by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Established Black organizations now claim they are ready to make demands of the First Black President. But are they serious? “What Marc Morial of the Urban League, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Al Sharpton and others have outlined are issue-based suggestion boxes for the president’s perusal.” They're not about to “demanding” anything.
Black Misleadership Class Pretends It’s Ready to Fight the Power
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“The Misleaders have purposely set out a little plastic Christmas tree that the Administration can decorate with handy baubles that seem to fit the broad themes.”
After twice bestowing on Barack Obama their unqualified, no-demands-attached electoral support, the self-constituted Black Misleadership Class now claim to be formulating a tentative “agenda” that will guide their political conduct in the months and years ahead. Grandiloquently embracing their “role as the conscience of the nation,” spokespersons for the 60 or so participants at a December 3 closed-door conference, in Washington, listed five broad goals:
*Achieve Economic Parity for African-Americans
*Promote Equity in Educational Opportunity
*Protect and Defend Voting Rights
*Promote a Healthier Nation by Eliminating Healthcare Disparities
*Achieve Comprehensive Reform of the Criminal Justice System
Theoretically, specific demands to achieve these objectives will be developed, later – or maybe not. As Yvette Carnell, of YourBlackWorld, observes, “The items mentioned are so general that any move Obama makes on any of these issues could be considered a win.” Indeed, the Misleaders have purposely set out a little plastic Christmas tree that the Administration can decorate with handy baubles that seem to fit the broad themes.
“George Bush or any other president could also fill up such broadly labeled stockings.”
Promote equity in educational opportunity? Obama’s folks will flash his record and rhetoric on Pell Grants, aid to HBCUs, and other measures: “Done that!” Voting rights? They’ll point to the Justice Department’s lawsuits in the past election cycle. Healthcare disparities? Obamacare – enough said. Criminal justice system reform? The president’s folks will take undo credit for reducing the crack/powder cocaine penalties from 100:1 to 18:1. Economic parity for African Americans? That’s a hard one for a president whose stated, core belief is that a rising tide lifts all boats. However, virtually any existing or proposed public program contains jobs or benefits that can be framed as economically beneficial to Blacks.
George Bush or any other president could also fill up such broadly labeled stockings with themed trinkets or falsely packaged goods: No Child Left Behind and school vouchers, for education; small business tax cuts, for wealth creation; Medicare drug benefits, for healthcare trickle-down; more money for HBCUs, for educational opportunity, or future wealth – take your pick; Bush’s signature on reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, in 2006.
If not enough programs fit the wish list, then Black appointments always carry great weight with the upwardly mobile Black classes, requiring no substantive benefits for the people whatsoever.
The December 3 conferees are attempting to simulate a capacity and willingness to protect Black America in its greatest economic crisis in modern times – without confronting the politician and party leader that presided over the catastrophe, who has sought a grand austerity bargain with Republicans for the past four years, which he is now on the verge of consummating.
Every “entitlement” program has been placed “on the table” for chopping – just as he promised to do on the eve of taking the oath of office, in 2009. The so-called “fiscal cliff,” a joint GOP-White House production, is an artificially created “crisis” to grease the skids of austerity. The same Misleaders that now feign eagerness to make demands of the First Black President tell their followers that he will fight to protect African Americans from suffering unduly from cliff-related machinations.
“Every ‘entitlement’ program has been placed ‘on the table’ for chopping – just as he promised to do on the eve of taking the oath of office, in 2009.”
They pretend that Obama sincerely wants to help Black folks, who were by far the hardest hit by the failing economy, both before and after the meltdown of 2008. But, not only has this president rejected, as a matter of principle, targeted assistance to Black communities, his administration refused to spend most of $7.6 billion in housing aid set aside by Congress for hardest hit communities – disproportionately African American. Obama twice froze the wages of the disproportionately Black federal workforce. He does not miss an opportunity to impose disproportionate suffering on Black and poor people.
He has expanded the federal prisons budget, even as other agencies were trimmed, and caused the closing of tens of thousands of public schools in favor of charters.
These are the mega-challenges facing Black America, requiring comprehensive demands for transformational solutions. What Marc Morial of the Urban League, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Al Sharpton and others from President Obama’s election entourage have outlined are issue-based suggestion boxes for the president’s perusal.
“The historical Black political consensus on peace, social and economic justice, which grew out of generations of Black struggle, provides us with a ready and relevant framework for crafting demands.”
An immediate and urgent demand would be “Hands off Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” but the December 3 crowd thinks that would crimp Obama’s style – and they’re right. That’s why it’s not on their list: because then they’d have to confront the First Black President, which they are incapable of doing.
The historical Black political consensus on peace, social and economic justice, which grew out of generations of Black struggle, provides us with a ready and relevant framework for crafting demands. Such demands begin with cessation of U.S. aggressive wars and preparations for war. (These days, presidents don’t need Congress to start or stop wars, or to curtail future adventures.) The peace dividend, alone, would go far to fund:
A national jobs and public infrastructure-building program
A national project to provide free and quality public higher education for all
A single-payer national healthcare program
Mandated, dramatic yearly reduction in incarceration rates, starting with federal prisons
A Marshal Plan to rebuild the cities for the benefit of those that already live in them, not gentrification
A national, public banking system, to begin dethroning Wall Street banksters
Those are just off the top of my head.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.