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While the Chicago Sun-Times alleged in its April 25 front page story that a not for profit organization headed by Chicago's Congressman Bobby Rush accepted a million dollar donation from a subsidiary of AT&T, its follow-up has been strangely limited to the congressman's alleged ethical violation alone.  With the exception of a single tech column buried deep in the paper later that week, one can search the corporate media in vain for any clue as to what the telco monopolies intend to get for their money.  In most places where it's illegal to accept a bribe, it's equally unlawful to offer one.  The U.S. seems not to be one of those places, especially when corporations are doing the bribing. 

Rush's horrendous legislation invalidates thousands of agreements between local communities and cable monopolies that force cable providers to service minority communities and give air time to educational and public affairs programming.  Even worse, as we pointed out in this space last week, Rush's COPE Act would literally “...end the Internet as we know it and leave it up to AT & T, Verizon and other ISPs and owners of the Internet backbone to determine what content users will be allowed to access and, regarding email, which subjects will be permitted to reach its destination.  While a majority of Democrats on the relevant subcommittee voted to maintain an open Internet, two other members of the Congressional Black Caucus – Rep. Al Wynn of PG County MD, the DLC point man inside the caucus, and Ed Towns of Brooklyn –  also cast votes to deprive minority areas of cable service and turn the Internet into a toll road. 

In a transparently deceitful effort to frustrate and limit public comment, the COPE Act, which has been the subject of two hearings, and has been voted out of subcommittee and full committee and which now awaits a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives has never been assigned the customary bill number.  It is still officially known as HR__.  Lobbyists and bought congressmen know very well that citizens who call their representatives' offices to register objections to pending legislation are routinely asked for the bill number, and when they are unable to provide one their objections are likely to go uncounted.

The fact that BC and other online sources like FreePress.Net, MyDD, TPM Cafe and remain at this late date the only places the public can find information about the pending attempt to hijack and privatize the Internet is an indication of both how serious the threat is, and of how united the corporate print and broadcast media are in their solidarity with the hijackers.  They may be willing to throw Bobby Rush to the wolves.  But they intend for the hijacking to proceed. 

The clear intent of the telco monopolies is to rush this legislation into law before the House of Representatives goes on its summer recess.  As was the case with the FCC ruling on media consolidation in the summer of 2003, the corporate media intend not to cover the story at all.  They can still be stopped.  Here is what you can do:

  • You can visit the links in this article to familiarize yourself with how the corporate hijack of your rights to Internet and cable service is being conducted.
  • You can email your representatives in Congress and the US Senate, which must also consider the legislation, through the web site of  Phone calls to representatives are fine too, but you will be asked for a bill number and there isn't any.
  • Use the “send this page to a friend” link on the left side of this page to forward this page to everyone on your email list (make sure your browser is set to allow pop ups).  If the Internet isn't free, you won't be able to send them much of anything else anyway.
  • Finally, you can email or call your local news outlet and ask why the story isn't worth covering.  As if you didn't already know the answer.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux corrects us

We printed a letter from a reader last week who wondered why Roger Toussaint, leader of NYC's Transport Workers Union had not been included on Tavis Smiley’s panel of luminaries opining about the economies of our communities in the 2006 State of the Black Union.  The reader noted that Harry Belafonte and Cornel West spoke up in defense of the rights of ordinary black families and in support of labor unions and the collective actions that uplift tens and hundreds of thousands of black families at a time.  But he forgot something, and so did we.

The eminent Dr. Julianne Malveaux wrote to set us straight.

You should note that the interests of working people were advanced in the first panel at Tavis Smiley's 2006 State of the Black Union when I spoke of unions and their impact on our people, globalization and its impact on working people, and related topics.  Harry Belafonte and Cornel West weren't the only ones putting it out there.  Perhaps this black woman in red was a little too invisible for you brothers to notice, or because you feel the points have more validity when expressed by men.  I'd love to be enlightened. . .

The truth is that the male letter writer managed to overlook the highly eloquent and highly visible Dr. Malveaux and so did this male editor.  To our private apologies we must therefore add this public one.  No excuses are offered.  It is not the first time the contributions of black women have been overlooked.  We hope it's the last time BC is a party to such an omission.  Dr. Malveaux can be depended upon to ably uphold the interests of black working families as well as the efficacy of collective action in securing lasting economic advancement for our people.

Black “economic development” or “economic advancement”?

The question of just what economic development that benefits the majority of our people might look like is a persistently vexing one, and was the topic of last week's Radio BC offering.  In it, BC co-publisher Glen Ford made the salient point that

”...the term 'economic development' is thought to be synonymous with individual entrepreneurship. That’s a very narrow definition of economic development, one that reduces most Blacks to the role of mere potential customers, who are expected to support individual Black businesspeople as if the survival of the Race depended on it....”

”In more extreme cases, devotees of business development as the engine of Black economic uplift even sneer at mass mobilization to create public projects and employment. Demanding that government take the lead in development amounts to begging 'the white man' for money, they say – as if public funds were not our money, too.”

This is an important point, one which Dr. Malveaux has made from time to time, and which bears repeating.

BC Reader George Wilson asks, What past mass action created the conditions "for vibrant urban economies" that "allow Black businesses to survive"?

The first obvious answer is the wave of mass civil disobedience, including hunger marches to many state capitals in the early 1930s which helped bring about Social Security.  Think about it.  In the absence of Social Security many families, including black families in their peak earning years would have to be the sole support of their aging parents on top of whatever other burdens they shouldered.  Social Security freed up incalculable amounts of income to be invested in or spent with black businesses.  Another example is the wave of strikes and mass actions culminating in Chicago of the 1880s that brought us the eight hour day and the weekend.  Again, without the eight hour day and the weekend, far fewer of us would have time or energy to start that black business or patronize the one started by anybody else.

As BC Executive Editor Glen Ford reminded us last week:

“In the future, we must stop defining Black economic development as limited to Black business development. The best thing that can happen for Black business is a living wage for Black workers.“

But this is something that will never be won by “entrepreneurship.” It can only be gained by political agitation and collective action.  Maybe it's time for African Americans to jettison the meaningless term “economic development” altogether and start talking about economic advancement, which may at least keep us honest by forcing us ask and answer the question of whose interests are being advanced.

Deluded on Immigration

For those who would rule by fear and division, every election cycle demands a new boogeyman to chase fearful white voters out to the polls.  Last season it was the alleged threat to family integrity posed by gay marriages.  In a season when Republicans hope to flog their votes out by pointing to the brown menace, black communities are not immune from the fallout.  BC gets a handful of emails like the following, every week:

The people who come here without proper documentation are illegal aliens!  They are here without permission.

I have lived in Southern California – Inglewood, Compton, South Central – all my life.  I have seen first hand how illegal immigration has destroyed those neighborhoods.  When I was a sophomore at Inglewood's Morningside HS in 1988 the school was flooded with illegal immigrants.  Programs for job training were cut and funds diverted to ESL classes for the newcomers.  As far as the infrastructure the streets and neighborhoods are overcrowded with 20 people living in the house next door to you.  The schools are overcrowded and it makes it twice as hard for the my future son or daughter to learn.  We should demand that Mexicans go home and fix their own broken government.

It's too bad that attending an underfunded, overcrowded school doesn't auto-magically make you an expert on why the school is short of resources, any more than knowing how to eat at a restaurant qualifies you to run one.  But that's the way it is.  The truth is that the public school systems which serve minority children have been under institutional siege for some time, for reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with immigration.

Aliens are from Jupiter.  Any law that purports to make a human “illegal” is unjust on its face.  African Americans should know that better than anybody.  Fugitive slaves were “illegal people” too.  And Mexico has not been ruled by and in the interest of the Mexican people since at least 1520, when Cortez took Tenochtitlan.

The same bipartisan and transnational shot callers who rule the US rule Mexico too, and have for a long time.  It was Democratic president Bill Clinton, along with a Republican dominated House and a Democratic-led US Senate that wrecked the Mexican economy in the mid 1990s by passing NAFTA, which drastically lowered wages and drove hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers off the land.

The “legal” immigration quota for Mexicans entering the US is a mere 20,000, an utterly ridiculous number for a bordering country of a hundred million, especially while Mexico and the U.S. are tied by dozens of treaties and agreements designed to speed the flow of capital (north to south) and goods (south to north).  The absurdly low quota is itself proof that on the question of legal vs. illegal immigration, US law has never meant what it said, nor said what it meant.  Those who hang their hats on drawing a line between “good” immigrants who are “legal” and “bad” ones which are “illegal” are being played, or trying to play somebody else, or both.  Most of the current legislative proposals on immigration along with their justifications are equally dishonest.

Though its sample size was not large enough to be definitive, a recent California Field Poll seemed to show African Americans more sympathetic to the cause of human rights for immigrants than any other segment of American society.  We at BC believe this is a roughly accurate picture of the black consensus on the issue.

But there are exceptions.  Earl Ofari Hutchinson and Jasmyne Cannick are typical representatives of a minority strain of black opinion which holds that before immigrants can expect support from them – and the two writers claim to speak for all of us – they must acknowledge that black claims on the American body politic are more important than theirs.  We think this is downright arrogant and silly.  Here is some of what Hutchinson and Cannick have to say:

”Immigrant rights leaders have repeatedly and with great pride compared the movement for humane immigration reform to the great civil rights battles of the 1960s.  They have cited the Poor Peoples March in 1968, the high esteem that Cesar Chavez held for Dr. Martin Luther King, and the unequivocal support that top civil rights leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus has given to immigrant rights as solid models of black and brown cooperation.  Yet, despite these public pronouncements, there has been no sustained movement to build any real coalitions with blacks on the immigration issue...

”With the exception of a few marginalized black leaders, blacks in general have not come out in support of illegal immigrant rights but many have gathered opposing illegal immigration...

“Latinos who want to change the mindset of blacks on illegal immigrants' rights must make a visible and concerted effort to reach out to blacks and not just on immigrant rights issues but on issues that are important to blacks as well... “

We urge BC readers to check out their entire commentary at this location.  BC co-publisher Glen Ford emailed Hutchinson and Cannick the following response to their commentary:

Both of you are incorrect in saying that only "marginalized" Black leaders support undocumented immigrant rights. That is an insupportable statement. You have stepped – or stumbled – over the line on this one.

As the most progressive population group or polity in the U.S., African Americans must LEAD. You abdicate responsibility in that historic mission, whining that immigrants don't give enough support to our anemic "movement." You present no framework for real Black-Latino collaboration – and then you whine again.

Ford's point is that you organize people around THEIR needs.  You do not lead by complaining about how others seem not to share your agenda.  Leadership requires dropping the pose of black moral superiority, and  aggressively demonstrating that their agenda has much in common with ours.  The only conceivable exception to this rule would be if you expect the immigrants to lead OUR struggle FOR us.  Those whom Hutchinson and Cannick call “marginalized black leaders” are swimming in the mainstream of the black consensus.  On this matter, Hutchinson and Cannick are outside it.

Finally, we at BC subscribe to all the updates at  Among much else, they watch BET, so that we don't have to.  In  a recent update we learned of yet another BET “reality” show, this one based on “the dozens.”  It takes little imagination to guess where this leads – from “yo momma” riffs to “you so black” and “yo momma so black” exchanges to the same insults on TV being directed at black “contestants” by white ones.  Click on over to Playahata and check this out for yourself.

We try to answer as much of our email as possible at BC, and we print some of it in this space each week.  Send your comments, corrections or criticisms to [email protected].  And we don't play no dozens here.


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May 4, 2006
Issue 182

is published every Thursday.

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