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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

January 7, 2010


Bruce Dixon, Op Ed News - The day before being sworn in, Atlanta's new mayor Kasim Reed pledged to the Chamber of Commerce he'd deal with downtown panhandlers in what he called a more "muscular" fashion. The hopes and predictions of white pundits that black political life would come to look like the rest of America have come true. But not because the inequalities in health, wealth, incarceration rates and other indices of disparity have narrowed. Black politics are looking a lot more like white politics because the black political elite no longer believes its mission is to fight for peace and justice. The newer, more cynical black elite are unmoored from their peace-and-justice-loving base. They are focused on their own careers, and the corporate largesse that makes those careers possible. Make no mistake about it, the black politics of a previous generation, in which black candidates and public officials were expected to stand for something beside their own careers, is over. There was a time not so long ago, when black politics, both in the minds of black voters, and in the public aims of black politicians, differed from the politics of white America.

Black politics were different because black unemployment was chronically twice as high as white unemployment, because black infant mortalities were much greater and life expectancies shorter than in white America. Black politics were different because African Americans were more likely to live in segregated, inferior housing, attend segregated, inferior schools, and due to the enormous gap in family wealth between white and black America. Black politics were different too because even though many African Americans were in the military, black communities were far less supportive of America's imperial wars around the world than their white neighbors. And most of all, black politics were different because black voters expected black politicians to use their political careers to advance social and economic justice. Dr. King's last projects hadn't been about affirmative action. They were about a strike of sanitation workers for decent wages and benefits, and a Poor Peoples Campaign. . .

Black unemployment is still double that of whites, and the white-black wealth divide is something like eleven to one. Black infant mortality is still higher than that of whites, and life expectancies are lower. Tens of millions of African Americans still live in segregated communities with tax structures rigged to prevent them from adequately funding roads, schools, and public services, and most black children still attend segregated, inferior schools. Black America remains the most solidly antiwar and pro-peace constituency in the nation.

What's different is that black voters no longer demand, no longer imagine that black politicians can or want to make a difference. What's different is that black politicians, and African Americans in public life, in government at all levels no longer feel the obligation to stand and fight for economic justice.

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