Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
A Rare Conviction of Killer Cops in South Africa

A Rare Conviction of Killer Cops in South Africa

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

A South African court found eight Black policemen guilty of murdering a Mozambican taxi driver by handcuffing him to a police van and dragging him two hundred yards behind the vehicle. Then, the cops beat the already badly injured man to death at the police station.

A cell phone camera video of the dragging of the victim, Mido Macia, went viral on the internet, back in February of 2013. The grizzly crime is reminiscent of the murder of James Byrd, Jr., by three white racists in Jasper, Texas, in 1998. Byrd was tied to a pickup truck by his ankles and dragged three miles to his death on a country road. One of the Texas racists was executed.

The murder convictions of the eight South African police are unusual – as they would be in the United States – because South African cops also operate under a culture of impunity. Just six months before Mido Macia was killed by cops in the city of Daveyton, east of Johannesburg, police massacred 34 workers on strike against a platinum mine at Marikana, ushering in a new phase of opposition to the increasingly corrupt and brutal African National Congress regime. Those killings were also caught on camera, but none of the cops has been punished, and a government commission of inquiry into the August 2012 Marikana bloodbath concludes only that the police acted on a “defective” plan, but that they murdered no one.

“Political assassinations of labor and poor people’s organizers are common.”

South African police are as feared, today, as under the apartheid regime that slipped into history in 1994. And, just as under white rule, the main victims of police violence are the poor and powerless. The South African police now serve the Black-led ruling party, the ANC. Therefore, not only do they protect the interests of the wealthy corporations that still dominate the economic life of the nation, the police are also the enforcers of the African National Congress’s public services patronage system. The ruling party’s critics say desperately needed housing, utilities and other government services are distributed on the basis of loyalty to the ANC. This has contributed to South Africa being widely described as the “protest capital of the world,” with the highest levels and frequency of protests – thousands of demonstrations every month, most of them involving demands for housing and other basic services.

Political assassinations of labor and poor people’s organizers are common, in South Africa. Many activists suspect the police are directly implicated in the killings and cover-ups. In recent years, the police have often tolerated or encouraged mob attacks against Africans from elsewhere in the continent, especially Zimbabweans and workers from neighboring Mozambique, like Mr. Macia, the murdered taxi cab driver. The violence against African foreigners is a sad irony, since not so long ago the white regime considered all Black people in South Africa to be foreigners, with no rights of citizenship and no protection from civilian or police violence.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at


Direct download: 20150826_gf_SouthAfricanPolice.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:29pm EDT

Black College Households Lost Half Their Wealth Despite Degrees

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Black college families saw a steady erosion of their economic status.”

For generations, it has been an article of faith among Black people that education is the path to success, not just for the individual, but for the Black community as a whole. That’s never been entirely true, which is why W.E.B. Dubois was the first Black person to get a PhD from Harvard, but was not allowed to teach there, and why Black high schools in Washington, DC, during Jim Crow were full of teachers with doctorates who couldn’t find steady employment, elsewhere. The notion that college is the “great equalizer” in American society may have some validity for whites and Asian Americans, but for Hispanics and Blacks, the situation is much more complicated.

new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis finds that the wealth of Black families headed by college graduates diminished dramatically between 1992 and 2013. There were three recessions over that time period, but despite the downturns the median net worth, or wealth, of white households headed by a college graduate increased by 86 percent. For Asian college families, the rise in net worth was even more dramatic over the two decades; their wealth went up nearly 90 percent. But, Black families in which the head of household held a college degree saw their net worth drop by more than half: 56 percent, when adjusted for inflation. In other words, three recessions in 20 years didn’t stop whites and Asian American college graduates from steadily increasing their family wealth, while Black college families saw a steady erosion of their economic status. Hispanic households headed by college graduates lost a catastrophic 72 percent of their wealth in the last recession, alone, largely because they were even more heavily invested in housing than their Black counterparts.

“They were deeper in debt, both on their houses and their college educations.”

Indeed, Black college graduate households lost a lot more during the recessions than Black families headed by people without college degrees, whose wealth declined less than 4 percent. But, of course, that’s largely because most Black people don’t have much wealth to lose. After the last recession, Black median household wealth shrank to one-twentieth that of white families.

Black college households, along with their Hispanic peers, sank a lot more of their money into the family home, where much of it disappeared in the Great Recession. The homes of white college graduates declined in value by only 25 percent, during the economic meltdown. But Black and Hispanic college graduates’ homes lost about half their value.

The authors of the study conclude that the Black and Hispanic college families fared so badly during recessions because they were deeper in debt, both on their houses and their college educations. Without the benefit of affluent relatives, and in a job market rife with racism, their college degrees provided little protection from economic downturns. 

The study states the obvious: that “higher education alone cannot level the playing field.” But a report by the Federal Reserve Bank cannot tell the real truth: that it is statistically impossible for Blacks, under the current system, to ever achieve economic parity with whites, no matter what their educations. What’s needed is a fundamental transformation of society – a revolution. Let that be a lesson to you.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. Find us on the web at

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at


Direct download: 20150819_gf_BlackCollegeHouseholds.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:11pm EDT

Pretty Words, Ugly Actions: The Obama Legacy on Climate Change

Pretty Words, Ugly Actions: The Obama Legacy on Climate Change

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

President Obama announced his plan last week to slash US carbon emissions by 2030, mostly by EPA rules which will effectively prohibit new coal fired electric plants.  This is unambiguously good news, especially from a president who once declared himself in favor of “clean coal.” .  

The bad news is that the Obama administration could have done this in its first weeks in office rather than half past its seventh year, and it doesn't begin to redeem Obama climate change legacy.

The bad news is that the US still leads the world in water polluting, earthquake causing fracking, in taxpayer subsidies to the fracking industry, and in the export of fracking technologies, for which the Obama administration has been a tireless advocate.

The bad news is that when the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest known gas and oil spill in history occurred, the Obama administration actively colluded with oil companies to lie to the public concealing the volume and extent of the leak.  President Obama had the US Navy and Coast Guard ban civilian overflights of the spill area, and local police agencies bar civilian access to affected shorelines apparently to prevent independent experts from assessing the extent of damage and the speed at which the poisonous discharge was settling on the sea floor.  The Obama Justice Department even protected British Petroleum by declaring that damage awards could only be assessed against BP's holdings in the US Gulf rather than against its global assets on six continents and oceans across the planet.  And although the president's party controlled both houses of Congress for another six
months, President Obama and his party sponsored not one piece of legislation, not one administrative rule to rein in the plundering
and polluting activities of Big Oil.

The bad news is that despite past disasters and future dangers the Obama administration continues to issue new permits for drilling up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and is even permitting deepwater offshore fracking.  What could possibly go wrong?

The bad news is that the Obama administration, just like the Bush and Clinton ones before it, has continued the bipartisan American
tradition of subverting and destroying international accords on climate change, giving the final coup de grace to the Kyoto Accords, condemning hundreds of millions in Asia, Africa and Oceana to suffer theravages of climate change.

The bad news is that the Obama administration's equivocation on the Keystone pipeline seems transparently calculated to get his party through the 2016 election, after which it will almost certainly be approved, whoever is elected.  The Obama administration has issued permits for drilling in the Arctic Ocean, accessible for the first time in human history due to the melting of polar icecaps.

Actual leadership on climate change would set a near term goal of 80 to 90% of US energy needs met by renewables like wind and solar, an end to fracking on land and sea, and banning of offshore drilling, especially in the Arctic.  Leadership would be applauding the citizen activists who are delaying the departure of Shell's mammoth Arctic drilling rig from the port of Seattle.  Leadership would have the US look more like Germany, which although it's as far north as Canada derives most of its energy from wind and solar power and other renewables.  At this point climate leadership would mean popularizing the case for leaving the coal in the hole, the gas beneath the grass, and the oil in the soil while we fund and find other ways to power our agriculture, our cities and our lives. 

But none of that is part of the Obama legacy on climate change, which is pretty words but ugly actions.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon.  Find us on the web at, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter at

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report.  He lives in Marietta GA where is a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party.  Contact him via email at bruce.dixon(at)
Direct download: 20150805_bd-climate-change-legacy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:50pm EDT

The Obama Legacy on Nuclear Weapons at the 70th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The Obama Legacy on Nuclear Weapons at the 70th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

If you grew up in the US, you learned in school that President Truman near the end of World War 2 was forced by the diehard Japanese government to nuke the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to prevent a seaborne US invasion that might have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. Like many things we learned in school this is a complete fabrication.

As a US Senator Harry Truman had declared the US should help the Nazis of the Soviets were winning and the Soviets if the Nazis were winning, so as to kill as many of both as possible. The Soviets faced more than 80% of the Nazi armies, and suffered more than 20 million dead absorbing and rolling back the Nazi invasion forces to Berlin. Despite early assurances, the US and Britain delayed entering the land war against Nazi Germany from 1942 to 43 and finally to the summer of 1944.

By the summer of 1945 the US had sunk the Japanese navy, defeated its isolated forces from the Philippines to Okinawa, blockaded Japan into near starvation and bombed most if its wooden cities to burnt matchsticks. US officials were pointedly ignoring Japanese surrender overtures. The Japanese badly wanted to surrender before the Soviet Red Armies could invade their Chinese and Korean colonies, where the bulk of their intact forces still were. But the eyes of US policy makers were fixed upon the next war, and the next enemy, the Soviet Union.

The US bombed the undefended cities of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9 not to end the war with Japan but in the hopes of intimidating the Soviet Union, which that same week rolled up most Japanese forces in China and Korea.

So the atomic bombing of Japanese cities, and the firey immolation of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians and the slow killing of an equal number over the next few decades wasn't even about Japan. It was US imperial bluster to set the stage for more than forty years of the Cold War against the Soviet Union and eventually China as well, to establish the US as the sole and only global superpower.

It didn't work. The Soviets tested their own nukes in four years and a global arms race was on. In the late 1980s before the fall of the USSR, its leaders proposed major mutual cutbacks of all nuclear weapons, but President Reagan said no.

The Russian state that succeeded the Soviet Union was assured at birth that the US and its Eurasian military arm NATO would never threaten Russia, but that was almost immediately proven a lie. President Obama early in his first term made hopeful noises about curtailing nuclear weapons, but was careful not to move on this intention till the Congress was safely in the hands of Republicans. Under President Obama, NATO bases, some with nuclear arms now ring the western and southern rims of Russia. The US funded the overthrow of the Ukrainian government, US warships are now in the Black Sea and America has long forsaken its commitments to nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament and peace with Russia. Nuclear armed US aircraft carriers are parked in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, allegedly to deter Chinese expansion.

President Obama inherited a bloodstained, radioactive, murderous legacy on nuclear weapons, and managed to make it all a little bit worse than he found it. Not bad for a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose acceptance speech justified preventive war.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email newsletter.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives in Marietta GA where is a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via email at bruce.dixon(at)
Direct download: 20150805_bd-hiroshima-nagasaki-70th-anniv.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:33pm EDT

Black Parents Should Opt Their Children Out of High Stakes Testing

Black Parents Should Opt Their Children Out of High Stakes Testing

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

This is a battle for democracy in public education.”

The movement by parents to opt their children out of high stakes testing is growing by leaps and bounds, but remains largely white and suburban, despite the fact Black folks are the primary targets of the destructive testing regime. Almost two decades ago, the corporate world began pouring millions of dollars into a massive campaign to split the two pillars of the Democratic Party: teachers unions and Black voters. It began as a mainly Republican strategy to divert public funding to private school vouchers – an idea that was never very popular among Black parents. But, corporate Democrats discovered that public education could be privatized even more effectively – and much more profitably – through chartering the schools. Charter schools are a capitalist’s dream, in which the public provides all the money, private companies get rich contracting services, teachers are deprofessionalized and deunionized, and Black parents lose all democratic rights concerning their children’s education.

In one of the great ironies of recent U.S. history, the Democratic Party took the lead in what had begun as a Republican project to vilify teachers and privatize schools in Black neighborhoods. High stakes testing became a weapon guaranteed to fail the students, fail the teachers, fail the neighborhood schools, and fail entire school districts in largely Black cities. Everybody loses except the hedge funds and other billionaire investors in the charter school marketplace. These are the people whose interests President Obama has served for the past six and a half years. Obama became the biggest public school privatizer of all time, wielding executive power to force the states to establish more charter schools or lose federal education funds.

A scam to destroy any semblance of democracy in inner city schools.”

Studies show that charter schools are not better than public schools, but they are great sources of wealth for big investors, while the public – mostly, the Black inner city public – takes all the risk. But, because Obama is Black, and Democrats are the party pushing hardest for charters, the established civil rights organizations are urging Black people to opt in to the high stakes testing madness. Twelve of these misleadership groups signed a letter in support of high stakes testing, including the national offices of the NAACP and the Urban League.

At root, this is a battle for democracy in public education. The white parents that make up the bulk of the anti-testing movement are accustomed to democracy in their school districts, through active and empowered local school boards. They know their rights, and they exercise them. However, the whole charter school scam is based on destroying any semblance of democracy in inner city schools, many of which are already under the control of the states or strong-mayor forms of government. The testing regime is crafted to make local control of schools an impossibility – forever – and to reduce the teaching staffs of inner city schools to temporary drones, not educators.

Black people desperately need to opt-out of this nightmare.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, find us at

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at


Click HERE to watch Glen Ford’s informative speech on the Corporate Assault on Public Education.

Direct download: 20150805_gf_OptOutOfTesting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:22pm EDT

Black Agenda Radio Weekly August 4, 2015

Predator Cops Fill Graveyards

U.S. police killed 412 people in 1976, 333 in 1984, and 385 in 1990, wrote Mumia Abu Jamal, the nation’s best known political prisoner, in an essay now republished for his new book, Writings on the Wall. The cops “obviously haven’t protected or served the thousands they’ve murdered over the years. They serve and protect the system, not the people,” he wrote. “They are predators.”

Stop Police Terror

Murder by police can only be stopped by “our independent action,” said Carl Dix, co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. “We are not looking for Obama, Loretta Lynch or any governors or mayors to do this, because they preside over the horrors that we have to stop.” Dix spoke outside the recent national conference of the Movement for Black Lives, in Cleveland. He’s gearing up for “Rise Up October” campaign of actions to “stop police terror,” under the slogan: “Which side are you on?”

Baltimore Black Political Class Protected White Mayor O’Malley

Jill Carter, a young Black lawyer from Baltimore and the most progressive member of the Maryland state legislature, said it’s no wonder that former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley has trouble dealing with Black activists’ on the presidential campaign trail. During his term as mayor of Baltimore, between 1999 and 2007, O’Malley oversaw the arrest of 750,000 people, more than the total population of the city, many of them on charges that “were illegal or unwarranted,” said Carter. Nevertheless, the entire Black city leadership supported and protected O’Malley, “even when faced with the reality that he was destroying the city and the community’s relationship with the police department.” O’Malley’s protectors included the current and former mayors of Baltimore, the whole of the city council, plus all of the city’s delegation to the state legislature – except for Jill Carter.

Bernie Sanders Runs as Populist, not Socialist

Paul Street, the veteran political scholar and activist, said Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is running as a populist, not a socialist. “He doesn’t say ‘socialism’” in his campaign speeches,” said Street, who was among the first to point out Barack Obama’s conservative political tendencies. Senator Sanders “identifies himself with the social democratic states of Scandinavia, particularly Denmark, Sweden and Norway, but does not refer to himself as a socialist,” said Street. “And, unlike the serious Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, back in the day, I haven’t heard him mouth the term ‘capitalism’ once.”

New Black Movement Combines Mix of Older Tactics

The emerging Black political movement “combines the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement – mass marches, civil disobedience, shutting things down – with programs and ideas that did not always crystallize in the Black Power Movement, but were thought about” during that period, said Dr. Anthony Monteiro, former professor of African American Studies at Temple University, in Philadelphia. Protesters gathered on Temple’s campus to demand Dr. Monteiro’s reinstatement to what chairman Molefi Asante has renamed the “Department of Africology.”

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network is hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey. A new edition of the program airs every Monday at 11:00am ET on PRN. Length: One hour.
Direct download: Black_Agenda_Radio_20150803.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:46pm EDT