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

End Game For Corporate School Reform: Privatized Holding Tanks, Remote Ed, Military Charter Schools

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

Doug Henwood, a radical economist and founder of Left Business Observer, sums up the goal of bipartisan corporate education reform imposed on poorer neighborhoods as succinctly as anybody when he calls it “...low cost privatized holding tanks leading to McDonalds jobs for the lucky, a prison for the not so lucky...” along with remote education via computer rather than unionized teachers. As useful as this summation is however, it leaves out one element worth noting. You cannot run a global empire without a military class, any more than you can run a prison without prison guards.

In Chicago, the front line of so-called educational innovation, mostly because its current mayor, President Obama's former chief of staff holds dictatorial power over its public schools, one of the showpieces of education reform has been the handing over of entire high schools and even middle schools to the army, the navy and the marine corps.

Before the era of corporate reform there was at least one achievement of genuine small d democratic education reform pushed through by the administration of Chicago mayor Harold Washington in the 1980s. Since then parents in every public school have been allowed to elect parent councils, with reps from among rank and file teachers, which have veto power over title one funds and principal's contracts, which are limited to two years. The “innovative” answer of downtown bureaucrats, corporate elites and subsequent mayors to parents taking a hand in running the schools has been to simply close Chicago public schools and replace them with charters over which parents have no say.

This year, Chicago closed more public schools than any other school district in a single year in the nation's history. None were charter schools. This week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he was moving the middle school which had earlier been given to the marine corps into the facility of a fully functioning neighborhood school, Ames Middle School.

The fact that Ames parents and community members had testified, had met with officials and overwhelmingly rejected the closing of their school meant less than nothing, and may even have contributed the replacement of their school by a military academy. What mayor, and what alderman really wants organized parents running their own neighborhood institutions? It's bad for business if you're a privatizer, or a politician who takes cues and campaign contributions from privatizers. And ultimately habits of local democracy are bad for empire.

What Chicago, and corporate education reformers and privatizers and their contractors nationwide want, as Henwood observes, are low-cost holding tanks to funnel the well-behaved into low-wage precarious labor for the lucky and jail for the unlucky. They want distance education and computerized instruction because these are cheaper than human, potentially unionized teachers. And to Henwood's list we should add, they want a sprinkling of military charter schools. After all, you can't run an empire without soldiers, or a prison without guards.

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: 20131030_bd_edreform_endgame.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46am EDT

How Serious is the Caribbean Reparations Suit?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Real reparations means nothing less than a revolution in global power.”

Twelve English-speaking Caribbean nations, plus Haiti and the South American country Surinam, are going to court demanding reparations from their former colonial masters for the crime of slavery. Great Britain, France and the Netherlands, all of rich grew fat from generations of captured African labor, would be defendants in a trial before the International Court of Justice, the world body that adjudicates disputes between nations. The Black countries have hired the British law firm Leigh Day, which won a settlement for victims of British torture in Kenya. Judging by the way the lawyers tell it, this is going to be a very polite affair, in which the Caribbean countries will angle for some type of relatively modest money settlement.

By “relatively modest,” I mean that real reparations would be enough to forever sever the relationship of subservience of the former slave colonies to global systems of white supremacy and European rule. Real reparations means nothing less than a revolution in global power, because without such a revolution, those nations that became rich from slavery will maintain their position as overlords deep into the future. Ten or even fifty billion dollars in payments divvied up among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit will not change the basic master-slave relationship that has obtained since Europe embarked on world conquest, 500 years ago. Unless there is a fundamental political change within these Caribbean nations, such as occurred in Cuba, then any exchange of money will only reproduce the existing neocolonial relationships. If the leadership of Caribbean governments is incapable or unwilling to build new social relations at home, they cannot be expected to use reparations money to build true independence, internationally. I strongly suspect that what is really on the table is an “aid” package in “reparations” wrappings – which would be an insult to the ancestors and a deception of the living.

A just settlement of the monstrous crime of slavery would up-end the current world order.”

Let me make this clear: The Europeans on both sides of the Atlantic owe their relative prosperity to the millions of enslaved Africans, and to other peoples whose lives, lands and cultures were stolen in order to build the global white empire. There is no question that the Debt must be paid if there is to be any semblance of justice in the world. But, no court sitting in The Hague, in the Netherlands, or anywhere else, is going to dispense justice on a global and historical scale. Justice means taking Europe and the United States off the throne that was built on the bones of slaves. A just settlement of the monstrous crime of slavery would up-end the current world order. Anything less is merely a pay-off to Black politicians to make the historic indictment go away.

So, I am for reparations, internationally and here in the United States. Most of the Caribbean leaders, on the other hand, are already allowing their British lawyer to telegraph that all they really want is a nice package of aid with a “reparations” bow tied around it. They signal an eagerness to settle, even before the proceedings begin.

However, something useful may come out of this. The Caribbean nations say they will conduct an intense study into the many ways that slavery has hindered their national development. This could be a very educational exercise for the people of these countries. They might learn something about the real workings of power, and use it to overthrow their useless leaders, and help start a world revolution - to bring real reparations.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20131030_gf_Reparations.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:55am EDT

Direct Rule by Wall Street Begins with Detroit

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The bankers would be empowered to exercise outright ownership of the city.”

Two items in the news this week put in graphic relief the overarching reality of our times: Wall Street is every day tightening its dictatorial grip on the political and economic life of the United States. The American state and economy are being relentlessly restructured in order to further consolidate the rule of finance capital. In the largely Black urban centers of the nation, the oligarchy intends to rule directly, without the inconvenience of meaningful elections and the other trappings of democracy.

Detroit proves the point. This week, a judge begins a bankruptcy court trial that will decide if local corporate dictator Kevyn Orr, the emergency financial manager imposed by the state to protect the interests of Wall Street, will essentially be allowed to sell Detroit’s assets to a British bank in order to pay off the city’s debts to American banks. The pensions of city workers may also be gutted in the process.

The city council of Detroit this week voted unanimously against the deal, but that is probably irrelevant, since the emergency manager law has stripped all power from Detroit’s elected officials. Democracy is dead in Detroit, as it is in all of Michigan’s largely Black cities, every single one of which is now run by a corporate dictator. The majority of Michigan’s African American citizens have no more electoral rights than did Blacks in South Africa under apartheid.

In the largely Black urban centers of the nation, the oligarchy intends to rule directly.”

This new political regime has been carefully crafted to the specifications of Wall Street. City revenues from Detroit’s casino and income taxes will go directly through accounts of Barclays Bank. And if, for some reason, the emergency manager loses legal control of the city, then Barclays would be allowed to declare Detroit in default and begin seizing its assets, for liquidation – that is, the bankers would be empowered to exercise outright ownership of the city. Detroit will then serve as a model for the rest of urban America.

Also this week, the U.S. Justice Department reached an agreement with JP Morgan Chase, the country’s biggest bank in terms of assets, whose chairman and chief executive, Jamie Dimon, is a good friend of President Obama. The settlement calls for $9 billion in fines and sets aside $4 billion in relief to homeowners that were victimized by the banks’ mortgage securities practices. Nobody, of course, will go jail or even face criminal charges for the multitude of felonies committed by high JP Morgan executives – crimes that would be categorized as racketeering offenses were the perpetrators not part of a ruling class that is immune from prosecution. Jamie Dimon, the Godfather of JP Morgan’s criminal enterprise, has the privilege of bargaining with the U.S. Attorney General over the size of the fine his bank will pay. Dimon himself, of course, won’t pay a cent, despite his role in throwing millions out of work and costing the world economy many trillions of dollars. His class has emerged from the crisis they created stronger than ever: too big to fail, too big to jail, more than big enough to gobble up Detroit, bigger than the voting rights of U.S. citizens – especially Black citizens – which can be cancelled when democracy gets in the way of Wall Street. All Power to the Bankers!

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20131023_gf_BanksAndDetroit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:45am EDT

Desmond Tutu is Wrong: The AU Should Quit the International Criminal Court

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

He might just as well argue for the return of colonial rule, which established its own kind of law and order in Africa.”

The African Union is on a collision course with the International Criminal Court, a tribunal that has indicted only Africans since its founding in 2002. In an extraordinary meeting of the African Union at it headquarters in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia, the AU took the position that no sitting head of state should be prosecuted by the ICC while still in office. In the immediate term, the AU calls for the postponement of the trial of Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, scheduled to begin in the The Hague, next month. Kenyatta and his deputy president are charged with crimes against humanity stemming from election violence in 2007. Last weekend, President Kenyatta told the African Union that the International Criminal Court “stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers” – a clear reference to the United States and Britain.

And that is the heart of the matter. It is a travesty of justice that the ICC only indicts Africans, but even more importantly, the International Criminal Court also only indicts those politicians that get on the wrong side of the United States and the former colonial powers in Africa. The ICC is a tool of U.S. foreign policy, an instrument of neocolonialism.

Among the apologists for the ICC is South African former archbishop Desmond Tutu, who says African leaders are “effectively looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress their own people without consequence.” Tutu says it all boils down to a question of “who should represent the interests of the victims?” However, in the real world of imperial power, Desmond Tutu’s reasoning is specious, shallow. He might just as well argue for the return of colonial rule, which established its own kind of law and order in Africa. The question is, whose law and whose order? The ICC represents U.S. foreign policy masquerading as law.

The ICC is a cog in the imperial machinery.”

Tutu maintains that, without the deterrence of the ICC, African “countries could and would attack their neighbors, or minorities in their own countries, with impunity.” Well, that is, in fact, the case right now in Africa, and it has occurred with the complicity of the ICC, which has sanctioned and morally assisted mass murder and outright genocide by American allies on the continent.

And here lies the great irony. The very nations that most strongly oppose the ICC – Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia – have the blood of millions on their hands. Rwanda and Uganda are principally responsible for the death of six million Congolese over the past 17 years, an ongoing genocide armed and financed by the United States and Britain. The Ethiopian regime’s brutality toward its Somali and Omoro ethnic groups has also been described as genocidal. But, because the United States is also deeply complicit in these crimes, there is no threat of prosecution by the International Criminal Court. The court is only deployed against those countries and leaders targeted by the United States.

So, why are Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda worried? Clearly, they understand that, if the United States can give impunity, it can also take it away. They remember that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein used to be a U.S. ally, and that Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad cooperated with the U.S. war on terror – until the U.S. turned against them. The worst purveyor of crimes against humanity in Africa and the world is U.S. imperialism. The ICC is a cog in the imperial machinery, which recognizes no law, but only its own interests. You can’t fight U.S. Empire and its crimes and, at the same time, defend the International Criminal Court. They are one and the same.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20131016_gf_AUvsICC.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46am EDT

Roll Over & Die, or Shut Up & Sell Out: HBCUs & the Talented Tenth in the Obama Era

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

HBCUs constitute three percent of America’s colleges but produce 20 percent of black graduates, 50 percent of black public school teachers and lawyers, 80 percent of black judges, and 90 percent of black BA’s...”

If there is a talented tenth, the phrase W.E.B. Dubois coined a century ago to denote the black elite whose success will enable them to somehow lift up the other 90% its beating heart lives those black colleges and universities. But the first black president is no fan of historically black colleges and universities.

Back in 2011, the Obama administration, more in tune with what its Wall Street contributors want than what its voting constituents need, made student loans significantly more difficult to get. Its new policies immediately caused 28,000 mostly African American students to drop out of historically black colleges alone for lack of funds to continue their education, and denied historically black colleges and universities a crucial $150 million a year in revenue. In the two years since, historically black colleges have begged for the restoration of the old rules on college loans but to no avail. The Obama administration has compounded the injury by releasing what it calls “college scorecards” that rank schools by graduation rate at a time when poorer students are dropping out in huge numbers nationwide due to economic stress.

Under these circumstances, the only way for historically black colleges to survive is to do the impossible --- to attract ever wealthier students at a time when overall black family incomes are dropping. This is a financial crisis that HBCU trustees across the country know they cannot survive unless something changes.

Many have noted the past two years that if these things happened under a Bush-Cheney administration the black colleges, their alumni and traditional civil rights organizations would have been in federal court a long time ago. But the black misleadership class's true causes are the careers of its own members and seeking the favor of those in power. So despite the title of an otherwise pretty good New Republic article “Why Black Colleges Might Sue the Obama Administration.” the spectacle of black colleges suing a black president to restore their students' access to higher education is just never never never going to happen.

What's their alternative? Jarret L. Carter of HBCU Digest is absolutely in tune with a large section of this class when he suggests that Condoleeza Rice be named the next president of Howard University, bringing her blood-stained rolodex of contacts from the board of Chevon, which once named a double-hulled oil tanker after her, and her record of lying and genocidal warfare around the world to that office. Rice, he contends, can sell corporations on the proposition that “investing in” --- basically taking over the cream of historically black colleges and universities will somehow benefit them. How any of this “uplifts” more than the tiniest fraction of African Americans who become admirals, generals and corporate fixers is unclear.

Those are the choices our black misleadership class sees for historically black colleges and universities. They can roll over and die. Or they can shut up and sell out. This is the corner they've led themselves into, and why we call them the black misleadership class.

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 is NOT an HBCU alum, and lives and works near Marietta GA. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20131016_bd_talented_10th.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:41am EDT

Lynne Stewart: The People’s “First Responder”

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The following remarks were prepared for delivery at the St. Marks Theater in New York City for the 74th birthday celebration for people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart, who is serving ten years in federal prison for zealously defending her client in a terrorism case. Stewart is suffering Stage Four breast cancer, but has been denied compassionate release by the Obama administration.

Power to the People!

We are here to celebrate Lynne Stewart’s birthday, as an affirmation of the human will to resist injustice. Her birthday is a joyous occasion, because many decades ago she chose to interpose herself between the forces of concentrated capital and white supremacy, and the rest of us. Lynne Stewart is a “first responder” in a time of great danger to the species and to all life on Earth. The Lords of Capital on Wall Street have their own armies of “first responders” wearing uniforms of blue or green or camouflage, backed by faceless legions of spies who lay traps in order to eradicate unwanted human “networks” – treating the people like roaches. The poor and oppressed have only themselves – and a few precious “first responders” of our own, like Lynne Stewart, the people’s lawyer.

Lynne has saved many from the clutches of the powerful – too many to mention, here – but there is one thing she could not save: the rule of law in the United States. The corporate plutocrats and the governments that serve them decided some time ago that legalities like Constitutions were no longer useful; that preserving Empire required the unfettered deployment of military and police force, mass incarceration and an infinity of surveillance. If such a regime were incompatible with the Law, as we have known it, then the Law must go.

The privileges of the One Percent cannot coexist with due process of law for the 99 Percent.”

The United States Constitution, which the rulers praised as a work of genius when it accommodated slavery and Jim Crow, has become too restrictive for the voracious appetites of Wall Street. Banks that are too big to fail demand impunity, not Constitutional Law – and so the Constitution must go.

The privileges of the One Percent cannot coexist with due process of law for the 99 Percent; therefore, due process must become whatever the president says it is. And, when the imprisonment of two-and-a-half million people is not enough to calm the fears of the rich, then preventive detention by the military must become the order of the day. Ultimately, the regime sees no choice but to call out its uniformed legions to lock up the most volatile sectors of the 99 percent, while its spies make lists of the human networks that will supply the next wave of detainees. Or, the president may prefer that they compile “Kill Lists” for his perusal.

Naturally, the people’s legal “first responders” like Lynne Stewart must be kept under lock and key at times like this. We are glad for the privilege of sharing Lynne’s birthday with her, even under such circumstances. Among all of her other accomplishments and good works, we congratulate Lynne for having outlived the rule of law in the U.S. However, the Lords of Capital may one day wish they had preserved the Constitution as they found it. Because, if Lynn Stewart cannot be allowed to be zealous in defense of her clients, then who will stand for the rich when the people’s wrath cannot be contained?

The plutocrats have used their power to destroy the system of Law, but Justice is something different, entirely. Justice tends to arrive in a terrible storm. When the rich cry out for compassion, should the people be merciful?

The people will ask their lawyer, Lynne Stewart, for guidance.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20131009_gf_LynneStewart.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:49am EDT