UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 5, 2009

THE BLACK ELITE AND THOSE THEY LEFT BEHIND

Chris Hedges, Truth Dig - LeAlan Jones, the 30-year-old Green Party candidate for Barack Obama's old Senate seat in Illinois, is as angry at injustice as he is at the African-American intellectual and political class that accommodates it. He does not buy Obama's "post-racial" ideology or have much patience with African-American leaders who, hungry for prestige, power and money, have, in his eyes, forgotten the people they are supposed to represent. They have confused a personal ability to be heard and earn a comfortable living with justice.

"The selflessness of leaders like Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Harold Washington and Medgar Evers has produced selfishness within the elite African-American leadership," Jones told me by phone from Chicago.

"This is the only thing I can do to have peace of mind," he said when I asked him why he was running for office. "I am looking at a community that is suffering because of a lack of genuine concern from their leaders. This isn't about a contract. This isn't about a grant. This isn't about who gets to stand behind the political elite at a press conference. This is about who is going to stand behind the people. What these leaders talk about and what needs to happen in the community is disjointed.". . .

Baker excoriates leading public intellectuals including Michael Eric Dyson, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Shelby Steele, Yale law professor Stephen Carter and Manhattan Institute fellow John McWhorter, saying they pander to the powerful. He argues they have lost touch with the reality of most African-Americans. Professor Gates' statement after his July 16 arrest that "what it made me realize was how vulnerable all black men are, how vulnerable are all poor people to capricious forces like a rogue policemen" was a stunning example of how distant from black reality many successful African-American figures like Gates have become. These elite African-American figures, Baker argues, long ago placed personal gain and career advancement over the interests of the black majority. They espouse positions that are palatable to a white audience. . . they do not express the rage, frustration and despair of the black underclass.

The conditions for black men and women in America are sliding backward, with huge numbers of impoverished and unemployed removed from society and locked up. Baker acidly calls this "the disappearing" of blacks. The unemployment rate in most inner cities is in the double digits, and segregation, especially in city schools and wealthy states like New Jersey, is the norm. African-American communities are more likely to be red-lined by banks and preyed upon by unscrupulous mortgage lenders, which is why such a high percentage of foreclosures are in blighted, urban neighborhoods. . .

"How much money did the American economy lose because of the derivatives and the credit default swaps?" he asked. "There have been only two men prosecuted for that level of crime, Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford. How much is the drug industry worth in the United States? It is not worth $45 trillion. How many African-American and Hispanic men are incarcerated for being the same kind of capitalist? If we swap dope for derivatives there wouldn't be a Wall Street because they would be behind bars. If we prosecute derivatives the same way you prosecute dope, which is not different in how it undermines a family, Wall Street wouldn't exist."

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