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

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

What if policymakers wanted to make marijuana safe for taxation and corporate profit, but needed to make sure legalization didn't produce new jobs and economic opportunities for poor and working class communities, or make them lay off any cops and judges, or have to close any prisons or jails? Well, the model in place in Colorado today would be a good start.

Is the End of Marijuana Prohibition the End of the War On Drugs? Probably Not.

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

The forty years of so-called “war on drugs” has been the rhetorical excuse for a nationwide policy of punitive overpolicing in black and brown communities. Although black and white rates of drug use have been virtually identical, law enforcement strategies focused police resources almost exclusively upon communities of color. Prosecutors and judges did their bit as well, charging and convicting whites significantly less often, and to less severe sentences than blacks.

The forty years war on drugs has been the front door of what can only be described as the prison state, in which African Americans are 13% of the population but more than 40% of the prisoners, and the chief interactions of government with young black males is policing, the courts and imprisonment. Given all that, the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition, first in Colorado and soon to be followed by other states ought to be great good news. But not necessarily.

Ask yourself, what would it look like if policymakers wanted to end the prohibition of marijuana, but not necessarily the the war on drugs. What if they desired to lock down the potential economic opportunities opened up by legalizing weed to themselves and their class, to a handful of their wealthy and well-connected friends and campaign contributors? What if they wanted to make the legal marijuana market safe for predatory agribusiness, which would like to claim lucrative patents on all the genetic varieties of marijuana which can be legally grown, as they already try to do with other crops?

If they wanted to do those things, the system in place in Colorado today would be a good start. In Denver today, low income property owners can't just plant pot in the back yard or on the roof in hopes of making one mortgage payment a year out of twelve, it doesn't work that way. Ordinary households are limited to 3 plants per adult, and for reference only the female plants are good for smoking, and prohibited from selling the weed or the seed. To participate in the marijuana economy as anything but a consumer requires background checks, hefty license fees, a minimum of hundreds of thousands to invest, and the right connections. All this currently drives the price of legal weed in Colorado to over $600 per ounce, including a 25% state tax, roughly double the reported street price of illegal weed.

So to enable the state to collect that tax money, and the bankers, growers and investors to collect their profits from marijuana taxed by the state and regulated in the corporate interest, cops and judges and jailers in near future, in Colorado and in your state as well, figure to be just as busy as they always have been the last forty years, doing pretty much what they've always done... conducting a war on illegal drugs, chiefly in the poorer and blacker sections of town, with predictable results.

The end of marijuana prohibition is not designed to create jobs in our communities, nor is it intended to shrink the prison state. Our ruling class simply does not allow economic growth that they can't monopolize, and the modern prison state has never been about protecting the public from drugs or crime. Prisons and our lifelong persecution of former prisoners serve to single out, brand and stigmatize the economic losers in modern capitalist society, so that those hanging on from paycheck to paycheck can have someone to look down upon and so that they might imagine that this vast edifice of inequality is, if not just, inevitable.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is the managing editor at Black Agenda Report and the co-chair of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached through this site's contact page or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20130108_bd_legalize_it.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:36pm EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

South Africa appears poised to reclaim its revolutionary legacy from the clutches of the African National Congress, which has “devolved into a fat and corrupt partner of white capital.” As the Age of Obama nears its end, Black America must also awake from the catastrophe of racial symbolism and self-delusion.

Black South Africa Rediscovers Itself – Will Black America?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

With the death of Mandela, the spell has been broken in South Africa.”

African Americans and Black South Africans have shared a special relationship within the larger African Diaspora. Both peoples struggled against entrenched white settler regimes obsessed with racial separation and European supremacy, societies that had grown fantastically rich on stolen land and labor. Gil Scott-Heron expressed the Black American-South African affinity in 1976 when he asked, lyrically, What’s the word in Johannesburg – Detroit’s like Johannesburg, New York’s like Johannesburg, where “freedom ain’t nothing but a word.”

Of course, Blacks have always been the great majority in South Africa, and a distinct minority in the United States. But there are many cities in the U.S. where Blacks are the majority, and yet rich white people still run the place. On both sides of the Atlantic, we have learned that there is no magic in numbers; that people still have to fight for power.

It is also true that long-suffering people who are hungry for recognition as human beings are often vulnerable to the seductions of symbolism. Having no memory of ever holding actual power, they take pride in beholding the trappings of power among notables of their own race – just as poor church congregations clothe their ministers in the finest garments and buy them expensive automobiles.

African Americans thought they’d won something when the corporate politician, Barack Obama, entered the White House five years ago. Vicariously, they were on top of the world, while in reality, Black America’s economic condition had become catastrophic. At the very historical moment when Blacks needed most desperately to defend themselves, they chose instead to defend Obama, the servant of Wall Street. Black America allowed itself to be utterly defeated by racial symbolism and self-delusion – at least for the time being.

Three years from now, the big hangover will begin.”

In South Africa, in 1994, the Black majority did win the right to elect a government that looked like them, although – just like in majority Black American cities – whites still ran the show, economically. The leaders and media of the rich white world declared Nelson Mandela a saint for abandoning the Freedom Charter’s blueprint for nationalization of banking and industry and redistribution of land. Mandela’s party, the African National Congress, devolved into a fat and corrupt partner of white capital, and the security forces turned their guns on Black miners at Marikana, massacring 34 of them. Yet, while Mandela lived, his symbolic aura shielded the ANC. It was not until the first Black president of South Africa was buried that the country’s biggest union, the 338,000-member National Union of Metalworkers, could bring itself to break ties with the ANC. The metalworkers say they will fight to implement the Freedom Charter and work towards creation of a new, socialist party that will represent the interests of working people.

With the death of Mandela, the spell has been broken in South Africa. Symbolism will no longer substitute for real People’s Power. In the United States, three years from now, the big hangover will begin, as Black America is forced to ponder the damage that it has allowed Obama to get away with on the basis of shared complexion. Hopefully, we will begin the historic and necessary process of casting out the Black misleaders in New York and Detroit and Atlanta and Chicago – just like in Johannesburg.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20140108_gf_US_SAfrica.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:30pm EDT