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Symbols Are All We Need: Four More Years of Black Silence, Irrelevance

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

Our black political class, from the president down to sheriffs evoke the struggles and victories of the fifties and sixties, but have nothing to show for the seventies, eighties nineties or the new century except their own careers. They are utterly unprepared to fight or even assist in the fight for economic justice, peace and rolling back the prison state. But they're good role models, which is all we really need.

Symbols Are All We Need: Four More Years of Black Silence, Irrelevance

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

We've all lived to now to see the US elect thousands of African American local and state officials and re-elect the first black president.

It's important somehow, that all these mayors, congress creatures and the rest from county sheriffs to the president are black, and that they all ceaseless evoke the epic Black Freedom movement of 45 and 50 years ago. It's much less important that black leadership has few or no victories to boast for the seventies, the eighties, the nineties or the new century, apart from their own illustrious careers, or that the war on drugs and the prison state sprung AFTER the Freedom Movement ended and continue effectively unchallenged on their watch.

It matters immensely that the first black president has beautiful children and a lovely wife from the south side of Chicago descended from former slaves out of South Carolina, and that his administration's many black faces in high places along with the over forty blacks sitting in the House of Representatives are role models for black youth everywhere.

It matters much less that black unemployment remains at record levels, that US wages have not risen in thirty years and that the first black president apparently forgot his campaign promise to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour almost as soon as he made it. And it certainly matters when racist Republicans diss our president.

But it matters very little that the black role model president conducts weekly “Terror Tuesday” meetings in the White House basement at which he dispatches drones to murder and special forces to kidnap and torture in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and across the African continent. It matters not at all that the First Lady is a shameless flack for Wal-Mart, that the Department of Justice prosecutes whistle blowers instead of war criminals, or that black military and diplomats like Susan Rice are up to their armpits in African blood.

Our black political class is utterly self-interested. It cannot begin to mobilize black communities to demand higher wages, a massive jobs program to relieve unemployment, a rollback of the prison state, a new paradigm of urban economic development that isn't just moving poor people out of neighborhoods and richer ones in. It can't begin to make these things happen because foisting itself and its own advancement off as “representing” the black oppressed masses is the beginning and the end of who they are and what they do.

For them, the election and and re-election of Barack Obama is the end of black history. Addressing black unemployment, pervasive economic injustice, cutting back the warfare and prison states, opposing the neoliberal agenda of privatization and austerity put forth not just by the black president, but by an entire layer of black officials are, in their language not pragmatic or “realistic.”

So if our black leaders have anything to say about it, four more years of Barack Obama mean four more years of black silence and irrelevance on the issues that matter most to our communities --- on jobs, economic injustice, the prison state. It means black leadership will wring its hands and do nothing as federal policies drive the militarization of Africa, more police and fewer experienced teachers in our schools, and continually falling wages.

We've got our role models, and inaugural parties, and some of us have our careers. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Email him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

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