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The (Dis) Loyalty Of The Black Political Class

When a billionaire wants your old time civil rights organization, your historically black college, your morning drive-time deejay, or your black congressman, there ain’t nothin’ you can do. These Janes and these Joes who make up the current black political class, from the preachers to the so-called civil rights leaders to the Congressional Black Caucus, they just ain’t loyal to the masses of African Americans they purport to represent.

The current black political class, with the Congressional Black Caucus at its highest level, was raised up in the wake of our people’s historic Freedom Movement against racial segregation and domestic apartheid. Fifty years ago, most of us imagined that having more black faces in high places would mean a better life for all of us. We were wrong.

We’ve gone from six or seven black members of Congress to a crew of 42, from few or no black behinds in the big chairs of City Halls, the speakers of state houses, and few in the leadership of big county governments to more than 13,000 black elected officials, and thousands more in appointed offices. At the same time, relative black unemployment hasn’t moved an inch, black family wealth has fallen off a cliff, gentrification is still the only urban economic development policy, and the nation’s black 13% accounts for over 40% of its prisoners. Far from representing our people’s urgent needs, wants and desires in the halls of power, the supposedly powerful black political class has nothing but contempt for ordinary black people and excuses for its impotence.

Today’s black political class has cut its own deals with the powers that be, and turned its back on the historic traditions of our people it pretends to uphold. How else can we explain the Congressional Black Caucus’s damning silence on the issues of Israeli apartheid and ethnocracy, its embrace of Israeli war crimes of blockade and massacre? Only weeks ago, as the bombs were still falling on defenseless Palestinians in Gaza, many of them made in the USA from drones and aircraft also made in the USA, the Congressional Black Caucus unanimously endorsed the racist Israeli state’s “right to defend itself.”

Congresssional Black Caucus members are not stupid or uninformed, they know the facts on the ground better than most. They all know Israel is every bit as vicious an apartheid state as South Africa ever was, with separate legal systems, citizenship laws, IDs, roads, license plates for Jews and non-Jews. CBC members know that Palestinians and African immigrants in Israel are mercilessly hounded, and are occasional victims of lynch mobs officially sanctioned by Israeli media and political leaders, as reporters like Max Blumenthal have pointed out at length.

No wonder the Bay area’s Rep. Barbara Lee, when asked earlier this month about her and the CBC’s unanimous vote to support Israeli massacres, simply ignored his question, preferring to filibuster a few minutes instead on presidential war powers.

The CBC and the rest of our black political class have struck a peculiar deal with the system, a deal under which they, on behalf of all black America, turn their backs on all international alliances with those who stood in solidarity with us in our own hour of need. It’s a deal which rejects the lessons of history and the impulses of of decent humanity in favor of their own class and careers. Seven million Congolese have died as African governments installed, armed and trained by the US have turned vast stretches of Central Africa into free fire and sacrifice zones in order to extract the minerals needed for our computers and cell phones, and another million have perished in Somalia. Black American generals and “diplomats” like Republican Jendayi Frazier and Democrat Susan Rice have been instrumental in orchestrating this genocide, but the entire black political class pushed Susan Rice for US Secretary of State.

That’s loyalty. Just not to the masses of our people.

The CBC is not alone. Other sections of our black political class are every bit as disloyal to the interests of ordinary black people. Take the recent case of United Negro College Fund president Michael Lomax. If he were working in the tradition of Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer, he would lead a political fight to save HBCUs and lower college tuitions by forgiving student loans and making college tuition free, which together would cost the country less than the Pentagon’s F-35 fighter jet program. Instead he deepened HBCU reliance on fickle, self-interested corporate white philanthropy by doing a $25 million deal with the Koch Brothers, allowing them to determine which students and institutions would be funded. Lomax brought in Tom Joyner to sell the deal to black audiences and bragged to the Kochs and others of his “courage” in standing up for their interests against ordinary black people at an exclusive billionaire donors retreat.

This too is loyalty, just not to you and me.

And when it comes to the internet and net neutrality, virtually the entire black civil rights establishment, from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to most of the CBC, the National Action Network, Urban League, NAACP and more have sided with the telecoms who give them money rather than with the people who give them legitimacy. In a monstrously hypocritical and unmistakable “you-know-you’re wrong” gesture, the civil rights dinosaurs objected to an FCC ruling which compelled them to reveal they were financed by corporations with a financial interest in the rules they were weighing in on. Their justification was that back during the 1950s struggle against Jim Crow, disclosure of their members or funding put peoples lives and livelihoods in danger, so they had a “constitutional right” to protect Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other current donors, and of course their own reputations, by keeping the relationship secret.

This is loyalty for sale, loyalty for lease.

The Congressional Black Caucus, to return to them again, have leveraged their image, their brand as champions of the oppressed to charter school sugar daddies, to private colleges and universities, to military contractors, and even to the banksters who aggressively sold sub-prime mortgages to our communities, counting on a bail out that stripped black familes of trillions of dollars of wealth in the last few years. That’s loyalty to their brand, but all brands are lies.

When a corporation, a billionaire wants your civil rights organization, your HBCU, or your black member of Congress, they say there’s nothing you can do, according to the rules of this people-proof and democracy proof system. They’re wrong. Doing something starts with stepping outside their rules, their system.

These Janes and these Joes who make up the black political class, they just ain’t loyal. But we don’t have to settle for it.

It’s time we insist they endorse network neutrality and an arms embargo for the entire African continent, where an AK-47, none of which are made on the continent, are cheaper than anyplace else on earth.

It’s time to confront our black political class and demand they denounce Israeli apartheid and ethnocracy. Some activists in and around Washington DC plan to do just that on September 24, the first day of the CBC’s yearly corporate-funded extravaganza. If you’re in DC, check it out. And even if you’re not in DC that day, you can sign and forward for others to sign the petition on this site to the CBC. Unlike and and, which capture your contact data for marketing purposes, we promise to share your info, if you allow us, with other activists in your area who also want to open new possibilities, to organize new leadership, to ask and answer important questions.

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