If Rep. Barbara Lee is the best of the bunch, our black political class is a rotten barrell.
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
If Congresswoman Barbara Lee is among the best that the Black political class has to offer -- which she is -- then that class is “wholly unfit to guide the politics of 40 million people.”
The Indecency of the Black Misleadership Class
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“The ideology of the Black Misleadership Class -- awesomely self-serving and pitifully servile, at the same time -- does not allow for decency, and is wholly unfit to guide politics of 40 million people.”
When Rep. Barbara Lee made the House vote for sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea unanimous, she snuffed out the last flicker of any independent worldview among the Black political (misleadership) class. Russiaphobia reigns supreme in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), where “auntie” Maxine Waters, who once blamed the CIA for the crack cocaine epidemic, now fills her rhetorical pipe with war-inducing hallucinogens straight from spook headquarters in Langley. Three summers ago, the Black Caucus joined in a unanimous House resolution in support of Israel, effectively cheering the apartheid state at the very moment it was slaughtering 2,500 Palestinians in Gaza.
A month before the resolution on Israel, 80 percent of the Black Caucus voted to continue the Pentagon’s massive transfers of weapons and military gear to local police departments, thus endorsing the militarized police occupation of Black communities. It would require a new social movement, initially outside the reach of the Black Misleadership Class, to make the connection between Gaza and Ferguson, Missouri.
The War Party began its absorption of the CBC in 2002, when corporate and pro-Israel moneybags funded the primary election defeats of Representatives Cynthia McKinney (GA) and Earl Hilliard (AL), two of the Caucus’ most prominent critics of U.S. foreign policy. It was a pivotal year in the devolution of Black electoral politics, as corporate money made its first serious entrance into local Black Democratic races. By 2005 there existed, for the first time ever, a recognizable right wing in the CBC. Once a small faction, these corporatists now dominate the Caucus, where only 8 to 10 members can be considered reliably “progressive” by any rational measure – and only if foreign policy is omitted from the criteria.
“By 2005 there existed, for the first time ever, a recognizable right wing in the CBC.”
When it comes to U.S. behavior overseas, the Black Misleadership Class is absolutely indistinguishable from the leadership of the Democratic Party. Their core ideology is “representationalism,” which holds that the best measure of Black progress is the number of “Black faces in high places” in all sectors of U.S. society. This narrow worldview meshes quite well with corporate notions of “diversity,” with its emphasis on managerial and high profile public positions. For Black corporate- and media-oriented climbers, social transformation need go no deeper than skin color. Radical change in fundamental relations of power is viewed, at best, as problematical, since serious socio-economic shakeups might upset the fragile status of those Blacks newly entered into the fringes of ruling circles (or who imagine themselves to have “arrived.”)
The Black “representationalist” worldview is, therefore, inherently conservative at its core. On domestic issues, Black elected officials and other “leaders” must at least give the appearance of responding to mass Black demands for some form of wealth redistribution. This is generally accomplished by paying lip service to the mildest economic reforms offered by the Democratic wing of the corporate duopoly. The Black political class, however, assigns its highest priority to its own relationship to Power, which it conflates with the interests of Black people as a group. They are instantly prepared to accept the harshest reversals in social policy -- and then package it as “the best deal we could get.” Welfare “as we knew it” was abolished and mass Black incarceration more deeply entrenched, with hardly a “God Damn!” from the Black Misleadership Class.
“’Representationalism,’ which holds that the best measure of Black progress is the number of “Black faces in high places” in all sectors of U.S. society.”
At this stage of capitalist decay, the rulers are not prepared to offer anything to the masses -- and especially not in any form that could be seen as directly beneficial to Black people. (White backlash avoidance, at all cost.) Accordingly, the Black Misleadership Class asks only for a gentler austerity. Gone are the days of ritual, election season proposals for a “Marshal Plan for Black America.” Such a program is more desperately needed than ever, but Black politicos will make no demands that corporate Democrats would reject, for fear of harming their standing in “the party” and with the billionaires that control it.
In foreign relations, including Africa, the Black Misleadership Class identifies fully with the U.S. imperial project, and seeks to embed itself as deeply (and profitably) as possible in the infrastructure of empire. As per their imperative that Black people be “represented” in all U.S. endeavors, African American politicos applaud the posting of Black generals to AFRICOM, but are unconcerned that the U.S. Military Command virtually occupies the continent. This class cares nothing for the sovereignty -- or even survival -- of African peoples and nations, but seeks only to ensure that the hyper-aggressive superpower presents a “rainbow” face as it attempts to dominate the world: diversity in predation -- and in genocide.
“The Black political class, however, assigns its highest priority to its own relationship to Power, which it conflates with the interests of Black people as a group.”
No one has been more intimately involved in the ongoing slaughter of Congolese over the past 21 years than Susan Rice, who was serving as special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director for African affairs in 1996, when the U.S.-backed militaries from Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo. To date, the invaders have caused the deaths of at least 6 million people, the largest genocide since World War Two. Much of Congo’s mineral wealth has wound up in Rwanda, on its way to multinational corporations. Under President Obama, Rice became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations where she did everything possible to shield Rwanda and Uganda (and, ultimately, U.S. imperialism) from censure and punishment for the crime of genocide.
These were precisely the credentials that put Rice at the top of the list to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Predictably, Republicans zeroed in on Rice -- not, of course, for her crimes against Congolese humanity, but to make her a foil for the jihadist attack on the U.S. consulate (CIA arms distribution depot) in Benghazi, Libya. The Congressional Black Caucus rallied to Rice’s defense, embracing her as a sister in distress. Thanks to Friends of Congo and other activists, all of these Black lawmakers had been made aware of the abominations committed by U.S. allies in Congo, and of the U.S. role in covering up their crimes during Rice’s tour at the UN. A handful had served on congressional subcommittees on Africa. But 6 million dead Congolese were of no consequence when weighed against the representational value of yet another Black U.S. secretary of state.
“African American politicos applaud the posting of Black generals to AFRICOM, but are unconcerned that the U.S. Military Command virtually occupies the continent.”
Barbara Lee was conspicuous by her presence among Susan Rice’s fawning Black Caucus boosters -- conspicuous in the way that a priest would stand out in a satanic ritual. No decent person could support Rice, an unrepentant top operative in a decades-long genocide, for anything except life in prison or an appointment with the gallows. But, the ideology of the Black Misleadership Class -- awesomely self-serving and pitifully servile, at the same time – does not allow for decency, and is wholly unfit to guide politics of 40 million people.
The Black political class has given electoral politics a bad name. But, that doesn’t mean the vote is useless in the struggle for justice and self-determination. The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations holds a national conference at Chicago State University this Saturday and Sunday, under the theme, “The Ballot and the Bullet: Elections, War and Peace in the Era of Donald Trump.”
All decent people that value Black liberation are invited, including remorseful Democrats (no Republicans, please).
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected]