Since the rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, Black people throughout the United States have been grappling with a number of critical questions such as why are Black people being hunted and killed every 28 hours or more by various operatives of the law? Why don’t Black people seem to matter to this society? And what can and must we do to end these attacks and liberate ourselves? There are concrete answers to these questions. Answers that are firmly grounded in the capitalist dynamics that structure the brutal European settler-colonial project we live in and how Afrikan people have historically been positioned within it.
The Value of Black Life
There was a time in the United States Empire, when Afrikan people, aka, Black people, were deemed to be extremely valuable to the “American project”, when our lives as it is said, “mattered”. This “time” was the era of chattel slavery, when the labor provided by Afrikan people was indispensable to the settler-colonial enterprise, accounting for nearly half of the commodified value produced within its holdings and exchanged in “domestic” and international markets. Our ancestors were held and regarded as prize horses or bulls, something to be treated with a degree of “care” (i.e. enough to ensure that they were able to work and reproduce their labor, and produce value for their enslavers) because of their centrality to the processes of material production.
What mattered was Black labor power and how it could be harnessed and controlled, not Afrikan humanity. Afrikan humanity did not matter – it had to be denied in order create and sustain the social rationale and systemic dynamics that allowed for the commodification of human beings. These “dynamics” included armed militias and slave patrols, iron-clad non-exception social clauses like the “one-drop” rule, the slave codes, vagrancy laws, and a complex mix of laws and social customs all aimed at oppressing, controlling and scientifically exploiting Black life and labor to the maximum degree. This systemic need served the variants of white supremacy, colonial subjugation, and imperialism that capitalism built to govern social relations in the United States. All of the fundamental systems created to control Afrikan life and labor between the 17th and 19th centuries are still in operation today, despite a few surface moderations, and serve the same basic functions. Continue reading →
[During the Occupy Movement against the “1 %”, many activists were ambivalent about or opposed to including such issues as “stopping police killings” and “ending mass incarceration”, because some organizers insisted on including the police (“unionized workers”) in the over-broad concept of the “99 %” — thereby siding with police repression and state-sponsored violence against Black and Brown people. This article breaks down some of the history of these police unions and how they ensure I’m,unity and prevent accountability for police who murder. — Frontlines ed.]
Police unions have always played a powerful role in defending cops—no matter how brutal and racist their actions. (Ben Musseig / Flickr)
Outraged by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s statements concerning the killing of Eric Garner, Patrick Lynch, the longtime leader of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the NYPD’s officers union, recently made the outrageous assertion that the Mayor had “blood on his hands” for the murder of the two NYPD officers.
In Milwaukee this past fall, the Police Association called for, and obtained, a vote of no confidence in MPD Chief Ed Flynn after he fired the officer who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed African American; subsequently, the union’s leader, Mike Crivello, praised the District Attorney when he announced that he would not bring charges against the officer.
Such reactionary actions by police unions are not new, but are a fundamental component of their history, particularly since they came to prominence in the wake of the civil rights movement. These organizations have played a powerful role in defending the police, no matter how outrageous and racist their actions, and in resisting all manner of police reforms. Continue reading →
[Beware, the electoral season is upon us and the masters of political deception and fraud are invading every home. In the US, every four years, presidential elections are theatrically staged, designed to confuse and disrupt popular movements against class exploitation and racial oppression, and other democratic movements. The elections claim to be “the way democracy works”, and people “must vote” for politicians to represent their interests. Whoever wins, the people’s interests are lost in the shuffle, and their independence and political initiative and action has been suffocated or destroyed. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have in their Presidencies continued the mass incarceration, predominantly black and brown men and women, at world-record levels, and now they have made a dramatic last minute cosmetic relief to cleanse their legacy, at least rhetorically, so that Hillary Clinton’s campaign may not have to apologize to potential black voters for the Bill and Barack legacies. They cannot avoid blame for things too many know. — Frontlines ed.]
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon, 07/17/2015
Ten whole years ago, back in July 2005 when the Black Agenda Report crew was still at Black Commentator, I wrote that
“With under 5 percent of the world’s people, the US accounts for 25 percent of the planet’s prisoners. More than half its 2.2 million prisoners come from the one eighth of its population which is black. Today, an astounding 3 percent of all African Americans languish in prisons and jails, and nearly as many more are on probation, parole, bail, house arrest or court supervision… Right now, the shadow of prison squats at the corners of, and often at the center of nearly every black family’s life in this nation.”
Yesterday President Obama repeated some of these same figures, and they are pretty much the same. Total US prisoners are still 2.2 or 2.3 million, and a slight drop in the black incarceration rate makes us now a little less instead of a little more than half, but the overall picture is unchanged in a decade. The president then announced the release of forty-some nonviolent federal drug offenders out of a total of about 70,000, and stopped in at a federal prison Thursday. The same day, ex-president Bill Clinton offered a half-hearted “apology” for his 1990s crime bills, which he admitted “set the stage” for state and federal governments to nearly double the US prison population.
Why? Why did President Obama wait six and a half years into his presidency to say the basic damning numbers and free a token handful of drug war prisoners? And how come Bill Clinton, fifteen years out of office chose this week to publicly admit that black mass incarceration was maybe not the best public policy?
[Two former political prisoners, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, who also were jailed under India’s notorious Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which has incarcerated countless as accused “Naxalites”, describe the details of the notorious and abusive treatment of Professor GN Saibaba, who suffers from polio and multiple medical issues and deteriorating health due to the conditions of his imprisonment. — Frontlines ed.]
How Maharashtra robbed Dr Saibaba of his rights
Until police can be compelled to respect basic human rights, we will continue to remain far removed from the democracy we claim to be.
Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves
“I hope you are doing well, despite the fact that you are all in a larger penitentiary, as Uncle Sam would call it. I have been in a smaller enclosure here for the last ten months. My wish to join you back in the larger prison-house has been thwarted once again. I am sure you all understand the anxieties of your friend’s existence in the claustrophobic sealed concrete enclosure of an ‘anda cell’ behind seven heavy and gigantic gates.” Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba’s words (written over three months ago from the confines of the Nagpur Central Prison) carry that gritty tone characteristic of the man ‘guilty’ of supporting and participating in sundry issues and causes of the poor and dispossessed in various parts of the country over the last three decades.
Dr Saibaba, a Delhi University Professor in English, with 90 per cent permanent physical impairment of his lower limbs, was abducted on May 9, 2014 from a Delhi road by the Maharashtra police and has since been behind bars. His story is a telling commentary on the biases of a criminal justice system that readily releases convicted film-stars and politicians but insists on incarcerating those accused of committing the ‘crime’ of supporting or believing in thought contrary to the ruling ideology. Despite many Supreme Court rulings and the recent Kerala High Court assertion that ‘being a Maoist is no crime’, the reality is that it is just this accusation that keeps Saibaba and hundreds of others like him in prison for years on end.
In the last thirteen months, Saibaba has had his bail rejected four times – thrice in the Sessions Court and once in the High Court. Despite his severe disability and his rapidly deteriorating medical condition, the State has not only vigorously opposed bail, but also gone out of its way to deny him proper medical care. Whenever Saibaba has applied for bail on medical and disability grounds, the prosecution has adopted the tactic of ensuring that facilities were provided in the jail when the bail application came up for hearing, but after the bail application was disposed of, those facilities are withdrawn. Continue reading →
Innocent children and families are being detained just like Japanese Americans were during World War II. This must stop. Photograph: David Maung/EPA
These detentions seem to be a repeat of the Japanese American internment camps – an ugly part of US history
by Dale Minami and Karen Korematsu, THE GUARDIAN
29 June 2015
As Japanese Americans whose relatives were imprisoned as “national security threats” during World War II, we were shocked to learn that the Obama administration is contracting with private prison companies to imprison thousands of mothers and children from Central America in detention camps. This, after these families fled some of the most violent countries in the world to apply for asylum in the United States.
After visiting one of these family detention facilities, a descendant of incarcerated Japanese Americans described the place as feeling like “an updated version” of the World War II prison camps. The Japanese American Citizens League has stated that the organization is “deeply troubled by the chilling similarities between the confinement of women and children in places such as Dilley and Karnes, and the wartime treatment of Japanese Americans at places such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain and Tule Lake.” Continue reading →
Kobad Ghandy, the 68-year-old undertrial lodged in Tihar Jail here, called off his hunger strike on Friday soon after a court ordered the jail authorities to provide him easier access to basic facilities and adequate health care.
The Democrats hope the Black Lives Matter movement, like the Occupy Wall Street movement, will disappear amid the hype of the coming election season. “The Democrats have mounted a systematic cooption-repression response that will intensify as the election season – and Black cities – heat up.” The Democrats understand that, for the movement to succeed, their party’s power over Black America must be broken.
“The movement is inevitably on a collision course with the Democratic Party, although this may not yet be clear to many activists.”
The movement that is emerging under the banner Black Lives Matter is not yet one year old, but it will be dead before it reaches the age of two if the Democratic Party has anything to say about it. The movement’s greatest challenge will be to survive the impending mass mobilization of Black Democratic officeholders and operatives in a $5 billion presidential election season.The current Black-led grassroots campaign is, in very important ways, even more vulnerable to Democratic cooptation and dismantlement than was the white-led Occupy Wall Street movement, which succumbed to a combination of Democratic infiltration and repression – on top of its own contradictions – in the early months of 2012.