race-based exception was made to public education, for Blacks. In New Jersey and localities across the country, public schools in largely Black areas have for decades been under state control, denying Black parents any effective voice in their children’s education. By and large, white suburbanites supported the state in making Blacks an exception to the general American rule on local control over education. It is a right Blacks are not thought to be qualified to exercise.

Blacks were an exception to the Constitution.”

The same racial exception to the rule led to massive privatization of inner city education, through wholesale imposition of charter schools and private school vouchers. When education secretary Arne Duncan declared that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to public schools in New Orleans because it allowed most of the city’s schools to be converted to charters, there was no national condemnation of his remarks – since it is accepted that Blacks cannot run their own school systems. They are the great exceptions to the American rule. Corporate solutions can justifiably be substituted for democracy, when it comes to Blacks.

The problems of drugs and crime were framed as Black phenomena, requiring a more flexible interpretation of civil liberties and the creation of a vast police state. Just as the Founding Fathers actually intended, Blacks were an exception to the Constitution.

Blacks, and their alleged “pathologies,” were considered the nexus of poverty and social disintegration in America. Therefore, the social safety net was kept at the absolute minimum.

And now, all these exceptions that have been made for Blacks, are to become models for America as a whole, in the age of austerity, corporatized education, undemocratic governance, and the National Security State. In places like Detroit and New Orleans, America has been busily creating the pilot programs for the rule of the rich, by systematically undermining social democracy for Blacks.

The great exception, is becoming the rule.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130612_gf_Detroit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:50pm EDT

What To Think of Whenever You Hear “The Worst of the Worst”?

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

There are some phrases, mostly referring or belonging to government which frequently mean the opposite of what they say, or which are shorthand for entire libraries of lies promoted by the powerful to turn reality on its head. Terms like “military intelligence,” “public charter school,” “public-private partnership,” “extraordinary rendition,” “congressional oversight” and “humanitarian intervention” are among those that come readily to mind. We take this moment to focus on a current favorite phrase oft deployed by our masters of deceit to conceal their official crimes.

That phrase is “the worst of the worst.” Official spokespeople and corporate media apply this term to those unjustly confined for torture and indefinite sentences with no trial or formal charges, like those at Guantanamo, Bahgram, Diego Garcia and an archipelago of known and unknown prisons and surrogate facilities. It's been shown again and again that the so-called “worst of the worst” in such places are often completely innocent, and sometimes include children.

No matter. The “worst of the worst” label is an open invitation to invent even more lies, to dismiss their lives, their families and the rules of international law and human decency in their cases. One of the signal policy innovations of the Obama administration over the Bush-Cheney regime is said to be the simple murder of such persons with drones rather than locking them up.

The “worst of the worst” phrase is deployed by domestic officials as well, usually to refer to the United States' world-leading total of more than 70,000 in solitary confinement in thousands of federal, state and local jails and prisons. It has become standard procedure across the country to put prisoners in solitary confinement for years for such offenses as refusing to confess an alleged gang affiliation, engaging in anything that looks like unsanctioned self-help or self-improvement organizing, the possession of books that one's jailers disapprove of, having a history of political activism on the outside, or experiencing an awakening of political consciousness while a prisoner.

The assertion of jailers that the 70,000 in solitary confinement on any day in the United States are “the worst of the worst” is nothing less than cynical doublespeak to conceal their own crimes. Solitary confinement, when prolonged for more than a few days is recognized under international law as torture, and crimes always are doubly diabolical when committed anyone on a public payroll.

Hence whenever we hear media spokespeople, military or civilian officials on any level refer to those in their dungeons and their gunsights at home and abroad as “the worst of the worst” we should not let that stand. We should know, and let everyone in our reach know we and they are hearing the worst kind of calumny, designed to conceal official wrongs committed in all our names. It's our jailers and their official enablers, not our prisoners here and around the world who are truly “the worst of the worst.”

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: 20130612_bd_worst_of_the_worst.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:23pm EDT

Rep. Clyburn: Putting Obama First – Civil Liberties, Peace Justice and Reality Last

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Congressman Clyburn has but one priority: to protect the image and legacy of Barack Obama.”

If one good thing has come out of Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House, it is that his rise has exposed the appalling backwardness of the Black Misleadership Class – a petty and puny-minded cohort whose worldview is so narrow, it can accommodate only one issue: the political fortunes of the First Black President. Nothing else matters to these incredibly parochial political midgets – not issues of war and peace, nor the precarious state of planetary ecology, not even the economic well-being of the masses of Black Americans. Certainly, not civil liberties. Only Obama.

Congressman James Clyburn is supposed to represent the interests of more than half a million South Carolinians, the majority of them Black. One might expect a Black congressman to have more than a passing interest in the Bill of Rights and protection of civil liberties. The revelation that Uncle Sam is building up a dossier on everyone with a telephone and a computer connection should be at least mildly upsetting to anyone that calls himself a Black leader. But Congressman Clyburn has but one priority: to protect the image and legacy of Barack Obama.

Rather than thank whistleblower Edward Snowden for revealing the massive scope of government spying under Obama, Congressman Clyburn sees a conspiracy against the president. Otherwise, how could a 30-year-old white boy who dropped out of high school get in a position to blow the whistle on the Obama administration. “I haven’t gotten to where I am in politics without relying on my gut,” said Clyburn. “And my gut tells me this is an effort to embarrass the president.”

No doubt, white privilege did play a role.”

Clyburn’s gut isn’t a bit queasy about the dramatic expansion of the National Security State, as long as Big Brother is Black. What gives Clyburn angry bowels is the idea that a white guy with a GED had a secret security clearance. “Where did he get the intellectual capacity to be allowed access to all this data?” fumed Clyburn. The better question is, Where did Snowden get the moral courage to go up against rapidly growing fascism with a Black face?

Julianne Malveaux is considered quite gifted, intellectually. She’s an economist, author, political commentator and former president of historically Black Bennett College, in North Carolina. But she, too, seems more upset about young Snowden’s fat salary at a law firm in Hawaii, than about threats to everyone’s civil liberties. Malveaux sounded like Congressman Clyburn’s echo. “I am still trying to figure out,” she said, “how a young white man with a GED was able to infiltrate both the respected firm Booz Allen and also the CIA, to earn a wage of more than $200,000 a year, and to know enough to whistle-blow.”

Snowden learned computers at a community college and got his security clearance while training to be a Green Beret. He left the military after breaking both legs, but kept his clearance – and the rest is history, right up there with Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers. No doubt, white privilege did play a role in Snowden’s gaining access to Big Brother’s secrets. There have also been lots of times when white privilege was put to good use for the Black Liberation Movement, and in the cause of peace. What makes certain Black folks mad at Edward Snowden, is that he embarrassed their president – which, for the Black Misleadership Class, is the greatest crime imaginable.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130612_gf_ClyburnVsSnowden.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:46am EDT